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10 Artists Who Need to Curate a Music Festival

Bon Iver, Wilco, Chance the Rapper, and Gorillaz aren't the only ones who deserve a party

St. Vincent // Photo by Autumn Andel
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Photo by Autumn Andel

The world doesn’t need more music festivals — that’s a fact.

If anything, the industry could stand to slim down a name or two. The homogenization of lineups, the arguments about whether the bubble has burst or continues to grow, and the lack of headliner-level talent are all good enough reasons to scale back. Besides, full-scale tours are traditionally more lucrative to major artists and allow for much more agency over what they can or cannot do any given night on stage.

Well, except when they decide to throw their own festival, and that’s happened more often than you think. Over the years, we’ve seen wildly diverse festivals from the likes of The Roots, Jay Z, Pearl Jam, Wilco, Chance the Rapper, Bon Iver, Moby, Phish, Common, 311, Weezer, and the list goes on. Now, both Gorillaz and Chris Hardwick are getting in on the action with their respective Demon Dayz and Id10t festivals.

Because we like to speculate, we came up with a new roster of future festival curators, those who deserve to throw a soiree in their own name. Most of them are musicians with enough clout to make it happen, though we also included a couple comedians and filmmakers to shake things up. Don’t laugh, either. We did a similar list like this awhile back and managed to predict festivals by David Lynch and Anthony Bourdain.

You just never know.

–Michael Roffman
Editor-in-Chief

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Conan O’Brien

conan o brien 10 Artists Who Need to Curate a Music Festival

Name: Coco Extravaganza 3000

Location: Mexico City, Mexico

Lineup: Jack White, The Flaming Lips feat. Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge, Eddie Vedder, Bob Weir, Sleater-Kinney, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Chuck Berry, Drive-By Truckers, The Pretenders, Neko Case, Cage the Elephant, Leon Bridges, Angel Olsen, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, Big Audio Dynamite, T.J. Miller, Cameron Esposito, FIDLAR, Hippo Campus, Wolf Alice, Wild Belle, and the Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band

Why? By now, it’s pretty obvious that Conan O’Brien digs rock ‘n’ roll. He’s pals with Jack White, he’s appeared at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, and he emotionally exited The Tonight Show to the Southern guitar lines of Skynyrd. To date, his TBS show continues to book top tier talent — The Kills, PJ Harvey, The Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age, to name a few – and, as we witnessed in his 2011 documentary, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, he cherishes his collection of guitars. (In fact, his office always has one in it.) Basically, the guy lives for music, which is why a music festival is a no-brainer. Of course, any gig with O’Brien at the helm would mean three things: lots of rock ‘n’ roll, lots of comedy, and lots of absurdity. No complaints there.

–Michael Roffman

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Rihanna

rihanna-summer-songs copy

Name: ANTI-Festival

Location: Saint Michael, Barbados

Lineup: Rihanna, Drake, Eminem, Nicki Minaj, Black Eyed Peas, Calvin Harris, Future, Maroon 5, Ellie Goulding, T.I., David Guetta, Ne-Yo, Young Jeezy, Mike Will Made It, Jessie J, Sean Paul, SZA, Mikky Ekko, Kardinal Offishall, J-Status, Moto Blanco, Tony Moran, the Soul Seekerz, and the Wideboys

Why? Save for a headlining slot at last year’s Made in America, Rihanna rarely appears at music festivals, which is bizarre given her clout and the fact that she traditionally dominates the airwaves year after year. Perhaps then it’s time for her to tear a page from her longtime pal Jay Z and throw her own party, and what better place to offer up a sexy summer fling than her hometown of Saint Michael, Barbados? This three-day extravaganza would be The Ultimate Vacay and feature a who’s who of past collaborators whose performances would find a number of guest appearances by the platinum-selling pop singer. What’s more, her own set could feature surprise appearances by non-lineup heavies like Kanye West, Jay Z, or even Chance the Rapper. Hell, Dior could stream the whole thing on their website and make everyone jealous. Does that work, work, work?

–Michael Roffman

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Aziz Ansari

aziz kanye famous video 10 Artists Who Need to Curate a Music Festival

Name: City Slickers Festival

Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Lineup: Kanye West, Aphex Twin, D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Madvillian, Sleater-Kinney, Human Giant Live, Flight of the Conchords, Beach House, Father John Misty, Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Yo La Tengo, Mac DeMarco, Deerhunter, and Devendra Banhart

Why? Comedy and music fests are nothing new, but Aziz Ansari would bring a unique perspective to this kind of event. He’s not a comedian that makes music. Instead, he’s a comic who has a well-regarded interest in the music world. This extends to appearing in a music video for Watch the Throne and helping to curate an impeccable soundtrack to his Netflix hit, Master of None. Of course, his comedy friends would show up too, bringing the vibes of his two adoptive cities, Los Angeles and New York, to his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. As a kicker, why not reunite his breakthrough comedy troupe Human Giant? Ansari would obviously MC the whole thing, making his wide-eyed enthusiasm for the entirety of the lineup worth the price of admission.

