Normally, at this time of year, I would be packing away the tent and the wellies in the cupboard under the stairs. The gas stove we’ve ‘borrowed’ would be looking forward to a long rest. I’d be pushing aside the memories of disgusting toilets, sweaty rides on a National Express, and the time all my chocolate melted in my bag and turned my iPod into some kind of weird confectionery. All I would be remembering would be the knockout headline sets, the new artists I’d discovered, the terrible, drunken dancing I’d done as night turned into morning, and the Goan Fish Curry that I had queued up for for hours and eaten in minutes (if you’ve been to a certain festival in the Brecon Beacons, you’ll know which one I mean). Festival season, my favourite time of the year, would be coming to an end. And while that ending always comes with a tinge of sadness, it also usually leaves me feeling refreshed and renewed – and excited for the return leg in the following year.
I had Green Man and Deer Shed booked in this summer. It would have been my third time at Green Man and my first at Deer Shed and across the two I would have been seeing the likes of Michael Kiwanuka, The Twilight Sad, The Murder Capital, Cate Le Bon, Nadine Shah, Ghostpoet, Agnes Obel, and Dream Wife. To name just a few. Alas, we all know how this ended up. And obviously I know I am not the only person affected in this way. The loss of 2020’s festival season is huge for everyone involved, but nobody more so than the people who put on these events and the artists and crews that light up their stages.
Personally, though, I have found that the loss of these festivals (and the other, shorter, one that I would have inevitably booked when I saw the lineup) has affected more than just the loss of a few weekends in the sun (and rain) listening to live music. It has also taken away something that is vital for me and many others. And while this might seem pretty obvious, I think the thing that it has taken away is the idea that you have something to look forward to. You might work your stressful job, you might be dealing with the day-to-day crap that we all face on occasion, but you know that in six weeks’ time you’ll be standing in a field in Wales with a lukewarm beer in your hand and screaming along to one of your favourite songs. That’s a big loss. Whether it’s festivals as it is for me, or it’s beach holidays, trips abroad or a summer with the family – losing that sense that we have something exciting on the horizon is huge.
Another part of that excitement for me, being the massive music geek that I am, is the amount of time I spend getting to know the artists on the lineups of the festivals. Above, I listed all the acts I was already excited to see. But I know that if these two festivals had gone ahead, I would be ending 2020’s summer with a whole host of new favourite bands and performers to spend my money on. It happens every year. Through festival lineups I have had my first ever listen to The Twilight Sad, Nadine Shah, Aldous Harding, Marika Hackman, Angel Olsen, Self Esteem, Warpaint, Wild Beasts, and many, many more. Before the cancellations this year I did, at least, get to know Big Joanie. Who knows if I would have discovered any of these artists if it wasn’t for my obsession with getting to know the lineup? Each of them is now among my very favourites. It is sad that bands in the position these were when I discovered them, those without vast audiences to keep them going at the minute, might have been found by me and the thousands of other people like me if 2020 hadn’t turned out the way it has. They might have now been ending the most successful summer of their career, watching the sales and the audiences grow. Instead, they are trying to make ends meet through livestreams and Bandcamp Fridays.
I’m aware that I’ve just used a hell of a lot of words to basically say the following: ‘I’m sad to miss out on festival season this year.’ But I really, really am. I’m sad for the industry, the organisers, the artists, the crews, and the audiences. But I’ll end on a more optimistic note: imagine festival season 2021. Imagine how much we’re going to relish it, imagine the appreciation we will have for the crowds, for the atmosphere, for the bands and the singers, for the new artists we discover. Imagine the buzz. And imagine the performances, as people who were starved of one of their best ways of earning money and connecting with their fans get the opportunity to return to the stage. Imagine it. And then cross your fingers, pray if you’re a prayer, and wear a fucking mask so that we can, hopefully, get out the mouldy tents and sit together on a sweaty National Express next summer. I hope to see you there.
Words by Fran Slater