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Are Rock Festivals Corporate Hellholes? - Uncut, August 2006

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Title: Are Rock Festivals Corporate Hellholes?
Publication: Uncut
Date: August 2006

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Yes says Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers

"I've always hated festivals. From the very start of the Manics, me and Richey used to live by what Pete Townshend said at Woodstock: 'so much for peace and love, all I saw was mud and people smoking marijuana.'"

"The first festival I ever went to was Womad in 1985 or 1986 with James [Dean Bradfield). Siouxsie And The Banshees were headlining, but we wanted to see The Blue Aeroplanes and The Shop Assistants. It was horrible, everything I'd imagined festivals to be: all these people eating tofu and doing t'ai chi. It rained non-stop and me and James ended up sleeping under a bin-liner - your classic festival experience."

"The fist big one we did with the Manics was Reading in '94. It was a big gig for us at the time. I don't know why, but as soon as I got onstage I said, 'God, you lot stink.' I don't know what came over me. Then I smashed up my bass and tried to throw it into the crowd, but I was so weak it only reached a security guard and broke his shoulder. I was really fed up on the tour bus afterwards, but it was all worth it the next week.I'd been wearing a dress and MM and NME both had a picture of me on the cover. It was a great moment: we'd upstaged the headliners. So I'll concede that festivals can be crucial turning points in a band's career."

"The one incident everyone remembers about the Manics is Glastonbury 94 when I said, 'Someone ought to build a bypass over this shithole' onstage. It was meant as a joke, but of course it caused a big furore. It was a bit like when you read an oasis interview - some things that are meant as jokes just don't translate into print. Which brings me to Toiletgate (Glastonbury1999). I have to exonerate James and Sean Moore from any blame - it was entirely my fault. We were headlining and I insisted we had separate toilets because I couldn't stand the idea of sharing the loos with all these other bands. I mean, how awful! All that fucking fake bonhomie between bands backstage. How great we all are, how amazing the vibe is. NO, it isn't, it's horrible, and you're talking total bullshit."

"Needless to say, I loathe 'festival bands', too: Travis, Robbie's the sort of music liked by people who buy one CD and who go to one gig a year. And the gig of course, is a festival..."

No says Tim Rice-Oxley of Keane

"My first experience of a festival was in the New Bands tent at Reading in 2003, before Keane signed a record deal. we'd never played to more than 150 people before. Suddenly, we had a couple of thousand watching us. It felt like a peak, the culmination of all our dreams."

"Since then, we've played loads of festivals and some of those have been our best-ever performances. Like when we played Glastonbury just after our first album came out. Nothing can prepare you for walking out to 30,000 people. Moments like that are almost supernatural in their intensity. As a band member, one of the great things about festivals is that you're not playing to your own partisan crowd, so you never know whether you're going to get bottled off or whether it's going to be the best night of your life. When you're on tour playing your own gigs, you can get a bit complacent about being adored all the time. So it's good to have an unknown quantity thrown in."

"When it's great, there's nothing like it. You're playing under a beautiful sunset, you've won the crowd over; you capture a moment and it's an amazing, almost spiritual thing. You can only get that at a festival."

"The crowd are there to have the time of their lives. It's people joining together without cynical motives, revelling in the freedom to roll around in the mud out of crazy joy and exuberance, smoke weed with strangers and listen to 20 different bands in a day. If the reason a band plays gigs is to upstage other bands and get on the cover of magazines then they might find the innocence and equality of the festival scene somewhat alien. So they slag off the crowd and then sulk about it on the tour bus. What's the point? If you're a big band like the Manics, you probably fly first-class, stay at a lovely hotel, eat great food and watch great bands from the side of the stage. Then you get to play to thousands and get paid handsomely for it. Also, you can enjoy the company of other bands. For most bands, the bonhomie is not fake. The bands that refuse to hang out with other bands are, without fail, the ones that are total arseholes or just not very good. I'd prefer to look at a festival as an excuse to get lost in music and have a great party."