‘One nation under a roof’: the summer of live music is rubbish

‘It’s a straightforward love song about someone stuck alone in the house whilst the object of their affections is out dancing to house music at a rave’. These were the words of Jarvis Cocker as he introduced his song ‘House Music All Night Long’ during JARV IS…’s set at Glastonbury. While the exact experience described may differ from my own, there is something wholly depressing about watching and listening to thousands of other people having fun while you’re sat at home.

Lockdowns are thankfully now a thing of the past, but, despite what the flood of Glasto content across all forms of media over the last couple of weeks would have you believe, not everyone is back out having all the fun at festivals and other outdoor live music events this summer. Yes, you’ve guessed correctly. This is a not at all well disguised moan about other people having fun when I’m not. But stay with me, I’ll try and make some serious points along the way.

Back to that Glasto coverage. What I really need is cameras on the artist at all times. Róisín Murphy’ and Bicep’s sets achieved this, with very few crowd shots or lighting on the audience, continuous music allowing for no chit chat or attempts at banter, and, in the case of Róisín, extended entrance and exit segments to the stage, performed direct to camera. I for one appreciated an artist who recognised that while she had a sizeable audience right in front of her, she had an even larger one one the other side of that camera lens. In total darkness other than the stage lighting itself, they came close to recreating a club experience outdoors.

I don’t want to see any crowd shots of funkily dressed festival goers in the front row, or atop a friend’s shoulders. Particularly galling are the glimpses of bored looking individuals, stood at the back, arms crossed, stock still. Sure, they’re likely not aware they’re appearing live on TV at that very moment, but they’ve failed to grasp just how privileged they are to not only be at Glastonbury, but at Glastonbury in 2022, a drudging three years after the last festival. Get moving or get off my TV and let me have a bash instead because I sure as hell will be showing the world how much I’m enjoying it better than you.

This is harsh of course. The sights and sounds of the crowd provide the atmosphere which, although impossible to fully recreate at home, make the whole thing a richer experience. And that recreation of the club experience I mentioned is not going to work if you’re Diana Ross performing singalong hits on the Pyramid Stage in the middle of the afternoon. If the audience weren’t there, you could be watching any old performance in a studio with the added anxiety that Jools might join in with some boogie-woogie piano at any moment. The Glastonbury live stream of last summer demonstrated how lacking the performances were without a live audience (but thankfully still minus Mr Holland).

It’s not all about Glastonbury though. I live a short walk away from Old Trafford Cricket ground, home to Lancashire Cricket Club and also, on a few nights each summer, some of the biggest touring bands around. We’ve been in hearing distance of The Killers, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and not one, but two nights of Harry Styles over the last few weeks. Having your back garden polluted by spam music from one of your least favourite bands on a Wednesday night isn’t particularly enjoyable. I even would say I enjoyed hearing Harry over RHCP. And you can’t knock the collective volume of massed Styles Stan. My word was it loud. The excitement had been building for days, with many camping out on local streets ahead of the gigs. And while I have no desire to see a Harry Styles concert, I did once again feel like I was missing out. How must it feel to be that excited about something?

I’ve reached the final paragraph and realised I’ve not really made any of the serious points I promised I would. I hope you enjoyed reading this old picky bastard moan anyway. Before you go, there is one positive take away from all this. Thanks to watching their respectively excellent Glastonbury sets on TV, Cass from Skunk Anansie, Este Haim and Khruangbin’s Laura Lee have inspired me to try and buy a bass guitar. And Harry Styles has made me want to buy a new house.

Words by James Spearing

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