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Why Festivals in the US Are Better Than in the UK

A step-by-step analysis of what's wrong with British festival culture.

by Jemayel Khawaja
Jul 21 2015, 4:20pm

Without the United Kingdom, dance music would not be the global phenomenon that it is today. From acid house to big beat to garage to grime, the UK has been at the center of everything.

Somewhere along the line, though, the UK's allegedly backwards cousins, those damn yankees, caught wind of the whole dance culture thing (that they actually started) and began playing along.

For a while, they were playing an adorable game of catch-up, but over the past half decade, an uncomfortable truth has become readily evident: The US does dance festival culture better than the British do. Don't believe us? Here's why:

Trash
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Festivals are dirty places. We get it. In the US, there's a movement towards sustainability, or at least a notion of guilt-dressed-as-accountability that makes people think twice before unloading the contents of their garbage disposal onto the dancefloor.

In the UK, though, people are so comfortable with trash that they lay amongst it like it's festival faerie dust, rolling about in cigarette butts and food waste with the joy of pigs in shit. Unfortunately, the shit part is closer to truth than metaphor.

Chavs are Worse than Bros
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Chavs and bros occupy the same social space in that they are, respectively, the scourge of their nation's festival populous. Bros, as a refresher, are the obnoxious, shirtless, knuckle-dragging upper-middle class caucasian Americans with a love for neon shorts and fist-pumping. When they appear on the dancefloor, it signals the death knell of your scene.

Chavs, The UK's distinctly tracksuited brand of white trash, will have a similar effect on dancefloor vibes, with the added fact that they might actually stab you in the process.

Whippit Apocalypse
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Hi, England? We need to talk. This is an intervention. You have a nitrous oxide problem. By nighttime at most festivals, so many balloons and canisters have been discarded onto the dancefloor that even getting a bit of a boogie on is a health hazard. Sprained ankles abound. Isn't this shit for pre-teens anyway? You're adults. You can do real drugs now, you know.

Public Co-Ed Urinals
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This is one instance in which the puritanical American fear of genitals might actually work out for the better. A co-ed portapotty zone is one thing, a public urinal device is another, but stick them together and what's left is a concerning amount of peni in the public eye.

Cheesy Piano House as Patriotism
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Despite the UK's long and proud history of musical subculture, nothing brings together the Isles more than a syncopated piano lead and faux-soulful vocals, fresh out of a 1995 car insurance commercial.

In the UK, dancing to cheesy piano house is an issue of national pride. Nobody seems to pay any mind to the fact that it's bad music and the 1990s were a woeful time for the country and nothing to wax nostalgic about. Sorry, MK, we still love you.

Dance Music on a Main Stage is Weird
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At most mainstream festivals in the US, dance music is confined to side stages. This is a blessing in disguise. Being packed like anchovies into a main stage the size of a football stadium with minimal stage production is a futile endeavor and a hollow facsimile of a true dance music experience.

Next time you're in that situation, ask yourself: "Is this actually fun? What am I doing here?" The answer will probably be: "Where's the nitrous oxide?"

Mud
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It rains so often in the UK that it's common practice to attend soggy mudpit festivals in rubber boots. Have you ever tried dancing in wellies as the slurry of mud and human feces works its way past your knees? It's bad. Getting your groove on when your lower half has sunken deep into the muddy abyss is more work than it's worth.

The UK Actually Has Good Nightclubs

Stateside clublife can get weak pretty quickly. That's why festivals are so important to Americans. We just need something to do. In the UK, though, club culture is still a cornerstone of the dance experience. When you can stay out until 6AM in a controlled environment, dry, mud-free and able to piss in private and are generally unlikely to get stabbed, why would you even go to a festival? The lack of a desperate, desperate need for festival culture has hindered the UK's progression.

The British Aren't Even Really Trying Anymore

The fact that the stateside dance scene is still growing, in addition to corporate interests plowing money into the still "emerging market," means that festivals in America get better every year. They're booked better, they're run better, and there's new competition every year driving things forward.

In the UK, this whole festival culture thing has been so played out that festival brands don't really give a shit anymore about the experience. They'll know you'll keep coming. This is because the British don't actually care about fun, they just want a place to go and roll around in mud and trash, maybe get stabbed, and check out some piano house to wax patriotic over while knocking themselves out on nitrous oxide.

Jemayel Khawaja is only British when it's convenient (It's not convenient right now) - @JemayelK