Are Foals right about old bands clogging up the festivals?

Last week former Oxford University indie band Foals expressed their frustration at the current festival circuit claiming that the old bands reforming had clogged it up and stopped ‘new’ bands like themselves getting more headline slots.

Speaking to the Daily Star about their headline slot at Latitude festival Yannis Philippakis described the small group of bands who repeatedly headline festivals in the UK as a “big problem”, saying: “There’s a big problem with old bands who always occupy the top slots at festivals. More heritage names reform every year, which only makes it worse. It really limits bands of our generation. We don’t get a fair chance to headline, because the slots are reserved for the same old names.”

Philippakis went on to say: “You get people in their late 30s going to festivals, in their dungarees with a couple of kids, wanting to relive their adolescence, pretending they’re baggy again by watching The Stone Roses. They aren’t in touch with what’s going on now. I’m bored of seeing some dude from the ’90s headline, it means nothing to me.”

In many ways he is right but as many promoters point out the younger bands just don’t sell the tickets when they get the headline slots.

No-one wants a music scene bogged down in its glorious past but there is very much a dislocate between what is perceived as being happening and what people really like. Bands like Foals get a majority of media attention which makes them look bigger than they really even if they sell a healthy amount of records and can sell out 1500 capacity venues the next step is a big step. Is it a case of bands like Stone Roses getting in the way or Foals not being the big festival band that people want?

Which bands are new anyway? Foals are three albums and nearly ten years into their career since they formed in Oxford and were influenced by veteran bands like Sonic Youth. Is this a case of which retro bands you like? or a genuine frustration at the trend for promoters to book bands who sell tickets? They do have a point about the same bands clogging up the circuit but who is there to replace them?

There are also all sorts of festivals these days with Latitude catering for the well healed indie fan with Foals headlining one day and Bloc Party (hardly a new band either!) headlining the next. The music scene is split into niches these days and there is space for everybody unlike years ago when there were a handful of festivals.

Are Foals big enough to headline a Glastonbury or Reading? are big bands reforming causing this problem? or, despite being one of those bands that gets loads of radio play and glowing press reviews bands like Foals just don’t break out of the small Guardian/BBC hipster indie scene?, there are plenty of new young bands on the rock scene who get no radio play who draw huge crowds or bands like Courteeners who can sell 20 000 tickets in Manchester and get no radio play- it’s all about perception.

There’s an endless list of great bands who have never broken out as festival headline big in the history of music, is that the fault of the ‘dungaree wearers’?

What do you think? do you agree that the Stone Roses should move aside for Foals? do you think the festival circuit has become bogged down in the past? and just what is a young band anyway?

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  1. Firstly let me say I like Foals – decent band. I’m 39 – I love a decent festival and I love seeing a band who can deliver on stage – it doesn’t matter if they are 18 and can perform – or 82 – I really don’t care. A perfect festival for me is where I not only see a great line up of bands I like but I also pick up a handful of new bands I’ve not previously seen.

    Do Foals really think that the Stone Roses are keeping them off the headline slot at Isle of Wight this year?

    They come across as a little bitter and potentially alienating the elements of their audience who have left university. Good luck with that lads – I’m the demographic that still buys music!

  2. The reason older bands are getting the headline slots, are because they are from the Pre iTunes era where people bought records physically to become a fan of the band. The connection to your favourite band was far far stronger, and the need to tour and promote themselves were greater. Therefore having put on the hard work to make a huge fan base, that fan base in theory should come out fro under a rock to vigorously support any reformation or headline slot at festivals. They aren’t clogging anything up at all. Old bands are merely the cherry on the festival cake. No one really watches the headline act properly at a festival anyway! They are either drunk, tired or already trying to sleep in a puddle of mud somewhere in the next field!

    • In my opinion foals are a bit shit and not interesting enough to headline festivals.they have very few decent tunes and don’t have a lot to say. I’m not a big fan of the way they look and they don’t have much charisma.

