So we finally get to see, after all of the announcement and hype, what the lineup for the Woodstock that’s happening this summer is. I kick around talking about festival lineups every year, and then every year I decide not to get to it 1. For this, however, since I just did all the Woodstock stuff when it was announced, I decided to wade on in and pass some dang judgment.
There’s a pretty by-now-standard mix of pop stars, aging rock dudes, and probably just about as many original Woodstock folk as are willing and able (which is to say: not that many). It looks like it was assembled to appeal to a large denominator, and to consist of people who do this sort of thing fairly often, and are therefore reliable. It looks, in short, pretty dull.
That said, it probably doesn’t hold up any worse than any other Woodstock, even if it is kind of boring and seems pretty slapdash. So let’s take a look at how this might go!
WHO HE IS:The former autoharpist for The Lovin’ Spoonful, and a veteran of a couple of other Woodstocks – he only didn’t play 99.
IS HE WORTH IT?: Dude wasn’t worth it in 1969, and he’s literally fifty years older now, so no I’m comfortable saying he is not.
WHO SHE IS: A very young emo rapper.
IS SHE WORTH IT?: I’m going to go with “no,” given that every word in that sentence except “a” seems to rule it out.
WHO HE IS: A white R&B dude who is not related to Dave East (a rapper) or Anderson Paak (a much better R&B singer)
IS HE WORTH IT: there is almost no way that he can be, no.
Michael Franti & Spearhead
WHO HE IS: An erstwhile Disposable Hero of Hiphoprosy, who’s also been a reggae dude for well over a decade now, and I think had a hit several years ago.
IS HE WORTH IT: He’s not even worth me looking up if he did, in fact, have a hit several years ago, so I can’t imagine standing in front of his playing.
WHO HE IS: According to Wikipedia, she cites Carrie Brownstein, Patti Smith and Bjork as influences. Coincidentally, so do I. This would be great. We could talk about Bjork records while literally anything else happens, because it’s not like I’m going to be listening to her music.
IS SHE WORTH IT: Nopers
The Head and the Heart
WHO THEY ARE: A sort of folk-rock band. They’re fine.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: They probably aren’t bad live, and “Down in the Valley” is a pretty cool song, so by the admittedly-loosened standards of this here Woodstock situation, probably yes.
Run the Jewels
WHO THEY ARE: Great rappers. One of them is also a great producer.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh, sure. They’re great live and I’m sure they’re great in front of a huge crowd.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
WHO THEY ARE: Denver jam band. This is allegedly different from the other bands that Nathaniel Rateliff has been in, but I can’t pretend to be interested in why.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: I don’t want to come off as needlessly pessimistic, but it’s entirely possible that they wouldn’t be that bad. I mean, not memorable or whatever, but probably fine.
WHO THEY ARE: Another Woodstock veteran, and the dude that used to be in CCR.
IS HE WORTH IT: Yeah, probably, even though he’s fairly old. He wrote a bunch of great songs, certainly.
WHO HE IS: He used to sing for the Honeydrippers. He made a record in the nineties with Jimmy Page, and another one twenty or so years later with Alison Krauss.
IS HE WORTH IT: God I don’t even know. The odds of hearing a Led Zeppelin song are pretty long, and the odds of wanting to hear one given his actual singing voice these days are somewhat lower.
WHO THEY ARE: Jack White and Brendan Benson’s recently-reconvened rock band.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh, probably. While I’ve never seen them, I’ve seen Jack White and Brendan Benson separately, and they’re both great, so it seems likely.
WHO THEY ARE: A Denver jam-folk-rock band that recently lost their cellist.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: I don’t know what their cellist contributed, but I’m going go ahead and say “no, not without their cellist”.
WHO HE IS: Another original Woodstocker. I guess he can only play Woodstocks that John Sebastian plays, because he also has only missed 99.
IS HE WORTH IT: Not for the last several decades, no.
WHO SHE IS: The oldest daughter of the guy who sang “Achy Breaky Heart”
IS SHE WORTH IT: I can’t imagine that she would be. Her televised live performances haven’t been much to write home about, and I’m not sure that being in front of a field full of many thousands of people is going to actually help matters any.
