A Lifelong Music Festival Would Be a Living Hell
Five days of Glastonbury is quite enough for me, thanks.
Is this how you want the rest of your life to look?
This summer’s Glastonbury festival, which now lasts for five full days, is already well underway. While a working week's worth of mud, acid and impromptu salsa classes might already seem like enough, there is some breathless prose on the official website that casually floats the idea of a much, much longer Glasto:
"There will be moments when you ask yourself the inevitable: 'Why can't life always be like this?' There will be enlightenments, awakenings, surreal happenings, Damascene epiphanies and people doing the strangest things in public."
Sure enough, on your first day at Glasto – after three tablets of that Trepano-drone legal high has peeled back the top of your scalp and cracked open your cranium so the sunshine and seagulls can interface directly with your brain – you may feel like you could spend the rest of your life there. Later, after knocking back a five litre plastic jerry can of Agent Orange Scrumpy cider brewed on an industrial estate in Portsmouth and smoking half a joint of grass dipped in embalming fluid and Monster energy drink, it may even seem like a sensible proposition.
But what if life was always like Glastonbury? How would you feel after a month? How would you feel after a year? Would the enlightenment be: “Oh my word – this experience is really very terrible.” Would the awakening be: “Gosh, this is like being trapped in the film Threads while wearing a foam hat that looks like a pint of Guinness. Lord, please smite me dead with a thunderbolt.” Would the Damascene epiphany be: “Actually, I’ve just realised that festivals are the abyssal low watermark of all of Western civilisation to date.” And would the people doing the strangest things in public include you weeping while beating a clown to death with juggling clubs in order to use his stilts to try and escape over the fence back to civilisation?
Or would it be simply fabulous?
Using only the most scientific of means of deduction, let us peruse which outcome is more likely.
It is wise to consider the fact that Worthy Farm, the site of the Glastonbury Festival, was only designed and built to accommodate a farming couple, their depressed teenage offspring, a sheepdog and some livestock. During this one June week, however, it swells to contain no less than 175,000 punters, not to mention somewhere in the region of another 20,000 musicians, jugglers, litter pickers, roadies, entrepreneurial Scousers, men with face tattoos who own rope ladders, food and beverage providers, security guards, event managers, sound engineers, plumbers, tent erectors, pole vaulters, electricians, pyro consultants and bored hang-glider owners. If we apply a similar principle of dilation to our proposed eternal festival, this means that whichever corner of this green and pleasant land that we choose as a site will from this moment on resemble Kowloon Walled City, except with more silver-painted mime artists, more falafel and Transglobal Underground audible at all times.
Now, let’s face it, as much as we may pretend we like to visit festivals to enjoy the relaxing music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and to attend a workshop on how to weave an authentic Arapaho hemp canoe, most of us are there to get clattered with extreme prejudice. And the stats back this up. During the combined Reading and Leeds Festival weekend, the 180,000 attendees drink two million pints of lager alone. Add in all other forms of alcohol consumed and we’re looking at approximately four million units of alcohol being knocked back a day. Which is one thing on a bank holiday weekend but another entirely when it becomes a daily habit. Going on national figures, 15 percent of attendees will be teetotal, meaning that each of the 153,000 drinkers present will have to get through 33 units of alcohol per day (ten times the government recommended limit) for the rest of their soon to be very truncated lives. But who cares! The Kooks are playing in the holistic dream catcher teepee in half an hour’s time and I feel amazing!
(Actually, having to drink 16 cans of strong lager, 33 shots of gin or three bottles of wine every single day would tip the majority of attendees into only barely functional alcoholism within the year – or at least it did with me. This state of affairs would lead to a two tiered society. It would result in a small upper class of abstainers who would communicate through a complex series of disgusted tutting noises and hand gesticulations of barely concealed contempt and a massive lower class of drunks who would rapidly devolve to shambling round on all fours, grazing for half drunk bottles of alcopops and cigarette butts.)
And that’s before we get onto drugs. "Jimmy The Saint" – my dear friend with the gold tooth and a VW Polo Viva with blacked out windows, whose phone number I delete at least four times a year – assures me that all the narcotics that people in his trade can’t shift during the rest of the year (due to them being too gnarly) simply get taken to festivals to be offloaded onto the kind of people least psychologically able to deal with them: Radiohead fans and the teenage offspring of CofE vicars.
As for the toilets… there isn’t a camping festival in existence where the bathroom facilities aren’t savagely reprehensible by lunchtime of the second day. In our eternal festival scenario, the unfortunate punters would literally be living in a world of shit by the end of the first month.
But don’t just take my word for it. Bringing his near 15 years of festival running experience to the table, Barry Hogan of All Tomorrow’s Parties (whose excellent two day Jaberwocky event takes place on the 15th and 16th of August this summer), soberly considers the idea for a second before bursting out laughing: “Ha ha ha! Jesus Christ… A never-ending festival? There would be so many casualties. Even when festivals go on for three days people look lost on the Monday morning. Everyone looks like Edvard Munch’s 'The Scream'. They just want to escape from there as quickly as possible.”
And Hogan knows what he’s talking about. His ATP festival used to happen on consecutive weekends at a seaside holiday camp that would remain open in between for the hardiest of souls who wanted the full ten-day experience. Hogan says: “When a Pontins is full, it’s bustling and fun, but when there are only about 100 people there it’s actually pretty eerie – a bit like The Shining... In 2005 we had a band called Bad Wizard playing who ended up staying in their chalet for the full ten days, only leaving it to go to the pub. They ended up taking acid and drinking themselves into the floor. After a few days they phoned me up really freaked out because they thought a badger was chasing them around the site.”
Hogan – who now believes that festivals should ideally only last for two days – adds: “When we got back for the second weekend they did not look very good.”
As with all things, moderation appears to be the key. Essentially, a non-stop festival would not be a utopia, it would instead be a frightening glimpse into what the future holds for our descendants who survive "The Great Collapse". If you’ve never imagined a world where nothing grows, where there is no electricity, where the sun’s rays are blocked out by the smoke of bonfires constructed from smouldering Evian and Strongbow bottles, where all of existence looks like a refugee camp and the only sound is that of Tannoy speakers blaring "Dancing in the Moonlight" by Toploader on repeat, then please pause and consider it now.
Scientific calculation reveals an event of this kind could only end one way: Armageddon. The final battle between two tribes: those wearing slightly racist Native American headdresses and those wearing very racist comedy rasta dread wigs locked in pathetic conflict. If it helps focus your mind, simply imagine a Doctor Marten boot tied with rainbow coloured laces and decorated in Tipp-Exed daisies stamping on a human face forever.
Let’s face it: if festivals were meant to last any longer than a day and a half, then people wouldn’t go and stand in the shower sobbing uncontrollably for two hours while clutching a teddy bear immediately on returning home from them. They can be brilliant life-enriching experiences (when remembered from a distant vantage point), but in reality they are a trial we must undergo once a year for no more than three days to make us appreciate the finer things in life that we have at home: like chairs, refrigerators, pencil-sharpeners and slippers.
Please, for the love of all that is good and right, do not make festivals any longer than they already are. You have been warned.
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