The scarcity of ascending rock bands able to top festival lineups is not anything new, but it might be more evident in 2018 than ever. Earlier in this decade, we saw artists like The Black Keys, Arcade Fire, Florence And The Machine, and even Mumford & Sons rise to that level, but the last few years have felt particularly light on rock bands breaking through to the highest level, mostly because rock music, in general, has been waning in popularity. That’s why so many events keep going back to the well with artists like Muse and Red Hot Chili Peppers, proven forces on the biggest stage that don’t do much in terms of bolstering a festival’s tastemaking credentials.
So, it felt particularly significant when Arctic Monkeys started appearing near the top of festival lineups in the last few months, once word began to spread that a new album from the Sheffield band was imminent. First they topped lineups for the likes of Firefly and Oheaga, but eventually, they also popped up as headliners for some of the biggest of North American festivals: Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Though the band had largely been drawing that sort of placement overseas, this album cycle, which officially commences this week with the release of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, seemed like a major breakthrough for the rockers. In a time where virtually no guitar bands were on the upswing, Arctic Monkeys were a trend all to themselves.
Last week, the British four-piece began touring in support of their soon-to-be-released sixth record, beginning with a pair of small shows in San Diego and then their first big date of this cycle at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In LA, events at the cemetery are a tradition for the warmer months, be it screening films on the weekends or the occasional big outdoor show that brings picnickers content to sit far away from the stage as well as enthusiastic standers pushed as close to the stage as possible. Even if the space feels massive, it’s nothing compared to the two Hollywood Bowl shows that the Monkeys have already announced for the fall. If both of those dates sell out, that’s more than 30,000 tickets to see the band, putting them in the same realm as the biggest bands in the industry.
If you are from England, this isn’t surprising at all. From the band’s emergence in 2006 with the beloved debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, they were treated like the second coming in their homeland. That album sold an unfathomable 360,000 copies in its first week, becoming the fastest-selling debut in British music history. And while America took notice, their popularity didn’t really blossom with the ensuing albums, but in the UK, they became the defining British band of their generation.
It wasn’t until their fifth album, 2013’s AM, that the band seemed to bust through a wall domestically. It was their highest charting release yet (peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard 200) and offered up a pair of songs that broke through on the radio. “Do I Wanna Know?” in particular became something of a signature song, topping the alt charts and becoming their first song ever to place on the Hot 100. That their popularity as a live band has soared in its wake makes perfect sense.