On January 17, 2014, the Plano City Council and Live Nation Dallas officially unveiled the lineup for the inaugural Suburbia Music Festival. The announcement of the music festival was first introduced in December of last year when the Plano City Council first approved an agreement between the city and Live Nation, a leading concert promoter in the country. Live Nation’s Suburbia Music Festival should not be heralded as the future premiere music festival that North Texas needs because the music festival’s programming lacks the creative energy, innovation and exploration of new emerging sounds that can be found at music festivals it is said to be modeled upon.
The decision to introduce a large-scale music festival in the North Texas area came about from Live Nation’s view that the area was lacking a large-scale live music experience. “We believe that North Texas has been in need of a major music festival for years,” Danny Eaton, Live Nation’s Senior VP of North American Concerts, said in a statement. “We firmly believe that Suburbia will be the vehicle to become an annual event for years to come.” Eaton added, “Suburbia is destined to become the premiere music festival of all time in the North Texas area.”
While I’m sure this venture will benefit the economy of the City of Plano, the lineup is still hilariously saturated with Billboard Hot 100 rock radio acts that were manufactured by suits at a major label.
With Live Nation at the wheel of this venture, it is difficult to view the development of this music festival in the future as anything other than a large-scale Billboard Hot 100 festival that showcases bands who are not necessarily household names, but are still signed to major labels. Being signed to a major label isn’t an automatic indicator of a bad thing or that a band has sold out. In terms of this inaugural festival launch, it raises doubts that Live Nation ever considered looking to indie labels and booking agencies that represent emerging artists who are very likely to be found at music events such as SXSW, Austin City Limits and Free Press Summer Festival.
Suburbia does not read as a very organic music fest. It lacks imagination or exploration of exciting music being created and talked about today. Many artists on the lineup warrant serious question marks in regards to their relevancy on an inaugural music festival that has the aspiration of becoming an Austin City Limits or Free Press Summer Fest – premiere stages for burgeoning music acts that are both trending and gaining buzz through relevant releases or performances.
The classification and organization of the poster warrants serious skepticism for the model and direction the festival organizers have in introducing this fest’s first sense of identity to the public, but more importantly how they foresee the fest developing in the future.
What do irrelevant 90’s bands have to offer for the music festival goer? Third Eye Blind, a band that hasn’t released an album since 2009 (and are hardly considered to be a legacy act), are billed near the top of the lineup. If you want to hear “Jumper”, show up at the end of their set because we all know that will be the money spewed all over the Plano crowd. Meanwhile, Run the Jewels, the rap duo comprised of veterans, El-P and Killer Mike, are billed somewhere just above middle on the official festival lineup poster.
The unveiling of Suburbia comes at a time when local music fest goers are left feeling a bit festival-starved. 35 Denton (formerly NX35 and 35 Conferette) an annual music festival that began in downtown Denton, TX in 2009, will sit out this year and continue again in 2015 as its festival organizers rebuild stability surrounding the festival following the departure of key organizers. Despite this benching, the 4-day festival remains a great example of a North Texas music festival establishing a communal music identity for an area of Texas that is often overlooked by other cities.
In 35 Denton’s short history, it has brought in large national acts that were also headlining Austin City Limits and Free Press Summer Fest in the same festival years. This inaugural fest has managed to cover a broad array of music genres, while remaining extremely cautious. Aside from the likes of Run the Jewels and Surfer Blood, Suburbia comes across as a very “safe” music festival, not to mention a complete dude-fest. Live Nation chose to please a broad crowd of concert goers of multiple music genres, instead of implementing a music festival identity from day one.
35 Denton identified as a music festival that centered around the community atmosphere and spirit. I should note that it is a positive sign that Live Nation chose to include a small batch of local acts in this inaugural lineup, but it still does not come close to that of 35 Denton’s emphasis on including the North Texas music community for a music experience that was truly community-based. It is difficult to match a music festival that included Solange, Killer Mike, Roky Erickson, and also over 100 local bands.
I’d like to say at least go for the local acts billed at the bottom of the lineup, but you’d really be doing yourself a disservice to not experience them in a smaller live setting around Dallas-Fort Worth. Don’t pay extra to subsidize the bands you don’t want to see when you can give directly to Dallas local acts in a smaller venue setting.
Suburbia Music Festival may not be the music festival for me, but it shouldn’t be the premiere music festival to fill the so-called void in North Texas either. It may take place at a park, but it still comes off as an Edge Fest radio concert to me. The only thing “suburban” about it is the physical location, not the musical experience. Don’t call yourself Suburbia Music Festival if you’re not going to offer anything that identifies as community-related, except for providing Plano soccer moms the opportunity to twerk up against a tree in a park while phat David Guetta beats carom down a residential sidewalk. In suburban terms, Suburbia Music Festival is the minivan of music festivals. Thanks, Live Nation.