It’s the beginnings of festival season in Australia, with the announcements starting to roll in and the guessing games and so on so I thought it was a good time for a topical rant… so without further adieu…
Things European Festivals do better than Australians:
I recently did a run of European festivals in the back of a tour bus with some friends of mine who are in a rock and roll band. Now rolling as an artist is somewhat different to a punter, but being a man of the people I spent a fair bit of time out in punterland checking out what was going on, and seeing some great and not so great music. It got me thinking - Australia probably has more touring festivals than anywhere else in the world, but we can take some tips from our Northern friends. Below are some thoughts on what they do differently.
1. Space. None of this ramming everyone into a sports complex or showground and telling them its a festival. All of the European shows I went to were on massive sites, and it seems they have a “if you cant camp its not a festival” rule. I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more camping festivals in Australia, we certainly have a better climate for it than the West Midlands or Northern Germany!
2. They don’t give a good goddamn if it rains! Or is freezing for that matter. So man up and stop whinging, at least it’s not cold here even if Splendour is a bit muddy!
3. Food doesnt have to be expensive - or deep fried. Australia has got a lot better at this in recent years (shout out to BDO this year!) but we do have a fairly horrendous approach to food at a lot of these events. I guess because most of our festivals are only for a single day so it doesnt matter if you are subsisting on dagwood dogs or soggy $10 hamburgers but even the English seemed to be doing pretty well here. Decent coffee too!
4. People in Europe seem to be able to drink all day, yet remain respectful of each other and the security etc. I spent a total of 6 days on festival sites out in in the crowd and I didn’t see one incident where people were making an ass of themselves, or having to be controlled by security. In Germany it was amazing, people were going hard at it from midday until 3am, and this is a crowd that was both young and fans of Rammstein (who were headlining) and who had easy access to giant 4 Euro pints of Becks all day, and the most obnoxious thing I saw someone do was hug an unsuspecting man who was quietly watching Rammstein while wearing a chicken suit. I guess the meth over there isn’t as good or something, but it was good fun vibes at all times.
5. Bands really up the production ante in Europe! I guess as they are rolling through festival after festival in trucks for months it makes more financial sense, but my god you haven’t seen anything until you have seen Iron Maiden in front of 90,000 pissed English fans, or Rammstein in front of 60,000 German fans. Iron Maiden’s set opener was a WW2 Spitfire buzzing the crowd, and Rammstein seemed to just set the whole fucking place on fire and then douse it in fake sperm.
6. Most festival bills seem to be a lot more varied in their musical programming, other than Download which was obviously a metal fest, but at the German festival you could leave Converge to go watch Portishead then wonder over to Rammstein and then check out Sigur Ros all in succession. I have a stupidly varied record collection and want to see lots of shit, so I was digging that action.
7. Dressing up - here we put stubby holders on our wrists and wrap ourselves in the flag - over in Europe its like a challenge who can have the most retarded costume for the weekend. Props go to the dude we nearly ran over in our bus who was dressed as a patient escaping from hospital, complete with fake blood and a drip on a trolley.
Just for good measure you should probably see this footage of Rammstein performing at Download this year replete with fireworks shot AT the band and a keyboardist on a treadmill. Hold tight. This is how it’s done.
Looking forward to Summer!
- Heath B