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Rock For People on triumphing over the ‘headliner drought’

Rock For People booker David Nguyễn has told IQ how the festival triumphed over the ‘headliner drought’ to produce the record-breaking 2024 edition.

The Czech Republic festival returned to Hradec Králové’s Park 360 between 12–15 June, attracting over 40,000 visitors.

The 29th edition featured the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, The Offspring, Yungblud, The Prodigy, Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, Palaye Royale, Parkway Drive, Pendulum, Enter Shikari and Dogstar Ft. Keanu Reeves.

“If we compare this year’s lineup with the previous year, the headliners are not [as big as] Muse or Slipknot but it worked very well as one package combining lots of bands our fans wanted to see,” says Nguyễn.

The availability of headline talent has been a major issue across the festival industry, with UTA’s Jules De Lattre surmising at ILMC 36: “Major artists have less of a financial incentive to play festivals since the headline touring business is more rewarding than ever.”

“[This year’s lineup] worked very well as one package combining lots of bands our fans wanted to see”

Nguyễn testifies to that, remembering: “Last September when I was at IFF, I already had some headliners pencilled in. Then everyone at the conference was talking about how difficult it was to find headliners and when I got back, mine started to cancel. It was quite tough to find the right bands that go together. In the end, we found a way to make it work.”

In fact, the headliner drought gave Rock For People the opportunity to boost some burgeoning acts up the bill and induct a new class of headliners.

“We had Bring Me the Horizon headline the Friday – who are a new-generation headliner,” says Nguyễn. “And on Saturday, Yungblud headlined, which I think was one of his first festival headline shows.”

Fans were initially critical of Rock For People booking Yungblud in the top spot above more mature acts like Pendulum, says Nguyễn, but the naysayers were won over in the end.

“After the show, we got so many messages from fans saying they’re sorry, they saw Yungblud’s show and said they actually quite liked it,” he says.

“It’s important for us to create new headliners,” he continues. “To be honest, I’m not a fan of these old dinosaur headliners who have played everywhere for the last 30 years.”

The balance of talent across the bill worked well across the festival’s main and second stages, which this year became the same size and alternate performances.

“It’s important for us to create new headliners”

However, Nguyễn hastens to add that packing the bill with tomorrow’s headliners doesn’t necessarily save the festival money on artist fees, especially with the fluctuation of the Czech Koruna.

“Sometimes, if you have to pay the invoice right now and the rate is not good, then we might pay more,” he explains. “I still remember a situation a few years ago when we signed the artists really early so the rate was quite different from what it was at the end of the festival. The deposit and the balance were quite different prices…”

Other challenges for this year’s edition include staffing – particularly in the security department – with the festival “still trying to find a solution for that”.

On the sustainability front, the festival is going from strength to strength. With a goal to be climate-neutral and energy-self-sufficient by 2030, the event employs alternative energy sources, including hydrogen and solar panels, and sorts waste into 18 categories.

The booking team also plays their part in the cause, making it a priority to find locally sourced replacements for items on artist riders, according to Nguyễn.

So with this year’s festival inked in the record books, the only question is how Rock For People is going to raise the bar once again for its 30th edition.

“That’s our question every year because since Covid the festival keeps growing,” laughs Nguyễn. “In 2022, our first year after Covid, we had Green Day and then we were like ‘Oh, what are we going to do next year?’. Then in 2023, we had Muse and Slipknot and the question again was, ‘What are we going to do next year?’. Even though we didn’t have the bigger names this year, in the end, it worked really well. So we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

 


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Our House… Behind the scenes of The 1975’s tour

As one of the biggest arena acts on the planet, The 1975 have been making headlines wherever they go for the past 20 years. Having just brought the curtain down on their third consecutive year on the road, their fanbase continues to grow, making their efforts to rewrite the rulebooks on sustainable touring all the more impressive. Derek Robertson learns just what it takes to take such a cultural phenomenon on the road.

Can you have too much of a good thing? Clearly, The 1975 think not. For an A-list arena band, they have been remarkably prolific – aside from releasing an album every two years since 2016, they’ve also toured behind them relentlessly: 18 months and 150 shows for I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It; a 24-month world tour behind Music For Cars; and a seven-leg, 96-date stint doing their At Their Very Best show. And barely a month after that wrapped on the 13th of August 2023, they were back on the road in Atlanta starting Still… At Their Very Best – another 66-date, worldwide jaunt – in support of their fifth studio album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language.

