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Festival Fatigue

In the bloated land of plenty we’ve found ourselves living in these last few years – or at least, which we are told by analysts we have been living in – one of the main beneficiaries has been the live music scene. Indeed gigs are now surpassing physical sales as the main way for artists to make money. A knock-on effect of that has been the growth of the Festival circuit. When I were a lad, you had Glastonbury (though it was by no means the monolith it is now) and you had Reading (which was by no means the corporate cockfest it is now.) That was pretty much it; the odd Jazz festival, the odd folk festival. A few more joined it and stayed the course from the mid-90’s (T in the Park) while a few tried to find a place in the market but are long gone and best forgotten (Phoenix). And that was the way it stayed, until the promoters decided that there was more to this and suddenly, we were awash with them.
In Scotland alone this year – a place which until 1994 had no major festivals – we have Rock Ness, T in the Park, Belladrum, Live at Loch Lomond and Connect. That’s a lot of festivals looking for essentially the same punters. Add to that you are competing with festivals in the rest of the UK and Europe and you start to wonder if they may be spreading themselves too thin. The answer, if the Loch Lomond line-up is anything to go by, is a resounding yes.
This festival took place at the weekend and was, frankly, a disaster. But what did the few hardy souls who trooped up to it expect? It was headlined by the Sex Pistols and Groove Armada. Read that back. The Sex Pistols and Groove Armada. Not to be uncharitable, but if they were playing out your back garden, you’d check you weren’t missing anything good on the TV before you went out to watch them. Pete Doherty was also on the bill, but is hardly a reliable enough performer to tempt you into parting with your hard-earned. The festival was poorly attended, and kicked off in disastrous fashion when Health & Safety wouldn’t let the sparse crowd in until two hours after the advertised start time as it was wet. In Scotland. Near a Loch. This meant the opening bands played to no-one – you could ask why they bothered – and that the punters arrived in a foul mood.
And so it went on, a bill not worth watching witnessed by a crowd not worth counting. It does make you wonder what the point was. Indeed, just because you can book a festival doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Surely someone looked at the bill they were able to get and thought ‘wait a minute, this isn’t gonna fly’? If not, why not? 
The credit crunch and all that meant that spare cash was unlikely to be wasted on a festival headlined by a reunion band who lost their novelty a decade ago and a dance act that peaked five years ago. A poor show all round and another nail in the festival scene in Scotland.


9 Responses

  1. It is pretty ridiculous. 40 festivals in the UK this year – how many peope do they think there are here? Lets not forget the reason people go to festivals – to see good bands – not to stand in a muddy field drinking warm, overpriced lager.

  2. That’s it in a nutshell. Too many bought into the ‘it’s the vibe’ idea. Sure, a good vibe at a festival is great – but without a good line-up, it will not happen.

  3. I was in central station at the weekend. I couldn’t figure where all the “achingly hip” identikit young skinnies were headed till I realised it was Live at Loch Lomond. Many of my friends are annoyingly fanatical festival goers – turn a stone and they are there, but even they didn’t entertain the idea.

    It’s all just a bit flat now ; “another” gig at the loch – so yes – they have spread themselves ridiculously thin and yet – are they still making good money from this?

    I wish they’d just stop. It’ll happen though – they’ll run out of cash and all we’ll be left with is the err…best ones. (read; ones who still have enough commercial pull and expendable cash to finance yet another “original line up” )

  4. Botique. Festivals.

    Only way to fly these days. The rest of the festivals are just mulch.

  5. Agree LO. but even then, look at Connect. line-up not a patch on last years.

    Evangelisti – as you say, too many dates, not enough talent.

  6. Its not great. Had looked at it earlier in the summer as a possibility. Kasabian headlining ranks very highly though on my “I don’t think so” list. Pretty pricey too.

  7. Longman, I agree with you in principle. For the last few years boutique festival has meant small with great line ups for niche audiences. But this year they appear to mean whoever we could book, still small (because its dreadfully undersold), but look, hairdryers in the camping bit! (if you pay £300 for a tent for the weekend), as they all scramble to make some money.

    This year will undoubtedly sort the festival wheat from the chaffe, but I think a good deal of the wheat will also be going too. Shame.

  8. I really fancy (and still do) end of the road festival but it is miles away and my mates were nice about it but lukewarm at best!!!

  9. I loved everthing about Connect last year, the line up was tremendous, the company was pretty damn fine and it introduced me to the delight that is Kopparberg. So when the line up was announced this year and having already bought my ticket, I decided to be adventurous and explore the bands i didn’t already know that had been announced to see which ones I would go to see.

    I am pleased to say I’ve found quite a few gems in my countdown to connect phase and I know I will enjoy it all the more for it!

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