Andy Richardson: A V-ery happy festival
The countdown to V Festival has begun. In a few short weeks, an audience of around 90,000 will amass at Weston Park to cover their face with glitter, drink too much cider, get up to naughty-stuff in tents then rock out to P!nk and Jay Z. They won’t be the only ones.
As the nights draw in during September, some of the region’s best bands will gather on a giant patch of grass near to Millennium Point to listen to Ocean Colour Scene, Editors and The Twang. They’ll be oblivious to the late evening chill as Orbital, Maximo Park, Leftfield and others on the Beyond The Tracks bill rock out in the Second City.
In Shrewsbury and Moseley, fans will enjoy the best roots, American and folk, as those towns welcome visitors from around the UK for their acclaimed and respected Folk Festivals. And at the end of July, Goldie, Chase and Status, Giggs, Gorgon City, Sub Focus and more will thrill fans in the Digbeth Triangle during MADE Festival.
Summer’s here. It’s time to get trippy.
From Glastonbury to Shropshire’s Walcot Hall, from Donington’s Download to Powys’ Green Man and from Suffolk’s Latitude to Leeds and Reading, the summer months are characterised by more than a million music fans shakin’ their tail feathers while hootin’ and tootin’ to their favourite bands.
There has never been more to choose from. Back in the day, there was one choice: a long schlep to Somerset for Glastonbury. And then the options opened with the emergence of Donington, Reading and more.
But during the nineties and noughties, there was an explosion of events – which has continued in recent years – giving fans of all genres and from all parts of the UK the opportunity to enjoy the none-more-primal thrill of listening to corking tunes while swilling cider like a pig with an overactive thyroid gland and a penchant for Worley’s Harvest Moon.
When you break it down, festivals ought to be awful. A medium-size town pops up in the space of a week, you live for three days beneath millimetre-thin canvas, you can hear the night-time habits of strangers located less than a foot away and if you get hungry you have to fork out £8 for a dodgy burger made from pink meat slime. If it rains, there’s no cover; dodgy toilets harbour more germs than a sewer-based fatberg, cash points come with a £2.50 charge and if you’re hoping to charge your mobile phone you might as well start mining with bare hands for lithium or nickel.
When the curtain falls, there’s a seven-hour trudge to the car park only to find the guy in front has left his lights on and that you’re at the back of a queue that won’t leave the site for another week. Festivals are not for the faint-hearted.
And yet therein lies the paradox. For festivals are the most life-affirming, joy-bringing, happy-memory-making activity of the summer. Even the shandy-drinking softies who earlier this year decided to ‘do’ Glastonbury via the BBC and in the comfort of their own front room – or, indeed, the monied few who’ll enjoy V Festival from the privileged confines of their VIP Glamping Area – know the Tao of Summer that is this: Festivals Rock.
There’s something about being in it together, about being disconnected from phones, computers and the day-to-day flotsam and jetsam that festivals allow. Standing in a field of 50,000 people, arms all raised aloft, singing like a massed choir to a song that has soundtracked a generation is one of the greatest moments in any year. Such experiences remind us that we are one.
It’s a vintage year for outdoor music – Glastonbury was a corker and V will provide thrills for da kidz. But the power of music was most eloquently demonstrated at a cricket ground on June 4 when Ariana Grande put together the finest outdoor benefit concert since Geldof’s Live Aid, in 1985.
At Old Trafford – a place better known for sixes and hat-tricks from Freddie Flintoff – Ariana lined up with Justin Bieber, Pharrell Williams, Coldplay, Take That and Katy Perry. It was heart-warming and emotional, a night of joyous salvation, a tangible act of love and togetherness.
People from across the divide came together to enjoy something that we’ve been doing since cavemen started banging walls with clubs – and, in the case of some the bands at Download, things haven’t moved on much since then.
Music is universal. The simple act of communion with like-minded folk sanctifies the soul. So whether Jay Z is your poison or whether you prefer a dash of Mogwai, whether you’re partial to Neil ‘Sweet Caroline’ Diamond or are mad for Liam Gallagher – festivals are for you. Summer is short-lived. Enjoy it while it’s here.