Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Big Chill, Eastnor Castle

A three-day music festival, widely derided as a "posh glastonbury" which is, however, notably popular amongst people for whom that sounds like a good idea. Set in beautiful surroundings, the overly eclectic line-up and exceedingly "tight demographic" of the punters led me to initially dub it The Big Nil; such cynicism couldnt, however, survive the overwhelming hospitality of a load of slightly trendy yuppies in a field. The blazing sun helped a great deal, and the absence of any of a festival's usual problems - crowding, mud, Bristol hoodlums selling shit hash - along with with a suprising lack of pressure to enjoy yourself combined to provide a pleasant enough time, as long as you werent expecting anything particularly good. The music, in particular, was shite.

Calling it a festival is rather like calling the nails in a coffin the dearly departed. This event has none of the openess of a real festival; Glastonbury has year on year battened down its hatches but it has never dreamed of the punter/performer separation that the Big Chill and its ilk achieves. At a festival worthy of the name, people bring themselves and make the festival themselves, instead of buying tickets, attending and passively being entertained. The tragic English licensing laws dont help, bringing a curtain down on proceedings just when they might be expected to get interesting, but the nub of the problem is in this consumer culture which manifests itself in an artificial and unnecessary gulf between performer and audience. In a real festival the crowd are the performers, even if only a few actually make in onto a stage. This openess and freedom this entails is completely absent at this event, which was veering as close to Glyndeborne as to Glastonbury. The only thing to do was to eat the Mexican mushrooms that everyone seems to be growing in their airing cupboards lately and wonder around the magnificent surroundings, as far away as possible from the tragic range of uninspired "artistes" they'd got in on the cheap.

It wasnt Glastonbury, but then nowadays, nor is Glastonbury.