Anyone who can remember rolling around fields as far back as June obviously wasn't there, so join us as we take a rake to the Virtual Festivals brain box and attempt to scrape back the memories of a massive festival month.
Rage Against the Machine put a bullet in the head of spring at Finsbury Park, honouring their promise to stage a massive free party to thank the half a million people who put a bullet in Simon Cowell’s plans last Christmas. The day was an inevitable riot, from Gogol Bordello’s “wild, chaotic, ensemble of musical influences striking a dissonant chord with the heaving Finsbury Park” to the ticket-less Rage fans who broke through the festival fence.
Rage themselves were electrifying, according to VF’s Christopher Swindells, comparing the triumphant gig to “The Clash’s defining moments in Victoria Park as part of the ‘Rock Against Racism’ concert over 30 years previous”.
Rage were back in action a week later at Download, alongside AC/DC, Aerosmith and a banquet of Donington rock. Marking 30 years of metal at Castle Donington and coming so soon after the deaths of Ronnie James Dio, Pete Steele and Paul Gray, Ruth Booth reported that the weekend avoided slipping into nostalgic melancholy, instead serving up “a celebration, and one that kicked off early thanks to the festival's ace in the hole, AC/DC.”
Some observers of Download this year could have mistaken the line-up for an episode of Raw Power, circa 1989. But Ruth picked out the programming of old-school metal like Cinderalla and Enuff Z’Nuff alongside the cutting edge underground of Rolo Tomassi and Cancer Bats, as showing how far Download has come in six years, making it a festival choice “not just for student metallers, but families too.”
While families were collectively “banging that head that doesn’t bang” in Donington, a far more relaxed and eclectic affair was going on near Oxford. Faced with the onslaught of V, Reading and the other annual behemoths, it’s easy to forget that dozens of wondrously-unique grassroots festivals slip by each summer.
June’s Out to Graze festival was just one of these endearing weekends. Set next to a lake in a Lord of the Rings style valley, it featured a mystic swing, an inflatable football pitch and a programme of dubstep and electronica blasted out at a volume Simon Butler said “would make an environmental health officer wince" – so much for any criticism that these festivals can be twee and uninteresting.
Of course if you’re saying exactly those words right now, you were probably at Isle of Wight, the festival that’s only trumped by V for its unashamed populism. Still if you can get over the restrictive destination and the threat of N-Dubz exposure, Gareth Vipers believes you’ll find an eclectic line-up, a mixed bag crowd and – this year – Pink jumping from a 50ft crane.
And then there was Glastonbury, the Ultrasaurus of festivals and the only place you can experience what it would like to be John Lennon, Tony Benn and Genghis Khan, at the same time, while watching a GG Allin-guest starring live episode of the Archers and receiving holistic toe therapy from Biffy Clyro. Of course, after six days spent in a Pilton field this is all in your mind. Or is it? It all goes to explain why the brain box goes a little bit fuzzy when we try to squint at the memory of that last weekend of June.
Luckily we had on hand Dan Fahey, Ali Kerry, Dan Davies and myself (I think) to report on flash mob proposals, special guests, Michael Eavis singing Happy Birthday, the Dog Face Geisha burlesque show, Jerry Dammers destroying West Holts and why Gorillaz were rubbish (actually they weren’t – a lot of the crowd just didn’t ‘get’ their sublime-but-demanding set).
As well as a constant flow of news, gossip and delights throughout the festival, we also gave you the heads-up to the event of the weekend: Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood’s uber-secret performance at the Park, one of those ‘Glastonbury moments’ that sound so clichéd unless you were there, in the person, the cold running down the hairs on the back of your neck and 10,000 people spontaneously singing the chorus to ‘Karma Police’ at an emotional Yorke.