It’s been a shocker of a summer on the UK festival circuit – and Getintothis’ Stephanie Heneghan witnessed the worst of it yet at this weekend’s Hard Rock Calling which saw organisers pull the plug on Bruce Springsteen’s set closer with Paul McCartney.
It’s been a tough old year for the English festival season. With the Big Dawg taking a well earned fallow year in order to recharge its trodden fields, there was a expectation that 2012 could mean the breakthrough of some of the smaller events (hey, everything is small compared to Glastonbury).
Instead it’s been a list of casualties as a combination of poor weather and poor ticket sales mean that barely a week goes by without another name added to the scrap heap.
Last week Bloc Festival was cancelled after safety issues raised concerns – which was especially unfortunate for the punters that had already turned up.
The Big Chill didn’t even attempt to put anything on, citing the diary clash with the Olympics as the reason.
Sonisphere at Knebworth was kyboshed and Golden Down, Cloud 9 and Rough Beats all fell victim to ‘financial pressures’.
Even local highlight Africa Oye had to put paid to their usual Sefton Park extravaganza after flash floods meant they were unable to erect the stages (credit to them and the Picket for a hastily arranged and well orchestrated Block Party though; there’s a cracking team behind Oye).
And lets not forget the saddest of them all, the cruelest attack from those murky grey clouds which rendered the S.A.W. 80s reunion gig in Hyde Park null and void.
That Kylie and Jason duet would have been a special moment but alas they were never back together and the hearts of those 30-somethings who had bought tickets to the nostalgia trip would have to stay broken (there’s too many broken hearts in this world…).
The last one worried me a bit. Well, a lot in fact. I was not planning to attend the Pete Waterman love fest but I did have tickets for Hard Rock Calling which was being held at the same venue only a few days later.
Would the ground have recovered sufficiently for this to go ahead? Would it ever stop raining? Was it possible to get repetitive strain injury from checking the weather app on my phone every 30 seconds?
Thankfully my fears were allayed by the Hard Rock emails assuring me that enough wood chip had been ordered to soak up the mud. Thats a lot of wood chips.
But phew, it was still going ahead – even if the suggested festival wear of shorts and a floaty top (who are you kidding Topshop?) was more practically replaced by wellies and a pac-a-mac. Fit.
Hard Rock isn’t the coolest kid on the block – in fact it’s all a bit ‘dad rock’ isn’t it.
The restaurants are cliched homages to rock and roll past, with framed guitars and gold discs jostling for place on the walls. But you always know what you’re going to get from them, a Pig Sandwich in Florida taste the same as one in Manchester.
They’re consistent. They know what they’re doing and they’re Big In The Game with outlets all over the world (though curiously not one in Liverpool – a city drenched with musical history). You’d imagine you were in safe hands with Hard Rock.
But who was the attraction that would make me consider forking out my cash to stand in a muddy field and get rained on? Bruce Springsteen.
Yeah yeah, more ‘dad rock’ jibes but dude Bruce has got it going ON.
I’ve been a fan since a young age – as a child I have vivid memories of mopping the kitchen floor whilst listening to Darkness On The Edge of Town, even now the opening chords of Badlands induce the urge to clean – my mum clearly utilising some Pavlov Dog style conditioning on me.
But I’ve never seen him live and I am a massive advocate of live music.
Recently I went on a date and the lad confessed he’d never been to a gig. Like ever.
My head spins at the thought of this, how can you profess to enjoy music if you don’t see it in its rawest form? Stevie Wonder on record is a joy, Stevie Wonder in person is a sound I will forever have to make me smile when I recall it – music makes memories, yo.
So when the tickets came on sale for HRC I snapped some up, eschewing the stadium gigs in favour of a festival in the believe it would be a better vibe, more free and fun. Boy that was a mistake.
Now here’s the rub, I’m pretty skint.
There’s no summer holiday this year, these are those austere times we hear old Dave reminding us about. So 60 quid for a ticket is no cheap fee for me, especially when you factor in travel (50 quid) and then the added expenses that comes with a jaunt to the capital.
But it was worth it I reasoned, to see the Boss. I had a gap in my musical knowledge that was going to be educated with a live lesson by Bruce and the E Street Band. And I was excited, I’d waited a long time for this. Bring it on etc.
It sucked. Big time.
This is no reflection on the talent of Springsteen which is without question but it would have been nice to hear it. Or see it.
But the sound was akin to when you get water in your headphones, all tinny and distant. The screens were tiny and hard to see, I imagine it would have been amazing at the front in the middle but not everyone can nab that spec, especially in such a large (45,000) crowd. When you put on a big name headliner, be prepared for the crowd it will draw.
You know what to expect when you go and see artists.
I wouldn’t go to see Britney for warbling vocal performances and Jay Z is not a go to name for tight dance routines.
So when you go to see Springsteen, a guy who is all about the music, you’d expect to hear it. It would have been more enjoyable to sit at home Spotifying him.
Coincidentally the story that hit all the papers was a sound one – Liverpool’s favourite son, Paul McCartney, rocked up to perform Twist and Shout with Bruce (the first song Springsteen ever learnt on his guitar, fact fans) and was cut short by a pesky noise curfew, aghast at the suggestion that Macca and The Boss should be policed in such a way.
So in this shaky climate for festivals, why is such a shoddy set up acceptable?
Organisers should be working harder to provide a tip top experience for punters instead of collecting the £££ and not addressing pretty basic issues such as sound and stage visibility.
When smaller hardworking events go under for a lack of funds it rankles that a well known name such as Hard Rock can continue but provide less than an amazing service.
So I still have the Bruce shaped hole in my musical memories. I’ll fill it one day, probably at a stadium. Should have snapped up Etihad tickets instead.
Glastonbury 2011 – What Getintothis learnt