With festival season well and truly underway, with either some now over for another year and others finishing off their line-ups, we've begun to notice a serious trend amongst most of the line-ups for this year's events. And while this is nothing new or exclusive to 2017, the decisions to rely on older, more established bands as headliners seems to be more apparent this year than in the past. Many of the larger festivals this year seem to exclusively giving the top slot on most of their dates to bands that quite simply aren't in peak condition anymore, giving those acts who are in the zenith of their careers places much lower down on the line-up. So is this becoming more of a trend or are fans genuinely less liking to want to see a less experienced name at the top?
While Download Festival obviously had the motivation of booking System Of A Down as a headliner, given that the band haven't played in more than a decade in the UK, this seems pretty reasonable. But the forthcoming Reading & Leeds Festivals seem to be suffering from this idea of a nostalgia pull more than anyone. The headliners for their August Bank Holiday weekend shindig are Muse, Kasabian and Eminem. Now they are all very recognisable in their own right but I think it is fair to say that all three are well past their prime. In fact in every case, I think each of the three have had at least a decade under the bridge since what would be the peaks of their careers. But will they pull in the numbers?
As it stands, Reading & Leeds have had a speckled past in recent years regarding ticket sales. Having regularly sold out their events every year at the start of the century, the festival has been less consistent recently having the occasionally non-sell out every other year. At the moment, the festival is still selling tickets but it seems that fans aren't quite taking to this year's line-up choice like was hoped. And that could possibly be down to their choices on the top of the bill.
The problem seems to be that while Reading & Leeds have always been pushers of great new music, they are becoming less confident in those names managing to pull people through the gates. With names like Haim (about to release their first album since their debut), Glass Animals (who released one of the best albums of last year) and Neck Deep (one of the most loved new rock bands) all relegated to the lower stages, it seems that the festivals are stifling their audience by not proudly displaying this great contemporary bookings higher on their bills.
It seems that the festival is going through some kind of identity crisis, not knowing who it is supposed to appeal to anymore. The event is largely seen as a right-of-passage festival. One where the youth can get their toes wet in a more established and well-run event before embarking on other places later in life. But seeing names like Liam Gallagher, Korn and At The Drive In fill the mainstage, it feels as though their target market has begun to be ignored.
And while people say every year that this year's Reading & Leeds line-up is the worst ever, I have always been taking those comments with a pinch of salt. But it seems that now, more than ever, the festival is genuinely struggling to find talent to fill its higher stages. Even though the line-up throughout has some major names on every stage, what they sell as their main pulls just seem like has-beens in a festival so well targeted at the young.