Even taking into account the enforced breaks during the pandemic, that’s quite a workload – particularly when you consider some of the bands’ struggles with mental health and the pernicious effects of fame. Yet manager Jamie Oborne says that after the Music For Cars tour was interrupted by lockdowns (while first rescheduled, the remaining shows for that tour were ultimately cancelled), “we collectively had a desire to tour, and Matty (Healy, frontman) was very excited about doing a show that was ‘different’ to what people expected or had seen in an arena before. It felt like the right time to get back on the road.”

Work it real good
“The boys love to work,” says Maarten Cobbaut, tour manager. “The first real break they had from their intense schedule was the pandemic, but within a week of restrictions being lifted and everything, they were back in the studio working on new music. They are just so passionate about what they do and put so much of themselves into the music and these shows.”

And these shows for Still… At Their Very Best are, unsurprisingly, fairly close in terms of concept, setup, and logistics as the At Their Very Best show. “An evolution, not a revolution,” as Oborne puts it. “It was part of the same cycle, but so much had happened since the tour commenced that Matty felt a creative need to highlight this evolution. The plan was always to use this tour cycle to market Being Funny In A Foreign Language, so we didn’t really see it as two separate tours.”

“The Finsbury Park show sold out instantly, and it was clear the fanbase was still growing on this cycle”

“Both UK runs were all part of the global touring for Being Funny In A Foreign Language, and weren’t seen as separate projects,” adds Matt Bates of Primary Talent, the band’s agent. “Of course, the first run was billed as At Their Very Best, with the second run having a slightly different name, but they very much coexisted together. And there was a lot of demand – the Finsbury Park show sold out instantly, and it was clear the fanbase was still growing on this cycle.”

Treading the boards
The show itself was certainly “different” – both from what you’d expect from an arena band and from their previous bombastic show for Music For Cars. That tour was “really big and ambitious,” says creative director and show designer Tobias Rylander. “We really went for size and technology with massive LED screens and automated cubes. But for At Their Very Best and Still… At Their Very Best, we wanted to be very analogue – Matty wanted the show and design to be more personal and really show them as a band.”

Healy is, says Rylander, always very conceptual in the approach for each era and tour. While the design for the previous tour reflected social media and internet behaviour, “This time around Matty wanted the show and design to be more personal and show them as a band,” explains Rylander.

“Matty wanted it to reflect their history as friends and a group, while also focussing on them as a live act and musicians. He wanted the stage to reflect how they recorded this last album live, together in the studio. He knew he wanted a house, and some sort of living room. And he wanted it to be focusing on the I-mag camera. No video content: just live camera. That’s how I started to design and look at the house. To always have a good background and setting for the camera shots.

“We looked at anything from Ingmar Bergman to Steven Spielberg for inspiration and references,” adds Rylander; Stanley Kubrick and avant-garde theatre were other touchstones (one review described the show as being: “part performance art, part stage play, part Charlie Kaufman movie about a rock star in crisis.”)

“I always remain amazed by the creative ideas of Matty and the band”

Our house
The design eventually started to take on a life of its own as it developed – it literally became Matty’s “home,” housing his memories. “It’s monochromatic and anonymous at the same time; it can reflect and take the shape of anyone’s childhood memories or their new memories leaving the show,” says Rylander. “It’s a very inviting and inclusive set.”

The first half of the show has almost no “effect” lighting and looks more like classic theatre than a rock show. “That’s something we’ve never done before, and something that’s not very common these days – I think we are the only rock band tour out there that brings a whole ‘Broadway’ set,” says Rylander.

And for the second leg of the tour, they kept all the theatrical parts and added a large, curved video screen behind the set that allowed them to add set extensions and environmental backgrounds. “We could go from night to day in a very beautiful way, but also play some really fantastic bits of video content reflecting older tours and eras from the past,” he adds. “And using the upstage video screen as a theatrical set extension like we do – I don’t think I have seen that on stage before.”

“I always remain amazed by the creative ideas of Matty and the band,” says Matt Bates. “The show was brilliant theatre while not losing the ethos of what makes the band so special in the first place. It truly showed a band at the top of their game creatively and musically, and, in their own words, ‘at their very best.’”

