Tuesday 23 June 2015

Things on the Internet that will never change Part 1: Moaning about the Glasto Headliner

Once a year, without fail (except on Old Farmer Eavis's fallow years) the headline acts for Glastonbury festival are announced, and the internet explodes with outrage. Whether it is because somebody has had the temerity to book a hip-hop act, or somebody your Dad has never heard of, it is a near certainty that those complaining are probably not going to Glastonbury anyway. There have been more than enough words wasted over Kanye West's booking already, but if you think a festival that encompasses all musical forms should ignore what is arguably the dominant and most innovative form of musical expression of the last three decades then you may not be paying attention. Or you may be paying too much attention to an idiot with an agenda and an outlet. The kind of deluded idiot that sends death threats to festival organisers.

Any discussion of Rap on any musicians online forum I frequent will end up with someone making the old 'rap is spelled with a silent C' joke, which has never been funny. And there are those still claiming that it is destroying the moral fibre of our youth. If you are one of them, then this is akin to those old men who said Elvis and Rock and Roll would bring about the apocalypse, except that you are saying it in the early 1990s (figuratively speaking, more of this kind of thing later). The possibility exists that because it is a predominantly black form of music that was introduced by black culture without a nice white Elvis, or jovial old cuddly Bill Haley to front it, there are racist overtones to those who hate it so vehemently. Of course it’s just a possibility.

I find it hard to believe that people can be so outraged by a choice of headliner at a music festival that they start up a petition to get it changed, but it happens. And it is shared all over my social media timelines, mostly by the ubiquitous old, straight, white males of the world. And the greatest percentage being those who are not, and probably never would be, attending anyway. I am also quite tired of hearing how music needs to be “authentic” and “real” (apparently that means it has guitars in it) and wondering if that actually means I have to get rid of all fakery and artifice (like my amplifiers and effect pedals) and just sing hey-nonny-fucking-no in a field with a mandolin to be genuine.

Kanye West is a dick yes, but so was John Lennon (sorry to attack your sacred cow, but if you really want to imagine no possessions, maybe offload the Rolls Royce John) and nobody would pipe up about the Beatles playing would they? Jimmy Page is also a crazed fantasist living in the past with a very dodgy record (I am referring more to things like the infamous mudshark incident rather than outrider, though it applies equally to both) but a Zeppelin reunion would not attract a petition to change it would it? The signees, I suspect, would be more than happy to see corporate whores like Dire Straits or Fleetwood Mac headlining, claiming that they had earned their place by virtue of being straight, white and middle of the road. They would be wrong, festivals should be new and exciting, not old, stayed and frankly dull.

I think the outrage may be a result of the fact that you buy your tickets (which you can't then sell on easily anymore) without a clue as to who is going to be playing there at all. Now, if you are going to festivals for the music, then you are going for the wrong reasons anyway, they may be music festivals, but they are about meeting crazy people, doing crazy things, and forgetting that there is a shitty real world out there waiting for you when you get out (and buying hats, obviously). The music is just background to the rest of it. Glastonbury know this, and don't need a line-up to sell tickets. Not everyone buying them has cottoned on to this yet though.

It is the new breed of festival goer that fuel the outrage, the rush for tickets, and the extortionate prices. The wealthy city types, who crave shower blocks, and constantly take selfies in front of the stage without listening to a note, desperate to make sure everybody knows that they were there. The middle-aged men, desperately trying to seem cool still in their flowerpot hats and tartan shorts while refusing to relinquish their grip on everything, so you get to listen to Oasis, and pasty interchangeable indie bands forever and ever and ever (they did say they would live that long remember). And then there are those baby boomers again, they priced you out of the housing market, and now they've got your Glastonbury tickets, and they want to see the Rolling Stones and Kenny Rogers, so you can take your Hip Hop music, and your Electro-Gypsy-Dixieland-Funk and fuck off back to playschool kids.

My own generation may be to blame, we took festivals over in the 90s, we decided there should be a different one every weekend with the same line-up, we added a ton of corporate sponsors, accepted that food and drink should cost roughly four times more than in the real world and ensured that the line-up remains the same to this day. I am sorry kids, we broke it for you, maybe you should fix it again.

I was more upset by the booking of the Rolling Stones in anything other than the Sunday afternoon nostalgia spot than I was at the Kanye booking, at least he is vaguely relevant. Don't get me wrong, I love the Rolling Stones, but having them headline a festival in 2013 was equal to Irving Berlin headlining at Woodstock, wrong time, wrong place. Still the target audience seemed to enjoy it. Music festivals are now the preserve of the wealthy and well heeled, not the turned-on, tuned-in and dropped-out youth that dreamed them up in the first place. They can't afford Glastonbury, or get their heads together enough to go through the ticket application process.

On a more current note, a lot of people got really upset at Florence and the Machine taking over the Foo Fighters headline spot. Those people were also wrong, to continue my Woodstock analogy, the Foo Fighters are Frankie Laine, Florence is Jimi Hendrix. The first Foos album is twenty years old now, while Florence has only just released her third hugely acclaimed album, on top of two innovative, interesting, and frankly brilliant number one albums. I can’t help feeling that if it were someone less female and interesting, like Jake Bugg or Mumford and sons perhaps, there would be less outrage, can I scream guardianista-like about inherent misogyny while I’m here? And again, to complain about one band playing at an event on the scale of Glastonbury festival is entirely myopic, there is so much to see, and such variety, that complaining about one band, on one stage is like moaning about what is on Sky Living at 9 o’clock this evening (apparently it’s a new show called Chicago Fire, no, me neither).

Music festivals should be about, new, current interesting music, not the same old shit your Dad used to listen to. If you are moaning about Florence's style, then remember your Dad moaning about Boy George looking like a girl, that's you that is. Glastonbury is for your Dad now (and you might well have become him) at least Babylon is anyhow, and remember that in our Woodstock analogy, even Muse are now Bill Haley and the Comets. If you're actually there, go in to the deep dark weird places and go find new interesting stuff, there’s loads of it, everywhere, music is brilliant, new music is better, you can hear things you know on your iPod/Walkman/gramophone any time you like. If you're not there, shut your mouth and stop worrying about it.

Disclaimer – A lot of my views are not my own, and are merely voiced for comedic effect. I honestly do believe that Glastonbury, and all music festivals should be inclusive of all ages, all classes and all music tastes, we are never more all the same than when we are naked and covered in shit.

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