As 2015 begins, most of us are trying to ignore the freezing cold outside by dreaming wistfully of summer and the start of festival season. The last few years have seen a huge explosion in new events and the growth and expansion of older ones, but some important questions remain. Now that we, as rock and metal fans, are spoilt for choice, what exactly will the future hold? Can all these festivals co-exist, or will more events disintegrate in the manner that the likes of Alt-Fest, Hevy, Sonisphere and certain ATP events have in recent years?
Kevin Lyman is the man behind the Warped Tour in the US, not to mention one of the chief organisers of the Taste Of Chaos and Mayhem touring festivals. As far as he’s concerned, 2015 could well be a make-or-break year for many of those hoping to stage large-scale musical events.
“The European market has always had the question of a saturation point, and we’re starting to feel that in the US now,” he explains. “We’ve hit that point where there the entry point for starting a festival is so high because the talent pool is small when you need to draw enough people to make it work. It’s the corporatisation of festivals that’s happening right now. There are the mega-festivals, and in the US there’ll be one every 500 miles and maybe the smaller, community-based festivals will suffer as a result.”/o:p
While the US market is different from our own, it’s undeniable that the recent proliferation of freshly minted festivals in Europe, particularly in terms of smaller-scale, niche events, is likely to be affected by the simple fact that many people do not have enough money to attend more than one or two festivals per year. Walter Hoeijmakers has proudly watched the steady rise of his own Roadburn festival in Tilburg, Holland, which has become a Mecca for fans of stoner rock, doom and other psychedelic heaviness since 1999.
While big-money Euro festivals like Hellfest and Wacken seem to be flourishing, Walter believes that there is a finite amount of space for smaller events.
“I think that there are too many festivals targeting the same audience and festivals that are alike,” he states. “The big ones like Wacken, Download and Hellfest, they all have their own identity and it’s obvious why you’d want to go to them. In the underground, you have Roadburn, PartySan, Band Your Head and so on. But now there are too many smaller festivals capitalizing on those same ideas, with lineups that don’t differ much. We all fish in the same pond, and in the future I think it will be hard to distinguish ourselves.”/o:p
It’s not all doom and gloom for smaller festivals, however. It may be becoming harder for organisers to ensure that their events stand apart from the crowd, but those that stayed the course seem increasingly able to sustain themselves. And while there is an ongoing debate about who will replace big names like Iron Maiden, Metallica and AC/DC when those bands call it a day, there is still plenty to be optimistic about. “I wouldn’t want to be in the same position as Download or Sonisphere, where you’re vying for 90,000 people, but then they also have a wider spectrum of bands to draw from,” says Vicky Hungerford, booker for Bloodstock Open Air. “At that level, once you’ve booked Slipknot, Maiden and Metallica, who else can you get? [Download mastermind] Andy Copping did the right thing by pulling Avenged Sevenfold up to headline level. I genuinely think that eventually Five Finger Death Punch could be a great Download headliner, too, so I think the bands are there.” Perhaps the key to surviving, particularly in the UK market, is to avoid aiming too high by competing with long-established or financially powerful mega-festivals that appeal to a wide, mainstream rock audience. “I always tell Andy Copping that Download is like Godzilla, and we’re like Godzuki” says Vicky. “We’re not in competition because what we’re doing is completely different. We’ve never had a year when we’ve dropped back on ticket sales. So from 700 people in 2001 to 14,500 last year, we’re doing well.” Ultimately, this is an uncertain but generally healthy time for anyone who wants to spend their summer listening to bands and drinking beer in a field. But as the Alt-Fest fiasco of last summer confirmed, there are no guarantees of success in this business. “It’s easy to go in too big, too quick,” says Vicky. “Good luck to anyone who’s coming into the festival market, because it’s not easy, especially in the UK.”
ONES TO WATCH
Doom, stoner rock, hardcore, black metal and grindcore are just some of the treats awaiting punters at the second annual Temples festival in Bristol, which takes place on May 29-30. After last year’s inaugural event was such a success, organiser Francis Mace has high hopes for his second crack at the festival whip.
“I just want to program a lineup that you can’t see anywhere else in the UK,” he says. He’s not kidding, either. Temples 2015 already boasts a staggering list of bands, including Converge, Sunn O))), Earth, Triptykon, Between The Buried And Me, Nails, Bölzer and Torche, with loads more to be announced. Expect this to be a huge highlight of next summer./o:p
RESTOF THE FESTS
2015’s festival season is shaping up to be busy as hell!
The 2015 summer festival season offers fans a glittering array of options. For big budget events, look no further than the reliably brilliant DOWNLOAD in June, where Slipknot, Kiss and Muse top the bill.
SONISPHERE are still expected to announce their plans for the summer soon too, and if they can top last year’s bill this coming July, then our minds may burst with joy.
BLOODSTOCK is also shaping up to be a blinder, with Trivium, Rob Zombie and Within Temptation heading a lineup that should keep metal diehards happy in August.
Meanwhile, there is always our annual piss-up in North Wales at HAMMERFEST in March, which is now part of a larger and more diverse event named HRH United. Kamelot, Candlemass and Devilment head the charge there.
The mighty DESERTFEST returns to London in April, with doom legends Sleep and Hammer faves Orange Goblin among the stoner stars, while TEMPLES Festival in Bristol (see left for the lowdown!) looks like being a highlight of the underground calendar.
Similarly, DAMNATION is expected to return for another blisteringly heavy knees-up in Leeds. At the other end of the metal scale, those of a ’core persuasion will be well served by SLAM DUNK, which takes place in Leeds, Hertfordshire and Wolverhampton in May, and HEVY, which returns in August.
Fans of eight-string guitars and polyrhythms should consider a trip to TECH-FEST in July, while prog and classic rock fans should already be frothing at the prospect of the first RAMBLIN’ MAN festival, which takes place at Mote Park in Maidstone on July 25-26 and boasts the legendary Scorpions, Gregg Allman and many more iconic names.
Of course, you may prefer to combine festivals with a holiday, and there are countless possibilities across Europe and beyond, from Norway’s INFERNO and ROADBURN in Holland to mega-fests like WACKEN, HELLFEST, SWEDEN ROCK and GRASPOP. The choice is bewildering and we’re lucky bastards, aren’t we?/o:p