Boys on film
As noted above, video – shot live and intimately – was key to the whole look and feel of the show. Head of video Ed Lawlor has been with The 1975 since 2016 and was tasked with turning concept into reality while ensuring the solution was practical enough for a world tour. “We didn’t want to compromise on providing the best IMAG show possible for the budget – the design brief was ‘cinematic’ – so it was an easy decision to focus on one thing and do it well,” he says.

“It was clear early on that the band and management wanted larger than normal IMAG screens, and we wanted the classic projection look rather than LED”

“It was clear early on that the band and management wanted larger than normal IMAG screens, and we wanted the classic projection look rather than LED. On the initial US tour, we specified two Panasonic PT-RZ31K projectors per side on a 24’ Stumpfl screen from PRG rental stock, which was the largest off-the-shelf option available,” he adds. “On returning a year later to larger venues, the management requested a bigger option – at that point, we commissioned a 32’ Stumpfl screen, which was the largest practical option in a fast-fold product. This required an increase to 3x PT-RZ31K per side, which is the brightest arena IMAG projection I’ve heard of in a while.”

As for the cameras, Lawlor decided to do 3G well rather than 4K on the cheap, so specified four Sony HDC-2500 channels and a Ross Carbonite 2 M/E PPU from PRG UK. This was augmented with four Panasonic AW-UE160 and an RP150 control panel, with additional fixed shots from Marshall CV503-WPs.

Screen time
Those IMAG screens are very much larger than normal for arena touring, and so Lawlor and his crew worked closely with both PRG and AV Stumpfl to find a solution that allowed for rear projection in a fast-fold type frame with no central member that would obscure the beam. PRG have also been working with The 1975 since 2016 and, says Stefaan Michels, sales director for PRG UK, “our partnership has grown stronger over the years – we’ve fostered a close relationship with their tour and production management team, and one that extends beyond their time on the road.”

PRG’s brief was scalability, and the integration of new equipment tailored specifically for this production. Michels had to ensure the duplication of rig setups between Europe and the US, as well as customising equipment to meet the tour’s unique requirements. “Implementing A-B-C rig configurations was essential for maximising efficiency and flexibility throughout the tour,” he says, “and we made specific equipment choices based on detailed specifications provided.”

For example, one significant consideration was the need for different sizes of projection screens to suit the dimensions of various venues. For larger arena shows in the US and UK, they incorporated a large USC Hi Res LED wall to deliver high-resolution visuals that could effectively engage the audience across expansive spaces. Additionally, custom-made, large projection screens equipped with additional 31K laser projectors were also used, particularly in venues with specific lighting conditions or sightline challenges.

“We had to come up with a system that kept Matty safe but also ensured that, if the worst happened, it was safe for a rescuer to go out and assist”

Another specific choice was the decision to utilise Ereca Stage Racer 2s, a decision driven by the need to minimise the deployment of copper cabling on a daily basis. “This choice not only reduces setup time but also enhances flexibility, allowing for swift adjustments as tour requirements evolve, as they inevitably do over the course of an extensive tour like this one,” says Michels. “Moving multiple 3G video signals even over medium distances caused problems on the first leg of the tour, as it required coaxial cable to be both modern and in good condition, which is a challenge to maintain on tour when local labour is in use,” adds Lawlor. “This was another factor in the decision to adopt the Stage Racer 2s.”

Hanging about
All in all, this setup provided a modest challenge for head rigger Simon Lawrence – “simply 120 points going to the roof and a relatively small weight of 50 tonnes.” But there was one area of concern – at one point, Healy climbs upon onto the roof of the “house” to perform a song, on top of the front apex. “Like any artist, Matty wants to be as free as possible when performing, and initially, he felt he should have no safety systems at all, but when he is nearly six metres up in the air above the stage, this is not possible,” says Lawrence. “So we had to come up with a system that kept Matty safe but also ensured that, if the worst happened, it was safe for a rescuer to go out and assist.”

Rounding out the suppliers, All Access provided the front of house mix position stage (a B stage set piece) and built a custom lift for this, while TAIT provided a TAIT Mag Deck rolling house stage. “The Mag Deck design incorporates magnetic corner blocks for alignment and a shear keyway to reduce the number of legs needed to support the decking structure,” says Bullet,
TAIT’s business development manager – UK. “This reduced the amount of product that needed to travel on the road and the time needed to load in and load out, ultimately saving on costs.”

