On Tuesday, a festival lineup filled to the brim with ‘90s and early aughts hip-hop and R&B stars began to circulate on social media. Lovers & Friends was set to feature an impressive if not impossible set of headliners for a 2020 festival: Lauryn Hill, TLC, and Usher, Lil Jon, and Ludacris. Further down the bill was a flurry of artists about 20 years removed from their heyday: Sean Paul, Ja Rule, Nelly, Eve, Twista, Cam’ron, Trina, Foxy Brown, and many more.
Then things got a bit weirder. Despite officially being announced by mega-promoter Goldenvoice, a number of artists fueled skepticism about the whole enterprise by saying they either weren’t confirmed or booked for the one-day festival. Lil Kim was the most unequivocal, sharing to her Instagram story that “this is SO FAKE! I am not a part of this.” Mase diplomatically commented on the festival’s Instagram post: “Best wishes on this show but pls take my name off of this flyer.” At least initially, Twista claimed he hadn’t gotten a deposit for the show. But once his check cleared later that day, he wrote: “Locked and loaded playin all the hits ya diggg.”
Adding further confusion, a number of users pointed out clear scheduling conflicts for some artists on the bill. T-Pain is also scheduled to perform at Rolling Loud in Miami on May 9. Megan Thee Stallion and Saweetie, two of the younger artists set for Lovers & Friends, are on the books for Broccoli City Festival in D.C. that same weekend, but none of the artists have denied their position on either bill.
Usher and Lauryn Hill shared the lineup on their Instagram stories, seeming to indicate that they were on board. Goldenvoice also doubled down on its veracity to BuzzFeed News: “Our festival is 100% confirmed. Lineups are always subject to change." The second part’s a fallback for any number of cancellations or scheduling conflicts common to the modern festival circuit — what’s unusual is this happening on the same day it’s announced. As is expected whenever a major entertainment event involving Ja Rule seems fishy, numerous people on Twitter compared Lovers & Friends to Fyre Festival, despite no reports of egregious labor abuses or the event hitting any major snags besides down-bill artists being unconfirmed.
Ignoring that the best version of this festival would have occurred in 2004 — although a 9-year-old Megan Thee Stallion may not have made the bill then, sadly — it should scratch the nostalgia itch for millennial hip-hop fans. Even if just two-thirds of the lineup announced yesterday perform in May, it’d give a number of younger music fans to live through a diminished version of their favorite era of music for the first time, or thirtysomethings who lived through it to revisit their youth with more punishing hangovers than before.
While tempting to knock this as a living manifestation of an “only ‘90s kids know” meme, this sort of nostalgic gambit is likely the best way for these large promotion companies to survive what comes after the festival bubble. As the lineups for Coachella, Bonnaroo, and other major festivals grow less coherent by the years, you’ll look to examples like Desert Trip (“Oldchella”) or last year’s Just Like Heaven blog rock festival for how to win back an increasingly fickle concert going audience — focusing on more specific markets with less intent on broad generational appeal. If music festivals are getting more washed, it’s only because their most reliable consumers are getting old right alongside them.