The Beat's Ranking Roger takes us through his Festival Life...
My best festival shows were at the US Festival in 1982 and 1983. It was put on by one of the guys who used to run Apple [Steve Wozniak], and he had about $6 million he had give to the taxman, and instead he thought: “Stuff you, I’m going to have the biggest concert ever!” So he put these concerts on in California with all his favourite bands on the bill: The Clash, The Police, David Bowie, Van Halen, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, U2 and The Beat. Anyone who was anyone was there.
It was the biggest stage ever built too – twice as big as the Pyramid Stage, with the biggest PA and the biggest lights. With all the running around I do on stage, I was knackered by the end of the first song! They had to cater for half a million people, so it’s also the biggest audience I’d ever played in front of. We had to put on a good show, up against all the big guns.
In all my 30 years in the business, I’ve never known there to be so many festivals at one time. It’s great for musicians – if you can handle a festival crowd. You have to remember that, even though some of your fans will be there, most of the people will have never heard of you, or they won’t recognise who you are until the third tune, like “Oh I remember this one, and this one, and this one – it’s them!” You really have to make sure you deliver.
The best show I’ve ever seen at a festival was Gorillaz. They had a load of puppets and videos and it looked so good. Beyonce was fantastic at Glastonbury this year too, she put on a great show – so much energy, plus she showed the crowd that she wasn’t some big ego star and she could be normal too. But Gorillaz was something else.
There’s a certain freedom that comes with a festival. That’s why they’re so successful these days. We’ve had it all taken away from us in the city, you can’t even have a smoke when you’re enjoying a drink in a bar, but you can at a festival and nobody says anything. There’s more trouble in clubs at 2am than there is at festivals. The majority of people have come to enjoy themselves.
My favourite festivals include Shambala, which is just really nice. I also love Glastonbury – it’s the biggest festival on this side of the world, and it’s great to be amongst the kind of artists that play there. We played Knockengorroch in Scotland, which was great, especially as I didn’t see one policeman all weekend – and not one bit of trouble either. Beautiful Days is one of my top ones as well, there’s a great family vibe there.
My dream festival line-up would include The Clash as headliners, with Peter Tosh opening, backed by Sly & Robbie. That’d be heavy. I’d have to involve The Beat in there too, but that’d be a wicked line-up.
The Beat will play Beautiful Days 2011 alongside Big Audio Dynamite, Carter USM, The Levellers and many more.
Beautiful Days tickets have sold out.