Thursday 28 August 2014

What if the festival fences are to keep the freaks in, rather than the freeloaders out?

Another festival season has come and gone, and I am not sure if it’s my age, or the fact that I am a lot more sober than I used to be, but there is suddenly a lot to question about the phenomenon of the music festival than there used to be. And not just the usual moans about the weather, everything being more commercial than it used to be, all modern music sounding the same, teenagers not pulling their trousers up properly, the drinks being too expensive, the fact that tents are horrible etc. etc. etc. although, to be fair, most of that is true, but that genuinely is just because I am getting old now.

I have recently come back from a double weekender of two very, very different festivals, both of which disturbed me in different ways. First off, I spent a slightly crazy day at Boomtown near Winchester. Truly a magnificent site/sight, take your pick on the spelling, both apply equally, the time and energy that has clearly been put in to making the stage sets was very well spent. There were mines, pirate ships, town squares and giant dancing robots (and a whole bunch of other cool stuff that we missed) all in what was essentially some fields with a wood in the middle. But the fantabulous surroundings were filled with groups of lads and lasses who would not look out of place strolling down the main streets of Magaluf. I’m all for inclusion and happy togetherness, so this is no tribalist attack on the humble chav, it just surprised me. I expect to see the airy-fairy-hippy-dippy-beardy-weirdy classic festival types and little else at these things, not the Inbetweeners. No offence meant to any inbetweeners out there you understand, particularly not those of you who packed out the little tent we played in at midnight, you beautiful onesie wearing freaks you.

The weekend afterwards, we were playing at Beautiful Days, nice and nearby in Devon. Also a lovely site, fairly decent music, might be reasonably priced, I don’t know, I refuse to pay more than twenty quid to go anywhere these days, so am no judge. However, this was a place dominated by yummy mummies and their solicitor husbands desperately trying to relive their youth, and dragging the kids along. Again, good for them, I suppose, but it seems a terrible idea to me. While the unexpected outfits of Boomtown were deck shoes, pedal pushers/clam diggers and superdry vests, at Beautiful Days the uniform of the weekend was definitely early 90s chic, as the 30/40 somethings tried to get back to those heady days of flowerpot hats and baggy checked shorts. 

Now, at this point you are probably going to ask what my bloody problem is right? These and all other people are entitled to go about their business and have a lovely time without some beardy hippy twat sneering at them, especially when he slots quite nicely into the '30 something trying to relive their youth' demographic. Except that I don’t really, I haven’t really stopped dicking about playing in bands since I was twelve. My mid-life crisis is looming nicely, and it appears to be manifesting itself by me stopping all the rock and roll stuff, and staying in more, I might even buy a jumper and get a nice haircut. I think this may have been my last festival season, particularly when I have never really liked the camping bit much anyway. 

What got me, is that I don’t remember the 'normal' people being there so much back in my youth. I may not have been paying attention to be honest, so they may have been there. But I remember the few festivals I made it to back then (not loads, they were too expensive then as well) mainly being filled with the young and the groovy, tye-dye and dreadlocks ahoy, certainly not the well-dressed about town types, and definitely not teachers, accountants and their kids. Although, as I said, I may just not have noticed, or been at the wrong places, that is entirely possible. There also didn’t used to be showers back then (or anything like as much hair product as was clearly in evidence this season) and if memory serves, the toilet facilities were planks over a pit, and a good sense of balance. It is also important to note that in 1991, my ticket for the Monsters of Rock festival cost me £25, this year, it was around that for the mandatory donation to an unnamed festival for the +1 tickets we got for the band. Inflation is a bitch, and even beer hasn’t gone up that much (A pint is approximately 3 times what it was in the early 90s, I estimate festival tickets have at least quadrupled, feel free to do your own maths). I put this down to it being more expensive to put stuff on now, due to the upside down nature of today’s music industry where the tours pay for the albums rather than vice versa.

I then thought harder, and went a little more tin foil hat over the whole thing than maybe I should. And apologies if the following sounds paranoid and crazy, but it is. What if those massive fences and watchtowers are not to keep the poor people who can’t afford tickets out, but to keep the freaks in? And what if all those lovely mind-altering substances that somehow can’t ever be kept out, are in fact being supplied to keep us all happy and docile? What if the entire festival scene has been designed by our Lizard overlords to keep anyone with an alternative viewpoint safely away from the rest of society when the weather is nice enough to maybe go and do some protesting? It’s a thought isn’t it? Particularly when the current drug of choice for the under-the-counter-culture is a horse tranquiliser sold by big pharmaceutical companies, so you are now very much helping ‘the man’ out.

