Tuesday 24 July 2012

Festival Fogey

For the first time in four years, I have not spent the penultimate weekend of July in a field in Huntingdon. By all rights, yesterday morning I should have been getting bundled into the back of the car, bleating for my annual MacDonalds and mentally preparing to spend the rest of the week in a knackered haze, trying not to walk into stuff.

This is my first year without the Secret Garden Party.

                                                             2009 - the year they put the Tower Of Babel in the middle of the lake

We decided unanimously last year we weren't going to go back. Successive years were failing to top legendary previous ones. The place felt more corporate, the festival-goers more bothered about being trend-setters than fun-seekers. There was more theft, meaning heavy (and often quite scary) security. It wasn't a garden anymore. Well, it was...... just a slightly less magical one for us.

                                                                                  2008 - my first year. Shark mouth main stage. So exciting.

Beat-Herder has none of the elaborate, quirky touches of the SGP - it's just a massive rave in an extremely beautiful place. And it would have been the perfect replacement if it hadn't been for the swamp. It got to a point on the Sunday (after it took my friend and I ten minutes to walk the twenty yards down the boggy hill to the main stage, clinging to each other the whole way) where Dunkirk spirit floundered in the face of just wanting to be clean, and not have to walk for hours to get to a loo, of wanting dry feet and to drink or eat something that didn't have the crusty tang of Lancashire mud.

Yes we're having fun, but this is the first night and look at our LEGS

It's partly the summer we're having, but I suspect it's also because I'm getting OLD.

I've toyed with the idea of Latitude(maybe I could go to a festival where people read the weekend papers in deck chairs and there's socialist comedy and lots of beards?), which quickly disipated upon getting home and realising how much it costs to go, and how much I would hate everyone there apart from myself. I started to think wistfully about how much better All Tomorrow's Parties was.... only it wasn't. Because, regardless of how good the music is, how lovely and dry the chalets are, how awesome the group you go with are.... 95% of the people who go to ATP are bloody boring bastards who can't dance and wouldn't know a good time if it dropped a glittery piano on their heads and played Happy Talk on it whilst simultaneously kicking them in the bollocks (they're all men, of course, if there were more women at ATP it would get better immediately).

                                                                                   Statistical fact: 50% of the girls at ATP are on the stage

We waded back to the car on the Monday morning after Beat-Herder, gloop slopping over the tops of our wellies, shouting to everyone "Croatia next year, yeah?". And maybe we will. Maybe abroad is the only answer remaining.

Where do you go to find the spirit of the festival without the whiff of corporate dollar? Where do you find a good time with friendly people without a heavy price tag? All this with good music AND civilised enough to not want to cry for your mother by Saturday afternoon? Is it even possible?

Lend me your thoughts!


  1. I concur. To be fair, I've only ever been to folk festivals and Leeds Carling, but after the whole place being set on fire (Leeds) on the last night, I bid farewell to mainstream festival fun. plus, it's mega-expensive - I'm pretty sure I could have had a mini break on the Riviera for the amount I spent on/at festivals in 2005. Pffft.

  2. I've been wanting to hit a festival like Dour for a while as it seems to be more fun and have better bands. I think bigger festivals are now a thing people do whether they like music or not and the smaller festivals are mostly men who like to stroke their chins and tell you why you should like the music rather than listening to it and getting fun out of it. It's bloody annoying though.