Since its inception 30 years ago, Culture Shock, student radio station WIUX’s annual free spring music festival, has transitioned from exclusively showcasing local acts to balancing local and high-profile touring bands.
On Friday, WIUX announced its full 2016 Culture Shock lineup, which features three touring headliners: Neon Indian, Whitney and White Reaper, as well as six local artists. The day-long festival will take place April 9 at Rhino's All Ages Club.
After expanding to three headlining acts in recent years, the station added more local acts to maintain the local feel the festival has historically had, WIUX special events director Ben Wittkugel said.
“It’s really about the locals, too, and I think all the bands really enjoy playing,” he said. “It’s a big one-two punch — just an entire day of really good stuff.”
Those locals include bands ranging from noise rock outfit Dasher to lo-fi pop group HOOPS. The diversity within the lineup gives it a different feel from what was present in previous years and makes it a bill to rival past festivals, Wittkugel said.
The headliners should appeal to the festival’s audience in many ways, he said. Top headliner Neon Indian, which released its most recent album, “VEGA INTL. Night School,” in October, has been in the public eye long enough to have name recognition even for casual fans of indie music.
“I think it’s really cool because they were one of the big indie buzz bands in like 2008, and they’ve still been able to keep their groove going,” Wittkugel said.
The other headliners aren’t as long-standing, but Wittkugel said they’ll appeal to listeners for other reasons. White Reaper is young and energetic, and its 2015 album “White Reaper Does it Again” was its most high-profile release to date, he said.
Whitney recently signed to Bloomington-based record label Secretly Canadian, and Wittkugel said the band’s lineup, which includes former members of Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, gives it name recognition despite being a fairly new band.
“They’ve also taken it to another level,” he said. “It’s so, so, so good. There’s a lot of stuff in the music people can get behind.”
Both White Reaper and Whitney are Midwestern bands — the former is from Louisville, Kentucky, the latter from Chicago — and both have played in Bloomington recently.
The headliners have also shown up on lineups for the upcoming summer festival circuit — both Neon Indian and Whitney will play Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival — and Wittkugel said the fact Culture Shock offers festival-level bands for no cost should draw a large crowd.
“That’s also honestly the best part of this — you don’t have to pay anything,” he said. “If I lived within a few hours of here, I’d be here in a minute. It’s two bands that are playing Pitchfork for zero dollars.”
The buzzed-about headliners continue a recent tradition of high-profile indie bands headlining Culture Shock. Foxygen headlined last year’s festival, and other recent acts include Beach House, Ty Segall and the War on Drugs.
In recent years, those headliners have given Culture Shock attention from outlets like Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound and College Music Journal. Wittkugel said the goal is to maintain the strength of those recent lineups.
“I think we’ve been on a good roll the past few years, so we’re just trying to keep momentum going and try to be able to build this into something even bigger,” he said. “It’s a very established event. It’s pretty established with the school, and it’s very known, but it’d be cool to try to bring it to another level, too."
This story has been updated to reflect a change in venue from Dunn Meadow to Rhino's All Ages Club due to weather concerns.