Nu-metal survivors Limp Bizkit were the unexpected talk of the Internet over the weekend. Following the July 23 premiere of HBO’s Music Box series documentary Woodstock 99: Peace, Love & Rage — in which the band’s rabble-rousing performance at the infamous fest was a heavily featured and debated event — Limp Bizkit made headlines with a new (and significantly less inflammatory) festival performance at Chicago’s Lollapalooza on Saturday night (July 31).
Led by a virtually unrecognizable Fred Durst — the former TRL superstar now fully grey, and rocking a collared shirt, jacket and slacks with no backwards ballcap — the band’s one-hour, hits-laden set resulted in band and frontman being Twitter trending topics for the rest of the weekend, setting off wide-ranging remembrance and discussion of the band’s controversial legacy. The performance was obviously a retro thrill for millennials in attendance, but as reported by Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz in his set recap, the band ultimately came off as “less like a nostalgia booking and more like a main stage force reawakened after a long hibernation” at the festival.
The positive reception and overwhelming attention that Limp Bizkit’s set received, both firsthand at Lollapalooza and secondhand on social media, should be a valuable lesson to festival promoters about the value of an unexpected throwback booking in their lineups. There are plenty of forgotten or neglected commercial behemoths of years past who might not be obvious poster fits among younger, trendier acts, but who many attendees would still carry serious affection for. They could also provide a jolt of energy with their unexpected-but-welcome presence — while capturing the attention of onlookers, and separating the festival from the dozens of other fests out there with increasingly overlapping rosters.
Here are 10 curveball throwback bookings that Billboard would be interested in seeing at future festivals — assuming it’s safe for both performers and their crowds to do so, of course.
An obvious choice, given that they were the closest peers and competitors to Limp Bizkit for turn-of-the-century rap/rock supremacy. But while the band’s music lacks the sort of playful pop aspirations of Durst and co. — it’s hard to imagine frontman Jonathan Davis slapping his own ass onstage — for many, they’re also the more fondly remembered band. Their own appearance in the Woodstock 99 both confirmed Davis as one of the more thoughtful stars of the time, and reminded how absolutely electric Korn could be at their live peak.
2. Good Charlotte
Maybe the closest thing pop-punk has to a Limp Bizkit analogue, Good Charlotte were also massive hitmakers not taken terribly seriously at the time by purists or critics, especially as their hits got bigger and poppier. But for kids of the ’00s, affection for that run of hits — which lasted longer than you might remember, also moving into funkier and dancier territory with “I Just Wanna Live” and “Dance Floor Anthem” — remains high. And for as much attention as Travis Barker gets for shepherding the next pop-punk generation, Charlotte bros Benji and Joel Madden have put in work of their own with the likes of 5 Seconds of Summer and Sleeping With Sirens.
It’s been 20 years since Shaggy conquered the globe with a pair of international No. 1 hits in “Angel” and “It Wasn’t Me,” but Mr. Lover Lover has never totally disappeared from the scene, popping back up in the past decade both on the Billboard Hot 100 (with 2014’s “I Need Your Love”) and at the Grammys (alongside Sting in 2016). His hits endure both as pop culture fixtures — “It Wasn’t Me” was featured a few months ago in a Cheetos Super Bowl commercial — and as audience-participation crowd pleasers, and Shaggy has been a professional at party-rocking for three decades now.
4. Michelle Branch
A couple years ago, this list spot might have belonged to Avril Lavigne — but Avril’s such an oft-cited influence (and increasingly regular feature) among the stars of this generation that it wouldn’t even be that surprising to see her near the top of a festival bill at this point. It’s the type of status that should be similarly afforded to Minivan Rock icon Michelle Branch, whose hits go off just as hard on present-day karaoke nights, and whose modern-day stuff is just as deserving as attention. Guaranteed, if Michelle Branch plays “Everywhere” at your festival, attendees will come running from the opposite side of the grounds to catch at least one chorus.
5. Jack Johnson
A little outside the norm for a festival in 2021, for sure — it’s been a minute since surfy soft-rock singer-songwriters were in the musical mainstream — but that was part of the thrill with Limp Bizkit’s appearance, too. And while Jack Johnson was never the video star that Fred Durst was, he was among the most consistent-selling album artists of the ’00s and early ’10s, with four straight No. 1s on the Billboard 200 albums chart, many of which no doubt made for formative early-life listening for a good deal of festgoers. When he breaks out the Curious George soundtrack cuts, Zoomers aplenty will no doubt flock to his set to catch the poolside (or carpool) vibes.
6. Ja Rule
Like Limp Bizkit, Ja Rule paired massive commercial success with widespread tastemaker dismissal, particularly once he started scoring Hot 100-topping crossover collabs with the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Ashanti. But a lot of those hits still land — imagine getting down to “Livin’ It Up” with several thousand of your new closest friends — and obviously, the opportunities for audience-gratifying special guests would abound. And while Ja’s last high-profile festival experience didn’t exactly go according to plan… hey, at least it means that most of the Gen Z attendees too young for firsthand Murder, Inc. memories will be familiar with him already.
7. Melissa Etheridge
While Melissa Etheridge’s icon status and place in rock history has never been in question, sometimes younger folks might forget about how good most of her hits were — if they ever knew in the first place. A good high-profile festival appearance could be just the ticket to focusing discussion of her back on the songs, of which she certainly has no shortage. And honestly, if you heard that “Come to My Window” or “I Want to Come Over” was now soundtracking a new TikTok trend of romantic pining videos, you wouldn’t be shocked, would you?
8. Hootie & The Blowfish
The Hootie Revival kicked off in earnest a couple years back, with critical reappraisals and their first album in nearly 15 years, but it never quite impacted the big-ticket festival circuit — and it seems they might be more interested in hosting their own festivals these days anyway. Too bad, since Hootie in a festival setting would rule: just 45 minutes worth of affable alt-folk sing-alongs, which should still be on the tip of the brain of any Gen X’er or older millennial in attendance, and familiar enough to any of the teens and young adults in the audience who can’t stop streaming Friends reruns. Plus, maybe Post Malone and/or Pikachu will come out to provide backing vocals on the “Only Wanna Be With You” closer.
Talk about a group ready to have their comeback moment: Evanescence were one of the biggest bands of the ’00s by just about any measure, and an all-too-rare force of female energy during one of the most male-dominated moments in rock history. If nu-metal is in any way back in vogue, they’re among the first acts who should be lifted by the rising tide, with a handful of hits that endure as theatrical mini-masterpieces — and at least one consensus classic in “Bring Me to Life” that would actually have a festival crowd actively wishing for a midday downpour.
10. Sugar Ray
Mark McGrath might be more famous as a TV fixture and general entertainer now than as a rock frontman… but the latter was how he made his name, as both a purveyor of some of turn-of-the-century top 40’s greatest, summeriest pop-rock hybrid smashes, and as ’90s So-Cal’s answer to David Lee Roth as an onstage showman. Even at age 53, McGrath can still work a crowd of any size, and the hits are just as irresistible as they were 20-25 years ago. Just don’t ask him to put on the Orca costume in 90-degree afternoon heat.