Take a look at their itinerary. Over the next couple of months, Run the Jewels will perform at Rolling Loud Festival, Summer Camp Music Festival, Boston Calling, Primavera Sound, Field Day, Mysteryland USA, Northside Festival, and about a thousand other festivals, including Fort Worth’s Fortress Festival Sat-Sun in the Cultural District. Pretty sweet music gig, right? Load up your gear, jet around the globe –– Miami, Boston, London, Portugal, Denmark, Funkytown! –– disembark only to hop onstage and rock the mic a little, and then hop back on the plane to be taken to the next show, probably near a beach. The life being led by rappers El-P and Killer Mike is the dream of every artist caught between Adele/Beyonce/Drake and Blues Hammer, and that number includes a lot of Fort Worth acts. (Well, every Fort Worth act whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Neon Kidges.”) Three of whom — Burning Hotels, the Quaker City Night Hawks, and Ronnie Heart — will join Run the Jewels, Purity Ring, Flying Lotus, Slowdive, Wolf Parade, and the rest of the Fortress lineup this weekend. Now that the festival season is upon us, brace yourselves. Anti-fest rhetoric is coming.
Not wholly from these quarters, though, paly. I’m not saying the festival system is perfect. The sets are too short, according to more than a few national music scribes, including some dude at Paste (“Have We Reached Peak Festival?,” Mar 31, 2016). The sound is also reportedly terrible, and to some particularly bitter writers (old white guy much?), the music for a goodly amount of festivalgoers is evidently secondary to capturing the capital-M-Moment with their phones to share on social media. (Maybe Old White Music Writer Guy has a point. Teens and twentysomethings are addicted to social media.)
But the festival system is a byproduct of the age. Experiencing a band or artist in person is the one thing about music that can’t be replicated. It’s also the only thing left for the Burning Hotels, Quaker Citys, and Ronnie Hearts of the world to capitalize on, considering the big three major record labels still control everything we hear on the radio and the screen (“Revenge Of The Record Labels: How The Majors Renewed Their Grip On Music,” Forbes, Apr 15, 2015). And, perhaps more often than you may realize, major corporations also control the music we experience at major festivals.
One of the largest companies in the world, AEG Presents produces Coachella, Stagecoach Country Music Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Dallas’ Edgefest, the River City Rockfest in San Antonio, Rock on the Range, Rockfest, and Rocklahoma in the Midwest, and several other fests in the Deep South and on the East Coast.
AEG is still second to Live Nation, which puts on more than 60 festivals across the globe and owns controlling stakes in several major fests, including Bonnaroo, Sasquatch!, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits.
That the same artists are all playing the same festivals is, like global warming and that racist/sexist/bigot in the White House, just a fact of life we’re all going to have to get used to. Everyone talks about a level playing field for all artists and bands now, but everywhere you look, there’s another gatekeeper either asking you for a $35 submission fee or telling you to fuck off.
Kudos to the good folks at the independently owned Fortress Festival for stressing local openers, even though twice as many Dallas acts are on the bill. I guess that’s the best we lovable losers can expect. Even when the sun’s shining on us, it’s still hotter in Dallas.
Tickets are $65-275.