Nine Bands We'd Like to Never Headline a Festival Again

They've had their time. Let's start 2016 different to how we've started the last 15 years.
November 27, 2015, 5:07pm

Food poisoning! Chasms in the ground filled with protein-deprived shit! A nylon strengthened coffin that’s so hot or damp you can’t sleep in it! Festivals are great! Because no matter how many stomach-clenching toilet breaks or sleepless nights you have to wade through, they’re always worth it when you experience a weekend-defining moment; like watching your favourite band play their debut headline set or taking so many pills you’ve mistaken The Flaming Lips for a secret Basement Jaxx set and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

Now, though, it’s arguable that these moments are becoming less and less of a thing. Because as the kids who rarely washed and would readily subsist on a pack of hula hoops and four cans of K cider for a weekend just to see Nirvana play on a big stage really far away move out, and the tee-pee and glamping sets move in, the headliners of music festivals have become solidified and sterilised, to a point where it's the same old names again, and again, and again. Yeah, some of these bands are legendary acts, but it’s way less exciting the second time around, and it’s even worse the ninth time around when you’re surrounded by millennial punk-rockers with plastic ASOS flowers in their hair. Already, next summer looks likely to feature The Stone Roses, and Muse are a strong rumour for Glastonbury. How much more can we take? Please, before our music festivals become so dry your nan tries to put cheddar on them and serve them to your granda, don’t pay these lot to headline again. They’re all rich as fuck already, anyway.


It’s weird how seriously people still take Muse and Matt Bellamy, considering Matt Bellamy believes that humans are alien slaves. Considering he writes songs that sounds like the pause menu music on a wrestling game. Considering he wrote one about how the Royal Family are descendants of giant shape-shifting lizards from the star system Alpha Draconis, but he didn’t mean it like Charlie Brooker meant it... he meant it for real. Somehow, in the realm of music, we still call blokes like Matt Bellamy ‘headliner material’. But the rest of the world calls blokes like Matt Bellamy, David Icke.

The Libertines

"Why shouldn’t The Libertines headline festivals?" you say indignantly, idly fingering the shaky colour drawing you got from Pete after writing to him in incarceration ("Viva Libertines!" it reads. He’s punny.) "They’ve bounced back. Better than ever," you're saying, scraping for positive ways to describe "Gunga Din". But nostalgia can only be mined so far, and after Reading, Glastonbury and T In The Park, I'm afraid it’s time to go full Thatcher on this particular pit.


Oh look, it's Oasis revamped for people who go clubbing in v-necks. Their music is crude, repetitive and rudimentary, like early man discovering rhythm by banging a stone on another stone for the first time. But, Gallagher prodigies that they are, they trash talk other popular bands a lot in interviews and that generates enough attention for them in publications that will market them as alternative when really they’re The Lad Bible in Converse.

The Who

Go on Roger, tell us again how immigration has ruined this country.

Foo Fighters

Purgatory is Dave Grohl screaming “AH GOT ANOTHUH CONFESSHION TO MAIK!!!” into a wide-panning camera, while 100,000 fans heave and sweat in unison, over and over and over and over again. Until, eventually, time halts, the sky goes black, dark energy warps the scaffolding of space-time, galaxies rip apart, and our universe finally buckles under its own weight and collapses in on itself. Nice one, Dave, you really did it this time.

Kings Of Leon

I just can’t. I just can’t spend another summer watching a dad in a Lambretta zip hoodie and straw hat do coke out his fingernails, stick one hand up in the air, close his eyes and howl “SOMEWUN LIKE YOUHHHHHH” along with America’s most normcore rock band.

Calvin Harris

Somewhere, in an attic in Dumfries, a portrait of Calvin Harris gathers dust and grows ever more grotesque. But you can’t really blame him for selling out. Real artistry often withers in the face of $200,000 per night Las Vegas DJ residencies, Pepsi Max deals and boxer shorts adverts. But that doesn’t hide the fact that now he’s just like Jay Z but without that bit where we all thought he was great. And we shouldn’t celebrate that, no matter how good the deathly shrill of commercialised trance synths sound after a whole box of Morrisons’ merlot.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Here we have a classic case of a legendary band that peaked about halfway into their career timeline and spent the rest gradually deflating like a flan in a cupboard, but will continue to win Grammy’s and headline international festivals out of respect for the past. Let’s see what there is left to work with right now: a pornstachioed lead singer whose only nod to modernity is performing in leggings made out of screen-grabbed iChat conversations, an accusation of giving one of the most inauthentic Super Bowl performances of all time (Black Eyed Peas have played the Super Bowl), a forthcoming studio album to be produced by Danger Mouse instead of Rick Rubin? That might be quite good actually. But do we really need to see it live, again, topless and groomed like Rammstein dragged through a charity shop backwards? I don’t reckon.

Kanye West

Yes, controversial, but bear with this. Up until 2013, Yeezy and his dynamic stage presence was one of the strongest acts bookers could hope to secure for their bill. But 1 zillion headlining slots later, the shine’s worn off to the point where the reaction to his Glasto slot was essentially one big shrug emoji. Yes, hearing 50,000 people scream "Power" is a special experience, but suffering through another 20 minute tantrum about racism in the fashion industry because no one liked his Derelicte collection? Not so much. Kanye's tour might still be one of the greatest travelling live events there is, but his UK festival form is worse than the weather. Never again is an exaggeration, but, Kanye, this is an intervention - no more headlining until you check your privilege. And while you’re at it, give us the HQ version of "Wolves". Thnx.