Wanted: 20 Acts to Shake Up Future Music Festivals

Here's our 2016 wishlist-of-sorts as we enter the early days of Hype Season


    It’s early September, which means we’re just about to enter Hype Season. If you’re unfamiliar, this is the time when undisclosed sources start to toss around names for next year’s festivals. Some are on-point, others not so much.

    Already we’ve heard rumblings about Guns N’ Roses, who reportedly will have a “big year” in 2016. They won’t be the last, rest assured. In the coming months, you’re wont to hear about a few more reunions and a number of comebacks. It’s just expected.

    In anticipation, we rounded up 20 acts that we’d like to see on lineups next year. Know that we crossed off a few of the obvious choices, namely Talking Heads, The Smiths, The White Stripes, and Daft Punk. Still, if you’ve been around, you know there’s a name missing there.


    A few of our choices will be obvious — in fact, a couple have even been touring lately — but we believe each one of these names would make any festival’s lineup sparkle and shine. Hell, some would sell them out instantaneously.

    So, what are you waiting for? Read, agree or disagree, and share your own Wanted lists below.

    –Michael Roffman

    20. Rage Against the Machine


    Ideal for: Governors Ball, Sweetlife (I’ll explain)

    Election season looms, and we all know what that means. It’s time to dust off that copy of Evil Empire, rehang that Che Guevara poster, and find some open real estate on a jacket or book bag for that “Free Mumia!” patch. Okay, okay. In hindsight, maybe we never quite changed the world during Rage Against the Machine’s first go-round – maybe we looked as ridiculous as nuns brandishing guns while practicing our teenage activism-lite – but the summer festival season leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election seems like the perfect time to put some politics back in mainstream rock. While new music or a full-on reunion tour seem unlikely at this point, RATM could perhaps be coaxed back as a festival headliner (à la Coachella 2007 or Lollapalooza 2008). Smaller festivals like Governors Ball and Sweetlife might seem like odd choices, but strategically speaking (near Wall Street and D.C.) they make all the sense in the world. Could 2016 be the year we really take the power back? Now where did I put that beret and armband? –Matt Melis

    19. Uncle Tupelo


    Ideal for: Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival, any alt-country festival, or someplace with a boxing or wrestling ring (Riot Fest, perhaps?)

    It rarely gets any media attention these days, probably for the very good reason of maturity. But I’m just going to say it, maturity be damned: There’s no music beef more intense than the one between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar. The latter couldn’t even bring himself to write the former’s name in his 2013 memoir, seemingly still butthurt over the tensions that led to/arose from Uncle Tupelo’s dissolution back in 1994.

    For his part, Tweedy hasn’t made much mention of his former bandmate either. It’s this silence that makes their dislike for each other so palpable, even if neither of them would cop to any lingering feelings of resentment — after all, they’ve both got their own projects in Wilco and Son Volt, among other things.


    Still, if they reunited, it’s reasonable to think bloodlust would quickly start to bubble in these two old war horses, especially given their polarized demeanors. Tweedy’s very much the lighter-hearted one these days, with Farrar grumbly as ever as he mourns the death of an America that never really existed. Frankly, I can’t even picture them playing a song together these days, which is why seeing them rip through “Whiskey Bottle” would be a genuine, if dangerous, thrill. –Dan Caffrey

    18. The Pretenders


    Ideal for: Riot Fest, Lollapalooza, Shaky Knees, Coachella

    The Pretenders haven’t played a proper gig since 2012, and that was all the way out in Marina Bay, Singapore. Since then, Chrissie Hynde has been working on her harrowing memoir, Reckless: My Life as a Pretender, which hits shelves on September 8th. (Recently, she’s been drawing ire and criticism for her comments on sexual assault, but we’ll leave that for another discussion.) So, unless she’s busy with an accompanying book tour, it’s looking like she’ll be free to return to the stage fairly soon — as in, next year. The good news is that dozens of festivals could use a little bit of The Pretenders’ classic fare, FM staples like “Back on the Chain Gang”, “Middle of the Road”, “I’ll Stand By You”, and “Brass in Pocket”. Yeah, let’s make this happen.  –Michael Roffman

