Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Time for my annual rant about Glastonbury

Spoof infographic that even fooled The Guardian!
My Dad once assurred me that if I lived long enough, sooner or later I'd conclue that Planet Earth was a madhouse and all of the inhabitants are seriously bonkers. I was about 14 at the time and I hadn't got a clue what he was on about. He also told me his Dad had told him the same thing when he was a teenager (not that teenagers existed in the 1930's). I'm not altogether sure whether his comment was a result of his experiences in WWII as a bomber pilot or as a result of my teenage (and abiding) obsession with Punk Rock. When I was a teenager, the only people who went to "Rock Festivals" were hippy hippy kids (remember the ol punk motto "never trust a hippy") who wanted to escape their parents and smoke dope. As I watch Glastobury, it seems that now it is the parents who go to Glastonbury to smoke dope and escape from their kids! Even stranger is the fact that a recent poll in the Guardian showed that the vast majority of Glastonbury fans are either Tories or UKIP supporters ( I wonder what my a who was a Conservative would have made of that) (ed note - This poll turned out to be a spoof, but even the Guardian didn't realise! I suppose that tells a story in itself) . It seems that Glasto has morphed into something no one woul ever have dreamed of when the first festival was held in the early 1970's. For many it is the highlight of the musical year, to me though, this is not what music is about.  Let me explain.

If you have the Sky Box sets feature, there is a box set of "So It Goes", the iconic 1976/77 Granada TV show hosted by Tony Wilson (later of Factory Records fame). I discovered this on Saturday night when I'd had enough of watching Kayne West at Glastonbury (in truth after about 3 mins of his show). It confirmed what I've always believed, that 1977 was the pinnacle of music. I've always hated large venues, festivals and overly produced music. There has been plenty of great stuff since then, but in that period there were fantastic bands playing every night of the week in London and the hard thing was choosing which one to go to. Venues such as The Marquee (Wardour St), The Music Machine, The Roundhouse, The Moonlight, The 100 Club and Dingwalls were all hosting brilliant bands every night at affordable prices. Dingwalls had half price booze before 8pm, so if you played your cards right it was a cheap night. The Music Machine would give cut price offers for the next weeks midweek gigs out at the gig. Many of us would go simply for the atmosphere, if the band were crap we'd play pool in one of the upper level bars. At Dingwalls, you'd bump into Lemmy at the bar and he'd honour you by cadging a beer off you. 

Watching So it Goes, you realise just how far PA systems have come, but how stale and sterile music is at the moment. I got to episode 2. I loved the footage of the fight at the Penetration gig, where an arse got a good slap for spraying beer on Pauline. It says a lot that all of the best gigs I saw were in small or medium sized venues with what we would now consider sub standard PA systems and lighting in many cases.

As far as I can tell, the sole reason Kayne West appeared at Glasto was to enhance the TV rights sales for the US audience. Glastonbury is nothing more than a massive cash fest these days, it may be full of Tory hippies seeking their long lost youth, but the biggest smiles are on the faces of the organisers bankers. We need to get past the view that "bigger is better" when it comes to live music. I've no idea where it all went wrong, but it has and it breaks my heart. Watching So it goes just reminded me what we've thrown away.

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