On the road again
Moving all this around was the responsibility of Natasha Highcroft, director of Transam Trucking. “We supplied 15 low-ride height production trucks, plus one merchandise truck for the UK, and eight production trucks plus one merchandise truck for the European leg of the tour, all superbly handled by our lead driver, David Isted,” she says. “As with most tours, keeping to the EU legislation on drivers’ hours and statutory weekly rest periods can prove difficult when parking and access is restricted. Fortunately, with an understanding production and accommodating promoters, we were able to facilitate breaks whilst keeping to budget.”

Bussing was provided by Beat The Street; in total, they ran four 16-berth double-deck Setra’s for the crew and two 12-berth Van Hool Super-highdeckers for the band. “Plotting band bus moves can be a bit of a challenge when day drivers are mixed in with overnight drivers, as it becomes difficult to get the drivers their required weekly breaks,” says Garry Lewis, the company’s transport manager. “So, it was agreed to add a second driver to each band bus, which gave us the flexibility to make it work as seamlessly as possible for the band party.”

“Our focus, as a community of creatives, is always to try and limit the negative impact touring has on the environment”

Sustainability has long been an issue dear to the band’s heart, and on this tour, they were determined to do all they could to lessen its carbon footprint and impact on the environment. “The set design put a real focus on the structural elements being reusable or recyclable, and many of the items that make up the set-build will end up back in stock at the supplier end – this is quite unique,” says Oborne. “Our focus, as a community of creatives, is always to try and limit the negative impact touring has on the environment. It’s by no means a perfect solution, but we are pretty committed to chipping away at our impact on the environment.”

Indeed, the modular nature of the set is something of a first. “It’s a renewable scenic technology, and this is the first time this product has been taken out for a live touring show,” says production manager Josh Barnes. “We wanted something that would really give us the aesthetic finish that we were looking for, in terms of being robust and feeling like the walls are actually the walls of a house and not just a flimsy, flat set. But also, be something that could be transported in the most sustainable, cost-effective way possible and be renewed or recycled at the end of the campaign.”

He goes on: “We ended up partnering up with PRG scenic through their Belgium and Las Vegas offices and worked with them on creating the house out of a product called InfiniForm – basically, it’s a 50 x 50 mil aluminium box section that allows you to cut it and add corners, reels, braces, fixings, or whatever you need. Then, once the frames are made, they were clad in aluminium honeycomb, which is a lightweight, hard-wearing wall surface.

“And, at the end of the campaign, they’re just going to be stripped back into component parts and used by the next project. There’s no ongoing storage needed, and there’s no waste in terms of bits and pieces that would just normally get thrown away if it were a custom build.”

This also meant that the band was able to drop their air freight requirements from 40 pallets down to just 17 for the entire show. Coupled with the decision to carry a smaller production around mainland Europe, requiring only eight trucks instead of 16, this allowed the production team to significantly cut the tour’s carbon footprint and make some impressive cost savings.

“One of the things that we’ve really focussed on for this tour is crew welfare, and trying to look after people’s mental health”

Take a break
Looking after the planet is a noble endeavour, but the band are also at pains to look after people – specifically, their people. “One of the things that we’ve really focussed on for this tour is crew welfare, and trying to look after people’s mental health,” says Barnes. This effort started before the tour even hit the road – after rehearsals, several training days were scheduled with an American organisation called Safe Tour, covering topics such as wellness on the road, mental health first aid, pronoun training, and some bystander intervention training. “It was really beneficial to everybody involved in the project to set them up for success on what was, and still is, quite a long run,” he adds.

Crew rest was another priority, something that’s always a struggle given the nature of long days on the road. “Getting the right amount of rest between shows is really important,” says Barnes. To that end, they’ve been careful not to set loading times for arrival or very early in the morning, instead choosing “about an hour after we expect to arrive, to give the crew enough time to actually plan their mornings. We can also adjust show and door times as well, to assist if we need to leave slightly earlier one night or start later the next day.”

