The Tale of a Festival

The hedonistic, gargantuan, explosion that is the festival season is well underway. Here in the UK we have just had the mother of all festivals in the form of Glastonbury, to the excited trilling of some and the grumpy grumbles of the ‘not-like-it-used-to-bes’.

No, festivals, and indeed live music concerts are like anything else, not what they used to be. This is generally taken to be a bad thing but is not necessarily always so.

The first Glastonbury festival [known then as the Pilton festival] was held in 1970, although festivals had begun to take place on the Isle of Wight and elsewhere before this. In the USA there had already been Woodstock, which set the bar for festivals to follow, was turned into a feature-length movie and passed quickly into legendary status. Watching the film was the nearest we British teenagers were going to get to a Woodstock experience although not all of it was riveting. I remember the thrill of Ten Years After but Sly and the Family Stone must have been somewhat less enthralling because I did actually drift off during that bit.

As the third and last child of the family I was cut some slack during my teenage years and able to do pretty much as I liked. My then BF was a grammar school attendee and a choirboy, attributes which must have assuaged any fears for my safety and morals my mother had. This meant I was able to attend live music events and indulge in the inevitable, obligatory experiences they provided, legal or otherwise, with impunity.

As much as anything, festival or concert going enables those who’ve been there to analyse, relate and share years after the event. Hence ‘I saw The Stones at Hyde Park’ or ‘I saw Dylan at the Isle of Wight’ bestows a kind of status on the sharer of this information. Knowing this, merchandisers can make loadsa money from flogging commemorative T-shirts bearing details of the festival and most importantly, the date. This says of the wearer ‘I was there’.

This weekend, the first in July is the date of our own, local, modest music festival. During the last few years Husband has taken on an organising role, provoking much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair as the date approaches. The regulations, risk assessments and fire documents, which become more demanding each year have at last been completed. The fencing, stage and marquee are all up. I prepare to step into my, more meagre role-that of selling tickets at the gate or picking up litter. The proceeds, such as they are go to local charities, the bands giving their performances free, the crowd gathered from the immediate community. It is anxiety-inducing and exhausting-no less for the fact that we stagers are increasingly old-stagers-but remains fascinating and fun. As they stream through the gate dressed in their ‘festival’ finery, children, dogs, wheelchair grannies, minders, partners and friends in tow it is like watching a smiling carnival procession, and all with one aim-to enjoy a weekend of music in the summer sunshine…

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The Best Possible Taste?

                During periods at home it is a rare week that passes without our moseying along to see and hear some live music, and most weeks we’ll go at least twice. Out and about travelling of course it is a different story, with the tiny music player and speakers having to fill in the gap. [This is when some slight differences in musical taste kick in between myself and Husband-usually addressed by me listening to Coldplay during snatched moments while he showers].

                It is a mark of how much I’ve altered, I suppose, that I no longer listen to music radio in my car, preferring the diversions of talk radio these days. Years ago I’d have listened to music during most of my spare hours, but now I often prefer silence, or birdsong, or any of those lyrical, whimsical sounds poets bang on about.

                As a teenager of the mid to late sixties [we babyboomers always like to boast this is the best, the only era for music]-I got my fix in regular doses of essential listening like ‘Pick of the Pops’ on Sunday evenings, when the entire chart would be played to exceedingly naff presentation of Alan Freeman, who called us ‘pop pickers’ [as opposed to pickpockets, perhaps]. In the beginning, one of my brothers and myself would record it all on a reel to reel tape recorder, whilst simultaneously writing each song in a notebook with a diligence we did not apply to homework . We were banished to a cold room. Later, when I was left as the lone teenager I continued to be banished in order to listen, although I’d given up the recording by then.

                A great disappointment to my classical music loving father [he called it seeerious music], I glued myself mulishly to TV’s ‘Top of the Pops’ each Thursday evening. [Sadly its reputation is now tarnished by the grim revelations about one of its presenters]. My parents didn’t ‘get’ it, displaying all the cliché ridden behaviour of the era-‘you can’t tell whether they are boys or girls’ [of the long haired band members], or ‘what a racket!’

                Once, in a rare moment of watching, my father turned to me triumphant during the climax of the number one single and shouted, “I LIKE this one!” I remember my despair. It was the odious, banal and stubbornly popular ‘Silence is Golden’ by the hideous Tremeloes.

                Another time they returned from a weekend away proudly bearing a gift, at a time when I’d just bought ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ by new, progressive band, Cream. They’d gone to a record shop all by themselves [they boasted] and asked the salesperson what was ‘number 1’? “because she’s bound to like that one” What was it? It was ‘This is the Captain of Your Ship’ by Reperata and the Delrons. If you’ve ever heard this you will understand my teenage emotions. I may have managed to play it once, to satisfy their proud smiles. It all demonstrates how parents misunderstand teenagers.

                Now I realise how lucky I am to live within a cycle or a short bus ride away from a whole range of music venues showcasing a broad spectrum of local, talented musicians and I could probably enjoy a different act and genre every night of the week-if I had the energy. Better still, our local music festival takes place next month-about which, more anon!