Planning on going to any festivals this summer? JC Carroll of THE MEMBERS gives his views on some of the alternatives.....
THE BEST FESTIVALS IN ENGLAND (that you have never heard of)
SOMETHING ELSE, BLANK GENERATION and GLASTONWICK
I have just played three of the best festivals in England. And most of you will not have heard of them. There was no blanket coverage on BBC about them, there was not be articles in the national press about them. Later on in the year I should be heading off to play Rebellion in Blackpool and later still the great British Alternative Festival in Skegness
Skegness, Blackpool – smug southerners amongst you may chuckle. Sticks of rock, fish and chips, caravans, northerners on holiday, Butlins, how quaint.
Coldplay will not be playing or Kanye West or Adele or Jack Garrett or Sam Smith or Busted. You will not get an NME tent that comprises of people performing on a laptop.
You will get The Stranglers, Buzzcocks, The Damned, The Members and scores of younger bands like Knock Off, alt-rock, reggae, rockabilly, pirate shanties, folk music and every form of authentic music indigenous to these isles. People will travel from Australia, America, Berlin to attend because these are the biggest celebrations of alternative culture in the world.
These events will be largely ignored by the media and will sell out. The clue is in the name of the last festival, the word ‘alternative’.
In the 70s, the festival at Worthy Farm was alternative. It had David Bowie, Gong, Hawkind freaky hippie bands. Before punk we didn’t want pop, we wanted alternative music. John Peel championed it and punk grew out of it.
Three weeks ago we played at SOMETHING ELSE in Duns Tew, a completely solar powered festival in a field in idyllic Oxfordshire, organised by the legendary Gail Something Else. Gail is a Queen of the Alt scene, a scarlet-haired Tattooed Bodicea in a van. Her festival in Oxfordshire is totally off the grid: water from a well, solar-powered with wood fire pizza. It has travellers, punks, lawyers, doctors, civil servants and plenty of disabled people. Veterans of the Battle of the Beanfield, young punks, dreadlocked pirates – they are all there and they love my band The Members.
A week later we were celebrating 40 years of punk in a squatted building in Tottenham with a massive line up of punk bands old and new. Veterans of the 77 scene and younger acts. Audience age from 16 to 60. A squatted building, vegetarian food… Was this some sort of retro 70s themed party? No, this was BLANK GENERATION, London in 2016 where punk is not a retrospective token programme on Radio 2 or an exhibition at the photographers gallery. Where punk is a viable alternative to the soup of talent show cannon-fodder and landfill castrati-electronica pumped out of BBC and the commercial stations. Where punk is the antithesis of the commercial pouting narcissists that inhabit the front page of iTunes and the Google-owned Internet like a massive Westfield shopping centre in the sky hovering forever in our periphery vision
There’s that word again, the nemesis of alternative, ‘commercial’.
The third festival took place in a farm in a hollow in the South Downs, a more politicised bunch, double-decker buses ferrying people from Shoreham, Worthing and Brighton, men and women, taking their children to their first festival. Eighty different types of independent ales, ciders and perrys. No queues for overloaded chemical toilets here, it is largely run by a gentleman poet called Attila the Stockbroker with his hands firmly on the artistic tiller and the cheque book he promptly paid me with. A guest of mine and the veteran of many Readings and Bestivals cheerfully messaged me and said it was the best festival she had ever been to.
Many people only go to one festival a year and choose one with the most acts because it represents value for money. They try and make the best of the Syrian refugee camp accommodation and toilet conditions these large events with their corporate sponsors and the illusion of overpriced glamping offer. What they get is an official beer, more acts than they could consume in a month and hours of massive dehumanising queues in and out of the premises - a sort of Dystopian Babylon, a Hell on Earth, The Somme with Borough Market Vietnamese street food, Lana Del Rey and Ed Sheeran.
In Blackpool everybody stays in B & B and shits in a proper toilet. In Skegness you get a holiday apartment thrown in with cable TVs. There are no wellies, mud, chemical loos. Fish and chips, steaks and beer in a glass. Oh, and a roof.
Oh, and the other thing about alt festivals is they feed the band give you tons of beer tokens and pay you!
Bring it on !
With the exception of John Giddings’ Isle of Wight, the main festivals are punk-free zones preferring 80s and 90s revival acts to the cultural authenticity and grit of our generation .
Something Else, Blank Generation and Glastonwick are independent festivals run by brave people who champion the alternative, Vive Le Rock, Vive le Difference!