    17. Rihanna

    Rihanna 2015

    Ideal for: Lollapalooza, Coachella

    Kanye may be the biggest rock star in the world, but who is the new Tupac? Robyn Rihanna Fenty. According to Killer Mike, Rihanna “like Pac is a symbol of power and rebellion against the perceptions of what the powers that be think her group (women) should be.” Rihanna has long been doing her thing without giving a fuck about what others think of her, but for a discrete contemporary example, look no further than her video for her insistent, no-shit-taking banger “Bitch Better Have My Money”. Her other new releases, the clean-cut Kanye-Paul McCartney collab “FourFiveSeconds” and the more weighty “American Oxygen”, might indicate an exciting new sound that tends towards the varied and eclectic. Pair that with Rihanna’s long list of hits and her confidence in conjuring fully-realized visual spectacles, and what you’ve got is an artist who could bring a festival to its knees in worship. –Karen Gwee

    16. Miley Cyrus

    miley cyrus flaming lips

    Ideal for: Coachella, Bonnaroo, Burning Man

    All eyes are on Miley Cyrus right now. After her controversial MTV VMAs hosting gig and the glitter-spattered, whopping 23-track album she dropped immediately afterwards, how could you look away? If you thought Cyrus had reached peak emancipation from her cutesy Hannah Montana past when she twerked on Robin Thicke onstage two years ago, you were wrong. Cyrus is more liberated than ever, basking in new revelations about her gender and sexuality and indulging her freewheeling stylistic whims, critiques of cultural appropriation be damned. While that makes her no role model, it certainly makes her a hell of an entertainer. Her Bangerz tour, featuring blow-up dolls, inflatable penises, and teddy bears, proved that Cyrus is more than capable of putting on a raucous, dazzling show that could easily delight and confound a festival audience at the same time. –Karen Gwee

    15. Whiskeytown


    Ideal for: Austin City Limits, Pickathon, AmericanaFest

    Like several of the acts on this list, the thrill of catching Whiskeytown at a festival comes from the unlikelihood of there being a reunion in the first place. You’re much more likely to get Ryan Adams by himself. But say we did see him reconnect with fiddler/co-vocalist Caitlin Carey — it would be a very different show than the ones in their heyday. For one, Adams is much more mature and much more sober, meaning fans are probably safe from insults, splinters of broken guitars, and bottles flung from the stage. But don’t think for a second that the music would be defanged. The guy has more energy and stamina than ever, and there’s something magnetic about seeing an alt-country act go full-throttle on a song like “Revenge”, then transform back into nice people immediately afterwards. Works just as well for the nice songs, too. –Dan Caffrey

    14. Aretha Franklin

    Aretha Franklin photographed by Matthew Jordan Smith

    Ideal for: Coachella, Forecastle, Shaky Knees (The Classicism Revival Tents)

    “She don’t remember the Queen of Soul” Donald Fagen once sang. Maybe that’s true of the other half of his lurid May-December romance in “Hey Nineteen”, but we’d like to think that today’s youth is a bit more savvy. Legacy acts (albeit still active ones) like Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen have already proven their popularity among the younger festival-circuit crowd, and Aretha Franklin’s still-standing powerhouse of a voice makes her an even better fit. Can you imagine her belting “Chain of Fools” or “Respect” across the massive fields of Coachella? She’s also shown youthful relevancy in recent years with her triumphant cover of “Rolling in the Deep”. But even if she does decide to shake up Shaky Knees, don’t expect her to perform with Adele any time soon. –Dan Caffrey

