Why "Scene Festivals" Are Really Bad for Bands

It's that season again. It's time for Houston to be inundated with touring metal, punk and hardcore festivals, from Warped Tour to the All-Stars Tour to the upcoming Summer Slaughter Tour. It's an opportunity for kids to see all their favorite bands from those scenes all crammed together on one massive bill.

I, however, have a bone to pick with these festivals. While the lineups can range from amazing to spotty, they all have one problem in common: their focus. Sure, it's great for some fans to see all their favorites in one place, but what of outsiders? I personally feel this could be a hindrance for the bands themselves, and here's why.


The narrow range of focus leaves one suffering from a form of ear fatigue. Like I said, for the initiated, it's all well and good -- if you're already familiar with every band on the bill, you're unlikely to tire of the fact that all the acts at these festivals sound relatively similar. You're also unlikely to be unable to differentiate between them quite easily.

However, take a look at the more successful festivals these days, touring or not. Houston has a great festival every year in Free Press Summer Festival, where one of its greatest assets is the free-form, wide-ranging lineup. This is a festival where Jandek, Baroness, Wu-Tang Clan and Dwight Yoakam are all vets.

Its success can be largely said to result from that diversity. It means that fans of almost any genre will have a chance to check out a favorite band and discover something new. Now, let's turn our attention back to the metal and hardcore touring festivals. While they surely do feature diversity, such as last year's Summer Slaughter lineup that included the Dillinger Escape Plan, Norma Jean, Animals as Leaders, Periphery and Thy Art is Murder, this diversity is less obvious in the undercard.

A festival lineup like that is sure to attract a wide range of fans who may just be showing up to see Dillinger or Periphery. This is where the problem lies. Those people showing up for one specific band are unlikely to know anything about the rest of the lineup, including and especially the younger, newer bands who are on these bills to try to get noticed.

But it's hard to do that when you're playing something that, to the uninitiated, sounds very much exactly like everything else on the bill. Unless you're doing something vastly different than the rest, like Animals as Leaders, you're likely to get overlooked by anyone who didn't already own your record before he or she came to the show.

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Corey Deiterman