Patrick Stump's ten essential tips for playing festivals
He’s been bottled and booed at Reading, but he's also won over many a crowd with his band’s unnervingly huge arsenal of pop-rock hooks.
Fresh from rocking the main stage at Download 2014, where Fall Out Boy were second on the bill to Linkin Park, we asked frontman Patrick Stump for his top tips on how bands can give a kick-ass festival performance...
Validate your existence
"There’s a very specific festival culture in the UK. The US is starting to catch on to it, but in the UK people are fans of a specific festival and will buy tickets for that festival before they know who’s playing.
"That’s a challenge as a performer, because you have to know going into it that people might not have bought a ticket if they’d known that you were going to be playing. That lights a fire underneath you.
"In your setlist and ultimate performance, you have to consider, if you have only one set to validate your existence on the planet, what would that be?"
Understand not everyone is there for you
"Headline shows are a different beast altogether. It’s almost like being a conductor, because you know that audience is there to see you. You know what songs they want to hear and what moves you can pull.
"At a festival you don’t know that. We’ve played metal festivals and gone out there thinking they’d want our heavier stuff. Then you play a lighter single and everyone goes nuts! It can be totally leftfield, so you have to play it by ear and judge the crowd as you go."
"A lot of the time at a festival, we don’t fit in. That can be fun. It allows us to flex our muscles a little bit. It gives you a different level of energy."
"If you’re doing a pop festival and they know you as a rock band, and you play songs that are catchy and that the people know, that resonates with them. Then when you go out to a heavier festival – and we get this a lot – I think people only know us from a couple of singles, and they don’t think of us as a rock band. But it is definitely a rock show.
"When we’re up against a lot of rock music, it’s fun for us to prove that we are rock musicians. I like being the underdog on the bill. I’d rather earn an audience. Even if they don’t leave buying a record, if they leave saying, ‘Those guys were OK,’ then I’m fine with that!"
Look like you want to be there
"When you put it in perspective in terms of where we’ve been and what our last 13 years have looked like, it is amazing to still be here and have anyone care, let alone be as high as we are on the Download bill.
"It’s weird for us, but when I talk to fans and other people, it doesn’t seem weird to them. It’s weird to me to think that people think we belong there. It’s a lot of responsibility. I grew up on Iron Maiden, so thinking about that makes me want to play and practice harder. I mean, who wants to see a band that doesn’t want to be there?"
Don't feel the pressure
"I get more pressure from a lot of the stuff leading up to going out and playing.
"Once you get out there, it’s a completely different animal. I don’t feel more or less pressure playing in front of 10 people than I do in front of 20,000 people."
Play it by ear
"With the set, there’s a certain degree of having to play it by ear. You might think of playing hits, but what is a hit? What's a hit to one band isn’t a hit to another.
"We’ve been lucky to have some songs that people know. But people might bring signs with song names or slogans, and you can sometimes tell what people are into just from that.
"The stage show is the least concern – I only care about the music. The staging, I do care about it, but for me, I always feel like I want to perform and learn how to be adaptable to any set, any staging, anything at all."
Learn to dodge
"We played Reading and Leeds one year after Panic At The Disco! I was watching their set and they were, like, one word in and some kids were throwing golf balls. They hit Brendon in the forehead and knocked him out cold.
"He got up, brushed it off and played, and the crowd loved it. But that was a pretty big disappointment for me to watch that and think, ‘Man, why can’t you just listen to the music? Why have you got to throw stuff?’ But I’m good at catching stuff, so I made it through our set.
"The most recent time we played Reading and Leeds, there was something electric about those shows. The audience was excited for us to be there, and we were excited. When the crowd is playing a show with you, that is a good show. I live for those shows."
Win the crowd
"We did a tour with Blink-182 – half the tour we supported, and half was Weezer supporting. But at some of the Weezer shows, Weezer had to pull out.
"So we showed up, and there were all these Weezer fans in the front row like, ‘What the fuck!’ They were so mad. They were there flipping us off. After a certain point, I would just play the show to them. By the end they were laughing and having a good time.
"I don’t think those kids will ever like my band or buy the record, but you’re there to have a good time, so just have a good time. I could see Vanilla Ice and I’ll have a good time, because if I’m there then I might as well.
"We had a girl at a show with her older sister, and the younger girl was more into pop bands. She was in the front row and couldn’t have looked more bored. We called her out and made her have a good time, and by the end of it she had a blast. I thrive on those moments."
My advice to a fan at a festival would be drink a ton of water. Because no one ever does, and they get dehydrated, and if it’s hot they pass out. If its not hot, they just get drunk and angry!
"Also, don’t wear flip-flops or sandals. I always see people doing that and wonder what they are thinking. They end up leaving with no toenails. Just wear some shoes. But not a dress shoe – that’s just silly. Be aware, as well, that every band you want to see, you probably will not see them – that is just the reality of festivals."
Leave the theatrics at home
"I would say, 'Don’t go in there to a festival doing your crazy theatrics. Just play to your audience.'
"We did a festival in New Orleans, and it was a very musician-heavy audience. Theatrics are a joke to those guys; they just want to see you play – so build a set around that. If you’re playing a pop show, then by all means bring the theatrics and build a show around that. If you’re playing after a jazz band, then it’s a different matter. Oh, and don’t wear flip-flops."