If you thought you were somehow rebelling and sticking it to 'the man' by going to a large corporate event and spending a small fortune on camping gear, overpriced food and drink, wellington boots, even your ticket, and then taking a shed load of hallucinogenics until you can no longer think straight, then I am terribly sorry. Quite the opposite is true, you have been played, it has happened to every generation, and it will happen to you. The baby boomers were lured away from their Bob Dylan records and cries for freedom with cheap property and weak marijuana, some of them are still going to festivals, and singing along to Bob Dylan records while smoking cheap marijuana (you can’t find weak marijuana anymore apparently) but make no mistake, they are establishment now. The punks forgot the revolution part when the amphetamine took out their thoughts. The ravers got lost in Ecstasy and went off to buy shiny iThings from apple, and today’s ketamine kids are being played worse than anybody. Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

If you really want to stick it to the man, and be a part of the revolution, stay in your own head, do some thinking, write something revolutionary, start a group, start a club, start a movement, change the world. Don’t get sidetracked by the drugs and the fun, it is in your way. If you are just in it for the drugs and the fun, then excellent, enjoy and have a good time, all the time, but if you think by going to these things that you are part of the counter-culture and starting a revolution, then stop fooling yourself. These are concentration camps for the hippies, keeping us pacified and happy. Bread and circuses for the modern age, keep the long haired freaky people from this song away from society, and ensure they are too stoned to formulate any plans.

Apologies, I seem to have gone slightly off track, and may be angrier, and a great deal more tinfoil hatted than usual today. All of this is just conjecture, I don’t actually believe in the Lizard overlords, and I suspect the festival phenomenon is just the usual thing, corporations finding new and more inventive ways to make us part with our money, and ensuring it stays reassuringly expensive to put up some tents and listen to some music. I have nothing against you wanting to listen to music and stay in tents by the way, these are good things.

Choose a life, Choose a job, Choose a career, Choose a family, Choose a fucking big television (actually don’t, the TV is even more of the wonderful soma sent our way by those who would keep us down) or something. Choose what you like, but if you think you are making a difference and starting a revolution by dancing, make sure you’re not being sponsored by Richard Not-a-fucking-hippy-at-all Branson.

If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution– Emma Goldman

Friday 8 August 2014

Plenty of rich folks wants to fight. Give them the guns

It is all very well me spouting off about how much I enjoy ignoring the rest of the world. And I have been advocating taking time away from the internet, and particularly news and facebook for quite some time. In fact, in my recent fortnight off work, I successfully ignored the entire online world for the whole time I was off. I liked it. And when I returned to work I was quite busy, and continued to not read online news, or mess about on facebook and twitter all day. I was also eating my breakfast, lunch and dinner out in the garden, away from the TV, and it left me all content and happy and marvellous inside.

All well and good you may say, well done you smug git, now leave us alone. But it turns out that if quite a large part of what you enjoy doing involves writing stuff about other stuff, you need to be in touch with the other stuff to have any ideas. Did any of that make sense? Probably not, but anyhow, I haven't so much as written a note down on the back of an old receipt for a thing I should write later on in nearly a month. Because I have been sitting about in the sunshine all content and happy. So, if you rely on being annoyed at other people either for a living, or just for a hobby (like what I do) then you may have to keep on scrolling down people's facebook feeds and being disappointed at the pictures from Britain First they are sharing, and hating their children and pets for being in your face all the time. Your children and pets are different of course, everybody loves seeing them, otherwise they wouldn't keep 'liking' them all the time would they? Point being that moderation is a fine thing in all aspects of one's life. Just as the odd drink won't do you any harm, have a squizz at the internet once a day, keep in the loop a bit, you'll be fine, the cat pictures are good.

Anyhow, none of this is really the point I wanted to make. It was more upsetting when I finally returned to looking at the internet, watching the news and reading the papers again, as the news hadn't changed. Israel and Palestine at it again (really not going to get into that right now) and government cuts to essential services, while giving tax breaks to the 'wealth creators' so they don't leave and join their off shore bank accounts. And then came the centenary of the first world war.

