Why don't I want to go to Glastonbury any more?

June 26, 2011

It’s Sunday evening and I’ve just come home and turned on the TV to see Beyoncé’s set at Glastonbury. The band are tight, Crazy In Love sounds fantastic, and I’m sure it would be a great gig to watch. So why does the whole thing make me glad that I didn’t bother? ### The whole thing is a big corporate jolly that symbolises the crushing underfoot of the alternative by the mainstream I remember a few years ago seeing my friend who was running one of the bars, and being horrified that it was sponsored by Budweiser. The same Budweiser who are now official beer of the FA Cup (and don’t get me started on the fact that next year’s cup final will take place at 5.15pm…). Next door was a mobile phone charging stall sponsored by Orange. The country’s biggest venue is named after another mobile phone network. London’s biggest club ground is named after an airline. But this is nothing new. I’m reminded of Danny in Withnail & I, talking about the death of the sixties: “They’re selling hippy wigs in woolworths.” (and if you want proof, I googled that phrase to try to get a youtube clip, and found an article on Brand Republic). As ever, Bill Hicks was right. But who am I to talk? I work (more or less) in marketing. I’m signed up to capitalism just as much as any of us. The fact that U2, Coldplay and Beyoncé are the headliners shouldn’t make a difference. The festival is big enough that there must be interesting things going on elsewhere. But somehow the fact that Fearne Cotton is involved means it isn’t for me. ### I don’t want to sign up to the whole ticket process As with the Olympics, something about the whole thing gives me the creeps. Submitting Photo ID online to go to a festival? It’s only a few years until the whole thing is brought to you in association with Mastercard. It all feels like a vision of the corporate future, a branded boot stamping on a human face forever. ### It was all much better in my day Did I prefer it when it was full of tent-knifing scallies and gurning crusties? Am I just some old geezer, who isn’t interested in new music any more? Am I too old, and I should step aside and let the young people have their fun? Maybe it’s time for my pipe and slippers. I’d rather have the comfort of my sofa than risk getting a bit muddy? I don’t think that’s true. The last Bank Holiday weekend I was walking in the Peak District, and I’ve never been rained on so much. I had a great time. ### It’s just too big Maybe this is the nub of it. As Malcolm Gladwell put it, what makes things cool is that they aren’t mainstream. Once every Tom, Dick and Harry has heard of something, it has already jumped the shark. So maybe that makes me a snob. I don’t want to mix with the hoi polloi. I don’t want to traipse three miles through the mud to avoid the Kings of Leon. I remember thinking a few years back that I would always go to Glastonbury, that the line-up didn’t matter, and that sooner or later I would graduate to the green fields. Now, though, I can’t imagine that I will ever go again. Hopefully I will still go to smaller festivals, but Glastonbury feels like it doesn’t belong to me any more, but to some nameless, corporate, mainstream *them*.