The quality of crew rest has been improved, too. “So not just a single day off where you arrive at a hotel, but a day where you can sleep in a bed and not set an alarm,” says Barnes. “Effectively, two days off, or one full day off, every few weeks – that was a real win being able to work that into the schedule.” Hotels are pre-booked, so people can access their rooms direct on arrival at 10am or whenever and are required to have a number of amenities to help the crew unwind; a gym, a sauna, a pool, spaces to relax, and convenient access to nature, parks, or wildlife. “Options beyond just sitting in a bar drinking.”

And this emphasis on physical health extends to the available food, with nutritionally balanced meals available on the buses and through catering, plus plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and 0% beers. Crew members can make individual food choices through an app, and while the band themselves tour with a personal trainer to keep them in shape, things like being able to walk to a venue from the hotel, and that downtime is actually downtime, are prioritised. “These things help in a number of ways – it’s financial, it’s sustainability, and it’s improving welfare,” adds Barnes. “They’re all important aspects to us.”

Much in demand
As one of the most popular acts of the new millennium, the band is in tune with its global fanbase, striving to make its touring activities as sustainable as possible and speaking out on issues on behalf of underrepresented communities. An infamous onstage kiss in Malaysia between Healy and bassist Ross McDonald last July continues to have repercussions, but that hasn’t stopped promoters internationally from booking the act.

“We sold out four O2 Arena shows this time, plus 40,000 tickets on this album campaign in the UK alone”

Unsurprisingly, given the stature and popularity of the band, Still… has been a roaring commercial success, too, with sold-out shows all across the globe. “We sold out four O2 Arena shows this time, plus 40,000 tickets on this album campaign in the UK alone,” says Bates. “Their fanbase continues to grow year on year, and while that does make the tours easier to sell, we like to launch the show with significant marketing for the first announcement,” says Luke Temple of SJM Concerts. Both Arena Birmingham and the two Manchester dates sold out in a weekend; Temple says the plan was always to do two at the latter, “but I’ve no doubt they could have sold out a few more.”

It was a similar story north of the border, in Glasgow. “The band played Glasgow Hydro in January 2023, then headlined TRNSMT Festival in July 2023,” says Dave McGeachan of DF Concerts. “We were thinking we would leave Glasgow off the 2024 tour, but we decided to add a show at the OVO Hydro. Then we had to add a second night due to demand, which also sold out – quite incredible sales within 13 months.”

In Sweden, the band sold out Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena – “their biggest show in our territory yet,” says Natalie Ryan-Williams of Luger. “Over the years, their fanbase has expanded, and with them being the phenomenon they now are, we knew people were going to travel in from all over Sweden – and even some internationally.”

The possibility of multiple shows in Spain was considered, but, says Cindy Castillo of Mad Cool, venue availabilities and logistical constraints prevented it. “The demand was certainly there, indicating the band’s strong draw in this area,” she says.

Two nights were possible at Amsterdam’s AFAS Live – even if they were nearly a month apart – and, says Friendly Fire’s Roel Coppen, “they were the band’s fastest-selling arena headline shows to date. They played Best Kept Secret in 2023, but we had no issues with these new dates – we could cater to different audiences with different shows within 12 months.”

“You can just about see anyone attending a The 1975 show nowadays – they really attract people from all backgrounds and generations”

Even in more developing territories, these shows have really connected to local fans. “The situation in continental Europe is quite different from the UK, especially in Central Europe,” says Anna Vašátková, head of marketing and PR for Rock For People in Czechia. “The band isn’t played on the radio very often and there’s not as much media coverage, so we’ve had to do all the heavy lifting ourselves. We did quite a massive marketing campaign, including outdoor, radio spots, and extensive use of online media.”

Coppen also noted something else on this run – a broadening of their fanbase. “I do see there’s been a steady, growing interest from other demographic groups and also journalists have been getting more excited about the band in recent years,” he says. Ryan-Williams has noticed something similar. “You can just about see anyone attending a The 1975 show nowadays – they really attract people from all backgrounds and generations, which is a beautiful thing to see.”

“The 1975’s appeal spans various age groups and genders, and their music has definitely attracted a diverse audience transcending age and gender boundaries,” adds Castillo. “It resonates with listeners across generations, from teenagers to older adults, probably thanks to its relatable themes and catchy melodies.”