  3. Im sick of festivals filling in the gaps with bands just for the sake of having “100 bands on 4 stages” . I would rather go and see less bands all playing music that is along the same
    genre and letting them have decent stage times. Rather than paying for three days to see five bands that I really like and then trying to either catch the next big thing or seeing a band simply to check them of a list and say to the grandkids that you saw them live.

  4. Some great points raised in this article, by the writer, not Yannis. Headline slots should be earnt. When (and if) Foals have been around for decades, with an impressive back catalogue under their belt and worldwide following then they can headline the big ones. Meanwhile, embrace your place at the smaller festivals for pity’s sake. Festivals are so much more than headliners – but when deciding where to direct your £200, an expensive, veteran headliner such as Neil Young, who you might not get the chance to see live elsewhere (with him pushing 70 and tickets pushing £70) will always have the edge over a flavour-of-the-month band like Foals. Even for people who aren’t in their 30s and don’t wear dungarees.

  5. Perhaps bands like Foals should embrace the dungaree wearers, yes they’ll come to see the headline act, but they’re not only gonna watch one band while they’re at the festival, so bands like the Foals may find they open up their music to a whole new audience. Isn’t this what festivals or any other event with a star structure (Film, the Olympics, or hell even professional wrestling; google The Rock) are about? A reliable veteran act is used to attract fans to the event leading to the fans dsicovering talent they’d never usually go to see and in turn becomeing fans of that talent.

  6. I think there is a bit of a “nostalgia culture” though, compared to say 20 years ago. While I don’t agree with all the singer’s points I do think the fact there is more of a nostalgia culture now does make it harder for newer bands in some way. Also, as another commenter said, people had a bit more of a connection back then maybe as it was simply a bit harder to hear all the music you wanted to. Nowadays you can listen to pretty much anything by anyone at the press of a button.

  7. Some good points here, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Hebden won the Best UK Blues Festival last year for a whole range of reasons. See here for their take on ‘old heritage bands’ etc httpss:// and this year’s line up reflects that. You just have to remember that it is the music that counts in the end…nobody will watch if you’re not very good…

  8. Excuse me! I’m 40. Last weekend I spent Friday at an underground gig in a cricket pavilion taking in 4 new bands! Great underground gig. On the Saturday I was at a brilliant gay/mixed club. Both nights were all about the music and interestingly enough the age span at both was 20 to 60 years. Oh and I also have a ticket for The Roses at Glasgow Green. I find The Foals ageism offensive but not nearly as offensive as accusing me of wearing dungarees! A hideous apparel I haven’t worn since I was 3. PS get rid of that beard. I don’t like them on singers. Just my opinion like…;))

    • I did laugh when I read that bit about the dungarees. Coming from a man (Yannis) who wears a shellsuit!
      Sounds to me like they’re getting frustrated by their own hype. Yes it would be nice to see some lesser established artists get bigger slots but isn’t that the ladder all bands have to climb? I have nothing against Foals or The Stone Roses but I know who’d I’d rather see headlining. And on this occasion Foals, you don’t have my number.

  9. I don’t like The Foals but he’s got a point. All this nostalgia is making me feel old.

    About the future I only can reminisce
    For what I’ve had is what I’ll never get
    And although this may sound strange
    My future and my past are presently disarranged
    And I’m surfing on a wave of nostalgia for an age yet to come…

  10. Great article! They could always put on their own festival. There music is a little too bland and they are a bit too clean cut to ever get a large following no matter how hard they are pushed. I would imagine Everything Everything will one day be big enough to headline a festival but not for another five years or so. Traditional guitar band music is hard to make without finding an artist from the past who did a similar thing with better producers and engineers involved. The real innovation in music will not come from this stable as lyrically few indie songwriters can compete with the poetic skills of grime / hip hop artists. So to me it follows that the next big headline artists will not be inanimate shoegazers but engaging poets with a more inspired musical backdrop. The real stars of the future will emerge over the next few years and will be politically charged and have more influences so will not be pigeon holed as easily.

