Churchill Downs's HullabaLOU Music Festival lineup disappoints

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Looking for live updates and information on getting to Hullabalou? Visit Louisville.com's HullabaLOU roundup page. 

When I first heard that Churchill Downs was hosting HullabaLOU Music Festival July 23-25, my immediate reaction was to contact the folks I went to Bonnaroo with this year and see if they wanted to go.Then I read the festival's lineup.

As Louey Ville posted on her blog, "You've gotta wonder who these folks consulted with when planning this festival."Not only did I not see any act that appealed, but if I did, I probably wouldn't want to admit it to my friends.(And, as Churchill Downs's homepage makes no mention of HullabaLOU, you can't help but wonder if someone there is embarrassed about the lineup too.)

If you are interested in attending HullabaLOU, tickets go on sale today at noon at Ticketmaster.It doesn't sound like Derby City Espresso will be going though: "$169 for this crap??? COUNT ME OUT," it Tweeted.

The racetrack can accommodate 160,000 fans at HullabLOU, so clearly Churchill Downs Entertainment (CDE) is banking on people traveling to Louisville. But the festival's three headliners--Bon Jovi, Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews Band--tour regularly. Is anyone but their most hardcore fans going to travel here to see them perform when they probably caught one of their shows a few months earlier in their hometown? And does Louisville really want an influx of hardcore Bon Jovi fans, assuming any exist?

While the headliners are big-enough names, none of them come across as a popular draw for festival crowds. Bon Jovi and Kenny Chesney, for example, are big with white women in their 30s and 40s; a demographic better known for liking nice meals and spa treatments than traveling to music festivals.The kids won't be coming out for this one: "I love Louisville but this is pathetic," Tweeted 21-year-old Jiggle Billy shortly after HullabaLOU was announced.

It seems as if the promoters saw that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Phish headlined last year's Bonnaroo and set out to find an act from Jersey and a jam band to front HullabaLOU. But Bon Jovi ain't Springsteen and the constantly touring DMB ain't a just reunited Phish--ticket sales probably will make the difference clear to Churchill Downs Entertainment (CDE), the event's producer.(But props to the promoters for at least effectively mimicking Bonnaroo's name.)

The supporting acts, however, is where the lineup falls apart: it's heavy on came-and-went performers rather than up-and-coming ones. The Doobie Brothers, Steppenwolf, the Steve Miller Band, Kansas and 38 Special have me wondering if CDE's booker recently got thawed out after having been frozen since 1979. As for Richard Marx to use ESPN's Bill "Sports Guy" Simmons's catchphrase, "He was still available?"The lineup has Erin Keane wondering "Will there be a halfway to HullabaLOU show? Featuring Hall & Oates, Al Jarreau and the Spin Doctors?"

And, in case I haven't been harsh enough on this lineup, I'm going to play the race card too: why are just two of the 28 performers blacks under the age of however old they O'Jays are (Chrisette Michelle and Musiq Soulchild)? Is it because there aren't many young black musicians out there? And why are there no black performers on the main stage? Is it not accessible through the back entrance? (For the record, I'm not accusing CDE of racism, just of being out of touch with the music scene.)

It's the Christmas season though, so I'll wrap up this article with the positives: HullabaLOU isn't for seven more months and four main-stage acts are still TBA. And as the festival's website promises more than 65 acts, only 28 of whom have been announced, CDE has plenty of opportunities to find some relevant performers (and maybe even some black ones too).Otherwise HullabaLOU might be Churchill Down's version of North Haverbrook's monorail.

For more information: Read how to profit from Churchill Down's marquee event by renting out your home on Kentucky Derby weekend.

About Zach Everson
Travel news/travel buzz editor at MapQuest. Previously, I was a freelance writer, contributing to The Wall Street Journal, Air Canada's enRoute, Eater, USA Today, Condé Nast Traveller, BlackBook, Curbed, Gridskipper, Deadspin, and Fox News. I also was the founding editor of Eater Louisville and the director of content and editorial strategy for Louisville.com.
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