United Kingdom | 07 October 2009
To celebrate Virtual Festivals' tenth birthday, we've tracked down some of the most influential people in the festival world - those that have shaped the current scene - to talk about the last decade...
This we chat to the likes of Melvin Benn, John Giddings, James Barton and Vince Power to find out their favourite and most memorable performances of the last ten years.
Virtual Festivals: What's been your festival highlight of the last ten years?
Jim King (Rock Ness): “For Rock Ness the best festival performance, ever, would probably have to be Fatboy Slim, the first year. Just from the sheer madness and excitement and the whole kind of fact that we were doing this show in this amazing location and Norman came on and you’ve got 25,000 people going absolutely bananas from the off, all the way through. I would probably suggest, because he’s played twice, his first set was better, well not better than last year, that was fantastic as well, but as a unique moment that was right up there. In the last ten years, if I can have three. Paul Oakenfold at the first Creamfields in Argentina in 1999, I think. I thought we were going to be in the Rio Platza in ten minutes because I thought the crowd were going to rush the stage - it was just incredible. Underworld at Creamfields in Prague, were out of this world. It was the primal reaction from the crowd and [the band] were phenomenal as well. The Specials at Bestival last year were incredible and Grace Jones at Bestival last year was incredible. Editors at Rock Ness, two years ago – phenomenal, really really amazing. Sorry, I’ve missed the biggest one off – Daft Punk at Rock Ness. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen, it was the best show I’ve been involved in. Incredible.”
John Giddings (Isle of Wight Festival): “I couldn't narrow that down, I mean, Muse, Foo Fighters, Rolling Stones, REM were magical.”
James Barton (Creamfields): “Oh my god, I'd be doing myself and the festival a complete disservice if I picked one out I'll upset somebody. There's a handful that come to mind, Chemical Brothers - the last time they played their show was amazing, The Prodigy, the only time they've done the show was amazing. Scissor Sisters when no one knew who they were and then they were number one, that was great. You know, there really are some really special performances out there and I think the funny thing with Creamfields is, I don't want to sound corny, but it's like everyone steps it up a gear. I think it's to do with the crowds, people respond to a really good crowd and they tend to be a really good crowd.”
Vince Power (Hop Farm, formerly Mean Fiddler): “So many really. When we did The Sex Pistols in Finsbury Park in 1996, that was a huge buzz. They were supposed to do that as a one-off but I guess they thought ‘this is good money!’ so they did a lot more and became a tribute act. I don’t blame them. We did Madness – major times. The early Reading was very naive – we used to stay up and drink all night and stumble onto the site and see what needed to be done. The good lesson there was that people police themselves if you treat them well and the music’s good. I had great fun. All my kids have grown up at festivals and now they’re angry with me because they can’t get on-stage at any of the festivals I used to own anymore!
“The ones I enjoyed most have been the small ones in the Mean Fiddler [club] over the years. Johnny Cash played in ’86, Roy Orbison did one of his last shows there before he died in ‘89. James Brown at the Barclay Square Ball, again, just before he died. They don’t all die after! Eartha Kitt [check!] died after playing The Garage. Watching the Stone Roses at the Palace in Islington was great. Eminem at Subterranea in-front of 300 people was good. I like good, strong, loud bands like Rage Against The Machine, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Green Day – Reading bands – with a real message.”
Melvin Benn (Reading, Leeds, Latitude): “I'm proud of every single festival I've done, why wouldn't I be? Whether it's made money or lost money. Creating Latitude was fantastic, becoming involved with Glastonbury. It's wonderful, very nice to know that I'm credited with saving that festival. I don't make a lot of that because, ultimately it's still Michael's gig, but it's pleasing to have been able to perform that role. I think Glastonbury now is a model festival in terms of what it offers, the way it is structured and organised, especially the way that Michael, Emily and myself work together. So my three proudest highlights of the last decade would be that, Latitude and how Leeds has grown. It's been good!”
Warren Le Sueur (Jersey Music Live): “The Prodigy at Jersey Live 2008, what an amazing stage show! Their stage presence was unbelievable and we got a chance to hear their new material from the ‘Invaders Must Die’ album before anybody else. Away from Jersey Live it has to be Chemical Brothers headlining the Other Stage Glasto in 2007 on the Sunday night and completely had the whole field jumping.”
John Probyn (Download, Hard Rock Calling): “From a professional point of view, Live 8 at Hyde Park without a doubt was probably the best moment of my career so far. Just actually pulling that off in eight weeks, with the minimum amount of trouble and problems on the day. Closely followed by Download, obviously, being involved in the creation of it and seeing it grow to where it is now. The other highlight is how the industry has evolved to a point where we are now all talking, major festival organisers talking on a regular basis. I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago in Reading that Melvin organised where he got all the police forces from around the country together with all the security companies and all the festival promoters, not just LiveNation people, everyone turned up. That just wouldn't have happened ten years ago. So that just shows that we as an industry have grown up and can work together.”
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