Friday, 23 July 2010

That's not the portaloos you can smell - it's the festival organiser's greed

Festivals are great, aren’t they. You get to sit out in the sun, listen to great music and enjoy the company of your friends.

Yet over the past few years festivals have been getting more commercial. Of course they have to make money to survive, I understand that. But sometimes I do feel like Alex in a Clockwork Orange, strapped into a chair with my eyes wired open, while advertisers try and brainwash me.

The Heineken International Festival of Benicasim is probably the worst – four days with nothing to drink but Heineken. The Hard Rock Calling gigs in Hyde Park are similarly bad, banning all outside food or drink, including water. Of course you expect this from some festivals, but one place I didn’t think I’d see it was Field Day, the new music festival in Victoria Park (London).

I’ve wanted to go to Field Day for some time now, but for one reason or another I’ve missed it. This year I made sure it was in the diary early on, and eagerly bought tickets. It’s the perfect festival for me – new music, just a short distance from my house, with the chance to hear new bands and also enjoy some old favourites. A nice day in the sun, with friends, great music, fine wines and good food. It’s the perfect Saturday afternoon.

Except it appears that the fine wines and good food part is off the menu as Field Day have banned any outside food or drink. The drink thing I can kind of understand – glass bottles can be dangerous. But why food? There is only one reason I can see – an agreement with the food stall holders to ensure maximum profit.

It might seem a minor point, but it niggles me, especially as they have a lovely page on their website claiming to be ‘green’. Well I tell you one way to be green – let people bring their own food. Home cooked food tends to have less packaging, uses less energy to prepare, and if you’re buying organic (or growing your own) is less damaging to the immediate environment.

So I asked Field Day on Twitter for a response to why they are doing this, but they ignored me. I threatened to come with sausages smuggled down my pants, but they still ignored me. I said all I wanted to do was have a nice picnic with my friends, but still they ignored me. I’ll tell you, there’s a pretty sour taste in my mouth at the moment, which has nothing to do with the bottle of cheap wine I drank last night.

I’ve spoken to other people about the no food and drink issues at other festival and I know I’m not alone on this. If you think it’s time for change too, then why not tweet Field Day with your thoughts. You can find them @fielddaylondon

Friday, 2 July 2010

Glastonbury: Geeks, mods and Aussies

I always feel a bit sad on Sunday knowing it is the last day. And despite being one of the best line ups of the weekend, this Sunday felt no different. Even the sweet tones of Frightened Rabbit on the Other Stage couldn’t quite cheer me up, despite being a really great performance. In the end it was The Hold Steady who got me out of my funk. I’m not a particularly a fan of the band, but their energy and enthusiasm was so massive you can’t help but smile. I also have a bit of a soft spot for nerdy front men. You know, the ones that probably got bullied in school and really shouldn’t be fronting a band. Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip tops that chart, but Craig Finn from The Hold Steady comes a close second. His beautiful dad dancing was brilliant and had everyone smiling and dancing along.

I don’t think the Hold Steady are a bad band, it’s just that America rock isn’t really to my tastes. For those reasons I wasn’t massively keen on going to see Slash, but I was talked into it. I have to admit that in the end I was glad I went. After I got over the awful rock clich├ęs (lead singer’s arm round Slash cos their proper bro-friends) I did actually start to enjoy myself. There were some good sing-alongs to the G&R classics, and even the newer stuff was tolerable.

At the end of the day though, I will always be more of a mod than a rocker, and I was definitely down for my main man Ray Davis. The performance of You Really Got Me with a full choir backing was one of those spine tingling moments. This was only beaten by Davis dedicating See My friend to Pete Quaife, who died last week. As the choir sang the legend was clearly choked up, and a lump formed in my own throat.

Choosing which headline act to see was a tough one on Sunday. Stevie Wonder is a legend, but I had one of my best ever Glastonbury moments to Orbital in 1994. However the winner had to be Empire of the Sun, who I have been waiting for nearly two years to see. I was so excited that I had to question whether the band could possibly live up to my own hype.

As the lights dimmed, the crowd roared and then the stage was filled with smoke. Luke Steele burst out of the mist, wearing a crown of swords, and picked up his guitar. From the moment he hit those first few chords I was completely captivated. It was stage theatrics at its best, with dancers dressed up as swordfish, and giant pink guitars with neon lights. The show was so slick it could put KY jelly out of business. As a first UK performance it was a stunner and as soon as it was over I wanted to go back an hour and live through it all again. When someone invents that time machine I promise you I will.