Monday, April 23, 2007

Glastonbury - I'm So Over It

Glastonbury may be considered the apogee of the UK music festival circuit, but personally I find the whole set-up all rather too intimidating these days. Even when I last went in 1998, it had become self-consciously commercial, boringly mainstream and knackeringly vast to negotiate (especially in the mud). This year's prohibitively convoluted ticket-buying process then served to drain any remaining dregs of enthusiasm and sentimentality I may have had for Mr. Eavis's legendary West-Country shin-dig. Happily, there is no shortage of alternatives now on offer, with new festivals popping up all over the place every year – so many in fact that it's becoming increasingly difficult to choose. So here are own humble suggestions – an entirely subjective selection, based on personal taste and anecdotal evidence, and as always open to further recommendations from fellow festy enthusiasts...

Great Escape, 14th-17th May, Brighton
As Brighton resident, Great Escape offers me the chance to take in 3 days of top bands in my home town, get a good night's sleep in my own bed, take a hot shower every morning, and even pop home to use the loo without having to wade through muddy fields to do so... ah, bliss! So I had to include this
civilised urban festival option which, even if you don't live in Brighton, has much to recommend it. You could stay in one of hundreds of cool, kitsch or traditional hotels, B&Bs or hostels, and enjoy the general buzz of the city-by-the-sea in May, when the now massive Brighton Festival is in full swing. This year I'm particularly excited about seeing Nouvelle Vague, CSS, Archie Bronson Outfit, Hafdis Huld - and of course will be on a mission to discover new bands amongst the diverse line-up.

Latitude, 12th-15th July, Henham Park, Suffolk
Billing itself as 'More Than Just a Music Festival', Latitude started in 2006 and was widely praised for its alternative take on the usual festival set-up - offering a variety of activities beyond the standard music and stalls combo. Set in the bucolic surroundings of the historic Henham Park in Suffolk, Latitude promises a relaxing rural vibe in which to take in these eclectic diversions, which include literature, comedy,
theatre, cabaret and children's activities as well as an impressive bands line-up – this year topped by the hottest hipsters of the musical moment, Arcade Fire. Having been bowled over by their performance in London last month, their presence alone would be enough to tempt me Suffolk for a second sampling, but I have a feeling that ‘The Fire’ will just be the icing on what looks to be a very tasty cake of a festival. And if AF is the icing, then Dylan Moran, who I have just heard will be playing the comedy arena on the Saturday, will be the shambolically sharp Irish cherry on top.

The comedy tent at Latitude 2006

The Green Man, 17th - 19th August, Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons
Also set in a beautiful countryside location, Green Man is essentially a folk festival, but stretches the boundaries of this genre in its eclectic line-up - with everything from folkatronica to folk-rock on offer. Last year I discovered Archie Bronson Outfit (who are now one of my
favourite contemporary bands), and with 3 stages - all within easy walking distance - there is no excuse for not expanding one's musical horizons by taking a chance on new and unfamiliar bands. The general vibe is chilled and respectful, with lots of families - and children running about happily amongst the friendly, un-threatening crowd. A myriad of global culinary treats on offer puts the usual festival burger and noodle bars to shame, and the condition of the conveniences remained refreshingly salubrious in comparison to my distressing Glastonbury experiences. Reason enough to make the trek to Wales in my opinion…

Marshmellow, 24th-26th August, Somewhere in Sussex
I only just came across this low-key local festival, when a flyer was thrust into my hand whilst at a Rock Karaoke/Can Can night (don't ask) in
Brighton last weekend. I have no idea what it will be like, or even where it is as yet, but from what I gather so far, it seems to be aspiring to a Lost Vagueness type set-up - with burlesque cabaret acts appearing alongside local unsigned bands, as well as alternative therapies and other such hippy-stoner malarkey. Watch this space for further info if, like me, you are intrigued…

Bestival, 7-9th September, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight
The first thing that attracted me to Bestival was the massive fancy dress procession which takes place on the Saturday night, that and the fact that it has to be more appealing than the island's other uninspiringly mainstream festival earlier in the summer, which, frankly, left me cold last year. I've only heard positive things about Bestival from friends who’ve been, and I’m hoping to judge for myself this year. So far the line-up doesn't particularly appeal, but this will only force me to be more adventurous in my choices of bands, and hopefully come away with some new gems - always a big plus of festival-going in my experience.

All this festy talk is making me come over all giddy with anticipation – still, at least I’ve only got 3 weeks to go until the first one on my hitlist, and I don't even have to dust off the wellies for it... result!

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