WHO THEY ARE: Las Vegas’s premiere rock band of the late aughts.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: An internet acquaintance saw The Killers at a festival some years back and described the reaction to them playing “Mr. Brightside” as “the closest [he] would ever be being inside a riot”. So yeah, that sounds pretty good.
WHO HE IS: Chance the Rapper’s little brother the rapper
IS HE WORTH IT: I have no idea. His music doesn’t do much for me as it is, but it might be fine, and it’s probably better than a nine hundred year old former rock star.
WHO SHE IS: A very talented nineties-throwback power-pop lady
IS SHE WORTH IT: Oh yeah. I missed her the last time she came through Cleveland, and I wish I hadn’t all the time.
WHO SHE IS: A rank-and-file R&B singer
IS SHE WORTH IT: Well, her recorded music doesn’t have much to make it memorable (I wasn’t aware, in fact, that she had even made a third record, but I suppose that’s on my attention more than it is on the music), but I suppose it’s possible that she pulls it out live. I dunno. The pickings are slim enough that I’d probably say “Sure”.
WHO THEY ARE: There is a long tradition of unmemorable nothing-special blues-rock bands playing at Woodstock. Rival Sons are continuing in that tradition.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: Almost certainly not.
WHO HE IS: Oh for fuck’s sake. I guess you can’t have a Woodstock without Country goddamned Joe. Let’s here it for the fish cheer, everybody!
IS HE WORTH IT: No. Not now, not ever.
WHO SHE IS: A Jack White-affiliated country singer.
IS SHE WORTH IT: Yes. Her music is good, and I bet it works pretty well in the setting.
WHO THEY ARE: A pretty straightforward, if a little bland, rock band.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: Dawes are fine, and I’ve heard good things about them live, even though I’ve never made it out to see them myself, so I’d say yes. Why not?
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
WHO THEY ARE: A jam-adjacent folk-rock band that had a sort of hit with “Home” a bunch of years ago. If you’ve confused them with The Lumineers, that’s ok, I’m not entirely convinced they’re not the same band.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: No
Gary Clark Jr
WHO HE IS: A blues-rock guitar guy.
IS HE WORTH IT: I’ve always enjoyed seeing him play when I’ve happened across it on tv. I’m sure it’s fine at a festival.
WHO HE IS: A neo-soul dude who came up via White Denim, which is an interesting bit of business, if nothing else.
IS HE WORTH IT: Sure, I like Leon Bridges a lot, and his thing was made for this sort of event.
Portugal, The Man
WHO THEY ARE: Wasilla, Alaska’s finest!
ARE THEY WORTH IT: No. They haven’t made a good song in a dozen or so years, and even in the early going it’s not like they were that good.
Greta Van Fleet
WHO THEY ARE: Well they’re not Led Zeppelin, I’ll tell you that.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: Of course not.
WHO HE IS: A genuinely pretty-weird country dude, which makes him a rare bird, indeed.
IS HE WORTH IT: Oh, absolutely.
The Black Keys
WHO THEY ARE: Recently reactivated Akron blues-rock band.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: They’ve always been good when I’ve seen them, I’m sure they’ll be fine.
Chance the Rapper
WHO THEY ARE: Chicago’s most positivity-oriented gospel-rapper
IS HE WORTH IT: Oh I bet he’d be a blast. He’s one of the ones I’d be genuinely sad to miss, in fact. If I were in fact going to be sad about missing any of this shitshow.
Dead and Company
WHO THEY ARE: Two of the surviving/still-interested members of the Grateful Dead, plus John Mayer. So if you ever thought that the main problem with the Grateful Dead was that John Mayer wasn’t involved, well, you’ve probably already seen them a dozen times anyway and don’t need me to tell you about them.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: Nopers!
WHO THEY ARE: An actress/model-fronted rock band that appears to be making a big ol’ push to be real-life rock stars. Whee!
