The Great Festival Debate, 2013 and Beyond…

two door cinema club

Are we approaching the end of summer? Who even knows anymore, but one thing is for sure – we are approaching the end of another festival season. 2013 will be mainly remembered for GlastonburyThe Rolling Stones finally turning up at Worthy Farm, Arctic Monkeys delivering a storming festival headline set and Mumford and Sons and the debate of whether they were ready to headline – and surely, Biffy Clyro headlining a major festival at Reading and Leeds.

Music festivals are becoming big business. They’re no longer about hippies lazing about in fields, chilling, expanding their minds and listening to some sweet tunes. Festivals are now filled with advertising, from companies sponsoring stages to entire festivals, it’s hard to escape the corporate nature of what was once the most independent music experience.

Another debate which rages is that the same acts headline year after year; if you’ve been to a festival over the last five years it’s almost certain that you will have seen Kasabian, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Muse or The Foo Fighters at least once in a headline capacity. But why is this?

Two Door Cinema Club frontman Alex Trimble has an idea, “So many bands are shit, there are no headliners anymore. There are no bands that you could pick out of a line up and say they should be headlining a festival” – but is this really the reason? I can think of a handful of artists who would beg to differ. Look at bands like Foals, who headlined Latitude this year and will play third from top of the main stage at Reading and Leeds this weekend. Can anyone tell me Foals wouldn’t absolutely knock a headline show out of the park? They have the songs, mainstream success and most importantly, a huge following of loyal fans.maccabees

The Maccabees are surely another band who should be stepping up soon; their last album ‘Given To The Wild‘ finally gave them the commercial breakthrough that they needed, and richly deserved. The Maccabees are one of the best live acts this country has to offer, and when they’re given the chance to step up to the big leagues, they could easily fill a headline set with material that every fan would know and love.

Probably a more controversial choice is The Courteeners, a band who are in a very similar position to where Kasabian were a few years ago, dismissed by many as Oasis rip offs. This is definitely not the case. The Courteeners are a band who deliver best on the big occasion, and , probably even more so than Foals and The Maccabees, they have absolutely HUGE sing-along tracks. Imagine a field of people going crazy to ‘Not Nineteen Forever‘, ‘What Took You So Long?‘ and ‘Van Der Graff‘ – those are potential headline highlights.

Then we have The Vaccines, probably the most commercially successful band on this list. They have two Top Ten albums, and are selling out every show they play at the moment, no matter what size of arena they find themselves in. Crowds are going wild for every song they play and they have plenty of big stage festival experience.

Then if you look even further than that, this year has seen a lot of excellent new bands come through and show that musically, the future is bright. Bands like Peace, Drenge, Palma Violets, Swim Deep and Haim. This collection of bands have or will have released debut albums this year, and it’s probably fair to say that all of them have been greatly received.

So, there is clearly no lack of talent. Something else then must be holding these bands back from headliner status, and that is money. Ticket prices have sky rocketed, as have advertising prices and everything else that goes with festivals in this day and age. Festival bosses have to back up these high prices with big name headliners, which is why we see nostalgia acts like The Stone Roses and Pulp coming back to headline festivals. But why does it have to be this way?

Look at Kings of Leon and Kasabian; five years ago they were indie bands on the same level that Foals, The Maccabees et al find themselves now. They were given chances to headline festivals and they took them; now, they are two of the biggest bands in the world. This is all the next group of bands need to move up to that level – an opportunity.

David Handley
David Handley is a 26 year old from Wolverhampton. He has blogged for Sabotage Times and Culture / Trash among others and runs a Literature blog for The Express & Star. He is a lyric fan and loves all sorts of music, but will always have a soft spot for early 2000's indie. CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Augustines, THE XX, Blossoms. David can be found at @DavidHandley on twitter or at his blog -

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