Alabama’s Hangout Music Festival has not traditionally had a lot of cool lineups. Since, the festival’s 2010 inception, Foo Fighters have headlined twice, and so has the Zac Brown Band. Last year’s headliners included Mumford & Sons and Twenty One Pilots. The lineup has always been loaded down with watery jam bands, EDM DJs, and milquetoast pseudo-indie bands. But even with all that in mind, the just-unveiled lineup for next year’s festival is absolutely atrocious.
Kendrick Lamar will headline one day of next year’s festival, which comes to Gulf Shores 5/18-20. That’s great! The Killers, perennial festival headliners, also top the bill for one day. That’s fine. The third headliner is the Chainsmokers, which is… something. But the Chainsmokers have hits. They’re a legit draw. You can understand how they’d end up playing. Still, it’s hard to look at the rest of the bill without getting depressed about how next year’s whole festival landscape will look.
Look at that poster. Look at it! It’s a wreck. You can almost smell the desperation coming off of it. As our own Michael Nelson predicted, festivals had a rough time in 2017, with a few big fests shutting down or postponing and a few others recording smaller attendance numbers than they’ve seen in recent years. So to combat that, the people at Hangout apparently just booked whoever’s doing streaming numbers, which explains how the bill includes people like Logic, NF, Blackbear, and Lil Pump getting prominent placement. There’s also plenty of EDM, with Zedd, Odesza, Galantis, and AWOLNATION. And then we get the bands who will never leave the festival rotation, no matter how long it’s been since they’ve done anything noteworthy: Cold War Kids, Foster The People, Grouplove, Slightly Stoopid. (Portugal. The Man actually have an enormous hit right now, so they don’t belong on that list, even if they feel like they should.) Pussy Riot are on there, too, for whatever reason. It’s rough.
There are good things on that bill. There’s no bad reason to see Kendrick Lamar. SZA’s prominent placement tells a nice story about the way her star has grown in the past year. Anderson .Paak and St. Vincent and Noname and Cashmere Cat are all worthy of your attention. Still, this lineup raises the question: Are we about to see months and months of lineups like this? Lineups utterly lacking in charm or identity? Is this what it looks like when festival bookers attempt to target younger crowds? Are we all just going to stay home this summer?