I had to wonder, when I saw the lineup for this year’s Lollapalooza. Usually, the way these things work is, there’s five headliners, and one of them is obviously higher profile than the rest of them. So they get to perform Sunday night, unopposed, while the rest of them have to play Friday and Saturday nights, opposite one another.
This time around, though, there wasn’t an artist that struck me as definitely being higher profile. The five headliners this year are Kanye West, Radiohead, Wilco, Nine Inch Nails, and Rage Against the Machine. Of the five of them, I figured Kanye West and Radiohead are the biggest of the bunch. A case could be made for Rage Against the Machine, which, it’s been suggested, was singlehandedly responsible for making Rock the Bells and Coachella as big as they were last year. But they haven’t even had an album out since I was in high school. Plus, I’m sure a lot of the people who were interested caught them last year.
Between the two remaining artists, I figured it’d be interesting to see which act was deemed more important and thus named the headliner of this year’s festival. You know how egos are in the music business. Some groups don’t necessarily want to “open” for other groups. Plus, sheduling can be a bitch at these festivals. You spend so much money to get there, you don’t want to miss any of the groups you specifically came there to see. But you end up kinda having to – especially if you’re like me, and you spend the entire weekend drunk off your ass. With the headliner, you don’t have to sweat it as much, because they’re not playing opposite anyone. You just have to stumble within the vicinity of the main stage.
Obviously, the choice for grown people who know good music would be Radiohead. They’ve got a catalog that’s unparalleled by any other act of their generation. Even a lot of black people like Radiohead. On the other hand, it’s debatable if Kanye West is even any good. While some people will insist that he’s got three classic rap albums under his belt, others will insist that he’s a fucking miserable rapper who would have been much better served producing for other people. That being said, there was definitely a case to be made for giving Kanye the big stage to himself. Commercially, the guy’s coming off a fucking banner year. While that Radiohead album was in the news a lot last year for its inventive pricing scheme, Kanye’s Graduation made the news for actually selling a shiteload of albums – upwards of a million in its first week alone. Also, Kanye is from Chicago, and Lollapalooza likes to spotlight local artists. Pearl Jam, for example (I know), headlined last year’s festival.
As it turns out, the organizers of Lollapalooza decided to go with something a bit different this year. Radiohead is gonna be this year’s headliner, so to speak, but they’re playing Friday night instead of Sunday night. Still, they’re playing on the big stage, not opposite any other acts. Kanye, on the other hand, is playing either Saturday or Sunday night (I can’t remember, and I’m too lazy to look it up), opposite Nine Inch Nails. I remember he’s playing against Nine Inch Nails, because I kinda like Nine Inch Nails anyway. So I was at a loss for what I was gonna do. I figured a lot of people would be interested in hearing my opinion of a Kanye West show, but it’s not like the TIs at Harris would give me a dollar to buy a bottled water at Lollapalooza, if I was in danger of having a heat stroke. So that’s not as much of a consideration for me, personally.
Of course, this was announced a few weeks ago, before Kanye West fucking ruined Bonnaroo by showing up two and a half hours late, because it took too long to put together his laser light show (which ended up being useless anyway, once the sun started to come up). I’m sure, when they heard about that shit, the organizers of Lollapalooza breathed a collective sigh of relief that they didn’t make his punk ass the headliner. Fuck how many albums he sold. He could fuck around and ruin Lollapalooza like he did Bonnaroo. Plus, let’s keep it real. Who really goes to one of these huge outdoor festivals to see a rapper anyway? The reason Kanye needed all of those lights and shit in the first place is that live hip-hop just doesn’t translate on such a large scale. Meanwhile, all week long, Pitchfork.tv has been running these clips of Nine Inch Nails rehearsing that make it look like their set might be fucking incredible.
There’s something similar going on right now over in England with the Glastonbury Festival, which I believe begins today or tomorrow, and runs throughout this weekend. There’s been a lot of controversy over the fact that Jay-Z was selected as one of this year’s headliners. A lot of people are pissed, and aren’t even going. Just as recently as yesterday, I read where one of the main TIs behind the festival was saying that there’s thousands of tickets to the thing that have yet to be sold, and this could be the first time in 15 years that the festival didn’t actually sell out. Damn, Jay-Z fucked up an entire outdoor music festival, as if he was some bad shrooms! This has to be a troubling development to his new business partners over at Live Nation aka Clear Channel.
I know there’s been some accusations of racism on behalf of the festivalgoers, but I wonder if that’s really the case. I thought white people in England loved black music even more than white people here in the states. Could it be that live hip-hop is just not worth a shit?