Festival Headliners Will Never Be Good Enough....
...because people are fickle and love to moan too much
Words & pot stirring: Phil Weller
Upon Bloodstock announcing their second headline act for the 2019 inauguration of their festival the internet has, typically, began its yearly moaning and groaning – as is the done response these days. German rock heavyweights The Scorpions have been hand-picked to inject their classic swagger and pomp to the Burton-Upon-Trent bonanza on the Saturday night, joining the previously announced headliners Sabaton at the top of the bill. Already though, after only eight bands having been announced, and despite the fact there are over 100 more acts yet to be unveiled, people are spitting out their dummies in protest and telling their Facebook friends that they won’t be attending next year. And why are people moaning? For the same boring and repetitive reasons they have every year; which is something far from exclusive to Bloodstock alone.
But here’s the thing, the internet will never be happy with a festival announcement, because no one likes a happy post. People want to be seen being miserable because it provokes a reaction and makes them seem edgy and anti-mainstream. People want to moan and from now until eternity every single festival announcement will be met by social media shitposting disdain.
“They’re not heavy enough”, the same old voices cry, “they’re not a Bloodstock band!” But what in Satan’s name is a Bloodstock band? Of course, The Scorpions headlining a self-professed extreme metal festival was always going to ruffle a few feathers, but this isn’t exactly new territory for those in charge of assembling the line-up each and every year. Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P, Ghost, and Europe – fucking Europe – have all played headline slots, to a great reception, in the past, all bands who are a long stretch from the extreme metal moniker that Bloodstock purists echo like it’s their morning prayer. It’s not like The Scorpions are a bunch of unicorns rocking up to a sacrificing, they’re a huge name who sit comfortably alongside a now prestigious list of bands honoured to top Bloodstock’s billing. But, because this is Bloodstock, the supposed antithesis of Download’s ‘sell-out radio rock’ aesthetic, every time a headliner is announced who don’t play some form of black, death or skull-crushingly aggressive metal, out come the bottom lips of those who only like bands cool enough to have an illegible logo – the complete opposite of the purpose of a logo, may I add.
The thing is, Bloodstock, despite its branding as an extreme metal festival which celebrates metal’s darker and more niche market, has always championed a much greater musical diversity than that name alone suggests and has done so since day one. It has always given bands a chance too, often giving artists their first taste of festival headlining glory before anyone else. From Gojira’s monumental set at this year’s edition, to Behemoth, Mastodon, Trivium, Machine Head and Within Temptation, they have always supported younger bands, putting them on the same pedestal as your Slayers, Megadeths and Judas Priests. In fact, in the past 10 years only four bands have headlined more than once – Opeth, Megadeth, Slayer and Twisted Sister. That means that the other 22 headline slots have been given to 22 different artists. Few other festivals offer such diversity.
On the flip side, had Bloodstock opted for no diversity and instead invited three previous headliners back who nestle under the extreme metal umbrella – let’s say Immortal, Slayer and Lamb of God – then you guarantee there would be moaning at the lack of diversity.
When Download announced their 2016 headliners as three of the world’s biggest metal bands in Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Rammstein, the news was still received with a near unanimous “is that it?” People will never be pleased.
Personally I will wait until there are a lot more bands announced, and likewise can compare the line-up in greater detail alongside alternative options across the UK and Europe, before deciding whether or not to go. As are many people, but it is the party spoiling few whose opinions are always the loudest.
So, for the detractors already bitching about the festival’s ‘poor’ announcements, sit back and be patient. There are over 100 bands yet to be announced and maybe, just maybe, open your mind and allow yourself to be surprised. For me, there are few greater feelings than being surpsied by a band, being floored by an act you were adamant were more wank than a 14 year old boy’s internet history. Festivals are built on those kind of performances and besides, festivals – Bloodstock especially – is about more than just a bunch of cool bands playing in a field; it’s about the metal community coming together and celebrating their mutual love of heavy – and not so heavy – music, it’s about getting pissed as a fart in a field in the sunshine, it’s about choosing a 3am adventure around another campsite over sleeping, it’s about making memories and escaping the incessant mundanities of everyday life. No other festival I’ve been to comes anywhere near the same atmosphere or community and comradery. It doesn’t matter if you see one band or 100, it doesn’t matter if you were passed out before Judas Priest, it matters that you were there and that you kicked back and had fun. Everyday life is drab enough without people sprinkling misery over what is, for 15,000 people every year, their big blowout holiday and the highlight of their calendar.