Summer music festivals can be things of beauty and discovery for open-minded concert-goers. All you need is internal fortitude and a high tolerance for crowds and vicious elements. Over the years, I’ve spent more than my share of time on both sides of the barricade, and I’ve learned a few things about life, rock and human waste in the process.
1. The Europeans are better at summer festivals. Sure, the U.S. has gained a bit of cred over the last few years, but it’s because they’ve taken notes from the veteran, well-run mega-festivals across the water. The camping is better, the lineups are incredible and, most critically, the casual rock, metal and alternative music fan on the other side of the pond has broader interests than his or her counterparts in the States. This is why festivals like Rock am Ring in Germany, Spain’s Azkena and even England’s Glastonbury can showcase more varied acts, and fetch massive crowds in the process. The European festivals are trusted draws themselves – not that our Coachella and Sasquatch! don’t have strong brands – and are less dependent on whether they get the perfect major acts to draw crowds.
2. Unfortunately, Europeans have turned throwing bottles of piss into a sport. Look, we have all been there. You squeeze and squirm and finally get yourself as close as you can to the front. But then . . . you gotta pee. Here in America, we have yet to learn the cute colloquialism of, say, the Midlands in England. Pissing in a bottle and tossing it at the band has become a sport, kind of like curling or snookers. Veteran artists know to keep their eyes keenly peeled toward the horizon for flying objects. Shoe-gazer bands become less shoe-gazey at these gigs – a lot less shoe-gazey.
3. No matter the continent, there’s a big-armed guy fueling every show. When you’re onstage you can’t miss that guy in the very front of the crowd against the barrier. Every festival seems to have at least one. He’s usually bald. He usually has a bad sunburn. And he always has one arm bent as if to say: “Yes, I am rocking out, and I am a bad motherfucker!” I always love to play for this guy. He is every band’s ally in these hard-fought rock battles.
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