“There’s no place like a music festival to break out the raccoon hat,” was what some sarcastic fashion blogger said about me back in 2009, when I hit up Osheaga Music Festival wearing my Davy Crockett and not giving a shit.
Fast-forward five years and music festivals have become a vacuum of raccoon hats and fox tails, fanny packs and underwear-sized jean shorts; temporary small towns full of kids in huge sunglasses and flip flops, doing key bumps and screaming into cell-phones, drunk on self-importance as they clamour with their media passes, trash-talking the line up but still proud of the power their VIP pass wields…
Alright, alright, that’s just a surface glance: there are as many varying festivals as there are people in the world; the festival I’m specifically talking about right now is the North American Mega Music Festival: big, hip, slick, flashy, and heavily sponsored by huge corporations, offering the kids pretty much everything in the way of a fashionable expensive party full of over the top pop bands.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I ain’t hatin.’ I’ll be back at Osheaga this year (sans raccoon hat: I’m a leader, not a follower) and I’ve already scanned the list of bands; you know all about the thrill you get when you see the name of your favourite band crammed into the grocery list of musicians; there’s nothing like it.
Music festivals are just a bit of a curiosity, a phenomenon in anthropology, if you want. The Daily Trojan says “Music festivals…offer attendees both an escape from the struggles of everyday life and a sense of community that can feel almost magical. It is clear that the appeal of festivals is about more than just the music: successful festivals offer carefully crafted experiences that appeal directly to the basic human need for connection and community.”
And Montreal, specifically, is one of those rare, soulful cities that earns its summers; suddenly the streets are exploding with kids coming out of the woodwork and deciding they’ll never sleep again as long as they can still see the sun…
At music festivals, you’re given the illusion of being infinite (unless, of course, you’ve taken the bad acid) and everyone seems young and privileged and free.
If that’s what the music festivals are trying to sell me then, yeah, I’ll take some of that, because that’s the power of music; it sets you free.
Too cynical to believe that? Then go check out Santana’s performance of Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock when he’s like twenty years old: it’s his first time on LSD and he thinks his guitar has turned into a snake; he’s playing solos that are the stuff of melting faces. Tell me that’s not musical transcendence.
Everyone has an opinion or a critique of music festivals (usually just the kids who have never tried to organize, work at, or play a festival themselves) but a collective music experience does something for us: it gives us the chance to have a good fucking time.
Personally, I am looking forward to seeing Half Moon Run after a certain someone put on Dark Eyes for me at 4AM. It was just one of those times where the music and the experience matched perfectly…music is funny that way.
* Top image: Flaming Lips playing Osheaga in 2011, photo by Chris Zacchia