With a bit of luck this post will sit at the bottom of a growing list of music festival reviews going back to the 1990s.
In the markontour household music festivals are an essential part of the British summer.
I love them all, whether it is 200,000 people in Somerset for Glastonbury, or 200 at a farmhouse in Wales.
Music festivals are one of those rare summer outdoor pursuits that really suit the British Isles. It’s great when the sun shines, but actually it is often the torrential rain and freezing cold nights on wind-swept dairy fields that brings out the essential togetherness that makes the best music festivals so special.
Being an inveterate list-maker* and lover of any kind of ratings system (Martin Strong’s ‘Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Anthology’ is definitely up there in my all-time favourite book list), I come back from festivals with a personal record of the bands and other performers I have seen. What follows is an anthology of my festival going experiences (or at least the ones for which the annotated programmes have been recovered from my loft). I suspect that, like the original lists themselves, this is largely for my own benefit – but maybe there are other festival scorers out there to compare notes with!
A note on the scoring system
My festival scoring system is simple but not entirely straight-forward and so it may be helpful to note some of the ground rules:
- All acts are scored from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score
- However, not all ‘5s’ are equal (see Rules Three and Four)
- Acts are rated on their performance, of course, but also against a varying combination of expectation (mine), reputation and experience (theirs), plus an element of whether or not the performers connected with the festival
- Every score also reflects the moment, ie how much fun I had at the time and the act’s ability to capture the festival
- All scores are recorded as originally scrawled in the programme at the festival and cannot be changed retrospectively, so they reflect what I thought at the time, in the state that I was in when putting pen to paper
- The Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci exception: the one exception to rule five is that sometimes a band retrospectively gains a star to accompany a ‘5’ score, because I still get a rush thinking about the gig months or years (or admittedly now, decades) later.**
The lists are separated by festival and will ultimately be posted in chronological order, albeit probably quite erratically.
Being at a festival often feels like being shut-off from the rest of the world. When I first started going, in the days before they were broadcast live on the BBC, that was partly because it still felt a little bit alternative to do so. But also it reflected the fact that for three or four days you had no access to television, radio and, mostly, newspapers. Strangely, in the smart-phone era that sense of separateness remains, if only because advances in battery capacity do not seem to have kept pace with the rise in average days of attendance. By Day Three everyone is saving that one bar for the emergency lost-all-your-mates moment and browsing the t’interweb is strictly for those who invested in portable chargers.
But occasionally the real world does intrude, like the year that Michael Jackson died during Glastonbury, and so I have included a bit of context at the start of each year’s entry to try and position the festival in its proper historical setting. Thus:
Headline acts: not usually the main draw for me, but how most non-attendees remember each festival
Weather: always important
Contemporaneous events: what was happening in the real world
Author’s festival credentials: getting a ticket can be difficult and so often I gain access as bar-staff for the Workers Beer Company. Mostly working is just as much fun as attending as a punter, but it is different – most importantly because it restricts which acts you can see. Sometimes this is good: sharing a Glastonbury Moment with Elbow and ‘One Day Like This’ in 2008 for no other reason than I was working the Other Stage bar. Sometimes this can be bad: eg missing Rodrigues in 2013.
* My partner, peering over my shoulder as I write this, objects that while I may be an ‘inveterate’ list-maker, I am not a very ‘good’ list-maker. Do not be put off by this verdict – her case relates only to ‘to-do’ lists, not relevant to this blog, where apparently I fail to record everything that needs to done and instead concentrate solely on what I would like to do.
** This rule was created to cover the pure unadulterated joy of being part of the crowd for Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’s set on the New Band Stage (now the John Peel Stage) at Glastonbury in 2002. Incidentally Rule 6 sometimes affects Rule 4. For example, I was still so high after seeing Gorky’s that I awarded a 5/5 rating for Rod Stewart’s festival closing performance that year..