Another letter to the poor sods at Uncool magazine…
Which brings me to (yet) another gripe; this festivalcore you want to get instated as newbie genre on the block seems to me to be very clearly more a consequence of timeplacedrugsfriends than the particular music being played.
Festivals are big business; yes, there’re all those American beardy anthemic dudes hanging about the place but I’d say that their presence is due more to the play-it-safe bookings policy of the US indie-centric festival managers or the cultural preferences and influence of a certain tranche of the music world who go to and report on those events than the birth of a specific kind of music that comes into its own outdoors, at dusk and in front of a sea of thousands of sun-pink smiley faces. Any kind of big music suits festivals, and new(ish) bands booked to play a good early evening slot who tap into the hand-wavy feel-good vibe can find their star ascendant, but to focus only on the bands which fulfil those criteria within the already narrow milieu of indie rock and then dub them festivalcore is missing the rest of the picture. All the other non-indie bands who play rousing sets at festivals and all the other non-indie-focused festivals, for a start. The electronica-heads, the jit jivers, the big beats boys, the riot grrls, the rappers, the multi-platinum mega popstars, the punks, the taiko drummers, the old dogs game for a second chance, all of the virtual roof-raisers of festivals around the world… how come they’re not festivalcore too? Why they don’t count?
My festival-going this year has mostly been limited to party festivals with solidly rabble-rousing DJs at night and the kind of hybrid gypsy-folk-ska-funk-hip-hop that can get a mashed crowd jigging happily but aren’t necessarily known outside the circuit (there’s a surprising number of them; I’d coin a genre to accommodate this fact if I could be arsed). But I can tell you that last year at Bestival – perhaps UK’s closest equivalent to Coachella? – the acts which stood out by creating a storm of communal up-rush were none of them beardy nor white boy nor bland. I saw Bjork with her finely (ahem) nuanced polyrhthymic confections, extraordinary custom-made instruments, dancers, choirs and head-spinning visuals. I saw PJ Harvey sending shivers down massed spines with her dark, pretty, disconcerting, despairing meditations on war and nationhood. I saw Public Enemy – 20 years on from their heyday as a fiercely political, ragingly zeitgeisty proposition – light up a hillside with the force and thrill of their music; thousands of fists raised en masse, a whole valley of bouncing monied middle-class kids (never mind the false eyelashes, the glitter or the tiger onesies) shouting along. FIGHT THE POWER! FIGHT THE POWER! (You are the fucking power, you twats. Party on.)
I saw The Village People too. They were fucking phenomenal.
Here’s a nice quote from an article from last year about the UK version of the phenomenon:
“The historical trajectory of British pop’s bourgeoisification can be traced most clearly in what Karl Marx sadly never got around to calling “the UK power-ballad nexus”. Picture yourself in a series of large Glastonbury crowds over the 10 years from 1994 onwards, singing along to a wilfully vague lyric cunningly designed to promote sensations of mass emotional uplift. Now look at the stage and note the incremental increase in poshness from Oasis to Embrace to Travis to Coldplay to Keane.”
This isn’t just about Coachella and beards.
So the idea that Mumford & Sons are the start of something new, are the saviours of rock, are significant in any way other than as a happy glow in the avaricious mind of the music industry’s end-of-year financial reports or in the bellies of a bunch of kids who’ve timed their drop to bring them up as the sun goes down is both repellent and nonsensical. They don’t fit in any grand narrative I can be bothered with. I do not see the outsider allure you refer to: M&S mainline mainstream. They’re about as counter-cultural as a Bourbon biscuit. They wouldn’t know outsider art if it shat in their nice cup of tea.