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Modern Day Festivals – some thoughts

Posted: September 4th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

I don’t normally go to festivals – too much of the camping and the terrible NME bands and the travelling for miles and the overpriced tickets. Up until the still genius concept of ATP my festival goings had consisted of 1 day at T in the Park when it was just outside Glasgow, 1 day at the Leeds festival courtesy of Trail of Dead and 2 days at Gig on the Green in central Glasgow. In the past week and a half I have been to TWO festivals. They were Cross Central in London last Saturday and Indian Summer in Glasgow this Sunday past.

Some good things I will concede about festivals:

This for me is the winner. I do not see the point in going to a festival if you don’t want to see any of the bands, however good the “vibes” are. Standing around watching crap bands while shouting at your friends is one of the most tedious things I do. Thus I was a little put out when Cross Central dropped a whole bunch of bands from the bill including Animal Collective, 1990s and Four Tet (who DJed instead). Indian Summer did the opposite, adding an extra stage that pushed the bill from meh to worth paying money for.

Some fantastic bands I saw:

Shy Child – loud and fun and a nice surprise since I knew nothing about them, and still don’t.
Ladytron – sounded HUGE with the bass almost drowning out their icy charms and playing all the songs I wanted them to, meaning I wasn’t too upset at missing Ellen Allien.
Dananananackroyd – just brilliant; an entertaining controlled mess of hardcore/emo/postrock that sounds wonderfully fresh.
CSS – a proper fun festival band with tunes, cute girls, choreography, polite stagediving and charm (“we love you! buy us drinks!”). I loved them. I didn’t buy them drinks.

Maybe this is the winner actually. Festivals that are so central you’re not even allowed to camp. Cross Central took place in some warehouses in Kings Cross which was so exactly like a festival site made out of concrete instead of grass it was slightly disconcerting. I don’t know what they use this place for normally, unless most disused train depots have a fully functioning club/bar tucked away in the far corner, but it really was ideal for this kind of thing with lots of big areas for stages (with real ceilings!) and lots of courtyard space and arches for hanging out in. Their major mistake was having three of the four main stages all situated upstairs with only one entrance/exit and then sticking some DJs just inside that so it was a constant bottleneck and made random checking out of stages not worth the effort. At least it all dried out quickly after the rain though. Indian Summer was a bit less central, held in the lovely Victoria Park in the West End, a good 10 minute walk from the bus stop. Still, being able to get a bus practically door to door was pretty awesome.

The bit that makes me feel less like a friendless loser and more like I know EVERYONE. I love the bumping into people you haven’t seen in forever, seeing a couple of bands with them, losing them one by one as you all find other people, repeat.

Bad things about festivals you cannot deny:

Possibly the only good thing about these bands is for bonding with people you’ve just met about how appalling they are and for giving you a break to go get food etc. without missing anything worth seeing. Luckily for the terrible bands at Cross Central, I have forgotten your names. Unkle Bob, you are less fortunate. Maybe I would have hated you less if you weren’t sandwiched between Dananananackroyd and CSS, or if I hadn’t missed Errors but seen you. But maybe I would. But let’s face it, at least half the audience was there either to get a good spot for CSS or to shelter from the pissing rain. Not terrible but disappointing were Camera Obscura who have either lost their sparkle or are not quite suited to the main stage in the mud and Gang of Four who I could clearly hear had been great back in the day but were now tedious. Drum solos, I ask you.

I can see this turning into WHY ATP IS GREAT. With ATP you get the running order with times days before the festival and you get a booklet with descriptions of the bands encouraging you to see them. Other festivals seem to be happy to force you to buy a laminate to get stage times and line-ups and with zero information on the bands. I managed without one at Indian Summer but Cross Central’s layout was so confusing and unsignposted that it forced you to buy a laminate for the map so you could try and figure out where to find anything. Not knowing the times meant I missed Errors (opening Indian Summer at a ridiculous 2:45pm) and arrived way too early at Cross Central (I’d have rather had a nap and done 10:30pm-5am than an exhausted 8pm-3am). I’ll also mention No Pass Outs here which is the single most moneygrabbing evil capitalist thing about festivals. You have our money already, must you force us to stay all day and eat your crappy overpriced food as well?

Stop trying to cram so much into too small a space. If you can hear Camera Obscura when Dananananackroyd are playing you’re not getting it right. If you can hear what’s happening in the next stage while Ladytron are playing the loudest set ever you’re not getting it right. Call me ungrateful but I’d rather hear one good thing than 4 good things at the same time. Also stop cramming so many people in. What’s the point of DJ sets if there’s no room to dance?

If you hold a festival in Glasgow in September it will rain. If you call it Indian Summer it will definitely rain. What were they thinking? The first 10m in front of the main stage was a mudbath and everyone talked of the Dance Tent’s floorboards in awe. The only saving point was the fact that the audience appeared to consist of everyone from Glasgow who goes to gigs and thus is well used to rain. More than one person pointed out that we all stood around chatting in the rain while there weren’t even any bands playing outside. It was also freezing. Please move to early August next year, thanks.

So, in conclusion. Festivals are rubbish, except when they’re good. See you at ATP!

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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