United Kingdom | 13 December 2007
Music festivals in 2007 attracted more press, popularity and profile than ever before.
Despite accusations from some purists of ‘selling out’ and failing to adapt to customer demands, this year’s
UK festival season once again experienced an impressive level of growth. But it came at a price as some as the worse summer
weather on record attempted to spoil the party.
Despite the absence of the traditional curtain-raiser on the May
bank holiday, with Homelands and Hi:Fi both deemed outdated models, things eventually got
off to a flying start. Two weeks prior to that The Great Escape in Brighton gave us all an idea of which
bands to look out for. Virtual Festivals held its own day-long gig on the pier, trailblazing in the wake of The Happy
Mondays who rocked the venue the previous day.
By early June, the majors like Glastonbury, the Carling
Weekend, V Festival and the Isle Of Wight Festival had all sold out. Nothing unusual
there but what was a surprise was the news that Bestival, the 30,000 capacity boutique festival on the Isle
Of Wight, had also sold out before most of its line up had been announced. But more on that later.
The small but beautifully
formed Wychwood Festival kicked off the summer season on the first weekend in June. Inspired by the ancient
gatherings that used to take place in Wychwood Forest, the family festival has now settled into its home at Cheltenham Racecourse
after a number of years finding its feet.
Another June event to finally live up to its potential was the O2
Wireless Festival, held simultaneously in both London and Leeds. Organisers, Live Nation, have experimented with
its format since its inception in 2005 but this June they got it right, holding the event over four consecutive days in London
and three in Leeds with The White Stripes, Daft Punk and Kaiser Chiefs
headlining at both locations. While some argue whether Wireless is a ‘proper’ festival – you can’t
camp overnight, for example – the atmosphere and turn out was better than it’s ever been.
As it also proved
to be at the Isle Of Wight Festival, where organiser John Giddings pulled off the booking coup of the year
by securing The Rolling Stones as Sunday night headliners. After taking over a nearby travel inn as their backstage area with
an entourage of 150, as well as demanding their own extendable stage, the presence of the Stones almost overshadowed the fact
that two of the greatest live bands on the circuit, Muse and Kasabian, were also playing.
The centre of every
metaller’s calendar, Download, was another runaway success, a beautiful summer’s weekend combining
slick organisation and passionate bands to pull off one of the Donington fixture’s best outings yet. Live Nation once
again proved themselves as innovators by arranging for Iron Maiden’s headline set to be broadcast live on the festival’s
website. Even more impressive though was their ability to persuade other bands’ management to allow their performance
to be streamed – with most agreeing to it on site. An example to anyone who says that things can’t be done at
And then came the mud. Inevitably, it was Glastonbury which first suffered
from the summer’s deluge, the Worthy Farm site rapidly transforming into a mud bath for the third event running after
the heavens opened on Friday morning. One of the worst hit areas was the new Park Stage, however the new music zone boasted
one of the highlights of the weekend when Saturday night’s Africa Express experiment blended African and UK artists
in various collaborations to great success. Things weren’t so good down at the Pyramid Stage, where thousands of fans
were unable to hear The Killers’ headline set after noise pollution indicators in nearby residential areas forced technicians
to turn the sound down. Apparently, the low lying rain crowds and wind direction was to blame. The inquest into Glastonbury
was also unfavourable from some quarters, with many commentators claiming a lack of atmosphere and not enough young people.
This certainly wasn’t the case at T In The Park two weeks later, where thousands partied to
the Scottish equivalent of Glasto, expanded it to a three day event for the first time ever. The Balado rock event was also
hit by heavy rain, however, and many Friday travellers were forced to queue for hours due to car parks being closed due to
flooding. Like Glastonbury, it became a wellies only weekend but the Scots seemed to take it more in their stride. One man
was so into things he dressed up as Spiderman and climbed the main stage scaffold during Snow Patrol’s closing set –
and then got arrested. The incident, in which Gary Lightsbody coaxed the man down, won 'Most Memorable Moment' at
the UK Festival Awards, however the mystery man has strangely never come forward for the gong.
