Music festivals are not the optimum concert experience

The dust and LSD has finally cleared after two smelly, hippie weekends of Brochella. We have reached that time of year between music festivals. Starting May 8-12, we will have Bottlerock in Napa Valley and at the end of summer, Outside Lands, shortly followed by the free music fest known as Hardly Hipster, or something — not to mention other popular music festivals going on throughout the summer. It is no real news, these outings are just a hoot for people.

My big question is why the hell are these so popular? Not to sound like a bitter old man, but damn, I hate these festivities.

The first festival that comes to mind when complaining about these music gatherings is Coachella; a time to celebrate overrated bands, some not-so-popular bands so hipsters can still feel obscure enough, hot weather in the middle of nowhere, atrocious electronic music and people either too inebriated or fried on hallucinogens. Is that the secret? Should I be on a ton of acid or really drunk to fully appreciate what is going on? I live in San Francisco so I don’t need to spend $300 to watch people fry, not bathe and listen to overrated music while pretending to be enlightened; I have Dolores Park.

In “Top Ten Reasons Coachella Music Festival Totally Sucks” for Crossfade Music Blog, Matt Priera wrote, “Festivals are sort of the Costco of live music. If you purchased individual concert tickets for every artist on the lineup, the cost would far exceed the festival’s more-or-less $400 fee. But when you visit Costco to buy a swimming pool’s worth of mustard or a 1000-box supermegapack of Cap’n Crunch, you’re not expected to eat it all before you even walk out the door. The modern music festival — built upon excess (more bands!), cheap nostalgia (more old bands!), and straight-up selling you shit (better bring more money!) — is a bloated, fiendishly trend-oriented marathon of total overkill.”

I speak negatively about this because of perspective. I’ve gone to Coachella, Warped Tour, Ozzfest, Outside Lands, Sun God Festival and others. I don’t want to sound too pessimistic and I’ll admit, there is usually one band I’d enjoy at any of the aforementioned festivals. The problem is, you pay a substantial amount of money to see a band you like, if any, and they play for only about 30 minutes. Call me crazy, but if I’m going to dish out the bucks for a festival, there better be at least 10 bands I like, especially at a multiple day festival, like Coachella or Bottle Rock, which feature more than 60 bands.

The best shows I have been to have one or two bands, if the opener is decent, playing at a moderately sized venue. This creates a much more intimate musical experience, with a longer set list and a lower ticket price. I’d rather pay $15 to see a band like The Gaslight Anthem play for almost two hours than to see The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men play for 40 minutes each, while pretending I’m not getting groped by an E-head. Plus. It’s not 12 hours of continuous music blaring from five different stages; oh yes, that sounds great!

To end my rant, I’d like to quote Daniel Tosh.

“The worst thing about music festivals is they’re full of the one thing I try to avoid; you.”

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