Success is no accident
Beyond the accolades and acclaim, beyond the facts and figures, this tour has been a resound- ing success. And not just for the legions of happy fans. Everyone IQ speaks to has high praise for the way the band and their team have gone about everything and how they treat all those who encounter them. “Over the years, The 1975 has evolved into more than just a client; they have become like a second family to me,” says Michels. “The professionalism, collaboration, and welcoming spirit displayed by everyone involved transcend mere business relationships.”

“It is always our pleasure to work with The 1975, their production, and their management teams,” says Meegan Holmes of 8th Day Sound, a sentiment echoed by Roy Hunt, Christie Lites’ global account manager. “Every individual involved has demonstrated a high level of professionalism, commitment, and passion that has made this journey memorable,” he says. “The synergy between the band and the crew created an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation, while management has been nothing short of supportive, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable tour. Overall, it has been a remarkable experience that speaks volumes about the dedication and talent of everyone involved.”

Fittingly though, band manager Oborne attributes the success to all of those who work so hard to make the shows happen – and who help the band shine. “When I think about The 1975 touring, I can’t help but think about how dedicated and committed to the show our crew are,” he says. “The professionalism and dedication are something we simply could not be without. I am very grateful to all those behind the scenes who turn up day in day out and make the entire thing work. It’s quite something to witness.”

 


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Festivals 2024: EXIT, Rock for People, Bonnaroo

Festival lineup announcements have continued to come thick and fast in Europe and the United States as this summer’s calendar takes shape.

Serbia’s EXIT Festival has unveiled its first 24 acts for its 2024 edition, EXIT Starseeds, which is set for the Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad, from 10-14 July.

The lineup is headlined by the Black Eyed Peas, Tom Morello, and Gucci Mane, with other acts to include DJ Carl Cox, Bonobo, KlangKuenstler, Sama’ Abdulhadi, Barry Can’t Swim, Franky Wah, and Mene. In addition, the Tesla Universe Stage will showcase the likes of Kenya Grace, Iniko, Rudimental, John Newman, The Exploited, Dub FX, Willy William, Ian Asher, and Steve Angello, and Joker Out.

Villagers of Ioannina City and Lakeside X are the first names confirmed for Visa Fusion Stage, while the Explosive Stage will feature Coroner and Nemesis.

Held under the slogan “Awakening our Superpowers Together”, EXIT Starseeds also has a special Starseeds Takeover performance on its Tesla Universe Stage reserved for day zero.

Elsewhere, Czechia’s Rock for People, which will be headlined by The Prodigy, The Offspring, Bring Me The Horizon and Yungblud, has added to its lineup. The event, which will take place at Park 360, Hradec Králové, from 12-15 June, will also star Sum 41, Avril Lavigne, Dogstar, Bad Omens, Corey Taylor, Enter Shikari, Parkway Drive, Bombay Bicycle Club, Body Count ft. Ice-T, Dogstar, Neck Deep, Thy Art Is Murder, Missio and Royal Republic, among others.

Meanwhile, Craig David, Ne-Yo, DJ Spoony, So Solid Crew and Shola Ama are the first acts unveiled for Ashton Gate Presents BS3. The new multi-artist event in Bristol, UK, will feature ten acts across two stages on 22 June.

In the US, Boston Calling will be held from 24-26 May in Allston, MA, headlined by Ed Sheeran, Tyler Childers and The Killers. The lineup also includes Leon Bridges, Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB, Hozier, Reneé Rapp, Khruangbin, Megan Thee Stallion, Jessie Murph, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls, and Young the Giant.

It will also serve as a celebration of New England’s music scene, featuring over 20 artists from the region including Beach Weather, Kieran Rhodes, Senseless Optimism, Tysk Tysk Task, and Bad Rabbits, who opened the inaugural festival in 2013.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is scheduled for 13-16 June on the Bonnaroo Farm, 60 miles southeast of Nashville in Manchester, TN, with this year’s highlights including performances from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Post Malone,  Pretty Lights, Megan Thee Stallion, Cage The Elephant and a US festival exclusive performance by Fred Again..

Also on the bill: Maggie Rogers, Melanie Martinez, Khruangbin, Cigarettes After Sex, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Diplo, Carly Rae Jepsen, Fisher, Jon Batiste, Dominic Fike, Parcels, Idles, Joey Bada$$, Lizzy McAlpine, T-Pain, Interpol, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Two Friends, Taking Back Sunday, Gary Clark Jr, TV Girl, Thundercat, Ashnikko and Brittany Howard.

