Could we be witnessing the end of budget-busting headliners at the Northwest's most popular music festivals?
After years of gripes about rises in ticket prices, Bumbershoot will for the first time offer a reduced-price ticket good for everything but the mainstage headliners. And over at Sasquatch!—the massively successful three-day indie-rock mainstay at the Gorge, the unofficial opening of the Northwest summer concert season—founder/booker Adam Zacks is passing on brand-name acts altogether.
Instead of booking, say, the Beastie Boys or Björk to headline each day, Zacks decided to gamble, forgoing expensive headliners in favor of smaller-scale acts like My Morning Jacket, the xx, Shabazz Palaces, and She & Him. His bet paid off: Sasquatch! 2010 sold out sooner than any of the eight previous festivals.
SW: How is the festival improved by not having a marquee headliner close each night?
Zacks: It's a bit unjust to this year's headliners to not call them marquee, especially since they're part of the festival's most successful and quickest-selling year. However, I get it, and it was indeed an intentional tactic to go with closers that are not necessarily household names.
I would rather the festival play a role in establishing the headliners of the future and push things forward. Also, I think one of the worst things that can happen to a festival is to become predictable. In my view, that would be the beginning of the end.
You save much money that way?
The money just gets spread across the bill more evenly, making it more "stacked."
With all three days sold out well in advance, how do you progress from here on? Would you consider a venue change?
There is a stockpile of ideas we've been saving for the festival's 10-year anniversary, so next year will be the time to implement those. It's pretty exciting to think about, but nothing I'm ready to share yet. We are not considering a venue change.
Festival sponsors purchase carbon offsets for Sasquatch! You'd save a lot of carbon if people didn't have to drive 150 miles to get to the Gorge. People could take the bus or train or walk to Seattle Center.
This question assumes everyone attending the festival is coming from Seattle. Seattle residents account for about 50 percent of attendees. Regardless, the environmental impact of driving to a remote area of the state is a con that gets drowned in a tsunami of pros.
Ultimately, I feel the uniqueness of the site is worth it, and it's better to put our energies into minimizing the impact through education, offsets, alternative energy, improved recycling, and car-pool programs.
Jack Johnson and String Cheese Incident played Sasquatch! #1 in 2002. Could you see either of them playing Sasquatch! again?
The festival's identity has changed so dramatically from that very first year that it would be hard to imagine it.