Yes, it’s that time of year again, where the young and old get their toes tapping to the tunes all around Australia: music festival season. With events like Big Day Out, Laneway, Good Vibrations, Soundwave, V Festival, Future Music and Bluesfest storming cities around the country, there’s no excuse to stay at home and tell yourself that the tinny noises squeaking out of your iPod earphones are music experience enough. It’s one thing to sing along to ‘Little Lion Man’ in the shower; it’s quite another to hear it live, accompanied by an 8000+ strong crowd.
Of course, it’s the live nature of the music at these events that primarily draws people to them – there’s nothing quite like hearing folk make incredible sounds right before your ears and eyes. But there’s also the sexual thrill of seeing swoon-worthy musicians thrust their pelvises about on stage, the intimacy of their chit-chat to the masses, telling everyone that you (yes, you) have been their best crowd yet.
There’s also the excitement of seeing people faint and getting scooped up by fat security guards wearing earplugs (fools!), the delight shoving those tall people when they step (deliberately, surely!) into your line of vision. There’s the euphoria of finally making it to the front row, either by tactical maneuvers between sets or by sheer, brutish force. And, possibly the most fun of all, there’s booing the idiot who threw a shoe/bottle/hat/rock at the drummer/lead singer/violinist and nearly smacked her/him in the face/groin.
I love a music festival. There’s nothing quite like dancing around in a sea of hipsters to songs you wish you’d written, breathing in the hypnotic smell of crushed grass, beer, sweat and unwashed hair.
My first festival experience was a Big Day Out in Adelaide, sometime in the early noughties when my CD rack was only up to here and illegal downloading was something I thought only perverts did. I was astonished by the music, the crowd, and the ridiculously expensive food, and even got three minutes of unimpeded vision of the main stage by sitting on my friend’s shoulders before someone threw a beer can at my head. They missed, fortunately for me; unfortunately for the girl next to me, who copped a face of aluminum and backwash.
Since then I’ve always tried to make it to at least one festival a year, most recently joining the throngs at Melbourne’s Laneway Festival. It was a huge day, filled with musicians wearing undersized clothing, morons asking Sarah Blasko to marry them, surprisingly clean portable dunnies, and a blow-your-mind-sizzle-your-hair electrifying set by the flame-haired chanteuse Florence, and her equally delectable Machine.
After spending my evening largely centre-front in the crowd, I crawled into bed with my feet horribly sunburnt, my skin stinking of something unholy, and 90% of my usual hearing gone. I was totally blissed out.