Let it be said from the off that the first world war was an almighty cock up from start to finish, and really there is nothing worth celebrating about any war. This one was the last great imperial land grab, nobody was fighting for anybody else's freedom and it is naïve at best to try and paint it that way. Even a hundred years later no two historians can agree on the cause of this disaster, let alone who managed to balls up the treaty at the end so completely.

Nothing at all was achieved as the old method of lining up two armies and making them run at each other turned out to not work as well as it used to before machine guns, tanks and aerial bombing raids. Most of Europe lost almost an entire generation, no real gains were made by any sides, and the treaty was cocked up so badly we had to go back and have a rematch again a scant twenty years later, wiping out the next generation as well. So excuse me if I think all the commemorations of 'heroism' are missing the point a bit. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, but we have learned absolutely fuck all about anything in the hundred years since. Have a look at Gaza and Iraq if you aren't sure about that. Gaza is still suffering the fall out from the wars of the mid twentieth century and the ridiculousness of carving up land masses between different owners.

I can't help thinking that the money that is being spent on yet more monuments (every village and town in this country already has a war memorial in it already, we don't need more) might be better spent on putting back the services for the mentally and physically handicapped that we are systematically destroying. Ironically, those very heroes of 1914-18 that we are remembering would be left with nowhere to live and no help with the terrible mental and physical scarring that they were left with after their ordeals if they were living today. Much as they were at the time if they weren't independently wealthy.

As to the wonderful plan of only having one light on in your home between 10 and 11 on the very anniversary of the outbreak of war, in memoriam to Sir Edward Grey's enigmatic quote 'The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime' was another example of our current awful tendency to conspicuous, self-aggrandising displays of what good people we are. I suspect everybody that did it left the fucking Telly on as well, or sat and surfed the interwebs at the same time. Certainly my facebook feed was full of pictures of candles with 'remembrance' captions all over them. As I said, ego-stroking, conspicuous, look at me wankery of the crappest nature. I also worry that some godawful PR company got paid a ton of cash to come up with it, though I haven't checked, as I don't want to be right. Apologies to anybody who actually sat in front of a candle in quiet contemplation for an hour, I have no problem with you if it helped you, otherwise, I fail to see the point.

Obviously Britain first got their oars in with their poppy covered memes, taunting you to share their page and get them likes, by saying only 1% will do it. Awful, nasty, political posturing of the most shameful kind, and many people I like, who would have nothing to do with Britain First still shared that fucking picture, because they like the sentiment. I will not apologise for the many comments I left that merely said 'check your source and change your mind'.

I have no problem with remembering the victims of all wars, and am looking forward very much to next years centenaries of Agincourt and Waterloo, I will be lighting candles on St Crispins day, while quoting Shakespeare on Twitter. Oh, and singing along to Abba with my hand inside my coat and a funny hat on at my stepdaughter on her 22nd birthday. Except these centenaries aren't going to happen are they? Point is, that on armistice day, every year, we put aside everything, and stop and remember everyone who has ever been duped into doing the dirty work for the power-mongers and gotten themselves killed in the process. And that's a good thing, and also perhaps, enough. I can't take four more years of airbrushed history being forced down my throat in every 'news' bulletin. If the anniversary of a thing from a century ago is the top story when UN shelters are being bombed by a US sponsored democratic state, then something has gone very wrong.

There will always be somebody making a lot of money from wars, and as long as they keep fooling the common man (whoever he is) that the wars need fighting, then nothing is going to change. Learn the real lessons of the big bad wars of the twentieth century, and don't fight for anybody but yourself. Anybody who tells you the trenches of Belgium were the worst human suffering ever and that you are being disrespectful knows nothing of history. Napoleon's russian campaign was no fun for anyone, neither was Hitler's. And living in Aztec times was no fun at all, particularly when Cortez came along. You can't just pick one awful thing from history and keep on banging on about it, it will lose all impact.

“I would like to see every single soldier on every single side, just take off your helmet, unbuckle your kit, lay down your rifle, and set down at the side of some shady lane, and say, nope, I ain’t a gonna kill nobody. Plenty of rich folks wants to fight. Give them the guns." ~ Woody Guthrie