Our man in the booth reflects on how acid house changed festivals forever
It’s summertime, and that can mean only one thing to the dance music community - Ibiza! No, wait, that can only mean two things - Ibiza and festivals! Festivals offer us all a few days to get away from the rat race and find some peace and solace in the shape of a muddy field, a damp wrap of ket and a ragtag assortment of students, posho's, caners and semi-pro fedora-wearers.
The festival experience is clearly linked to some kind of primeval instinct to gather together in the wild and get it on, as it's something that humans have been doing throughout history. Prior to the current situation, where there so many festivals that there are literally two going on outside my house right now, festivals were scarcer and heavier. Think Woodstock, Wattstaxx and Altamont. Then came Glastonbury, which over the years largely defined the festival experience in terms of long guitar solos, mud, middle-class girls on LSD doing interpretative dance, and dysentery-inducing lentil burgers. Until of course, WE came along.
Acid house, in the common parlance, changed everything. And festivals are no exception.
The rave scene introduced the idea of tents and 'the outside' into dance music and the concepts of DJs and dance culture to festivals. Previously, dancing under the stars was limited to Alfredo's crowd at Amnesia in Ibiza, and drunken souls on their way home from a Friday night spent dancing to Abba at Cinderella's on the high street. Fast forward a few years, and you can now choose to groove in the open air at lumbering behemoths like Roskilde, Glasto and Bonkersland, or tiny little gingham-parcelled, artisan-crafted festivals like the Secret Garden Party. You want a boutique outdoor music experience in a converted VW van in a cherry orchard? Of course. You want a yurt with that? Fuck yeah, have two if you're really hungry. Knock yourself out.
However, the marriage of dance music and festivals has not always been a happy one. Ricardo Villalobos was famously derided for making it rain at the Cocoon Festival in Leeds last year, after someone thought it would be good to sandwich his minimal set in between Carl 'Let's fucking have it then' Cox and Sven 'No, let's really fucking have it now' Vath. And who could forget the tragi-comic shit-stream of tweets that came from grime artist Wiley when he arrived at his first Glasto to perform in 2013. On his arrival, distressed at the rain and somewhat confused at who was responsible for the mud and bad weather, he announced he was firing "everybody". Then he started telling festivals in general that they could "all fuck off" and begging Glasto/Eavis to let him cancel, before finishing on the poetic "fuck them and their farm". Classic Wiley.
For the rest of us, a summer of wild abandon, laughter, music and adults playing with diablos awaits. Oh, and unless you want to smell like Joachim Löw's fingers, take that wristband off when you get home, bro. Festie's over, yeah?
Words: Harold Heath Pic: Rash Yaman