Why You Shouldn't Care That The Lollapalooza Roster Is Filled With Repeat Acts

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 24, 2017 6:51PM

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These people aren't complaining about the bill, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Like clockwork, the major music festivals announce their lineups and the inevitable chorus of “I’ve already seen that band” erupts in hot takes all over the internet: Why is so-and-so playing Lollapalooza again? That Coachella headliner played two years ago! Why do so many music festivals book the same effing bands?

The obvious answer to all these questions is that there are only a limited number of bands that can provide the draw to headline a major music festival. A post in Glorious Noise yesterday caught my eye and, I think unexpectedly, opened my eyes to the positive nature of this stasis at the upper reaches of festival bills.

But before we get to that, I feel you. Do I really want to see Kaskade or Cage The Elephant at Lollapalooza again, both for the fourth time in only a handful of years? No, not really. But you also have Spoon making their fourth appearance at Lollapalooza and that is something I am totally OK with. So some of this groaning and griping is coming from areas of personal preference, obviously.

So let’s look at Lollapalooza. The first eight rows of the lineup poster are stocked largely by Lolla vets, so expect many of the evenings in Grant Park over those four days to sound relatively similar to previous years. But once you hit the undercard—all the bands playing in the daylight hours—only 21 of those groups that have played Lolla before, with 108 bands that are brand new to the fest.

108 bands is over half of the lineup. So most of Lollapalooza’s bill is made up of groups visiting Grant Park for the very first time.

One of the more vocal complaints about “always booking the same acts” is that new bands are getting left out of the mix. Well, the fact is, if you’re really looking to be exposed to new music then Lollapalooza is chock full of it.

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How many new bands did this Lolla crowd see that year? A lot. Photo by Annie Lesser/Chicagoist

Lollapalooza and Coachella and Governor’s Ball and Bonnaroo and all of the rest stake their ticket sales on delivering on the promise of a good time. To guarantee that to the average attendee—the folks who might be there a little more for the party than to stretch their musical education—the tops of the bills have to deliver. Get used to it. But the other surprising thing is that this allows the organizers a lot more leeway than they might have had in the past giving unknown bands a chance to win over a larger crowd.

And you know what? I listen to thousands of new albums a year and even I am unfamiliar with a bunch of Lollapalooza’ undercard. So instead of whining and complaining about having to see Chance The Rapper, The Killers, Muse, Arcade Fire, and Lorde again (poor baby) maybe you should spend some time listening to the new bands over the next few months. That way when you get to the park early you can actually discover some new things. With over 50 percent of the bill being new to the fest, you have zero excuse not to.

And then, inevitably, complain when an act you discover that weekend gets booked higher on the bill on a later year. It’s the circle of life!