It’s September, summer’s gone, and we now know the lineups to most of 2017’s music festivals. If we’re being honest, though, we’re drawing a fuzzy blank as we try to recall the highlights of this year. For starters, it wasn’t a particularly strong outing for reunions, save for Jawbreaker, and even worse, it wasn’t a particularly riveting year for headliners, either, outside of graduation stories for the likes of Lorde or Cage the Elephant.
But it’s more than that. For awhile, we’ve noted how the biggest festivals with the longest histories have lost parts of their identity, namely due to so many of them being owned by the same companies. Because of this, boutique and destination festivals have started to feel more and more appealing, offering slices of culture that extend beyond music.
Look, if it sounds like we’re coming down on music festivals, we’re not. Even outside of the top 10 below, we’ve found many events this year that are doing something special within the festival landscape, from the relaxed, mature vibes of San Francisco’s Outside Lands to the punk rock nostalgia of Chicago’s Riot Fest to the 90’s-inspired mass appeal of San Diego’s KAABOO.
Gripes aside, there are still many special events happening in the United States and around the world, only the field is more crowded than ever, as we’ve been saying for years. Sometimes, though, you have to make your way through the weeds to find the flowers, and let’s just say, we channeled our inner Ralph Fiennes for this one.
10. The Growlers Six
MVP Headliner: Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been pretty quiet since wrapping its touring behind 2013’s Mosquito. Karen O released a solo album and Nick Zinner has been recording and touring with Head Wound City, but the band has been doing little with regards to their main project. That will end this fall with select tour dates, including this headlining slot. Long one of the most captivating live presences in music, this has particular luster as a long-awaited return.
Best Gets: Up and down the lineup, there is much that you just don’t see at other festivals. This could mean veteran eccentrics Butthole Surfers, recently formed Jenny Lewis project Nice As Fuck, or underutilized legends like The B-52’s and Bad Brains. It’s not that they seem like particularly difficult grabs, it’s just that it takes a little imagination to come up with them.
Added Value: Headlining both nights will be The Growlers, who come off as kind of an afterthought at their own festival, but still draw a devoted crowd. Other great lineup additions include headliner worthy like Modest Mouse and The Black Keys‘ Dan Auerbach as well as hip-hop trailblazer Danny Brown and indie legends Guided By Voices.
Can’t-Miss Rookies: Both Rostam and Alice Glass are better known for their old bands, Vampire Weekend and Crystal Castles, respectively. But with recent solo releases, both will be trying to prove that they can stand on their own at this festival.
Final Thoughts: Despite the fact that one name on the lineup, Mystikal, is currently in jail, the bulk of The Growlers Six lineup is inspired. Maybe they have something to prove after losing their old festival name, Beach Goth, in a lawsuit. Moving to a new location, the LA Waterfront, and stacking the bill with acts ranging from indie to rap, the festival maintains a unique vision of its curator. The Growlers Six looks like no other festival happening this year, and that’s the way it is intended.