Jack White: 'Festivals Are A Necessary Evil'

Jack White has called festivals "a necessary evil" and has admitted that he doesn't actually enjoy playing them very much.

Ultimate Guitar

Jack White has called festivals "a necessary evil" and has admitted that he doesn't actually enjoy playing them very much.

The guitar virtuoso, who released his debut solo album "Blunderbuss" earlier this year, has said that he doesn't "get excited about festivals".

Speaking to BBC News, White said of his views on festival season: "They're a necessary evil in the business. I don't get excited about festivals - they're not my favourite place to play. A lot of people come to them and there's all these pros to them. You get exposure to people who would never come and see you and the organisers offer bands a lot of money so they can't say no, but they're not my first choice to perform music".

He continued: "Everyone's drinking and lazing in the sun and walking around and that's a fun thing for them but it's not interesting for me. I'm not trying to be negative, it's just never been too exciting for me".

White also spoke about his approach to writing lyrics and said that he believes it his job to "try to tap into these different struggles" and he hates the idea that lyrics could be used for artists to "air their dirty laundry".

Asked about his approach to writing lyrics, White said: "I think anyone who would sell their personal life out there, and have people listen to them whine about it is kind of ridiculous. When you're a songwriter it's your job to try to tap into these different struggles and put them out there for people to relate to, not for you to air your dirty laundry, especially in the tabloid culture that exists today. I have absolutely no interest in that".

The guitarist also spoke about the writing of his classic 2003 track "Seven Nation Army" and revealed that his then bandmate Meg White only thought the track was "OK" and his record label didn't event want to put it out as a single.

Speaking about "Seven Nation Army", he said: "I played the riff for the song for Ben Swank who works at Third Man. He said 'It's OK' and Meg didn't think anything of it either. I thought it was interesting. Even when we recorded it, nobody thought it was that good".

He continued: "Even when the album was done, our record label didn't want to release it as a single! But it shows you if you don't pay attention to those things, you'll miss a lot of them."

Jack White will tour the UK and Ireland later this year. The run of seven dates now begins at Dublin's O2 Arena on October 31 and runs until November 8 when White headlines Edinburgh's Usher Hall.

The tour also includes shows in Birmingham, Bridlington and Blackpool's Empress Ballroom, the venue where The White Stripes recorded their first live DVD "Under Blackpool Lights".

Jack White will play:

10/31 - Dublin, O2 Arena 11/02-03 - London, Alexandra Palace 11/04 - Bridlington, Spa 11/06 - Blackpool, Empress Ballroom 11/07 - Birmingham, O2 Academy 11/08 - Edinburgh, Usher Hall

Thanks to NME for the report.

31 comments sorted by best / new / date

    i have never been interested in festivals myself. I seen a video for bruce springsteens full performance at a festival and it was like an hour and a half. An hour and a half is blasphemy for a Boss show!
    An hour and a half is a pretty long time for the audience if you already had to wait 2 hours standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the front to get a good look at the stage when the set starts. Definitely pros and cons to festivals. I saw Jack White at Lolla, and he and the crowd were not at 100% excitement for sure. Sometimes everybody is though, and 100,000 people singing along is a pretty magical thing.
    Well i saw the Boss play at Roskilde Festival in Denmark, he played for almost three hours - so not all festivals have a one and a half hour limit. But I dont know if Roskilde is an exception?
    Festivals are hit or miss. If you catch a festival where you know and like all the bands, you're in for the time of your life. Either that or a festival with upcoming bands only, great way to get familiarized with new stuff.
    I normally don't really care for festivals but Riot Fest in Chicago has the most ridiculously badass lineup I have ever seen. Only four more days left.
    Honestly, I can't say I enjoy festivals that much. I rather watch a full set from a band I really like then seeing a few short sets of favourite bands and a whole bunch of ones I don't like.
    I feel kind of the opposite. I've found some great bands at festivals from just hearing something in the background. "Dude you hear that? What is that kickass sound coming from the woods?" "I don't know lets go check it out". As for the bands I already like, I don't mind the abbreviated sets, because if I already know I like them enough, I'll go see them on their own.
    Strummerboy Leo
    In places like the UK or US, it's probably not as bad because, as you said, you can go see your favourite bands on their own. Places like Australia though, a lot of bands just play the festival circuit and nothing else. It's either relatively small bands playing clubs or huge bands playing arenas (when they're not headlining festivals), but all the moderately popular bands are playing things like soundwave and BDO. It's just really shitty to have to pay between $150-$200 or more to see short sets from the one or two bands you like on that festival,
    I like how this article is about how he dislikes festivals, and the tour dates on the bottom don't mention that he'll be playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival here in Austin.
    He also mentioned that they offer a lot of money that's hard to turn down. So that's probably why.
    I've seen Jack at 2 Bonnaroos. I can see what he means, but there are festivals that are a lot smaller that have a totally different vibe.
    I understand what he's saying. Just take Download 2012 as an example. While it was great for me to see all my favourite metal bands in a couple of days , it probably must not have been as much fun for a band like , say Anthrax. They got a measly 6 songs to play , pretty early in the afternoon , and most of the crowd knew only Caught In A Mosh, while the rest lazed around, drank and saw other bands. Sure, they probably did make some fans there, but it must be a different feeling to play for your own loyal fanbase. For bands like Metallica and Black Sabbath however, whose fans transcend genres, festivals must be pretty fun as they get to see hundreds of thousands of people singing their songs.
    Bands can say no. The money I'm sure is a huge incentive but bands do have the ability to say no. Saying they can't say no is just incorrect.
    I'm pretty sure by that he meant that they give bands so much money that it becomes an offer that they can't refuse. As for the article, I can see where Jack's coming from. Unless you're some huge internationally known band like the examples stated above, Metallica and Black Sabbath, I can get where festivals won't be that exciting. It can be sorta disheartening for musicians to be playing a show, and there are people lazing around, not paying attention to you. Larger acts don't really have that problem, and I'm not saying that Jack isn't a large act, but I've never even heard a song of his beside Seven Nation Army before last month. I'm not part of the general music listening public, but think of how many of those Top 40s addicts have heard a Jack White song besides that single.
    I get that there's ups and downs with festivals for the audience, for example my only gripe with them is sometimes you have to choose between 2 bands you really want to see because it's over several stages, but I love them otherwise. Good old Jack here hasn't really explained why he doesn't like them, unless I'm missing something? If he'd said "I prefer the intimacy of a smaller venue" I'd understand, but he just says he doesn't because he doesn't.
    i will never forget the great helicopter shirt with skindred at download 2011, never seen so many people with their tops off swinging them above their head. epic. also the stoned guy who actually fell asleep on me at the front. hahaha, probably would've been trampled and died if we didn't hold him up. as for lazing around in the sun. more like sleeping in a bog, swimming to the front then being on your feet fighting for air and water for like 8 hours for 3 days on the trot. festivals are a marathon for the fans!!