–Philip Cosores

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Tom Waits

TomWaits

Name: Big Time Big Top Festival

Location: Sonoma County, California

Lineup: Tom Waits, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Bette Midler, Iggy Pop, Primus, Bonnie Raitt, Tori Amos, Marc Ribot, and Scarlett Johansson

Why? Wouldn’t it be something if the old rain dog was working on a new trick? A Tom Waits-curated festival would likely take place near his home in Sonoma County, California, in the heart of wine country, which would suit Waits fine because he’s always said, “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” With the aid of friend Terry Gilliam’s visual design, Waits might be inclined to embrace the circus/carnival motif he as always shown a fondness for, with stages under big-top tents and an authentic early 19th century freak show along the midway. And Waits would have to look no further than his Rolodex to put together an eclectic festival lineup. Friend Neil Young would be a lock, buddy Keith Richards might bring Mick and the boys across the pond, and neighbor Les Claypool would likely take a break from sailing the seas of cheese to play a set with Primus. And if all of this fell through, Waits could probably just gather everyone around and talk about all the towns he knows named after bodily secretions. Spittleville anyone?

–Matt Melis

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Björk

bjork 10 Artists Who Need to Curate a Music Festival

Photo by Santiago Felipe

Name: RAÐLJÓST

Location: Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland

Lineup: Björk, Thom Yorke, Sigur Ros, Aphex Twin, The Sugarcubes, Laurie Anderson, St. Vincent, PJ Harvey, Joni Mitchell, Tricky, Dirty Projectors, Death Grips, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Massive Attack, ANOHNI, Arca, Oneohtrix Point Never, The Haxan Cloak, Nicolas Jaar, Serpentwithfeet, Goldfrapp, Fufanu, Circuit Des Yeux, and Le1f

Why? Named for the Icelandic word meaning “enough light to navigate,” RAÐLJÓST would combine Björk’s intense musicality and connection to her homeland in a beautiful explosion of interactive art. The former Sugarcubes legend casts a long shadow in the music world, from indie rock to electronic, and a festival featuring Björk as a headliner and a reunion from her old band (their first performance in over a decade) would showcase the depth of her music. That influence would be further showcased by sets from collaborators, inspirations, and friends, as well as VR installations, art installations, and lectures on environmentalism. And as if the virtual reality music videos where you could be with the legend in Iceland weren’t good enough, this would all literally be set on the black basalt sand beaches outside the southernmost town in Iceland.

–Lior Phillips

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Wes Anderson

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Name: Three Stages by Wes Anderson

Location: London, England

Lineup: The Kinks, Faces, Cat Stevens, Sigur Rós, Patti Smith, Paul Simon, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Scott Walker, Alexandre Desplat, Sharon Van Etten, Jarvis Cocker, Devo, Coconut Records, and Seu Jorge

Why? Music is as much a character in Wes Anderson’s films as Royal Tenenbaum, Steve Zissou, Max Fischer, or Dignan. The Texas filmmaker glazes nearly every one of his scenes with a dusty classic from his pristine vinyl collection, often turning coarse family drama into emotional, perfectly orchestrated music videos that go for the jugular. Think back to Richie Tenenbaum’s tragic suicide attempt, set to the tune of Elliott Smith, or the Whitman brothers connecting with their mother through Mick Jagger’s haunting poetry. Music enlivens his body of work, and given that he’s a capital A auteur, a music festival should be child’s play for the guy — and also a blast. Granted, a number of his preferred clientele have long passed — ahem, Lou Reed, Nico, Nick Drake, Burl Ives, The Bobby Fuller Four, Yves Montad, et al. — but if he pulled the right strings, he could be the one to finally orchestrate long sought after reunions by The Kinks and Faces. Toss in some other familiar faces who have driven around Andersonville — from Cat Stevens and Sigur Rós to Iggy Pop and Alexandre Desplat — and you have a wildly adventurous run.

