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“The Bonnaroo Factor”

Bonnaroo, it seems, went off this year pretty much without gathering the attention from anybody in the blogosphere, and not many people in the world at large, either, for that matter. Now, the elephant in the room, here, would be that it’s already obvious that we’re living in a very precarious age, specifically speaking of music. Within the last 12 months, we’ve had Neil Young remove all his music from Spotify, for apparently ideological reasons, and then an essay surface from Will Butler [1] on how online streaming is emaciating artists’ income from their music [2]. 

And, if the general outlay of the Internet within the past months is any indication, a strikingly small amount of people actually give a rat’s patoot about Bonnarro anymore [3]. There are people posting about it on Reddit. Actually, there are some people who rejoice in the smaller crowds (according to Axios Nashville “Four day passes for this year’s comeback remained on sale on Sunday morning [4]”), as one dude on Reddit posted “As a Roo veteran (sic) this (sic) great news… No lines for the bathrooms and showers..more space to camp..can’t wait!”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not the type to posit that a lower attendance rate has any potential, despite the pitfalls of the crowded installments, of actually yielding a good time. It means the festival has lost its meaning — there are enough people in this country who appreciate founding counterculture music to fill up an entire state’s territory, probably. An ebb in Bonnaroo’s attendance marks, without question, a general blight in the populace’s faith in the festival to deliver a meaningful experience, which, of course, is understandable, since, already, at a recruiting level, they’d seemed to have lost all artistic integrity, going for vacuous, nauseating mainstream hip-hop acts, that of course don’t represent any counterculture of any sort, but rather the repugnant opposite. J. Cole, for instance, is a rapper who actually brags about going platinum. To put things in perspective, at the festival’s onset, in 2002, when people staunchly valued creative expression and freedom from the corporate dollar in artist realms, this would have been a complete cardinal sin, and, without question, nobody would have gone to the festival, debunking it as the fraud that it were. 

Going through the lineup this year, I can’t find any acts, aside from Japanese Breakfast, TOOL and TOOL’s side project Puscifer, that I even find at all listenable. This is to contrast, of course, from my recent, somewhat ballsy, expedition of checking out what shows were going on at the Hollywood Casino Ampitheatre in Tinley Park, and finding Ceramic Animal, eventually opening for Band of Horses and The Black Keys, to at least be viable destist office indie rock. For now, it looks like the Bonnaroo execs. are going to keep pouring syrup on radio-hawks with programmed beats and calling them pancakes, but, if this year’s attendance is any indication, people are going to see through their charade, and ticket sales are going to suffer. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bonnaroo bit the dust altogether. 

Now, of course, there’s the question here of whether these struggles are even avoidable — of the sheer feasibility of staging a festival rife with substantial, gripping musical acts. It’s a valid question, no doubt, with certain artists, such as Talib Kweli, deliberately bowing out of the music industry, citing that it’s not worth it and the press is too filled with “culture vultures.” Anyway, to me, breaching the tenets of what you once stood for — counterculture, metamorphosis and purity of expression — certainly isn’t going to solve anything. 

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[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/02/neil-young-spotify-joe-rogan-musicians/621503/?utm_campaign=the-atlantic&utm_content=edit-promo&utm_source=twitter&utm_term=2022-02-06T11%3A01%3A00&utm_medium=social.

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[2] It is, indeed, a very fishy situation, as at one point I read an account online that Spotify weren’t even a profitable company, hence naturally yielding the question of if someone’s deliberately sabotaging the whole enterprise, of artists’ livelihood and listeners’ access to quality material. 

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[3] I have to admit, I still do pretty much care about Bonnarroo, but it definitely wouldn’t be my first choice of festival to go to, a malady certainly not aided by their nauseating turn toward banal commercial rap like Post Malone and Machine Gun Kelly. 

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[4] The very manifestation of this claim implies to me that it marks a deviation from prior years, although it might have been nice if the writer had actually included this information. Anyway, one further distressing thing about this tidbit is that, essentially, the festival hasn’t transpired since 2019, with COVID killing it a year ago and weather sounding its demise last year. 

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