“The Thing About Festivals”

28 Jun

Nothing says I am a 20 something like a week away living in a tent among hundreds of thousands of other 20 somethings, imbibing over priced cider and surviving solely off burgers from a van. It says, ‘I have no real life and can happily depart from the rest of society and join my new intoxicated, music loving brethren’.  It’s also another of those things you are forced to believe you should be doing, and there is a definite split in festival crowds between the ones who would drag themselves across broken glass to go, and those filled with a small amount of apprehension and fear. With good reason.
Although the general perceived image of a festival is a big lovey dovey place were everyone is filled with camaraderie, the truth is you are more an inconsequential ant, among thousands of other intoxicated ants. If you don’t like crowds but enjoy cleanliness and time alone, the mud fields of a festival are not the place for you. The positive thing about the large crowds in festivals is that you are incognito. You will not run into anyone you know, which gives you the freedom to dress in a giant chicken suit, or going in the other direction, totally naked. You talk to everyone, like a social butterfly, spewing forth half formed sentences about how fantastic the sky looks, how much you like that  mans chicken hat, before slipping away into the crowd again, in a form of human osmosis.

fest1                                                                                                         This is actually a photo from one of my own festival experiences.

The festival creates a sense that anything could happen, that all things are allowed, in some kind of Caligula like excess of the mind and body. My generation (I will include T in the Parkers, Rocknessers, Cochellas, Glastonburriers, Rock AM Ringers and Downloadians) have been fed this image through the insurmountable glory, fame, mystique and intrigue that was 60’s Woodstock. We understand that to truly experience a festival, as the revelers of the 60’s did, we most promote and continue a sense of free love and unity that we do not fully understand. Although we appreciate the idea that festival hippies represented, we are a generation of mobile phone, instagram and twitter mad cyber freaks. We are therefore unable to recapture the  single entity, one love feeling  the black and white stills of Woodstock seem to suggest existed.

lsd_hippies So what is the point of a festival?                                                                Dudeeee….so much LSD.

The music in many ways is a side note to the overwhelming sense of freedom created by the fact that apart from listening to bands there is very little to actually do at a festival. You have traveled back to a simpler time…except for all the rock and roll, sex and booze.

To set the scene, you arrive,  laden with an assortment of alcohol, cured meats, drugs, waterproofs and woollen jumpers like a travelling illegal pharmaceutical merchant. Once your make shift home/pass out area has been set up there is little left to do but begin to work your way through everything you have brought with you, which as I pointed out before, will mainly be alcohol and drugs. It’s pretty much a requirement. Otherwise you may become too aware that you have spent x number of pounds to essentially live in a field with limited toilet access. If you are not intoxicated you may also notice that many people you meet at festivals are not, in fact, your spiritual brothers and sisters, but simply loud, obnoxious assholes who will not stop chanting ‘Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SPONGE. BOB. SQUAREPANTS’. Seriously, people will mystify you with how much enjoyment they can gain from a repetitive chant over the course of several hours as day light begins to flood over the sea of tents and flags. A festival is not a relaxing holiday, it is a serious business, one that requires dedication to never sleeping, never eating and to 8am vodka breakfasts.  A festival can turn 200,00 young, fresh faced men and women into Keith Richards in 3 days flat.

There will be MUD

                                                                                                                                                                   Stupid hats are a staple item of the festival goers wardrobe

Mud, dirt, bugs, vomit, used condoms, empty laughing gas containers, take away wrappers and paper cups will litter the floor where ever you look; littering is still alive and well at the festival. It is the one place were you feel absolutely no guilt in throwing non bio degradable items like crisp packets, empty beer cans and baby wipes shamelessly out of your tent mouth. Did I mention there would be mud? Oh boy, there will be mud. It starts to become a living entity like the blob, stealing peoples shoes as they walk and slipping soundlessly into peoples tents as they sleep.

The wall of toilets will become your ultimate nemesis. Apparently you are expected to spend 3 hours of your time at a weekend festival queuing for the privilege to squat in a dirty, terrifying feces box.

There a myriad of reasons why the festival is a pointless activity. A final stab at teenage excess. A waste of time and money. Yet…there is something truly heartwarming about festivals. Your near by tenting neighbours will become your closest friends, and you will get to know people in a more vulnerable way.  I mean there is nothing more bonding than standing in the morning twilight with a guy on a comedown, in a queue for the toilet cubicles as the rain relentlessly falls. They shake and realise they have lost their phone. You ply them with berocca and peperamis and escort them lovingly back to their tent, softly whispering everything is fine. Oh and you are dressed as a power ranger during all this. That’s pretty bonding.
Festivals aren’t for everyone, but for some, it can return their faith in others.


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