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Behold OZY Fest, the music festival of your nightmares

Jeb Bush absolutely crushing his set at OZY Fest 2017
Photo: Bryan Bedder (Getty Images)

This weekend, thousands of people will gather in Central Park in New York City to see what can only be described as the most confusing festival lineup in history. It’s called OZY Fest. No, not Ozzfest. That’s a different thing that could potentially be fun. OZY Fest, on the other hand, bills itself as “part music festival, part TED Talk, part food fair,” and boasts a dizzyingly diverse lineup of guest speakers and performers. Here’s the poster for the event that we sincerely promise has not been photoshopped:


There are so many questions. But, first in foremost, we have to ask: Who is this for? Who, when planning to spend a hot summer weekend at an outdoor festival, hopes to see Passion Pit, Malcolm Gladwell, and A-Rod all on the same lineup? What is the Venn diagram of Grover Norquist fans and Common fans? Why is Jemele Hill listed twice? Seriously, did no one proofread this thing?

When the poster first started making the rounds on Twitter, people understandably believed it to be some sort of prank. How better to lampoon the desperate flailing of the American left than with a “musical festival” featuring Hillary Clinton, Salman Rushdie, and the guy who hosts HQ Trivia?


But people soon realized OZY Fest was all too real. GQ published an article recently providing some context for the festival, which was started a couple years ago by the incredibly well-funded online magazine, OZY Media. Pitching itself as “news for the insatiable,” OZY Media hopes to engage that ever-elusive millennial demographic with their progressive, but not too progressive editorial takes. OZY Fest appears to be the physical embodiment of that ethos.


A closer look at the full lineup on the festival’s website shows that the political point of view of the event if even more muddied than previously thought. New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon will kick things off on the Bandshell stage Saturday, likely discussing her hope to abolish ICE and provide free health care to New Yorkers. Meanwhile, Sunday afternoon is rounded out by none other than Karl fucking Rove asking the question on everyone’s mind: “Could Trump be the next Reagan?”

Whereas other politically minded festivals attempt to focus on one particular thesis statement or goal, OZY Fest seems to be a celebration of the very idea of politics, the very idea of music in a park, or the very idea of what some human beings would consider entertainment. But, hey, maybe it sounds like your cup of tea. In which case, we would recommend you drop your bean a half hour before Tom Perez hits the stage so you’re really peaking when he starts asking for DNC donations.


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About the author

Dan Neilan

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Have Fun — Will Travel.