Often over-priced, often dirty, and not often enough – just a few of the common complaints for festivals all over the globe. In terms of music, the nightmare that is poor sound quality or just a general lack of musical talent comes as a real disappointment to those who have smashed piggy banks and robbed real ones in order to fund the experience. This year, for many of my friends, has been an anti-music festivals year – with the exception of the few journeying across the continent to find those that are the most obscure and unheard of , in order to keep the eclectic dream alive. And so what is it that keeps us going every year; returning to the mud and sweat and rain?
At the start of the summer, I was pestered by various people in headbands and with flowers in their hair: “Which festivals are you doing this year?” And while I am still somewhat irked by their verb choice, I liked to reply “Bestival, Edinburgh…” and slink away with a strong feeling of superiority. But why?
I think it’s that supposed nonchalance that we feel we all ought to possess when it comes to festivals. It’s cool to not care, and especially when big names such as Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds aren’t mentioned, shamefully I like to feel ‘alternative’ and pootling slowly away from the norm, as is the standard young person’s desperate goal these days.
When we consider the ins and outs of music festivals, we can’t forget the fact that they are slowly losing their initial appeal. Co-founder of the Big Chill Festival, Pete Lawrence, recently remarked:
“People who came to the first Big Chill weren’t expecting big name headliners. Now you need an obvious headline act to sell tickets to make the money back early to stage the event. So at this Big Chill you got a lot of young kids popping pills, not the chilled out audience it had originally.”
As much as I think we all like to believe in our unruly and childish inner spirits, within us, the grime, mud and porta-loos don’t tend to be our highlights when we look back on the experience. We long for the crisp white bed linen when we return home, looking like death and smelling like something found in the cupboard under the sink of a student kitchen.
When it comes to Edinburgh however, I’m no genius to say that there’s obviously a massive difference. The opportunity to fully let loose your passions for art and music, in an atmosphere where everyone will be doing the same, without having to be dirty or trampled is, understandably, relished by the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors. And though it can’t exactly be described as a complete loss of inhibitions, it’s definitely a place where you can feel comfortable in wishing that life was always sun, Scotland, and something for your eyes and ears to be entranced by.