Music lovers used to get feverishly excited when a colorful poster was unveiled, announcing a list of acts expected to perform at an upcoming festival.
Now, the chorus sounds more like one big meh. Then an eye roll.
Or maybe it's like this: That fateful festival email with the list of bands for the next three-day extravaganza was once like waking up on Christmas morning to discover Santa had brought you a pony. Well, he didn't. He brought you a sensible mock turtleneck from your boring aunt.
Although 2018 is not even two weeks old, publicists from across the country have announced lineups for some of our biggest festivals, including Coachella, Governor's Ball and Bonnaroo, as well as young upstarts BottleRock and Boston Calling.
Look, there's plenty to like about giant weekend music festivals, but they've become almost impossible to truly love. It would be one thing if the major fests were merely sharing two or three of the grandest headliners. Today, though, that overlapping has extended well down into the mid-section of the lineup poster -- the part of the lineup where a festival such as Austin City Limits helped define its own identity, and any real festival aficionado will tell you the real heart lies.
Just after the turn of the millennium, Coachella was the indie-minded fest with a knack for landing surprise headliners, while Bonnaroo was a homecoming for the hippie-centric jam-band set. ACL focused on the rich roots, country and American-music legacy of its namesake television show. Though traces of each still pop up in almost covert doses each year, those pioneering ideals are long gone for the most mammoth of marquee festivals.
Eminem, Muse, Jack White, Halsey, Khalid and the Killers are already on top of multiple festival posters, and we're just getting started for the year. The Killers headlined ACL last year and are on a lengthy tour now, so we don't feel a jolt seeing their name in that spot yet again. Aside from Muse's multiple appearances at the fests they're already slated for in 2018, the band has headlined ACL twice in the past eight years. So be on the lookout for a not-so-charming third time this fall.
Lady Gaga and the Weeknd, both headliners at Coachella, have been on lengthy tours in the past year and as a result, these slots lack any sort of cache usually commensurate with such lofty placement. Not every year can have the Guns and Roses reunion and LCD Soundsystem reunion, as Coachella did in 2016. And not every year will have a reunited Pixies (2004), a reunited Strokes (2010), reunited Replacements (2014) or reunited Outkast (2014) dotting the national festival docket to make ticket-buyers feel all tingly. We get that.
In all fairness, there are only so many acts out there that warrant headliner status. So the quick increase of large festivals over the past decade has surely led to heightened competition and greater homogenization amongst the festivals.
There aren't many ways to top another festival having Radiohead headline, so the next best thing is to have Radiohead headline your own shindig, right?
But still, for our close-to-home example, Austin City Limits: By the time the annual October fest posts its lineup sometime in May, we'll likely see many of the top and mid-tier names we've already seen numerous times on other lineups.
Perhaps it's better to look at the festival circuit as one big traveling circus, not unlike how Lollapalooza started in the '90s.
Or just wake us up when one of these festivals does something truly unique again.