Festivals existed long before Woodstock discovered mud wrestling and are no different than regional events like tractor pulls and cake bakes which basically are around to mark the dull passage of time. Such events also serve to pair adolescents from similar socio-economic groups, hoping that courtship will end in copulation to propagate the culture of the dominant group and thereby continue traditions such as blueberry pies and mint juleps.
Fuji Rock veterans will know each festival begins with the “Bon Odori” dance on Thursday night which is done with fans and taiko drums to welcome back the spirits of the deceased. This is age old celebration has been updated with a fireworks show, a brief pre-concert in the Red Marquee, and lots of selfies and standing around. For a brief moment we are all one, despite actually being no more than a group of BFFs, buddy packs, couples, school mates, super fans, and music nerds.
Asia now has 100 plus music festivals whereas other events such as the New Orleans Strawberry Daquiri Festival remains alone and uncopied? Surely every metropolis has a slew of readily crushed strawberries, and why are we willing to tolerate long toilet cues in our old age, when soba noodles and crisp cans of beer await us back at home.
The cynical answer is big money and corporations have successfully pushed global mono-culture turning festivals into ATM’s that spit out money into their greedy accounts. Bonnaroo and Coachella have been already been gobbled up by corporate interests and with upper card headliners virtually the same across the board. Despite these hog shit intentions, music has been protected by Lolapalooza bonfires and a hail of glows sticks, briefly keeping capitalists at bay and more than a few musician’s feet in the fire.
There are innumerable highs and lows of every festival but thankfully there’s no scorecard, only a finite number of synapses to be shaped, melded, bent and twisted into a blurry recollection of what exactly did happen over the Fuji Rock weekend. Rub your eyes and it might go away, slipping away like a retreating polar cap. Wait another year and you might just find yourself game for another face plant on a muddy slope, or another bout of euphoria and nausea Anyway you slice it, we go to festivals cuz we need them.
Photo credit: Sean Scanlan