A few people have forwarded this story to me, recently, about the death of arena rock. Apparently, the days of Bruce Springsteen or The Who filling huge outdoor theaters every other year are behind us. There won’t be another band who can fill an arena for 30 years straight. This, apparently, means that gone is the sensation of being part of a large crowd all singing along together with the artist.
As is often the case, the journalists are looking at a static situation and deciding it either is or it isn’t. What they’re failing to consider is that it might just be evolving.
In 1990, when I spent my junior year of college in Coventry, England, one of the things I noticed is the incredible number of music festivals that happen every summer. On the back pages of Q and NME, you could see the massive lineup for any one of what seemed like 20 different festivals, and all the names on the page were huge – Paul Weller, Elvis Costello, Blur, Happy Mondays, etc.
So, fast forward to 2008 and what do we have here in the United States? Coachella, South by Southwest (SXSW), Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza… and that’s just a few. This past weekend’s Lollapalooza drew over 225,000 people. I watched some woman do sign language for Radiohead with over 70,000 others.
What this article laments is the fact that no one band is going to be able to fill an arena for 30 years straight. This may or may not be true. But the onset of successful music festivals is simply the evolution of that model. Who cares whether one band or 70 bands draw a huge crowd to a huge venue.
The more important question, to me, is are the masses still involved and engaged in music, and I think the answer is a loud and resounding “absolutely.”