How do I choose a festival?13th May 2018
As Trinity term gets under way the novelty of coming back after Easter begins to wear off and the burden of prelims, finals, or, in my case as a second year with no exams, sheer boredom, begins to weigh heavily. It is at this point where I like to look beyond the rigidity of an eight week term into the hazy freedom of the long vacation.
It will be muddy, loud and ludicrously removed from the everyday – and that is where the real beauty lies.
Whether glimpses of the sun will be seen between convincing men in suits to offer you grad schemes, or if your summer looks like one protracted family argument, festivals offer a much needed release. After all, who can sit, glitter on, pint in hand, and not feel like they have left reality behind, at least slightly. So, the only question that really remains, is how to choose the festival that is right for you, and book that escape that lets you look beyond the horizon of term when you are sat in the solitude of a 3am library session:
On the one hand, after speaking of a Woodstock heady freedom, it seems contradictory to begin with such a commercial element, like speaking to the grumpy booking agent of fun. But personally I am disappointed at the rising prices of festivals. This will eventually only allow one very small strata of society to attend festivals, which, for me, undermines the communal freeing purpose. If you can afford boutique festivals, like the Oxford based ‘Wilderness’ festival then go, but not everyone can and there are alternatives. For example, day festivals are a great way to keep costs down. This year ‘All Points East’ has some exciting line-ups with The National headlining, and ‘Community’ festival has indie crowd pleasers like The Vaccines with a really lovely atmosphere. Another way of lowering costs, is to attend gigs within a larger city-wide festival. ‘The Great Escape’ in Brighton is a thriving example of this, with a focus on new music and the option to purchase day-long or weekend-long wristbands. These options still have a festival atmosphere, but in a condensed way and within a budget.
I do not agree with fixating on headliners, after all if they are playing festivals there’s a high chance you could see their tour soon. For me, this is not the point of festivals. Instead, I would recommend looking at the broader genre of a festival, its reputation for supporting new music and then going in with an open mind willing to find new artists. This is the joy of the festival. ‘Barn on The Farm’ is a festival with a broad interest in indie and a commitment to emerging artists– Ed Sheeran played here 6 years before headlining Glastonbury.
What many people don’t take into account when considering their options from the traditional list of festivals, Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, is size. Yet size makes a key difference to your experience. Large festivals can be fun due to the sheer energy, but the artists may feel very far away and the logistics of trekking to and fro quite tiring. There is something to be said for investigating the small festival and its relaxed communal focus. Oxford’s truck festival is known as the ‘Godfather of the small festival scene’ and has rejected commercial impersonality so much that they had catering from the local Rotary Club.
In the end, whatever festival you choose it will be muddy, loud and ludicrously removed from the everyday. If essays and problems sheets are bringing you down, put on the flower crown, turn up the music, and start booking!