published: 18 /
With the festival season now having started, Ben Howarth casts his eye over the many different festivals on offer to music fans over the course of the summer
By the time you read this, the Isle of Wight festival will have been and gone, and that means that we are now firmly in festival season. If you are one of those people that doesn’t go to festivals, this is the worst time of the music year because there is precisely nothing else going on. But who cares? Because for the first time in ages I am going to a festival this year.
There was a time, known fondly to many as the mid-90's, when the festival calendar was rigid and exclusive. If Glastonbury decided to take a year off, as it was wont to do, then barely anything happened all summer. Other festivals were simply imitation branded second division attempts.
Oasis, as is so often the case, broke the mould in 1996. Technically, their Knebworth mega gigs were just that, gigs. But with a parade of hand picked support acts over two days, they pioneered the kind of ‘festival’ that seems now to take place every weekend, somewhere or other. Be it Old Trafford or Hyde Park, the all day mega-gig festival is firmly fixed as part of our summer of music.
But there are now so, so many festivals. How do you decide which to go to? Its barely possible. There is Green Man, and End of the Road - and of course Reading and V and the aforementioned Isle of Wight, and one in Dublin, and I could go on and on. This is where the money in pop music is going. When another supposedly major label goes bust this year, which is bound to happen, their biggest failing will be not spotting that they have allowed the artists they fund, support and promote to go off and make a fortune for somebody else.
Glastonbury, the doyen of festivals, has floated off to another sphere. The best way to make people think something is popular is to make it very hard to get in to see, and in that regard Glasto are past masters. Simply hire an incompetent ticketing website, and bingo.
Even if the same bands are playing, which give or take a few ‘exclusives’ they all will be, comparing Glastonbury with Reading is like comparing the FA Non League Trophy final at Wembley with the Champions League in Athens. One was a great experience for all concerned, whilst the other was ruined by a media frenzy that descended unannounced to whip the public into hysteria.
Radio 4’s The Today Programme will be broadcasting from Glastonbury this year. Which tells you that something isn’t quite right.
Wherever you end up, you will see great bands and awful bands, end up sticky, muddy and smelly, and return to work in a perpetual daze that will last the whole summer. Won’t it be great?
And as for my choice of festival, I shall be Eurostar-ing it up over to Belgium, which at a mere 60 pounds is by far the most bargainous of all the festivals. And I didn’t even have to refresh ticket master once to get to go. Awesome.