Why Large Music Festivals Suck
Warning: may contain annoying niche pop-culture references that offer no explanation. More “will” than “may”, really.
I don’t want to be a betrayer of my generation, I know some nifty people of my vintage that make me extremely proud to be a Gen-Y-er, but be it in the overpriced alcoholic slushies or the questionable dumplings, festivals increasingly seem to have a habit of bringing out your inner-douche. Or what my grandma refers to as the “riff-raff”, which is odd, considering the term is associated with those from a lower socio-economic level and tickets alone are around the $150 mark.
Bare with me, dear Tharunkites, whilst I extrapolate.
The day before Future Music Festival took place, Google had the third most searches for the word “ecstasy”, apart from the day before new years and Australia Day, both nationally and statewide. So, unless South Australia has something going on that they’ve failed to tell the less shit states (it’s the festival state, after all!) I’m going to draw a tenuous link and propose that Future makes you take drugs.
This does not bring me to my next point at all: don’t get me wrong, I think women should be able to wear whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want and not be judged by unfair gender-assigned stereotypes. A woman is never “asking for it”, and her choice of garb does not indicate an invitation.
But if you wear a strong bikini top to a festival, you are an idiot. If you are in a mosh pit, flimsy string ain’t gonna keep your girls in place, sheerly due to all the jumping whilst being rammed up against other people. Wardrobe malfunctions aren’t isolated to the Jacksons. If you’re actually doing what you should be doing in festivals and not posing, string does not cut the mustard. The same goes for thongs. You will and should lose them.
I’m probably pointing this out because my casper-the-friendly-ghost complexion doesn’t allow for more than a Danoz Direct ad amount of time before the UV nasties remind me that I should probably go purchase a moomoo and an umbrella stat. Preferably of the matching variety. But it came to my attention that large groups of festival goers appear to have a uniform. I think Paula Joye from Sydney Morning Herald perfectly encapsulates it when she says “Just nude and neon. A giant sea of sameness”. Being naked is only interesting if everyone else is not. That’s why the Moulin Rouge is not sexual, and nudist beaches are boring.
Having been in Randwick during the day of Future, it was an almost hilarious trend.
I know this because I tend to work at a lot of festivals, so I get the chance to people-watch a lot. I do it because I get to see the bands I want and get paid. But also mainly because I am a creep. As a result, due to the infinite wisdom I have gained due to said creepiness, I can safely say that it seems that more and more people are attending music festivals for something to do, rather than for the musical journey. People spend more time wandering around, looking at themselves and other people and less on the bands. And it’s making it suck.
But I digress. When in its infancy, Big Day Out had bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Limp Bizkit, and, of course, Courtney Love baring her breasts on stage. Whilst BDO is now more akin to a dance festival than something like Soundwave, in the past it had music that was grungy and angry. If you’re from a small country town where Lee Kernaghan is considered to be “with it” and Slim Dusty is venerated to be some sort of akubra-clad yoda, music festivals afforded an opportunity for you to see all the bands in one gluttonous hit, as travelling to the big smoke didn’t happen every day.
Music festivals were an institution, something to revere and talk about in between debating the best way to get into the town’s only nightclub at 15, having shit boyfriends and writing poetry about how no one understands you. I never did this, more out of laziness than anything else, but you get my point.
Lest I overload you with personal anecdotes, allow me to provide an example. When working for Big Day Out earlier this year, I attempted to make conversation with a couple who, for convenience sake, I will call “Shoes” and “Socks”.
“Who are you guys here to see?”, I believe was the precise inquiry I had made . Seemed a logical thing to ask, both had clearly gone to a lot of effort for the day.
From my two-second interaction with Shoes, I could see she was Tahitian-fake-tanned, fake-eyelashed, hair extensioned and dyed, false-nailed and also managed to find a purse small enough so that she wouldn’t be limited in her Instagramming and Facebook status poses, but importantly large enough to hold her Winnie Blue’s.
Also, the temperature reached a pleasant 46 degrees, and Shoes’ eyeliner hadn’t budged at all. (Seeing as the Chili Peppers played a whole bunch of new stuff no one knew and Flea wasn’t on his game, this was probably the most impressive thing of the whole day).
Shoes and Socks obviously did everything together, including fake-tanning and waxing, because Socks was also similarly adorned, but with a “singlet” that had arm holes down to his hips. A bib would have offered more side-body covering.
Judging by the fact Shoes and Socks’ pupils were the size of dinner plates, Shoes was chewing incessantly (but didn’t appear to have any chewing gum) and Socks couldn’t stop bouncing to an imagined beat, they’d also successfully negotiated the age-old question of whether one should double-drop before entering (the sniffer dogs were out in force), or risk being caught with pills. With the festival spanning for ten hours, they might come down early, but being caught with a Class A?
Appearing in court is such a, like, downer, man, and more importantly would significantly impinge on their ability to let everyone know that they were having a rad time via social media avenues.
“I’m just here for a good time, man!” was Socks’ reply to my question seven paragraphs above.
“Yeah, just fuck, just, y’know, living the dream!” was Shoes’ addition.
Both had managed to avoid my question, because neither of them even knew who were playing.
Now I know how annoying I am when I’m drunk, but from working behind several bars and dealing with persons showing signs of intoxication on a regular basis, I know the ratio of drunk annoying to not-annoying people. And music festivals have no consideration for this level of homeostasis.
There’s something about the sheer numbers of people that just spells anarchy. Upon making my way through central at about 2pm, I was cat-called by a bunch of already-inebriated amoebas clearly on their way to Future. Upon what I thought to be a stultifyingly awesome response of “get a haircut, ya hippies” (aimed to confound them, as all had that shaven-at-the-sides thing a lot of dudes seem to be rocking this year, and acting disgusted rarely works), I was taken by surprise.
Being cat-called happens frequently simply because I am female, but never in Central station. Whilst all sorts of ne’er-do-wells are present at Central, it had always been a magical refuge that contained both drug dealers AND people who don’t make objectifying remarks about you as you walk past. But then again, it could have been that I’d decided to shave my legs that day for the first time in about a month.
The UK’s Glastonbury or Reading or even America’s Coachella are all raucous centres for hedonism where people dress in ridiculous attire, so all I’m saying is, c’mon Australia, stop taking yourself so seriously. And get a haircut.
– Renée Griffin