The Secret 160,000 Person Festival
plus Copyrighting Choreography, DJs Gone Discord and NYC Concert Vax Mandate
This past weekend marked a major milestone in the country’s return to normal as fans gathered for one of the first large-scale music festivals held in the U.S.
Despite growing concerns about the Delta variant of COVID-19, this mostly maskless crowd crammed in front of multiple stages to party like it was 2019. This is how young people are supposed to act. And it was wonderful to see—even if most of the media didn’t take notice.
They didn’t catch the return of HARD Summer because they were focused on Lollapalooza, the 30th anniversary of which took place in Chicago over the same days. So while the world watched with a mix of shock and awe as Fred Durst turned into America’s dad and Megan Thee Stallion was out-hornied by an ASL interpreter at Lollapalooza, HARD headliner performances by Future, DJ Snake and Dillon Francis went largely unreported, despite having equal amounts of smartphones aimed at each of the main stages.
One reason for this is obvious. Lollapalooza streamed its entire four-day run on Hulu, the first such partnership between a massive music festival and one of the major video streamers. Over the past decade, Coachella’s live stream on YouTube has proven that tens of millions of people are happy to get the music festival experience without having to attend a music festival. And the sheer voyeuristic impulse to watch tens of thousands of people stand shoulder-to-shoulder immediately following a global pandemic (that many think is not over) was no doubt hard to resist.
But the other reasons why Lollapalooza seemed to overshadow HARD Summer are less obvious, though equally relevant, at least to those in the industry. Lollapalooza took place, as it does every year, in downtown Chicago. Of all the music festivals in America, it is the most urban, occupying Grant Park with Lake Michigan on one side and the city’s skyline on the other. HARD’s home for many years has been at the NOS Event Center in San Bernadino, California.
Make no mistake, San Bernadino is part of Greater Los Angeles—an area with twice the total population of Chicago and its surrounding municipalities. But it’s easier to gather 80,000 people a day and still go unnoticed in the sprawl of SoCal than in the traditional northern city geography of Chicago. This meant that while Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, often a lightning rod in the national political discourse, was chastised by some of the media for making an appearance at Lollapalooza after recently discussing the possible reinstatement COVID restrictions, the mayor of San Bernadino (whose name I had to look up and still won’t bother to name here), was certainly not sited anywhere near the NOS Event Center, perhaps because he’s currently being investigated for misuse of public funds.
Lest we forget that HARD promoters Insomniac threw its tentpole Electric Daisy Carnival event in downtown Los Angeles for many years until the media shitstorm of negative attention drove them out of the city proper. So downplaying your presence might actually be seen as a benefit for some promoters.
One could also say the same for the HARD lineup. Future has sold a lot of records, but he’s not the Foo Fighters. 2 Chainz has a lot of streams on Spotify, but he’s not Post Malone. HARD’s focus has always been driven by the dance music roots of its founder Gary Richards. And although Richards parted ways with HARD in 2017, after selling his creation to Live Nation in 2012, it was handed over to Insomniac impresario Pasqual Rotella, whose rave bonafide are as impeccable as Richard’s.
As HARD proved last weekend, EDM can still sell a lot of tickets, despite no longer being the sound of a generation. Lolla headliner, Miley Cyrus, on the other hand, has been the sound of several generations. How this is possible even though she’s only 28 is the sort of quirk in time/space that would require a CERN size particle collider to untangle.
Speaking of generations, Sunday marked the 40th anniversary of MTV’s debut. (Fun fact, Google “MTV Anniversary Classics” and the third result is AARP.com.)
Among the detritus unearthed for the occasion is a 10-minute MTV News clip from the first Lollapalooza in 1991, when it began as a traveling tour. In the clip, Lolla co-founder Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction expresses his surprise at the festival’s popularity, saying, “I thought alternative music was a shoo-in for keeping it alternative.”
The phrase “alternative music” is laughable today, when Post Malone, Journey, Megan Thee Stallion and Limp Bizkit can all share a day’s top festival billing. But whether the look-at-me stance of Lollapalooza or the low-key success of HARD Summer is the smarter strategy in 2021 will likely depend on how many positive COVID tests are recorded in the coming weeks.
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The most salient statements from this week’s news.
1. Beyoncé Choreographer Jaquel Knight, Logitech Partner To Help Bipoc Dance Creators Copyright Their Moves
How long until dancers start getting a fraction of a penny every time someone mimics their moves on social media?
Takeaway: Once registered, choreographers can receive payment if their choreography is used in feature films, commercials or video games.
Where gamers tread, the rest of the culture will inevitably follow.
Takeaway: Originally designed for gamers, Discord exploded during the pandemic as users searched for a place to communicate with like-minded people, across sport, fashion, film, creative industries and of course, music.
The carrot and stick method of vaccination promo is about to get a lot more convincing for music lovers in the Big Apple.
Takeaways: De Blasio attributed the city’s decision around mandatory vaccinations for indoor activities to the private sector, including the recent announcements by fitness companies like Equinox, as well as the Broadway community.