Live music belongs indoors, so let’s leave the festival fields to the cows
For many acts and fans who realise that music sounds better indoors, the end of festival season can’t come soon enough
Moove indoors: Outdoor festival sets are not what most acts want
It’s festival season and that’s good news for many people. Be it Body & Soul here or Glastonbury across the water, thousands of people will spend the weekend showing their standard of festival fitness in the open air. They will carouse, dance, shout, drink, scream, fall over and generally act the maggot in various charming and not so charming ways. They will watch bands, hang with their mates and, inevitably, head back to their tents to loudly sing Ed Sheeran songs until the wee small hours.
For one coterie of people, though, festival season is not good news, but you rarely hear them expressing this sentiment. As far as many artists are concerned, festival season is actually quite miserable. There may be a big fat fee to be earned as they tour from field to field, but is it really worth the downside?
Make no mistake, downsides are aired when you speak to acts and the recorder is not running. “I watched three women in the audience pissing by the side of the stage last night” was the main takeaway of one international act about a recent high-profile festival appearance.
“I’m fairly sure no one had any idea who we were,” said the lead singer of a band fairly high up the main stage bill of a major Irish festival. “The amount of sound spillage from the stage next to us meant I could sometimes hear the other band better than my own,” according to the guitarist with a long-established Irish act.
Naturally, I can’t use the names behind the above quotes because the acts know what side their bread is buttered on. They have to bite their tongues, go along with the festival chorus and stay in the game. If you’re a band on tour during the summer in Europe or the United States, you’re earning your money in the open air and it’s not worth rocking the boat.
The main live music action won’t return indoors until the leaves start to fall, so acts don’t really have many options if they’re touring over the summer
Festival sets are not what most acts want. Those who are serious about what they do want to play proper venues with proper infrastructures and where proper care is paid to their sound and lighting requirements. They have no interest in playing in a field where your sound is either blown around by the wind or subject to limitations so as not to upset the locals. Bands didn’t spend all their time learning their craft and creating their music to just be the backdrop for Louise, Dave and their pals from accounts to take tacky selfies.
There are few acts who can afford to say no when the festival bookers call, especially as festivals have largely taken over the summer circuit. The main live music action won’t return indoors until the leaves start to fall, so acts don’t really have many options if they’re touring over the summer. Modern gigonomics means that the major promoters have gone festival crazy because they know they can make good money when things go right.
However, there is a season for everything, and it’s inevitable that the current fondness for festivals is finite. It’s also clear that the finances don’t always stack up: this year’s high profile clangers such as Fyre in the Bahamas and Pemberton in Canada show that putting on a festival is not always a shortcut to printing money. Just as we saw with Oxegen, even summer calendar staples eventually fall out of favour.
For many acts – and even fans who realise that music sounds better indoors – this can’t come too soon. Live music belongs indoors, so let’s leave the fields to the cows.