On festivals

This week, writing a music column is an unwelcome reminder of things I enjoyed doing before the world went into lockdown. Today, another inevitable email came through: “Latitude Festival will no longer be going ahead this year.” Summer may as well have not existed.

Monday was the King’s birthday celebrations in The Netherlands: commonly an occasion of millions descending on Amsterdam, an orange-clad human river covering roads and canals, street parties from midday to midnight. I didn’t ever like it that much: there were always too many people, beer took too long to be tapped, phones never worked, it always seemed to rain. But this year, I miss it, in that completely irrational way you miss the things you can’t have. It was an annual milestone in my childhood, harking back to a time before “the virus.”

And yet, people are finding ingenious ways of getting by. A friend’s father played the Dutch national anthem on a trumpet for the whole neighbourhood from his back gate. DJs live-streamed sets from their balconies. The King held a broadcast toast on TV while the nation raised a glass. At least chez moi, the beer could be endless, the toilets would not be overflowing piss into the canals and the home WiFi would be good.

I long for a festival. These digital get-togethers that people are organising intrigue me with their creativity, but lack something fundamental in their vibe. Where’s the old guy pushing through the crowd like a hero, fifty festival bracelets forming a sleeve up his arm? Where’s the crowd that sings Street Spirit long after Radiohead have stopped playing for the night? Where are the bonfires? Where’s the guy passed out under a tree by 6PM? I tell you what: the person who can get those to the next digital festival, is the person who’ll be getting my money.

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Want to read more CableWrites? Head to his website here: www.olivercable.com.

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