  11. It’s all about interest and popularity that’s the bottom line. Everyone wants new and excitng bands but you can’t please everyone. The fact that the roses are headlining is proof that people are still interested in music needs them because they are good. I for one can’t wait to see them this summer. I havnt been this excited since Arctic Monkeys exploded onto the scene!

  12. Festivals are business. As long as it makes business sense to have an ‘old’ band headlining it’ll continue. I can see this going on until all the ‘old’ bands are finally too old to perform. At least another 20 years. In any case, how are they supposed to make any dosh these days, certainly not from music sales.

  13. When I’m choosing which festival to play, I’m not overly concerned about who’s the headliner. If there’s a band I want to see, then I’ll see them regardless of whether they’re playing at lunchtime or at 10pm. What’s the problem?

  14. Oops, that last comment should have read “which festival to attend”. I’m not about to headline Glasto. :)

  15. Obviously Foals aren’t big enough to headline a major festival, but he does have a point in that there are a lot of older bands reforming for a payday, clogging up the bill at festivals.

  16. To be honest The Foals are not in a position to dictate who headlines festivals. They are an okay band, nothing more, nothing less.

    The problem for the Foals is that any hipster scene they are a part of simply has not broken in to the mainstream really and therefore from a business perspective they make unlikely headline acts.

    The 90’s was my era and a I was a little bit too young to see the Roses in their glory years of 89/90, so welcome the opportunity to see them now, simply because I love the songs. The early 90’s had a vibrant scene that captured the imagination of not only the youth, but also the mainstream pretty quickly. it had characters, great songs (some shit ones too). It all became a little bloated and tired towards the end.

    If the Foals write a true classic of an album then fair enough, but they are just bland to me and he comes across slightly envious.

  17. Of course, in 15 years time, when Yannis has shaved his beard off in an attempt to look younger, if Foals are ever in the position to headline a major festival for serious money, they will politely step aside, saying ‘thank you, but no, it’s time for the new generation of bands to have their opportunity’.
    The Foals latest single is great by the way. Overall they’re above average but not much more. Stone Roses are an unfortunate example for Yannis to use , They were playing to 27,000 people at Spike Island, just one album in – not really a heritage issue. And nice Buzzcocks lyrics, The Baron!

  18. To be fair it has to do with talent and love. There is a huge amount of affection for the roses and they are brilliant musicians and song writers. Foals don’t say a lot to anybody really and their attitude is jealous and age-ist. It’s only in England (not Britain) where bands are judged on age,shoes,hair cuts etc…its music you foals and when you can aquire as much love as bands like the roses,maybe you’ll get to play some big shows.

  19. The “old” bands come from the era when the music that was “fed” to the public as being “big”, was more tightly controlled than it is now. Those “feeding” (the agents, managers, tv producers etc) were a select group of people, possibly freemasons, who would promote certain groups. This is why the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show many many more times than any other band. Epstein’s freemasonry links and wise business head when doing a deal with the Ed Sullivan show producers.
    So are the powers that be going to just abandon these groups that they’ve “sold” to the public as being wonderful? No. Why would they? If they did, they’d lose their investment. They’ve created a “brand” and the market is still ripe for that “brand” so its the creaky old war horse of the Rolling Stones “brand” at Glastonbury. Seems to me that Foals can’t get no satisfaction, cos they’ve no sympathy for the devilish truth that Music Biz is nowt to do with Music.

    • The Beatles were NOT on the Ed Sulliven show more than any other band.
      There were many groups on the show more than the Beatles. Please get your facts right mate before you type. Nothing to do with freemasons. Maybe the Beatles were popular because they wrote great songs and were the sound of freedom in a stuffy post war world with its fake christian ‘values’.

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  21. There are plenty of indie festivals waiting for The Foals to headline, it’s all about the end user. Glastonbury has its audience, it’s on TV, it’s the daddy and people spend a fortune there. They want the big headline act. This year it’s the Roses That’s business.


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