is usually painfully short, so its no wonder that as soon as some
good weather arrives we feel almost duty-bound to get outside and enjoy
it. Out come the portable stereos and barbecues, as we take to our gardens.
At this point, the combination of music, food, beer and sunshine starts
many of us thinking about music festivals. The memories come flooding
back: late night raves in the dance tent; singing along to a favourite
band on a warm summer evening; or just lying on the grass, beer can
in hand, soaking up the atmosphere. The jugglers, stilt walkers, stalls
selling everything from herbal highs to Mexican hammocks are all part
of the festival vibe.
In reality, however,
festivals can sometimes turn out to be more of an ordeal. Most are at
weekends and bank holidays so traffic jams are likely. Bad weather and
bad drugs can spoil the party. Bands and artists may decide to pull
out, even after youve coughed up for the ticket. Theres
the risk that your tent will be robbed. The food may be dodgy; the beer
over-priced and warm. Then, of course, there is the ultimate festival
nightmare the toilets. All for the same price as a return flight
to a Mediterranean resort. Why do we bother?
We bother because
usually the good aspects far outweigh the bad. Festivals are the sites
of seminal moments that will be written about for years to come. Like
when Pulp stood in for the Stone Roses at Glastonbury. We all want to
be able to say that we were there when it happened. More importantly,
festivals are generally a good laugh. So how do we choose where to go?
There are millions to pick from, far too many to write about here. This
is a guide to the major festivals this summer that will be attracting
the biggest names. For a list of all the other festivals on offer try
The first major
festival of the year is one for metal fans, OzzFest
(May 26, Milton Keynes Bowl, £32.50). Headline acts include
Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Tool and Papa Roach. There will also be plenty
of exotic nipple piercing, body painting and even a house of horror.
This is a festival for those into a specific type of music, not a place
where you can skip from stage to stage to catch a wide range of styles.
Neither is Homelands
(May 26, Winchester, £51) which is the first major dance music
festival of the year. (Although quite why indie faves Pulp are on the
bill is anyones guess). This is a place for banging house, Ibiza
anthems and sorted choons, supplied by Orbital, the Artful Dodger, The
Orb (all live) plus a plethora of DJs including James Lavelle
and Josh Wink.
(June 16, £46, Brackley, Northants.) looks set to be the dance
event of the year, featuring OutKast, The Chemical Brothers, Craig David,
Artful Dodger, Sasha, Carl Cox, and more. Its OutKasts first
UK festival appearance, so it should be a good time to see them. 40,000
people are expected to fill the 10 arenas. If you cant go, tune
in live on Radio One.
London Fleadh (June 16, £35, Finsbury Park) was founded
by the Mean Fiddler organisation in 1989. It was originally a celebration
of Celtic music in London, but it has broadened its horizons due to
disappointing attendances. This years acts include Neil Young
and Crazy Horse, Starsailor, Teenage Fanclub, Evan Dando, The Waterboys
and Billy Bragg. Fleadh is renown for attracting cultural tourists seeking
to rediscover their Oirish roots by riverdancing and drinking
Guinness. Londons Finsbury Park also plays host to Jam
in the Park (June 17, £28). Destinys Child headline
for this their only UK date. The rest of the line up isnt quite
so internationally famous. Theres K-Ci and JoJo, Eve, Artful Dodger
(where isnt he appearing?), one-hit-wonders Oxide and Neutrino,
Omar and the Jazz legend Courtney Pine.
Scotlands biggest music festival is
T in the Park (July 7-8, Balado, near Kinross, weekend £59/£64
or £35 day). While the atmosphere can hardly be described
as mellow, there is a pretty good line up here if youre into
guitar bands. Stereophonics, Wheatus, Placebo, James, Paul Weller,
David Gray, My Vitriol, Texas, Coldplay, Beck and more. Plus a few
dance types like Josh Wink and Luke Slater to keep the clubbers
(July 14-15, London Hackney Marshes, £35 per day) has moved
town due to foot-and-mouth. Its a celebration of dance and roots
and has a pretty impressive line-up if thats what youre
into: Public enemy, Stereo MCs, Reprazent, Asian Dub Foundation,
Sizzla, Ice-T, Goldie, Isaac Hayes and more.
of Sound@Knebworth (August 11, £45). The mega club of
the south hits the stately home. In attendance will be Jamiroquai, BT,
The Artful Dodger, Lo-fidelity Allstars, Bent, Seb Fontaine, and more.
