Festivals: Friend or Foe?

As we head towards August and the heart of summer, we find ourselves in the midst of the festival season, lured in by the hedonistic fields and locations that play host to some of the World’s most anticipated events. Although the likes of Glastonbury welcomes its visitors for five or six days, other festivals like Lovebox and Wireless give music-lovers a chance to purchase a ticket to witness their favourite acts for one day only. These festivals differentiate themselves through genre, length and a variety of other eccentric features. However, does every musician and band benefit from performing at such events?

Having recently been to Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, it became apparent that rappers and hip-hop artists drew in crowds of inferior numbers when compared to the pop-stars so often found on television music channels. Danny Brown, Detroit’s acid rap pioneer, attracted a small crowd when compared with the likes of Jackmaster and house music DJ duo Disclosure, both of which performed at the elevated stage at Glastonbury’s Arcadia. Despite Danny Brown’s eye-catching stage presence and undeniable energy, he remains relatively unknown in the UK, and unwatched, when regarding the attendees of his shows.

Glastonbury of course creates opportunities for these artists with slightly smaller fan bases, however Jackmaster, who played before Disclosure, had noticeably less onlookers, despite now being a Saturday night resident DJ at Shoreditch’s XOYO, deeming him a notable name on the house scene. Are festivals of Glastonbury’s size good for these up and coming artists, or are they merely overlooked and bypassed for the likes of Ed Sheeran and The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage, as thousands of fans rub shoulders and unintentionally shower in each other’s drinks whilst singling along to top 10 hits?

It seems that the festivals spread out over more than three or four days attract band-lovers, seeking something a bit more pop than rap. The likes of Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds Festival also regularly play host to rock bands, bringing in some of the more die-hard fans, part of a mud-clad army, willing to forgo a shower and sanitary toilet facilities to see their favourite four-piece performing some more recognised songs, instead of hip-hop anthems and heavy bass.

Perhaps the aforementioned day events are more suited to the fans of A$AP Rocky and Nas, as East London’s 2014 Lovebox Festival proved. Rap artists seem to rake in their target demographic when the surrounding facilities have a higher standard of cleanliness and the weather doesn’t ruin hairdos and create muddy lagoons to navigate past (or through).

Although neither of the New York natives were actually headlining the festival on their respective days, their fans remained loyal from 8PM until the end of each set, rapping verses and singing choruses in time with the rap-stars. Nas performed his 20 year old debut album Illmatic, despite it being older than much of the crowd, and A$AP Rocky spat a variety of hits, with the help of Joey Bada$$ at one point, sending thousands of fans wild for the night. It seems that fans of certain genres are more attracted to specific types of festivals, although the reason remains debatable. House music and EDM also seemed to be high on the list of genres to see at Lovebox in Victoria Park, as the Annie Mac Presents Stage remained busy right up until closing, hosting the eponymous DJ and the likes of Route 94.

Are hip-hop lovers and house music fans just as infatuated with good weather and cleanliness as they are with their chosen genres? Or do top 40 music appreciators and hard-core rock followers have a fondness of camping in a semi-submerged tent and a tolerance of dirty toilets, and constant use of hand-sanitizer? The reason remains dubious, but what is certain is that music lovers are willing to spend a lot of money on seeing their favourite acts. As festivals prices increase, so does the love that the masses have for live music.