Welsh misfits rock festivals with strong work ethic
Come summertime, musical visitors never tire of telling us how much they enjoy the festival experience. Playing to a yet-to-be-converted crowd, the carnivalesque vibe, hanging with rock ‘n’ roll buddies...festivals have long been a much-loved experience for many a band.
Not so however, in the case of Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers. “Funnily enough, it’s only in the last few years that we’ve become open to new experiences and enjoyed doing festivals,” muses frontman James Dean Bradfield.
“In the past we’ve not been the most festival-friendly band, mainly ‘cos we’re not that loved-up to begin with, or the type of happy band to try and get an audience to clap.
“When most bands first turn up to play a festival, they run around backstage, enjoy the free booze, chat to the other bands, but that was something we didn’t really want to do.
“We had this Welsh Presbyterian ethic - just get in and work.”
“It’s cool to see a few new faces each year,” he continues. “We’ve touched base with Stereophonics this summer. We’ll see each other and share a beer but we don’t ever get into the whole ‘travelling circus’ vibe. You must remember that we’re not the most sociable of bands.”
With 17 festivals on this summer’s slate for the trio, the Manics have predictably amassed quite a few tall tales.
“I think in 1992, we did two festivals in one day – one in Germany and then a tiny one in Holland,” Bradfield recalls.
“Richey (Edwards, missing exguitarist) had a ritual whereby he would eat, exercise and have a few vodkas before each show. Still, he didn’t quite figure that he had to do the ritual twice that day. He’d gotten quite loose, and during the show I had my foot on the effects pedal and I realised my foot suddenly felt quite heavy”.
“Basically, he’d fallen asleep on my foot, so I gave him a bit of a nudge and then he leaps up and dives straight into the non-existent crowd and lands flat on his face.” Bradfield appears bemused at how the festival weekends have evolved over the years.
“Even when I went to festivals before playing them, I remember they were almost like gatherings,” he recalls. “Now festivals are much more structured and amenable, some might say they’re a bit homogenised but I definitely think they’re more inclusive. There are more things to do and enjoy, and entire families go down.”
So will the Manics be bringing their own broods to Punchestown?
“Well, we’ve been with our respective wives for a very long time, so not really,” smiles Bradfield. “I’d say at this stage they’re bored seeing us.
“Besides, at a festival, there should still be an element of rock'n'roll. It’s not a creche.”