The announcement that Kanye West would headline the Saturday evening slot at Glastonbury has already provoked controversy among the festival’s ticket-holders, with a Change.org petition calling for Kanye to be ditched in favor of a rock band already having racked up 36,020 signatures at the time of writing. West’s public behavior and live reputation at festivals in particular is known for being erratic, so on one hand it is understandable why some Glastonbury attendees would want to go with a more reliable performer for the headliner. On the other hand, the protest against him really represents how much closer to the spirit of rock and roll’s roots West lives by refusing to ever play it safe. Really Glastonbury couldn’t ask for a more rock and roll headliner, and the petition represents people on the wrong side of history who can’t see hip-hop as a legitimate music genre.
This will be Kanye’s first appearance at Glastonbury, which takes place in England and is one of the biggest summer music festivals in the world. Shortly after Kanye’s headlining slot was announced, U.K. resident Neil Lonsdale made the petition, “Cancel Kanye West’s headline slot and get a rock band.”
Lonsdale spoke more in depth about why he made the petition in an interview with NME. He said that this will be his first time attending the festival, and while he felt the Foo Fighters headlining on Friday night was a good choice, he was angered that he paid so much money to attend the festival to have Kanye West announced to headline on Saturday.
“Two years ago we had The Rolling Stones playing the Saturday night, and this year we get Kanye West? It’s an outrage!” Lonsdale said. Other artists he suggested could replace Kanye in the spot included Fleetwood Mac, Green Day, or David Bowie.
Lonsdale also said he started the petition as kind of a joke and didn’t expect so many people to get on board. “I was a little surprised that people have taken it as seriously as they have,” he admitted. “Don’t get me wrong, if it works, then I’ll be more than happy,” he said.
More troubling was Lonsdale’s belief that a hip-hop artist doesn’t deserve to headline the festival on the main stage. While he claimed to not have a problem with rap music, he said that it doesn’t deserve to headline the festival. “My beef is not with the genre. My beef is with the stage and the fact it’s a headline slot,” he said. Obviously this doesn’t represent the beliefs of everyone who signed the petition, but it is a pretty close-minded thing to believe that a rap artist shouldn’t headline a summer festival.
Kanye’s festival record is a bit spotty. He’s delivered not one but two disappointing headlining sets at Bonnaroo, but gave a killer performance when he headlined Coachella. His first performance at Bonnaroo in 2008, saw him refusing to take the stage until 4:30 a.m., and only playing for half an hour before storming off. That would be a much better reason to get upset over Kanye playing Glastonbury than preferring a dinosaur “rock band” from the ‘60s on a reunion tour like Fleetwood Mac.
The very fact that there’s a petition against him playing Glastonbury is a sign of how rock and roll Kanye West is despite being a hip-hop artist. It’s reminiscent of Bob Dylan being booed by his own fans when he went electric, or the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bullocks being blacked out on top of the Billboard charts. The greatest moments in rock and roll history are always polemical, and Kanye’s haters are on the wrong side of it.
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