What I Learned Covering Nine Music Festivals in a Single Year
What does covering music festivals for a living teach you? The Wall Street Journal's Jim Fusilli shares his account of the new and interesting things that hit the music festival scene in 2016.This article originally appeared on The Wall Street Journal
In 2016, I had the pleasure and responsibility of covering nine rock-and-pop festivals for the Journal. I say “responsibility” because a critic can’t understand the popular music of yesterday, today and tomorrow without diving into festivals that present a multitude of artists. With that obligation comes the great joy of being thrust willingly into a series of events that confirm that this period in rock and pop is deep, diverse and wildly democratic.
Attend any forward-thinking festival and it becomes immediately clear that the artistry and technical expertise among the musicians is at a superior level. This is true from midafternoon well into the night; some of the best sets I saw in 2016 happened hours before sunset, hours before the headliners appeared: by Poolside, purveyors of “daytime disco” at the CRSSD in San Diego; Lisa Hannigan, the folk singer who was supported by the National’s Aaron Dessner on guitar at Eaux Claires in Eau Claire, Wis; avant-garde jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson in a solo performance at Big Ears in Knoxville, Tenn.; Laura Mvula, who has funked up her chamber pop, at Afropunk in Brooklyn; Survive, the electronica quartet, at Day for Night in Houston; among others. Arriving early almost always pays off in the discovery of emerging talent.
Cover photo courtesy of Graham Tolbert