Two years ago I wrote this piece, making ten predictions for acts that would go on to headline Europe's biggest festivals. A year ago I went back to it with this piece, to see how I'd fared, and add some new names to the list. Basically, it all started because of the annual debate about whether we are running out of headliners.
Among my initial predictions back in the heady days of late 2016 were the likes of Ed Sheeran, Frank Ocean and Skepta, who duly went on to prove my genius by taking that step to headliner status. The list also included Jack Garratt, so it wasn't entirely spot on.
Last year, I swapped out those that had delivered on that potential for some other acts that I thought were likely candidates to top bills in the future. Now, it's time to do the same (just for reference, Jorja Smith would definitely have been included on this one but Melt Festival already beat me to it by announcing her as one of their headliners).
Anyway, let's see how I got on.
The Ones That Made It:
Bring Me The Horizon
Admittedly, this hasn't actually happened yet. But the Sheffield rock favourites have just been announced as headliners for All Points East in London next summer, finally taking that extra step to headliner status that has seemingly been spoken about for years now. More will surely follow.
Catfish & The Bottlemen
I felt it would have been a little premature to mark this one as a success after the band topped the bill at Community Festival's debut edition in the summer of 2017. But with 2018 seeing the lads' headline Glasgow Summer Sessions, Boardmasters, and Kendall Calling, I reckon it's probably time to cross them off this list for good.
The Ones That Probably Still Will
For a while, it seemed like hip-hop was finding itself with a gap between the top-tier of headliner-worthy acts and the wealth of big names on the level below who are undeniably huge, but might raise eyebrows on a mixed genre lineup. Travis Scott seemed to the man to bridge that gap in 2018, topping the bill at a number of festivals. Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper, A$AP Rocky and Post Malone could also do that job. Another, the immeasurably popular Anderson .Paak.
Still fairly confident on this one. As I said last year:
"Whether or not they will ever reach the very biggest stages remains to be seen, and they may have to release a third album first, but it seems very likely we’ll see Wolf Alice up there in due course."
And that was before they won the coveted Mercury Prize for their second album.
My admiration for this man basically knows no bounds, and he consistently delivers in his musical output and live performance. 2018 saw him support Kendrick Lamar and take in a few festival shows in North America, but with a high billing on Primavera Sound's 2019 lineup already in the diary, it looks like Europe might be treated to his presence next summer. Whether now is the time for him to headline is definitely up for debate though. Another strong album and he'll surely be given a shot.
The Landlord doesn't seem like such a nailed-on prediction as he maybe once did, although he has been announced as a headliner for NASS Festival in the west of England and a 'special guest' for Boardmasters. Add that to him basically filling in for no-show DJ Khaled at Wireless this summer – admittedly with a bit of help from Drake – and he's definitely still on the cusp.
The One That Still Might:
Much excitement abounded when Claire Boucher recently unveiled some new music, so clearly the demand and support is still there. It does feel like quite a long time ago since the brilliant Art Angels, so this one feels heavily dependent on her next album and the reaction to it. Certainly not ruling her out though.
Although 2018 was a quiet year for the duo, if the third album hits with the same ferocity as their second I'm sure there will be plenty of festivals looking to enlist their services.
The Ones We Can Probably Rule Out:
I really don't like to be negative, especially about someone with the level of talent that Jack Garratt has. His first album was great, and on top of that, he seems like a really genuine, principled, and generally nice bloke. But next summer will be two years since his last show, and realistically it would take a very strong sophomore album to elevate him to the level where he could conceivably top future festival bills.
This also seems a little harsh, but the response to the trio's third album earlier this year seemed somewhat muted compared to that of the previous two. It feels a little bit like their moment to make that final step might have passed, but that's not to say they won't still be appearing high up festival lineups for a while to come.
With the release of Negro Swan in August, you could argue that 2018 was Dev Hynes' best shot at headliner status. That said, Pitchfork Music Festival Paris, Iceland Airwaves and Club To Club Torino all had him among their top-billed acts at the beginning of November, so there's every chance they could act as a stepping stone to bigger things in the future.
It feels like the delightful scamp is almost part of the indie furniture now, but at only 28 years old there's still plenty of life in this old dog yet. He's another one that is featured high up the Primavera Sound lineup for next summer, but when the next album drops I'd be very surprised if he doesn't headline some festivals in his own right.
This one feels like it could be a few years off yet. But with a hugely well-received debut album in the form of Isolation, and a musical style that sees her sit at the meeting point between pop, R&B, soul and the current Latin explosion, there's every chance that Kali Uchis could be the person to offer something that others don't; alternative enough to appeal to discerning crowds, mainstream enough for those with pop-focused sensibilities. We'd certainly be happy to see her topping bills.
As I said before, it's not always easy to tell which rappers will be deemed headliner-worthy. With the likes of Drake, Kanye and Jay-Z not realistic targets for many, and Kendrick Lamar no doubt asking a hefty fee, who do you turn to? If Vince Staples continues the run of form he's been on in recent years it feels like he could definitely be one of the people getting that phone call.