My Festival Life: Rob da Bank
Our guest ed talks jumping the Glasto fence, popping the question, mud and his festival wishlist...
Rob da Bank - 22 May 2012
The first festival I ever went to was Glastonbury when I was 18, so I wasn’t an early starter. I knew about it, but it was when I moved to London that I thought ‘Ok, better go down there and check out what it’s all about.’ I drove down there in my rusty old 2CV with my now-wife Josie Da Bank, and we jumped the fence, I’m ashamed to say. I’ve told Michael Eavis enough times! I had probably the best weekend of my life - It was an real eye-opener, totally life-changing.
It was 20 years ago now, and back then it was a lot wilder. I just totally entered into the spirit of it - as soon as we jumped the fence, Massive Attack came on in a tent, right next to me, and I was a huge fan then as now. It was a total bombardment of the senses – audio, visual, and the most normal and freaky people all in one field.
If you’re a festival promoter or something to do with festivals, if Glastonbury hasn’t been part of it, I’ll be surprised. It pretty much set the blueprint for the modern festival, and that includes Bestival.
The more involved I get at festivals, the more I try & see everything. Bestival’s the worst, I’ll end up seeing 1 song or even 10 seconds: “Is the sound alright, is everyone having a good time? Alright, next!”
By Sunday, unless something’s gone really awry I can relax, but there’s too many bands to see and things to check. We’re up at 7 every day, and I have a little team that we really trust and we go around checking the toilets are ok, that there’s not too many tents in one place. It’s constant ‘til 3 or 4 in the morning then we crash out!
On the first night of the first Bestival, the guys who were running it with us came up to us at 11 and said: “We’re knocking off now, got to go and get some sleep,” and we said: ‘Well who’s looking after the site overnight?’ They were like, ‘Oh, we hadn’t thought about that’, because they’d never done a camping show before. Me and Josie ended up running the show on our own, with 4000 people that we felt responsible for. We spent the next 10 hours going around telling people to turn off soundsystems that they’d set up, and stopping people rolling burning toilet rolls into the woods. We got about half-an-hour’s sleep in a spider-ridden tepee – we got a camper van next time!
There‘s a lot of competition for the best show I've ever seen at a festival. There’s Paul
McCartney at Glastonbury, Stevie Wonder at Glastonbury, Kraftwerk at Phoenix Festival, Kraftwerk at Bestival...I just went
to Coachella a couple of weeks back and saw Bon Iver there and they were absolutely unbelievably good. Kraftwerk at Phoenix
stcks in my head as a game-changer, and Paul McCartney, because we were with all our friends, and there were all the big sing-alongs.
My favourite festival? Well, I have to love Bestival, because that’s what I do! I like Exit, End Of The Road, Green Man, Coachella’s incredible, and RockNess, because the Scots are possibly the most hardcore festival goers in the world! But everything pales into insignificance compared to Glastonbury. I interviewed Michael Eavis the other week for The Great Escape and I said to him: ‘I hate it when you take a year off’, because it just takes a lot of the buzz out of the festival market. It’s like a whole different time-zone and community.
I got engaged at Glastonbury. I was carrying this platinum ring around in my pocket for days that I’d saved up for months for to get engaged to Josie, I kept falling asleep in the tent every night with it. Eventually I just thought ‘I’ve got to do this’, and got down on one knee in a load of jacket potatoes and fag butts and cider cans and popped the question with all our mates around us. Some might say it’s not a very romantic place, but it’s special to us. We spent the next 2 days tramping around there celebrating!
We’re actually having someone get married at Camp Bestival this year for real. The amount of people who’ve conceived children or got married at least in their own minds at festivals! I guess it’s just some people’s favourite thing to do together. For me and Josie, Glastonbury is our unofficial anniversary like, "This is where everything we’ve done since has come from."
The best show I ever played at a festival was probably the Taico Club festival in Japan. I’d never
been to Japan before, it was a whirlwind, just playing techno with all these people going bananas. I’m always trying
to get to places I haven’t been before. The Garden Party in Croatia was really beautiful too, I played on a boat party
there in the blazing sunshine in the blue sea.
My worst festival experience ever was the wet year at Bestival. I didn’t hate it at the time because I was too busy shovelling bark chippings to stem the flow of mud! I’m a very optimistic person, but in terms of the cost afterwards, financially from having to re-turf the country park, and physically, with everybody burnt out, I wouldn’t want to do it again, put it that way. But it did make us stronger: we kept things rolling, and people have even come up to us since and said it was their favourite Bestival.
My advice to a festival first-timer would be to pace yourself. It’s so exciting to get to a festival and let your hair down. On that first night, a lot of people spend either all of their money or all of their energy, or both. Just hold something back for the Sunday night! I intentionally put huge acts on on Sunday night to keep people there. I think it’s really important that a festival goes out with a bang. I hate ones where everyone’s packing up and leaving on the Sunday morning – it’s like ‘No, you should have taken the Monday off work a long time ago!”
It’s no secret that I’ve always wanted Kate Bush to play at Bestival, and Dolly Parton is always on the list. Both us and Glastonbury have been after her for years, we’ll see how that one pans out! In terms of dream tickets that aren’t going to happen, I love to have The Smiths. We nearly booked James Brown, and we tried to get Donna Summer three years ago but she only travels by boat, so it was a bit of a logistical nightmare. Johnny Cash would have been amazing too.
Stay tuned to Virtual Festivals all this week for exclusive music, chat and much more with our guest editor Rob da Bank! Plus we're giving away a pair of tickets for Bestival and a pair of tickets for Camp Bestival to celebrate!