Playlist #15: The Summer Festival

With summer festival season underway, we thought we’d cut through the line-up confusion and pick 10 of the best from 2012′s crop…

As I sit and write this, the sun is beginning to creep warily from behind the clouds, as if to say ‘is it safe to come out yet’. But much like yesterday, that sun is likely to turn to showers and then torrential rain. This can mean only one thing. SFS, or Summer Festival Season, is once again upon us.

This means stocking up on face wipes, toilet rolls, ponchos and wellies, and that’s just for starters; we all have our own little festival traditions built up over the years. Recently though, the summer festival as we knew it has been repackaged and recontextualised, organisers aiming for ever more varied – and affluent markets. ‘Who cares if these people like the music we’re putting on, they’re coming to say that they’ve been, right?’ is a line easily imagined out of the mouths of the marketing department of many a festival Even some of our most cherished perhaps. Festivals that is, not marketing departments.

You need look no further than the column inches dedicated to Kate Moss’s festival wardrobe for a handy explanation of what we’re getting at. Like anything perceived to be dripping with cultural cache, just as with punk and street-art, from Basquiat to Banksy, the festival has mutated into something we don’t fully recognise, repositioned to better suit the needs of a different customer. In short, the festival has been subject to a gentrification process, now something to be consumed. Last time I went to Glastonbury, you literally couldn’t move for Cath Kidston wellies, and couples cradling kids with names like Tamara and Hugo seemed par for the course.

In line with the changing face of the festival-goer there have come countless additions to the market-place. It’s not exactly stretching things to suggest that saturation point has already been reached, and we’re in some sort of festival-shaped vacuum where a permanent plateauing has occurred.

Some years ago (put it this way, the Boo Radleys were touring Wake Up!), at the outset of our summer pilgrimages, there was basically Reading or, Glastonbury to choose from. Some things at least never change. Nobody in their right mind dreamt of going to Leeds for anything other than a dour performance from David Batty, and there was a young upstart doing the rounds called Phoenix.

So what am I saying, that things were better when I were a lad? That we write the summer festival off and leave it to those singing along to Ed Sheeran, who overnight, seem to have had it bequeathed to them? Hell no! Whatever the changing demographic of the festival and the increase in plummy accents belonging to offspring of the chattering classes, there remains much to enjoy about our festivals. Forget for a moment about that crowded market, we should make hay while the sun tries to shine.

If we can put our cynicism to one side just for a moment and remember that, at the end of the day, the thing we go for is ultimately the music, then 2012 is a summer to look forward to. Sure, Glastonbury is on hiatus due to the lack of loos and police, thanks to the Olympics, but we’ve already established there’s a heck of a lot of choice out there.

The biggest draw for many this year will have been the news that At The Drive-In cast aside whatever their differences were to reform just in time for a hectic summer schedule including a trip to Reading. Another recent trend has been to side-step that all too likely mud bath of the UK festival and head to sunnier climes. Spain’s Benicassim, taking place in July, one of many destinations exponentially increasing the chances of a tan.

For those reluctant to take a plane, Green Man is always a quality option, and for the festival completist who has tried everywhere from T in the Park to Download, the line-up of Portmeirion’s Festival Number 6 (see what they did there?) is a bit of a looker. They also seem intent on taking boutique to a whole new level, with accommodation including yurt, tipis, and The Castell Deudraeth. That last option, great though it sounds, will set you back a minimum of £1,374.00 based on two people sharing. One day maybe.

Not wishing to favour any one over another, our summer festival playlist draws 10 tracks from bands playing various venues in the UK and Europe. One thing we know, is that a festival featuring this bunch would take some beating.

Posted on 15/06/2012 by thedoublenegative