So Long, Festival Season!
So Long, Festival Season! Hello, Summer of Silence!
Festivals are undoubtedly the greatest place on earth. Rife with the spirit of thousands surviving on little sleep, spurious alcohol combinations, and an atmosphere I will spend my whole life in the pursuit of. Festivals are utopias where hygiene takes a backseat and a good performance can be etched into history, as well as the hearts and minds of fans for the rest of their lives. Put without hyperbole, the best festival sets I have seen changed my life, and I am not alone in that view. Now, with “the situation at hand”, they have been cancelled, week-by-week, festival-by-festival; the grim reaper of fun has executed the best part of summer.
These cancellations have an impact at a deeper level than just attendee emotions. As NME reports, the live music industry is worth £1.1 billion, and any disruption will affect thousands of jobs. From artists to companies hosting events, technical staff and tour operators – the effects of these corona-cancellations are astounding and worrying. Music Tourism is worth £4.5 billion, and with this becoming non-existent, local businesses suffer too. Economic hardship is widespread, but in an industry that fails to exist when it doesn’t run, workers from all corners of the industry will suffer from not being able to work from home. Simply, you can’t set up a world tour set over Zoom. In worst cases, 2020 could be a final nail in the coffin for smaller festivals, especially with little money being generated in later parts of the year. Even the greatest and biggest are hurting with Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis warning of empty pockets in the event of another year of disruption. It is a truly sad time for all involved.
For festival season, the grim reaper seems to strike twice as hard.
So, what are we missing?
Glastonbury (the 50th Anniversary!), Worthy Farm
The best in the world is the biggest casualty of the festival reaper – and what an anniversary it promised. One of the greatest rappers ever to exist, Pulitzer Prize-winner Kendrick Lamar, was due to perform a Pyramid-headlining set which was likely to be as explosive and grand as is fitting for the Worthy Farm audience. Diana Ross was due to take the legends slot which means we are missing one of the biggest singalongs of ‘I’m Coming Out’ ever. Lower on the bill saw exciting prospects like Robyn, Fontaines D.C, Brittany Howard, Dua Lipa, Phoebe Bridgers, and huge solo efforts from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker. Never does the line-up fail to hit the mark, especially on the gender-balance front, and a fraction of returnees in 2021 will ensure another unmissable year for the festival of all festivals.
Reading and Leeds
The land of indie-abandon was criticised earlier this year for its lack of gender diversity in its stacked line-up. The huge coup of Rage Against The Machine becomes a gutting blow for the bank-holiday rager, as is the equally exciting Glastonbury-headline graduate Stormzy. These exclusive sets would have been truly electrifying and are definitely ones to keep an eye on for any returns in the 2021 edition. There is a reason this festival is seen as a rite of passage for the young and naïve – its history speaks for itself – Reading and Leeds is one of the best things about our country and no doubt it’ll be stronger than ever next year.
Latitude holds a special place in my heart; there is no place quite like it. The blend of arts in the forest setting conjures total festival magic – and this year’s line-up was seriously exciting. Headliners Haim and Chemical Brothers were expected to provide indie-charm and entrancing electronic power in equal measure. Aussie psych-rock stars King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are no strangers to the festival – I can attest their 2015 set in the thick of the woods was ferociously good, even if I’d never heard of them five minutes prior – this year they were due to headline in the tent and it would have been unmissable alongside the exciting future-pop stylings of Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama. On the fringe side, comedian Marcus Brigstocke was hosting an unmissable night of Prince lip-syncs on the Thursday which captures the charm of the Suffolk festival perfectly – the whole affair is going to be sorely missed.
Truck Festival, Oxfordshire
Scale down the best parts of Glastonbury, R&L, Latitude and you are left with this gem. The finest talents in indie and rock coalesce in the best ways on line-ups bursting with new artists and arena-fillers. Truck 2020 was to be no exception. The ones that got away include: Bombay Bicycle Club (Headlining!!), La Roux, Easy Life, Sports Team, The Lathums and even a special karaoke set from EastEnders’ very own Barry Williamson. I pray the heart of Truck beats to see another weekend next year. It’s a great fest – and not just because it’s the only one I’ve been to where a group of strangers and I could embark on a Mamma Mia singalong odyssey around the campsite… at 4am.
The One-Day Wonders
And finally, an ode to the single day parties. The events without tents. The days that are usually located in the capital and drenched in Spring/Summer sunlight, full of musical talents. Lovebox this year promised Tyler, The Creator and FKA Twigs on a Sunday we now must mourn and treat as a national day of loss. The euphoric, ecstasy inducing Tame Impala were expected for a day of glorious music in Victoria Park at All Points East. And even new efforts like Wide Awake were to offer exciting up-and-comers like Black Midi. The global fun-vacuum reserves no mercy, and has well and truly condemned us to our camera rolls where we look for old memories to satiate our carnal festival desires.
So, what can we do?
Sadly, not much. The BBC have uploaded 100+ sets from Glastonbury ranging from Oasis in ’94, Blur in ’09, and even Kylie last year – it wouldn’t be farfetched to expect similar for Reading and Leeds in August yet no plans have been announced. For up to a month, these utterly unmissable sets will exist on the iPlayer and will suit most musical tastes. Also, at the Beeb, Big Weekend 2020 has gone online with a mixed-bag line-up of home sets available online. Lastly, the Glastonbury YouTube has also been updated with some highlights from 2019 – of which Foals’ insane Park secret set is apart, alongside IDLES and Little Simz who put on some extremely special shows and are more than worth keeping an eye-on.
This year, we won’t be piling onto trains packed with crates of cider and Duke of Edinburgh rucksacks, before carting our trolleys across miles of fields for weekends to never forget. This year, we won’t find ourselves a part of a crowd that exists as a sentient entity, afraid of no element and inclusive to all in the name of music celebration. The atmosphere will go sorely missed. Festival season is full of experiences unavailable outside the mini worlds created in fields up and down the country. Memories for life are made in camping chairs, on no sleep, without social media, but with weathered faces and friends at every step. When next summer comes around, I will get ready to embrace festival season as it embraces me, with open arms, unwavering acceptance, and a trusty pop-up tent. It may be the furthest thing from luxury, but it is the closest thing to feeling alive.