The answer to
Glastonbury’s missing youth became apparent at Latitude just weeks later, where youngsters dominated
the landscape in response to a forward thinking lineup mixing music, art, poetry, film and more. A clear favourite from the
summer - and one of the only weekends in July where it didn’t rain – Latitude managed to tick the boxes other
events were unable to fill, and the event sold out in only its second year, one of the bands of the year, Arcade Fire, providing
a thrilling finale on the Sunday night.
More established events were not so lucky. Guilfest, held on
the same weekend, suffered an opening day disaster when a speaker stack collapsed, but the weekend went on to be another sun
drenched success thanks largely to Madness, who became one of the comeback bands of the year. Dance festival Glade
was also a victim of the weather, its site submerged by rain on the opening day and its nearby train station forced to close.
The event went ahead but not without controversy, many festival goers claiming the site was too waterlogged, while others
had a great time. DIY favourite Truck Festival was also swamped, forcing organisers to postpone the event
until September, Ashton Court was washed out by day two, as was Wakestock, and the much
hyped Fflam Festival was abandoned weeks before it was meant to go ahead after promoters once again blamed
Many other brand new festivals managed to go ahead regardless. Wye Fayre, 2000
Trees, Antiworld, Connect, Wave Form and several more all had
relatively successful first years and will be expected to be back stronger in 2008. As will established boutique favourites
such as The Big Chill, Lovebox and Secret Garden Party, which all won great
reviews once again. The more traditional dance festivals, Global Gathering and Creamfields,
also enjoyed bumper sell out years bolstered by headliners such as Faithless, Groove Armada and The Chemical Brothers.
course, with weather gradually improving throughout August, all attention turned to the two double headers – V
Festival and the Carling Weekend – and neither disappointed. V saw headliners Foo Fighters
play a surprise afternoon show under the name of 606, while a week later Kaiser Chiefs did the same, playing the smallest
tent at Leeds Festival under the name of Hooks For Hands. Both festival weekends saw some incredible live sets with The Killers,
Snow Patrol, The Smashing Pumpkins, Arcade Fire and Kings Of Leon all winning rave reviews as fans finally enjoyed (relatively)
rain free major festivals.
But it was Bestival that perhaps proved the summer’s highlight,
truly cementing itself in the country’s consciousness thanks to its unique format, eclectic line up (Beastie Boys, Madness
and Primal Scream all shared the stage), its annual dressing up party and new features such as a sponsored swim across the
Solent and a ukulele band made up of festival going volunteers who played the main stage. End Of The Road
finished of the summer festival season proper. Let’s just be thankful the festival road wasn’t permanently submerged
back in July.
Since then there have been more and more autumn and even winter festivals. All Tomorrow's
Parties, staged at Butlins in Somerset, pulled off a massive coup by staging Portishead's first full live gig
in almost a decade, while 2007 could be remembered as the year of the holiday home festival. The likes of Hard Rock
Hell, the Big Reunion Twisted Circus, the Tidy Weekender and the Southport
Weekender were also introduced to the world of chalets and scummy swimming pools. Liverpool Music Week
brought the year to a close with a festival of sorts, the city hosting an impressive 11 days of live gigs featuring hundreds
Of course, it all came together once again at the UK Festival Awards, held in October. The Isle
Of Wight Festival scooped 'Best Major Festival' and Bestival 'Best Medium-Sized Festival',
while Blissfields won the 'Best Small Festival' award. Other winners included Glastonbury,
T In The Park, V Festival and Latitude. Needless to say 'everyone was
a winner' (hurrah!) as a great night was helped on by plenty of flowing booze and food plus music from Scouting For Girls
and Mr Hudson & The Library.
Plenty beckons for 2008, it's going to be another cracking year and we hear slightly
drier, so stay tuned to Virtual Festivals from start to finish with all the best news, reviews, photos and
blogs from the best music events.