HOW TO BE RAD!
The summer has become a time where festivals dominate my every weekend. From May to September i’ll usually be organising my road trips on Google Maps finding the quickest route there-and-back to make the travelling process as least painful as possible. However, when i get to most of these festivals i’m just looking for a quick escape each time. It’s not just the travelling that’s become exhausting it’s the whole experience. On top of this the ever-growing list of festivals that pop up each year is making it harder to choose between what bands i want to see and which fields i want to hang out in. The latter isn’t that important, really.
So, the summer of 2012 has reeked of the same old problems – too many festivals that all look the same without much of a line up difference. Oh, and there’s also the weather issue! Putting the rain issues to one side the fundamental problems lie in the fact that not many of these new festivals are providing much that’s different to the next. You have the main stage, the indie stage, the rock stage and the new band stage. Band’s are tripping over each other continuously and fighting through time clashes, a result of booking too many bands to out-do the festival next door. It’s becoming a classic quantity over quality problem. You have the same burger and noodle vans that send you to the shitter every 5 minutes. You have the same group of lads carrying a 6-cup holder of luke-warm beer with their tops off and mud up to their nipples screaming ‘Wonderwall’ at the top of their lungs. They’ll probably have some day-glo paint on them, too. I’m not one to stereotype but honestly, tell me the last time you didn’t experience this?
Yesterday, the hottest day of the year, i made my way to an indoor event called ‘Radfest’. I can honestly say it lived up to its name. What made it different to every other festival i’ve been to over the past couple of years? It was run by people that care, by people that go to shows themselves and by people that know even the slightest attention to detail makes a huge amount of difference. Ok, it wasn’t a huge site, it was in an old printing factory in East London with an aluminium roof and a lot of it was made out of MDF. You begin to realise the aesthetic doesn’t even matter if you can get the basics of running an event right. No time clashes with bands, great sound engineers throughout the day, supporting independent food traders who are likely to be found down your local farmers market rather than at the car boot down the road and, most importantly, a list of bands who are hands down some of the most exciting and vibrant around.
What i loved about Radfest was the fact nothing was contrived. There was no element of having to be competitive, it was happy with what it was and it knew exactly what it was and its limitations. You felt like you were at a show and the pressure of having to run around and organise your day between stages didn’t have to exist. The stalls that were running were by creative’s who work independently and who are making a living by the people that actually attend these events. A sense of community ran throughout the day even though you knew nobody there. Yes, it was fucking boiling in there but even the careful placement of a few fans here and there showed that indeed somebody was thinking and somebody wanted to make this as enjoyable as possible for everyone there.
The big festivals definitely serve a purpose and they serve a nation of people that casually listen to music. They definitely probably own the last two Foo Fighters albums. However, these are big events where which need to make a decent turnover to make sure it can run next year and that’s where the priority has headed to. They can poach huge headliners and pay them an inordinate amount of cash because it’s turned into that international, competitive machine but within this lies a lack of attention and a way of not being able to live within its means, hence the amount of festivals going bust each year and cancelling/postponing events.
National promoters are great at putting on spectacle’s and pulling in bands you don’t see week in/week out and they can certainly put your dream bands on a bill together and give you something to look forward to from the moment you purchase tickets but you will probably end up spending a total pretty close to a grand once you’ve purchased tickets, booked travel, bought a tent and about 150 cans of beer. This definitely works for some people and it acts as a holiday but for me it really doesn’t. Ok, it’s a bit unfair as i generally don’t have to pay for tickets to these events as one of my bands will tend to pop me down on their guestlist but i have definitely been there before and at a time where these tickets were half the price. I also remember seeing about 4-5 bands over the course of the weekend as there’s too many other things going on that really don’t need to be. So, a national promoter will be able to provide you with a package where you get to see some huge bands and a bit of a weekend to remember with your mates, which is great! Don’t get me a wrong this isn’t a pop at nationally promoted events but i’ve got to a point out that now i want to go home remembering that every band i saw was amazing or that i’d discovered new bands on my day out and that the focus of the event was very tight.
Radfest provided me with everything i wanted from an event. It was put on by local promoters who attend shows every night and who have their ear to the ground every second of the day to hear what’s coming up that’s likely to get a whole generation excited and give you a sense of ‘I was there first’. It was put on by a group of people that want to act as tastemakers and a be enough of a brand that’s easy to trust. The food area only had a handful of stalls each catering something different. Even down to food there wasn’t sense of competition. Most importantly the line-up consisted of bands near the bottom who don’t ordinarily get the opportunity to play festivals and those near the top were bands that don’t ordinarily get to end a festival. Every band were made to feel a bit special and never like another tiny cog in a huge machine. These were also bands that you wouldn’t necessarily find in the magazines or on the radio but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t listening to these bands. People are DEFINITELY listening. There is a scene that’s growing and moving independently and it’s run by people that don’t have a lot but are trying to give a lot. The gratification comes from the success of putting some of the most exciting/new bands on one bill and seeing everybody leave with a memory, like the one that’s spurred me to write this particular piece.
Support your local promoters, go to your local shows, buy records from your local record stores, pick up those small regional magazines and maybe have a look at the websites/blogs run by the people that want to work for your local community/scene. Buy food from your local traders! It’s the little things that count.
Support the national promoters if you want a holiday with your mates watching the huge bands you thought you’d never get to see and who can add all the production you see on TV right in front of your eyes. There’s a choice out there the problem is that there’s sometimes too much choice all offering a very similar product.
For me, i like the simple things. If you’re looking to start a new festival/musical event just live within your means and don’t try and be something you’re not. It may sound cheesy but ultimately don’t try and be something you’re not.
These bands all played RADFEST 2012 yesterday. Click on each band and you can hear some music:
- Ivano | @trailofivano