–Michael Roffman

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Grimes

Grimes // Photo by Heather Kaplan

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Name: Art Angels in Los Angeles

Location: Los Angeles, California

Lineup: Florence + the Machine, Lana Del Rey, Portishead, Grimes, Marilyn Manson, Paramore, Skrillex, Solange, Animal Collective, Janelle Monae, Lykke Li, Christine and the Queens, Arisophanes, BloodPop, Nicole Dollanganger, HANA, Tei Shi, and Devon Welsh

Why? Because Grimes might have the most unique creative vision of any current rising star in music. Taking inspiration from her current home city, as well as the many artists she’s toured with and recorded with, Grimes would not only bring a singular musical taste to a festival, but also the visual presentation to accompany it. Picture the bright lights, vibrant colors, choreography, and odd-ball installations that she would curate, balancing impulsive whims and well-considered artistic statement. Grimes would also create one of the most diverse festivals in the world, both in terms of the people making the music and the sounds that would be featured. Where else could some of her favorite acts like Marilyn Manson, Paramore, and Skrillex share the same stage? They’re all art angels in the eyes of Grimes.

–Philip Cosores

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Tavi Gevinson

tavi gevinson1 10 Artists Who Need to Curate a Music Festival

Name: Rookie Fest Season One

Location: The Rockaways, Queens, New York

Lineup: Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Lorde, Stevie Nicks, Chance the Rapper, Carly Rae Jepsen, Breeders, Hole, Le Tigre, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Body/Head, De La Soul, Vampire Weekend, The Julie Ruin, Courtney Barnett, Mitski, Mourn, La Luz, Lizzo, Perfume Genius, Cayetana, Katie Gately, and Noname

Why? Tavi Gevinson has been a tastemaker for nearly a decade now, and while fashion was her first calling card, her connections to the music world are prime for a festival. Better yet, market it under the Rookie banner, and you’ve got a built-in audience. Doing so would also offer the festival a unique voice, one aiming to give a platform to female artists, educate about feminism and raise money for important causes, and offer a safe space for teens and adults alike. Gevinson is at once a Millennial with her finger on the pulse and an old soul who connects to the best of decades past, unafraid to embrace pop hits and indie fare, meaning that she’d be great to pull together everyone from Queen Bey to Stevie Nicks, Carly Rae Jepsen to Mitski.

–Lior Phillips

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Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire // Photo by Nina Corcoran

Photo by Nina Cocoran

Name: Arcade Fire’s Bayou Boogaloo

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Lineup: Bruce Springsteen, U2, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, David Byrne, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blondie, Spoon, The Unicorns, Television, Mavis Staples, Tune-Yards, Dan Deacon, Will Butler, Owen Pallett, Sarah Neufeld, and DJ Windows 98

Why? Since their inception, Arcade Fire’s been a music-first band. Their the type of group that uses their Grammy acceptance speech to perform another song, or finish performances in the audience, or showcase exiting fans further music outside of venues. The opportunity to curate their own even would prove just too enticing for both the band and their audience. While they could have a festival in their homebase of Montreal or their frequent humanitarian cause of Haiti, Arcade Fire instead would choose their latest infatuation, New Orleans to host their first-ever music festival. This would allow them to join forces with a pair of acts that they’ve played shows with, The Boss and U2, and to invite the wealth of artists that they’ve worked with over the years. In addition, there are the solo projects of Arcade Fire-members both past and present that can fill out the lineup. Of course the event will wind up with Arcade Fire and friends taking to the streets of the city in a massive musical parade. That scene alone would make the whole thing worth it.

–Philip Cosores

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St. Vincent

st vincent heather kaplan 10 Artists Who Need to Curate a Music Festival

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Name: Pieta Festival

Location: Dallas, Texas

Lineup: St. Vincent feat. Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Kate Bush, David Byrne, Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Sufjan Stevens, Robyn, Wild Flag, The National, Fatboy Slim, The Mountain Goats, Andrew Bird, The New Pornographers, Of Montreal, The Polyphonic Spree, Amanda Palmer, Fred Armisen and The 8G Band, and Lake Highlands High School’s Wildcat Band

Why? There’s nobody quite like St. Vincent. Since her 2007 debut, Marry Me, she’s become a singular force that has only grown stronger with each release, and her forthcoming fifth studio album is poised to be her biggest effort to date. Given that her exhaustive live performances factor into so much of her artistry, evolving from album to album with one jaw-dropping stage show after another, a music festival might be the grandest gesture to frame her scope and influence. And who better than she to fill out a lineup? She could call up veteran titans like David Byrne and Beck within seconds, and longtime pals Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, and Carrie Brownstein would play at the drop of the hat. Who knows, Ms. Annie Clark could even send a passionate letter to her all-time hero Kate Bush and get her to finally return to North America. Wouldn’t that be nice?

–Michael Roffman

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