Curated Festivals and the Changing Face of Summer Entertainment

Categories: Pop Life

Photo by Marc Brubaker.
While most Texans are spending their Friday counting down to ACL or speculating about the Fun Fun Fun Fest line up, I find myself thinking about a festival north of our fair state. We're halfway through June and that means that the 2012 Gathering of the Juggalos infomercial should be dropping any day now, giving delight to juggalos across the country and over 20 minutes of new Insane Clown Posse produced content for snarky bloggers to mock.

There's a lot to like about the infomercial, be it the cameo appearances by various fallen pop stars and wrestlers to finding out which acts are crazy/need a check bad enough to show up and perform. While it's a boon to both ICP fans and haters that's essentially all it is: a gift.

ICP doesn't have to make a big production out of the lineup reveal, but they do it to give the fans something nice. It doesn't matter who's going to perform: juggalos will show up just because it's something their heroes are putting on. That they book like-minded acts and people who it would be fun to throw bottles at is a bonus.

It's easy to give ICP grief but when you start to look at some of the other festivals popping up this year you can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, they've actually been ahead of the curve this entire time.

The first Gathering of the Juggalos took place in 2000. Consider that for a moment: It makes the festival older than both ACL and Bonnaroo and only one year younger than Coachella.

Now consider the summer festival climate back then. Without the mega festivals that we have today, your average concert goer's summer revolved around touring festivals like the Warped Tour and Ozzfest in addition to any radio station megashows that might take place.

Simply put: People didn't travel to festivals -- they waited for the festivals to come to them.

Ozzfest in particular was starting a run of years with incredibly stacked lineups for the world of heavy metal. They regularly had Ozzy or Black Sabbath headlining with acts such as Pantera, Marilyn Manson, System of a Down, Korn, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Yet for all its success in the early '00s, the tour no longer exists and the Warped Tour is a shell of its former self.

There are plenty of reasons to explain their decline in popularity. Two that stand out the most are declining ticket sales and high gas prices contributing to inflated transportation costs. It doesn't matter how much corporate sponsorship you have: If you can't put asses in the seats or keep the show going from venue to venue, you aren't going to make any money.

It didn't help that by the latter half of the decade bands were starting to realize they could make more money by organizing their own summer touring packages. Why be a cog in someone else's money making machine when you can be out doing your own thing with your own corporate sponsors?

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