Southern California’s electronic music-focused Beyond Wonderland will host acts such as The Chainsmokers, Benny Benassi, Alesso, Madeon, Subtronics, Basscon, Rezz, Wax Motif, Chris Lorenzo, J. Worra, Gareth Emery, Zeds Dead and Afrojack b2b R3hab at NOS Events Center, San Bernardino, on 22-23 March.

And BottleRock Napa Valley has already sold out three-day tickets for its 24-26 May gathering, topped by Stevie Nicks, Pearl Jam and Ed Sheeran. It will also feature artists including Queens Of The Stone Age, Megan Thee Stallion, Maná, St Vincent, Nelly, Miike Snow, Bebe Rexha, Kali Uchis, The Kid Laroi, My Morning Jacket, Dominic Fike, Norah Jones, The Offspring, All Time Low and Holly Humberstone.

 


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‘We take pride in hosting international talent’

Rock for People is retaining its four-day format and international focus after unveiling Bring Me The Horizon as its first headliner for 2024.

Promoted by Ameba Production, the 40,000-cap Czech Republic festival will return to Park 360 in Hradec Králové from 12-15 June. It expanded from three to four days last year when returning from its pandemic-enforced hiatus.

“Fans come first with us, so when they let us know that they wanted Bring Me The Horizon the most, we did everything we could to make sure they got their wish,” says festival director Michal Thomes. “Booking bands is not a simple thing at all, a lot of circumstances have to come together correctly, such as the band is touring that year, it suits the date and so on. So I am very happy that we managed to do it.”

Three headliners are still to be announced, while other acts confirmed so far include Avril Lavigne, Corey Taylor, Parkway Drive, Pendulum and Keanu Reeves’ band, Dogstar. Four-day tickets start at €156.

“Seeing Dogstar perform with the stellar Keanu Reeves on bass is a dream come true for me,” adds Thomes. “We tried to invite the band back in the 90s, but it didn’t work out and the band was not active for almost 20 years. We are even more happy that it finally happened.”

Founded in 1995, the festival featured in IQ Magazine‘s recent list of ten of Europe’s brightest independent gatherings. Its 2023 line-up starred the likes of Slipknot, Muse, Architects, Machine Gun Kelly, The 1975, Papa Roach, Billy Talent and Nothing But Thieves.

“We take pride in hosting more international talents than local acts, setting us apart from other Czech festivals”

“We take pride in hosting more international talents than local acts, setting us apart from other Czech festivals,” said booker David Nguyen. “Our event emerged as a charitable festival in the quaint town of Český Brod. Its inaugural edition garnered an unexpected attendance of 1,100 visitors, catalysing the journey that lay ahead.

“The resounding success of this modest beginning propelled Ameba Production to elevate the festival into a full-time pursuit, ultimately establishing it as one of the foremost festivals in the Czech Republic. Notably, the event’s evolution prompted a pivotal relocation to the former military airport in Hradec Králové in 2007, a decision that was driven by its burgeoning popularity.

Nguyen acknowledged the increased complications for independent promoters around rising production costs and “skyrocketing” booking fees, in addition to some artists choosing to work exclusively with multinationals, but also noted the benefits of staying indie.

“Remaining an independent entity offers us the freedom to execute our creative vision without constraints, enabling us to curate a unique and authentic experience for our attendees,” he said.

Ed Sheeran will also perform a standalone show at Park 360 on 27 July next year, staged by Ameba Production in conjunction with FKP Scorpio, as part of the Rock for People Concerts series. Tickets, which will include the Park 360 Fan Zone, located in the immediate vicinity, are priced 1,990-2,990 CZK (€81-122).

“I am very happy that we can organise a concert of such a personality and unique musician as Ed Sheeran. The fact that he has chosen Park 360 for his show in the Czech Republic, which is also home to our Rock for People festival, is a huge honour and a milestone for us,” adds Thomes. “It’s proof for us that we are really pushing ourselves every year and our venue can compete with the world’s great arenas.”

 


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Game on for Czech fest Rock for People

Organisers of Rock for People, one of the biggest music festivals in the Czech Republic, has announced plans for an interactive, 3D virtual festival, Rock for People in the Game, on 31 January.