(August 18-19, Chelmsford and Staffordshire, weekend £66,
with camping £76 or £38.50 for the day) have something for
everyone. Launched in 1995 this festival is quickly building up a strong
following. Both venues are in attractive and rural locations. They are
well organised and avoid over-crowding. One of Virgins goals (which
it is achieving) was to provide better facilities than the traditional
festivals. The main criticism is the commercial feel. The free-spirited,
positive and vibrant community spirit of Glastonbury doesnt really
happen here. With corporate identity never far away - Virgin Balloons,
Cola and trains, its not one for anti-capitalist May Day protesters.
Still, this aside, there is a strong line up including: Red Hot Chili
Peppers, Texas, Coldplay, The Charlatans, Foo fighters, David Gray,
The Avalanches, Turin Brakes, Wheatus, Starsailor, Spooks and more.
Virgin offers a deal for a £5 return train ticket from anywhere
on the Virgin network to the Staffordshire site when you buy a camping
and Leeds Festivals
(August 24-26, weekend and camping £80; day ticket £35)
are now combined as the Carling Weekender, both sites having the
same bill but on different days (as does V2001). Reading used to
be the main rival to Glastonbury but it never quite gained such
a good reputation, never capturing the same atmosphere or status.
There are masses of major pop acts here during this three-day event.
Eminem, Travis, Manics, PJ Harvey, Eels, Mercury Rev, Ash, Marilyn
Manson, Green Day, Fun Loving Criminals, Eels, Queens Of The Stone
Age, Supergrass, Run DMC and many more. With no Glastonbury this
year this will be the biggest festival of all.
UK (August 25, Liverpool, £48.50) the Liverpool superclub
heads outdoors. Fatboy Slim, Gorillaz, Stereo MCs, Avalanches,
Paul Oakenfold and more will keep the party going until its 6am closing
time. A great atmosphere is guaranteed and the sun always seems to shine.
Its the only festival appearance of Gorillaz.
The festival season
comes to an end with Scotlands Gig
on the Green
(August 25-26, Glasgow Green, £55 2 day, £35 one). It
has some hardcore headline acts including Eminem, Marilyn Manson and
Queens Of The Stone Age. While Travis and Embrace are there for those
of a milder disposition.
To huge disappointment,
Glastonbury has been cancelled this year. Michael Eavis, the godfather
of the music festival, announced his decision to cancel this years
event due to issues of safety and problems with fence jumpers. A solution
will be worked on this year so that the festival can make a welcome
return in 2002. Michael himself plans to retire from festival organisation
when he reaches 70 (2005). The good news is that the festival will continue
on after this, run by his daughter Emily.
Finally a few survival
tips for first-timers. Check your tent before you go. This may sound
obvious but if its been sitting in a shed, untouched for ten years,
then it might not be in great condition. Decorate your tent with flags
or paint so that you can recognise it amongst the masses when you return
to it in darkness. Dont take anything that you cant afford
to lose and carry valuables and cash around with you. Dont wander
around alone at night; assaults are rare but have happened. Bring suncream,
toilet roll, a torch, sleeping bag, enough money to last the weekend
and get you home, and a large bottle of water to avoid the huge queues
for the sinks (if you actually decide to wash at all). To avoid spending
the entire event suffering from headaches and weariness try having non-alcoholic
drinks occasionally, especially if its tropical. Lastly, all of
us should pray that foot-and-mouth disease doesnt claim the festival
season as yet another victim.