Since man first gathered outside in large groups for public stonings, moon worshipping or whatever, rain has always been a party dampening problem.
Now, most people born unto this blustery isle would probably consider themselves quite lucky; no famine, no tyranny, limited rape and pillage, only unfortunately, we are cursed with a great deal of rain. Being of the party mental disposition, we also have a lot of festivals and, well, you know the rest.
As we have all proven at some point, put a load of people in a field somewhere, shower them with half the North Sea, give them puddles and they shall moan. Have you ever listened to your festival conversations when it’s pouring down? They generally consist of: “Jesus, it's raining”, “I’m really wet” and other obvious statements simply because it’s all you can think about as your face turns into a stream.
No one really enjoys standing under a waterfall while Kate Nash minces around her bone dry stage in mock wellies but for some reason we pay money for the privilege and we always go back. Given the choice, only someone who enjoys knocking nails through their own feet would opt for a rain ridden festival over a sun drenched weekend, but what if we really could turn the sky tap off for good?
Recent press reports say technology used in the Beijing Olympics to disperse rain clouds could, in theory, be used to keep festivals dry. It works like this; the Chinese simply round up all their buck toothed children to banish the anti-communist clouds away with their dulcet singing voices. That’s a lie, what really happens is rockets are fired into the air which trigger evaporated water to freeze and then fall as rain. Clever, huh?
Paul McCartney famously promised to clear the clouds over Glastonbury when he headlined in 2004, using some kind of fancy laser gun. Maybe he did use it (or maybe he was just using too many hallucinogens) because it didn’t rain on the Saturday night. However, it did leather it down on the Thursday night causing flooding, mud and the cancellation of the Dead 60s the following morning. They’ve now split up. Coincidence?
But the death and dampening of Dead 60s aside, that was a good festival. It evoked that British festival grit that we’ve developed since the days of washed out public executions. Being soaked to the skin is a part of our culture, a soggy part of our soulful existence.
The following year at Glastonbury in 2005 was even worse. People woke up in three foot of water as their tents drifted down stream, but it gave the guy who’d somehow remembered to bring his canoe a sudden purpose, and it meant people could warm up their surf boards for riding over the crowds during Brian Wilson on the Sunday.
Talking of which, as soon as the ex-Beach Boy hit the Pyramid Stage on Sunday afternoon, the sun duly came out helping to generate what I consider a top three all time Glastonbury moment as the crowd went absolutely mental, surfing over each other and singing along like they’d just been reborn. That wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the soggy ordeal of the previous two days. It was an escape.
Skip forward a few years and this year’s Glastonbury has been hailed as a modern classic, but would it still if for the previous four years spending a weekend at Worthy Farm hadn’t been like going to war?
Perhaps we need rain. Perhaps we should tell the Chinese to keep their rain rockets. Without the threat of rain and mud and trenchfoot and drowning, festival going would be like tossing a coin that has only one side. The uncertainty, the peril, the joy when you can actually sit down bathed in sunshine, instead of standing awkwardly in a swamp like a depressed stork, all help make British festival going what it is. It’s the reason why if you go to Coachella or Benicassim you don’t get nearly the same atmosphere as our top events. We appreciate our sunny times because we’ve weathered the storm and, as the proverbial festival cliche says, spirits haven’t been dampened.