Open to anyone with an internet connection, webcam and microphone, Rock for People in the Game will allow fans to explore the festival area, sing along with both Czech and international performers, dance in front of the stage and interact with other attendees and festival partners.

The festival will act as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, the main, 30,000-capacity Rock for People event, which is scheduled for 10–12 June with performers including Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer and more.

“It is not a replacement for summer 2021, but a unique get-together in a gaming environment”

“We will move our festival to the online world for one day. It is not a replacement for summer 2021, but a unique get-together in a gaming environment,” explains Rock for People (RfP) festival director Michal Thomes. “Those who know the Festivalpark in Hradec Králové can look forward to well-known places, from hangars to the runway, stages or even RfP merch to buy. You can dance, sing out loud, go to a bar, meet other visitors and our team.”

Festivalgoers will be represented by custom-created virtual avatars, while artists including Nothing But Thieves, Crown the Empire, Calva Louise, I Love You Honey Bunny, KennyHoopla and RedZep will play short concert sets.

Despite the events of 2020, Rock for People promoter Ameba Production was able to organise some 25 club and open-air concerts, as well as the Rock for People Home and Kefírek festivals, while showcase event Nouvelle Prague went online. Rock for People, which celebrates its 26th edition this year, is sold out.

 


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Pohoda called off, uncertainty grows for Czechoslovak fests

Slovakia’s Pohoda festival will not take place this summer, as festival organisers in the neighbouring Czech Republic ask the government for clarification over the fate of the country’s summer season.

Organisers of Pohoda (30,000-cap.), the biggest festival in Slovakia, have taken the “inevitable decision” to call off this year’s edition, which was to take place from 9 to 11 July. A free online event, Pohoda in the Air, will take place over the festival weekend instead.

Pohoda festival director Michal Kaščák will join organisers from Czech festivals Colours of Ostrava, Rock for People, Metronome Prague and Let It Roll in an online discussion at 8 p.m. CET today (16 April).

Artists from the 2020 bill including the Libertines, Wolf Alice and Metronomy are confirmed to play next year’s Pohoda, from 8 to 10 July 2021. “Other names will follow soon,” says Kaščák, adding that, “we cannot guarantee the same programme for 2021, but we will do our best to make it even more powerful.”

All 2020 Pohoda tickets will remain valid for 2021. Ticketholders have until 15 October 2020 to apply for a refund. Fans can either ask for a full refund or opt to support Pohoda by donating a portion of the refunded ticket price.

Fellow Slovakian festivals including Uprising, Hip Hop Žije, Topfest and Grape are going ahead as planned for now. Hip Hop Žije organisers state they give fans more “precise” information on 20 April, whereas Grape organisers say they have until the end of May to make a decision, although “it will probably be the government and crisis team that will make the decision for us in this matter”.

“We cannot guarantee the same programme for 2021, but we will do our best to make it even more powerful”

Pohoda’s decision comes as promoters in the bordering Czech Republic demand a clear decision regarding summer festivals in the country.

On Tuesday (14 April), the Czech government announced it will allow shops and restaurants to reopen in stages over the next two months, with theatres and cultural venues of up to 50 capacity opening on 8 June as part of a gradual exit plan.

However, no clear information has been given as to when festivals and events may be allowed to reopen, unlike in other European countries such as Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium and Germany, where a similarly staggered lifting of restrictions has begun.

Organisers of festivals including Rock for People (18 to 20 June) which has the 1975, Green Day and Fall Out Boy on the line-up, and Colours of Ostrava (15 to 17 July), which is set to feature the Killers, Twenty One Pilots and Martin Garrix, are awaiting an official government decision, whereas Prague’s Metronome festival has rescheduled from the end of June to 17 to 19 September.

“The government is unable to give us a decision and prolongs our suffering by giving us unclear information,” Colours of Ostrava director Zlata Holušová told Czech newspaper Novinky.cz. “For this reason, I take it that hope has not yet died. We have no official ban yet.”

Holušová will join Kaščák, Rock for People’s Michal Thomas, Metronome Prague’s David Gaydečka and Let It Roll’s Zdeněk Souček in a conversation moderated by journalist Petr Vizina to share their thoughts on current events here.

 


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