Saturday, February 2, 2008

Wellies, Mud and Music

News out of the UK today triggered some good memories of the festival season. News of the festival line-ups for the impending year used to give me hope that soon the wet, cold, dark days of winter will slowly turn into the the wet,cold, light days of summer - bringing with it a smorgasbord of sounds for every music fan.

Glastonbury kicks it all off - in the often muddy fields of Somerset in the west of England. The years I lived in London the pictures coming back from the countryside more often than not featured rain and floods - surrounded my thousands of smiling faces.

Glatonbury is a unique festival. Punters go for the experience, which is typically seperate to the music. Tickets are ballotted off - to the hundreds of thousands of hopefuls - even before the line-up is announced. This year however, there has been a some insight offered from Michael Eavis - the Glastonbury impresario - as to what everyone can expect.

Jay-Z will headline the famous Pyramid stage this year. speculated on this news for the past week or so after Eavis remarked that a "black artist from New York" was heading over for the festival. That narrowed it down quite a bit - with the big money dumped on Jay-Z and Kanye West. Now the web is abuzz with questions over whether "Mrs Jay-Z" will be tagging along.

This headliner is quite a change from the traditional Glastonbury fayre. In previous years the likes of Muse, Coldplay and Radiohead have had the nod from organisers to be the name featured at the head of the line-up.

Bands bring their A-game to Glastonbury. The storied atmosphere tends to inspire musicians from the world over. I guess it is the closest thing they'll ever get to Woodstock so they go out there and leave it all on the stage.

Those that were there still say that Radiohead's 1997 headlining performance is one of the greatest shows of all time.

They returned in 2003 - my first year living in England - and again, they were amazing. One of the best things about Glastonbury is the extensive TV coverage of the festival offered by the BBC and BBC2. It's hours and hours of footage - with the headline acts getting broadcast live and uniterupted all over the UK - so that everyone can enjoy it.

Unlike the purely commercial ventures, such as the V Festival (which is basically a once a year roadshow for salesmen to pitch their products to that years batch of 15 to 20 year olds), Glastonbury is a festival for and about music culture - not pop culture as so many other ventures are these days. It doesn't chase the disposable income of Gen X, Gen Y or Gen Z - intead if offers an experience outside of consumerism, all sponsored by Greenpeace!

I tried to get tickets to Glastonbury last year - but missed out in the ballot (the odds were only slightly better than lotto by the way!). So I never got to go. I hope to one day - it's on my list of things to do along with Coachella and the Bridge School Benefit.

I'll let you know how I go.

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