Summer Festivals 2017
Summer Festivals 2017
Patrick Crowley

Six Must-See Festival Acts, From Charli XCX to Vince Staples, Detail Their Plans

The summer festival circuit's must-see acts -- ​Local Natives' frontman Kelcey Ayer, Charli XCXCage The Elephant vocalist Matt Shultz, MUNAVince Staples and Glass Animals' Dave Bayley -- spoke with Billboard about all things related to music's favorite season, from fashion faux paus to politics, plus pro-tips for first-timers and more.

Kelcey Ayer of Local Natives

The Los Angeles-based band's festival itinerary includes Coachella, Hangout and Governors Ball 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an artist playing for the first time?
Festivals are a way for new people to see who you are and you can feel pressured to stand out, but just do your thing and be proud of that. Don’t stress out, and know that nothing is supposed to be perfect.

Considering how the election went, how does it now feel to play “Fountain of Youth,” which calls out a female president?
We were afraid of how it would feel. But now that things have gone horribly wrong, that song is even truer because it was always supposed to symbolize the idea of matriarchy and imagining a female president of anything as easily you would a male president. The day after Election Day we had a show in Paris [at Le Trabendo] and we weren’t totally sure how it would go, but it ended up feeling so much more therapeutic.

What are the acts you most want to see at the festivals where you’re playing?
I’d love to see Sampha, I’m pretty into his new record and he’s all about the piano, just like me, which is fucking great. I’m also excited to see Andy Shauf at Osheaga, and Frank Ocean at Hangout -- he put out my favorite record of last year.

What is the best all-access festival perk you’ve enjoyed?
One of my favorite festival experiences ever was at Glastonbury of 2010. Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke were surprise headliners, and we had the right credentials to be on that stage since we played it earlier. So I was side-stage while they did a stripped-down version of “Karma Police.” It was so epic. — Lyndsey Havens

Charli XCX

The British singer-songwriter’s festival appearances include Governors Ball, Hangout and FPSF

What advice would you give to an artist playing the festival circuit for the first time? 
Live in the moment. Feel everything you want to feel. And maybe have a couple of drinks if you’re nervous, I guess.

Will your set have a political element? 
I’m spontaneous when I’m onstage. If I feel like talking about a particular issue when I’m in the moment, then I will. I speak about women’s rights a lot day-to-day, so that’s an issue that’s important to me for sure. And I’m not a fan of Donald Trump.

What acts do you most want to see at the festivals you’re playing?
I’m playing Summer Sonic, and Sum 41 is playing too, so the 12-year-old me is kind of freaking out. Good Charlotte is playing that festival too!

If you could reunite one band to play at a festival, who would it be? 
The Spice Girls.

What is your favorite festival that you’ve ever attended? 
Last year, when I went to Glastonbury [in England], purely for fun with my friends. We took a glass-bottomed helicopter there and partied so hard. I don’t remember much, but I definitely had fun.

What was your worst festival fashion faux pas? 
There was a lot of spandex involved.

Woodstock ’69 or ’94?
’94, baby!   — Adelle Platon​

Vince Staples

The Long Beach, Calif. rapper will bring his The Life Aquatic tour to Phoenix Lights, Colossal Clusterfest and Panorama, among other fests. 

What advice would you give a first-time festival performer?
Just be comfortable.  Sometimes, when open up for a [bigger] artist [at a conventional concert],  you can feel unwelcome. But when you're playing a festival, people come to see music in general -- so don't be fearful. The people are there to enjoy and discover new music so approach the show with confidence and optimism.

Do you plan to have a political element to your set?
Not necessarily. When it comes to festivals, we just try to do our best to convey the music because a live setting isn’t necessarily the best way to hear the intricacies within the music. So, our most focused point is trying to make sure we can relay the music in a very close manner to what you would be receiving on record -- and real harder. We also try to keep it lighthearted and fun because at festivals, there's a lot of music and a lot of things going on.

Are there any acts that you’re most excited to see at the festivals you're playing? 
I think we’re playing something with Frank [Ocean] and Thugger [Young Thug], so it’ll be good to see them play. It’s always good to see your friends in their element and bring love.

If you could reunite one group at a festival, what would it be? 
I don’t think I would want to reunite a band. Things don’t really go that well when people get back together. 

