Festival Feed: Where’d all the legacy headliners go?


This week’s topic: We’re running out of legacy headliners.

Where have all the dinosaurs gone? Over the years, both Bonnaroo and Coachella earned reputations for bringing in some of the biggest names in the history of music to their respective fields. The likes of Paul McCartney, Prince and Roger Waters have rocked the desert while The Police, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder have floored the farm. Even ACL got in the game with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and The Eagles. But in the past couple years, these mega-headliners have been suspiciously absent from lineups. Rumors of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin have never materialized for ‘Roo, while the perpetual Smiths reunion rumors for Coachella never come about either.

The only fest to pull off a true mega/legacy headliner this year was Glastonbury, after finally nabbing U2. Stateside, the closest any fest has come is Hangout, with their impressive booking of Paul Simon as the #1 headliner. Bonnaroo does have Neil Young’s reunited first band, Buffalo Springfield, but they’re a sub-headliner, even listed below the Black Keys on the lineup. ACL might still pull a huge booking out of their hat, but as of right now, Paul Simon is the only lineup-topping elder statesman out there in the U.S. Many people will point to the recession as the reason these older top headliners are becoming rarer, and they have a point. Getting someone like the Rolling Stones to headline your festival would cost an astronomical amount compared to the acts we currently see at the top of lineups.

Having one of these monster bookings at the top of lineups is a point of some contention among festival-goers. Many contest that the money spent on these acts negatively effects the undercard of the lineups, while others complain because most of the time, these acts are far beyond their prime and don’t put on the best shows anymore. On the other side of the coin, these kind of bookings give people the opportunity to see some of the most popular acts in music history in a unique setting without having to break the bank to see just that one artist. Yeah, their shows might not live up to their previous reputations, but for many, myself included, it provides a great chance to cross off some “bucket list” bands that people may not otherwise have a chance to see.

We may never see a rush on these artists again like we did a few short years ago, but there are still some huge acts out there that we would love to see at the top of festival lineups in the coming years. These are some we’d like to see happen:

Rolling Stones

rolling stones Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

Early on, the rumor mill was hinting towards the Rolling Stones playing Bonnaroo this year. It turned out to just be wishful thinking, but it’s looking like it could be a possibility sooner rather than later. There have been reports that Mick Jagger & Co. are eyeing a 50th anniversary world tour in 2012 that could also serve as a farewell tour. Now is the time to book them – otherwise it might never happen.

Simon & Garfunkel

simon garfunkel Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

Simon & Garfunkel actually did play NOLA’s Jazz Fest just last year – but then the rest of their reunion tour dates had to be canceled due to Garfunkel’s vocal cord paresis before they could play any other festivals. We wish Garfunkel a speedy recovery – because they’d fit perfectly atop any ACL lineup.

Led Zeppelin

ledzeppelin Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

After Zeppelin reunited for a one off show in London in 2007, there were hard rumors that they would bring the reunion stateside and headline Bonnaroo 2008 – some outlets even reported it as fact on the night of the lineup release. But it was all for naught, and even though Jimmy Page reportedly would love to do a whole reunion tour, Robert Plant has repeatedly claimed that it was a one-time only show. Still, could you imagine how crazy Zeppelin would be on the farm? We’ll keep our fingers crossed for this one, but we’re not holding our breath.

Guns ‘N Roses

guns n roses Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

While the “Guns ‘N Roses” that Axl Rose has been touring around with for the past few years wouldn’t look too great at top billing, a reunion of the original lineup, which has been whispered about for years now, would be a huge get for anyone. We could see them reuniting to put on a blast of a show at Coachella or Lollapalooza.


madonna glastonbury Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

While Madonna played her first U.S. festival ever back in 2006, it was a somewhat last minute surprise in the Sahara tent at a festival she could have headlined if she wanted to. And after Lady GaGa surprised many by closing down a night of Lollapalooza last year, we’d love to see them one-up themselves and get the real Queen of Pop to top their lineup whenever she returns to the stage.


u2 u2 songs of ascent jpg Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

U2 was another name thrown around at the beginning of festival season this year. Long thought to be “too big” to play a festival – a barrier that some think was broken when Bruce Springsteen played Roo and Paul McCartney played Coachella in 2009 – Bono and crew are finally headlining Glastonbury this year. However, all of the stateside festivals were shut out in the midst of another huge stadium tour of the U.S. While it may never happen, we think we’ll see U2 at Coachella or Bonnaroo soon enough.

Black Sabbath

blacksabbath Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

Last year, Ozzy Osbourne said in an interview with The Republican that he’d like to get the original lineup of Black Sabbath back together for an album and tour “in a year or two.” Well, a year has gone by and once Ozzy’s tour wraps up later this year, the time could be right for the Sabbath reunion. While bassist Geezer Butler has seemed to resist the idea, Ozzy still seems to think it could happen. One way or another, we would welcome a reunion that included a stop at Bonnaroo or Coachella.

Van Halen

van halen Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

After years of speculation, original singer David Lee Roth rejoined Van Halen and went on a reunion tour back in 2007/2008. Since then, the band has remained silent – until a new date finally popped up on the itinerary – the group will be headlining Australia’s Soundwave Festival later this year. This could open the door for VH to make the festival rounds next year – we could see the band playing any of the big four festivals.

The Smiths

the smiths Festival Feed: Whered all the legacy headliners go?

Well, yeah, that’s just never gonna happen.

What mega-legacy headliners would you like to see?