    13. Alanis Morrissette


    Ideal for: Sasquatch!, Lollapalooza, Governors Ball, Riot Fest

    Jagged Little Pill turned 20 this year. You remember that album, right? You should. It only won five Grammys  — ahem, Best Rock Album, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song (“You Oughta Know”), and Album of the Year — and was owned by virtually anyone with a CD player. (Hell, even Dave “Funny Man” Coulier probably blasted it in his ’95 Chrysler LeBaron.) So, where the hell has Alanis Morissette been? Touring, for one, but sadly she wasn’t on any festival lineup this year. Maybe it’s because she opted to go Intimate and Acoustic, as her tour name suggests? If that’s really the case, then here’s hoping that she’ll plug in the instruments for 2016 and tickle that funny bone in all of us that begs to sing “You Learn” after a bad day. Also, didn’t she just get the Taylor Swift We’re Fwends! Stamp of Approval? That’s good for at least six months. –Michael Roffman

    12. Tom Waits

    Image (1) tom-waits-bad-as-me.jpg for post 245015

    Ideal For: Glastonbury, Riot Fest, any festival with a carnival, circus, freak show, spooky old barn, or assortment of mules (in other words, anywhere he lays his head is home)

    Don’t hold your breath. Outside of one-off benefit shows and Late Night appearances, Tom Waits hasn’t toured in eight years, let alone played something like Glastonbury. And even when he does play live, the runs are brief and his fee is supposedly astronomical (unsurprising, given his average ticket price). And yet that’s part of why a festival appearance would be so reinvigorating. Even without the rarity of the situation, Waits has a way of transporting his audience to whatever evocatively lowdown locale he’s singing about, be it a sleazy port, a rickety ship, or a cemetery where, for some reason, there’s a polka going on. That would no doubt come in handy when you’re roughing it in the mud at Riot Fest. Granted, Waits’ version of Singapore is just as shitty a place to be when you think about it, but at least he makes it sound fun. –Dan Caffrey

    11. Adele

    Adele 2015

    Ideal for: Coachella, Sasquatch!, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo.

    While pop music in abstract may seem like a toxic recipe for a festival appetite, there are exceptions to every rule. One such exception is Adele, the British songstress with golden pipes and more hit singles than most legacy bands. With a new album finally announced for November, the time has never been better for Adele to hit the festival circuit and serenade crowds with those stunning pipes. While jaded festivalgoers may turn a blind eye to a more contemporary act like Justin Timberlake, the timelessness of Adele’s music amplifies its universal appeal, making her an ideal Sunday closer for the tired masses of Coachella, the Northwest introverts of Sasquatch!, the sprawling demographic of Austin City Limits, and the baby boomer purists of Bonnaroo. No one is left untouched by her songs, if only she is willing to share them. –Zack Ruskin

    10. LCD Soundsystem

    James Murphy - LCD Soundsystem - While We're young

    Ideal for: Coachella, Lollapalooza, Governors Ball, Pitchfork, Ultra

    James Murphy works pretty dang hard to keep from losing his edge. The LCD Soundsystem mastermind scored a film by cult filmmaker Noah Baumbach, opened up a Brooklyn wine bar, and continues to fight New York City opposition to build a “Subway Symphony”. He may as well come to terms with that restlessness and hit up the festival route. Ever since LCD Soundsystem called it quits in February of 2011, thousands of fans wait to rectify the missed opportunity to say, “I was there” because of inevitable age restrictions or Madison Square Garden’s insane farewell ticket sales. LCD Soundsystem could play any stage they please and still be swarmed by a sea of drunk girls with someone great by their sides, uniting North American scum to dance themselves clean to the sound of silver beats. What better way to stay in touch with the youth than to fuel them with anthems they refuse to stop playing? –Nina Corcoran

    09. Tina Turner


    Ideal for: Bonnaroo, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Outside Lands Festival

    Yes, Tina Turner is 75 years old. Okay, so she kind of went all out in 2008 and 2009 with her 50th Anniversary Tour, playing 84 sold-out nights and grossing over 130 million dollars. But come on, don’t even pretend to act like you wouldn’t dance your shoes off to “Proud Mary” or sing your heart raw to “What’s Love Got to Do with It”? You would, your friends would, and strangers all around you would, too. It doesn’t have to be a crazy tour or anything, either. She could take a note from Billy Joel or Lionel Richie and pop up at random festivals throughout the year. Don’t even get me started on the guests she could bring out. Here’s looking at you, Beyoncé. –Michael Roffman