Are there any festivals you've attended as a fan that stick out as a favorite? 
I’ve never been to a festival that I didn’t play,  I went to one Diana Ross concert with my grandma once, and I went to see Yeezus a long time ago, but I stayed for, like, five minutes. [Otherwise], I've never been to a real concert.  

​What is the best all-access perk you’ve received?
Golden Voice does a really good job with the food and the backstage stuff, but I’m really not a backstage kind of [person]. Being in the crowd is pretty much the best perk.

Was there anything else you wanted to add about the festival experience?
It gets kind of dusty so if you have asthma, I would suggest you bring an inhaler. I just can’t breathe in dustier environments. — Adelle Platon

Matt Shultz of Cage The Elephant

The Kentucky rockers will bring their unhinged live show to 10 U.S. festivals including Lollapalooza and FPSF

What’s your most memorable experience performing with another artist or band at a festival? 
A couple of years ago, we performed at Bonnaroo Superjam with Robby Krieger of The Doors. We did “Break on Through.” We rehearsed for like a week without him. And either the day before the performance or the day of, he joined us. He had no pedal, nothing. He just plugged directly into his amp and, literally, the sound is in his fingers. It was insane.

If you could reunite one band for festival season, who would it be? 
The Doors.

What artists are you looking forward to seeing at the festivals you’re playing? 
I’m super excited to see Chance the Rapper. What else? LCD Soundsystem and U2 at Bonnaroo.

What’s the best all-access perk you’ve enjoyed at a festival? 
They’re unspeakable, actually. (Laughs.) Really, it’s being able to see whatever show you want from a really great vantage point.

Name your worst festival fashion faux pas? 
Wearing too many clothes.

Woodstock ’69 or ’94? 
’99! So I could witness the riot. — Frank DiGiacomo​

MUNA

The guitar-and-synth pop trio will hit Firefly, Governors Ball and Toronto’s NXNE festival

Will your sets feature a political element?
Naomi McPherson: We will probably keep doing the revised bridge of “I Know a Place” -- “I throw my arms open wide in resistance/He’s not my leader even if he’s my president.”

What’s the worst fashion faux pas you have seen at a festival?
Josette Maskin: All the f—ing appropriation. Don’t wear the Native American head garb. Don’t wear a bindi!

Do you have any covers in store for your festival shows?
Kate Gavin: We might do a cover by a goth-pop hardcore band that was very important to us when we were in junior high. We’re going to bring a hit back... to life.

As in Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life”? You’re serious?
McPherson: We’re deadly serious.

What is a favorite festival that you attended as fans?
Gavin: Bonnaroo. I went after I graduated high school. I smoked a lot of pot for the first time, and every concert was a religious experience. It wouldn’t be the same [now] probably. But it is cool to think that at every festival you’re at, there’s some 18- or 19-year-old who’s literally having the time of their life. — Chris Payne

Dave Bayley of Glass Animals

The English indie rockers’ top-tier festival gigs include Coachella, Bonnaroo, Panorama, Lollapalooza and more. 

When you guys were starting out, what advice did you receive that’s still helpful?
Do up the zipper before you walk on stage. Before we go on stage, we do a zipper check.

Aside from a zipper being down, what was your worst festival fashion faux-pas?
This is kind of embarrassing. I didn’t wear underwear once on stage. I just didn’t really have any clean underwear, which happens sometimes on tour. You can only imagine; I was just quite self-conscious for a lot of the show.

What are the acts you most want to see at the festivals where you’re playing?
We’ve got Coachella coming up, which will be wicked. I haven’t seen the new Radiohead show, so I’m excited about that. I was really excited about Beyonce, but that didn’t work out… I’ll have to go back next year. Some smaller artists and DJs like Sam Gellaitry, who will be killing it, and there’s a band called Hinds that’s opened for us.. I’m going to try to catch a lot of small bands, that’s my favorite thing about festivals, discovering what’s new. 

What is the favorite festival you’ve attended -- and in what year?
I’d choose Sasquatch festival in 2015. It was the first time I walked out on stage and just saw an endless sea of heads, and just thought, “holy f-k.” It’s a gorgeous venue, a really beautiful place. Another festival I really enjoyed was Wakarusa also in 2015, a strange little festival in Arkansas in the middle of nowhere, you just drive through marshes for hours and it’s a total logistical nightmare but when you finally get down these dirt roads to the festival, it’s filled with some of the most feral, crazy crowds. People definitely let loose there. — Lyndsey Havens

This article originally appeared in the April 15 issue of Billboard.


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