ARE THEY WORTH IT: No
WHO THEY ARE: A Russian activist group/riot-grrl act
ARE THEY WORTH IT: Their entertainment value depends wildly on what they’re doing onstage at this particular event, but probably.
WHO THEY ARE: Two former members of Jefferson Airplane. True story: I thought that one of these dudes died a few years ago, but he did not!
ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can’t imagine them being worth it, no.
WHO THEY ARE: Another veteran of previous Woodstocks, and another of those aforementioned nothing-special blues-rock bands.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: I would do an awful lot not to sit through a Canned Heat performance, I can’t lie.
WHO THEY ARE: One of the all-time great first-time-around psychedelia bands. They were a part of the British Invasion, even.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: I hear they still are, even though I haven’t been able to see it myself. I believe it, though.
WHO THEY ARE: A supergroup comprised of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Daucus and Julien Baker.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: The record is pretty good, and they’re all pretty good separately, so sure, I bet they’re worth it.
WHO HE IS: One of the more lasting talents to come out of Odd Future, and a genuinely great rapper.
IS HE WORTH IT: Yes, although I won’t have seen him myself until a couple of months before this event. I’m still willing to bet heavily on it.
Judah and the Lion
WHO THEY ARE: Like…a novelty bro-folk band? I think that’s the best way to describe them.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh god no.
WHO HE IS: Probably my favorite currently-operating rapper.
IS HE WORTH IT?: He’s fantastic live, and while I would have some misgivings about his ability to come over to a festival crowd, I bet it would still work out.
WHO HE IS: An elder statesman of conscious rap.
IS HE WORTH IT: Yeah, probably
WHO SHE IS: An Australian rock musician and another genuine actual genius.
IS SHE WORTH IT: Oh sure. This stuff was made for festivals, and she’s an amazing live act.
Young the Giant
WHO THEY ARE: They’re a rock band. I genuinely forget who they are, even though they’ve been famous for basically as long as they’ve existed, and I’ve therefore been aware of them for a decade.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can barely remember they exist, I can’t imagine it’s worth standing in front of.
WHO SHE IS: R&B’s foremost pansexual cyborg
IS SHE WORTH IT: Probably! I get the impression that a lot of her onstage thing depends on the “show” aspect of it, so it might depend on how much stage production she can get out there, but I also fully acknowledge that this feeling is based on very little, and I could be entirely wrong. In any event, I bet it’s worth it to see.
WHO SHE IS: A full-throated folkie whose most recent album did gangbusters business
IS SHE WORTH IT: I mean, she spent a long time garnering her fans and attention the hard way, which for a folkie means playing out in front of people, so at the very least she’s got enough experience for there to be a reasonable chance. I’m not sure that I’d ever enjoy it, but she’s better than most of what happens here.
Cage the Elephant
WHO THEY ARE: The band that did the song from Borderlands!
ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can’t imagine that they are. I think they did a daytrotter session years ago that I kind of hated, and being several years later in a giant field is probably not going to help matters much.
WHO SHE IS: A pop singer who is, to be frank, unusually high on this bill
IS SHE WORTH IT: There are many reasons to enjoy looking at Halsey, but I can’t imagine any of them translate to wanting to do so in such a context
WHO THEY ARE: One of the few reliably hit-making rock bands left in the world.
ARE THEY WORTH IT: They might be a compelling act in a circus-trick giant-drum sense. I dunno.
WHO HE IS: Beyonce’s husband
IS HE WORTH IT: I’d imagine he can still deliver whatever it is you think you’d be looking for out of a Jay-Z performance in 2019
So now you know!
So there you have. Also, feel free to remember that whatever I say up there, none of this is worth it, and there’s (going on past happenings) a 33% chance it could end in everything being on fire!
- for a couple of reasons, first being that there are other people that do it, and they don’t start from the position that giant outdoor festivals are a stupid way to see a band, which makes them more credible and secondly that I listen to a lot of music, but have pretty well winnowed it down to what I actually am likely to enjoy, and so would have to spend a lot of time deep in the trenches figuring out a lot of undercard acts. Woodstock didn’t print their undercard acts, so I’m pretty well familiar with everyone here. ↩