Taken from A Hedonist’s Guide to Life
Bill Brewster is a DJ, writer and bon viveur, although not usually at the same time
In the 1960s, when the festival was still in its infancy and it wasn’t unusual for Hells Angels to beat you to death for liking the Grateful Dead and dressing as a marigold (proof that we have to much to learn from this maligned era), the ‘Festival Experience’ was probably the nearest you could come to re-enacting the French border defence of the Maginot Line without being sent to a muddy swamp in Belgium for six weeks.
Festivals have changed dramatically since then. Nowadays the tents are sponsored (as well as some of the bands), there are mobile phone charging stations and the hospitality areas are so lavish you feel short-changed if your cocaine is not delivered on a silver platter atop a dwarf’s head.
I can actually remember my first festival experience. Upon arrival, I’d treated it as a vast musical library, as I fretfully rushed from stage to stage lest I missed a particularly invigorating performance by some hapless Congolese drum combo. Ah, the innocent folly of youth!
Then a friend gave me a tab of acid and I spent the next two days in a cardboard box talking Esperanto with red-faced goblins while drawing William Morris shapes with a wand fashioned out of woad and elm. It was like discovering the map to Atlantis or perhaps more pertinently the definition of self-debasement (wet wipes had yet to be invented).
What often deters the weaker of will and lily of liver is the discomfort. “I like my luxury,” they say, as though we like nothing better than contracting typhus while listening to shit indie bands in the middle of a monsoon. They miss the point. Festivals are not about the bands and the acts and the line-ups – why else would Glastonbury sell out before the the names been announced? They are a kind of super community. They are mini cities. They are the Imagined Perfection of a Golden Age That Never Was. Or a big Care in the Community party with better music and worse drugs. Is there another city in the world, for example, where every street is populated with ruddy-faced loons wearing primary-coloured jester’s hats shouting, “Es! Trips! Weed!” as though selling evening newspapers?
No one likes discomfort. Least of all someone who understands the warming qualities of a chunky knit Arran sweater or a night at the Waldorf Astoria. But it is precisely the adverse weather – the typhoon conditions, the incessant rain, the snow lashing down on your badly holed igloo – that is the glue that knits these wonderful temporary societies together. And, of course, ketamine.
Let’s face it, when the rain comes what you need is not an umbrella and wellies (although clearly they do help), but some good friends and even better K. It will, admittedly, not keep you dry or prevent you from contracting trench foot. But thanks to its immense dissociative powers it allows you to welcome mud into your life as though greeting a long lost friend. Food becomes a mere frippery along with consciousness and limbs. Don’t forget, it’s been used on amputees in Vietnam and as a horse tranquiliser. I have a simple motto: if it’s good enough for Red Rum, it’s good enough for me.
This year we took our toddler daughter to Glastonbury. “Are you mad?” asked friends. It gave the festival experience a new edge, a new sense of danger and, thanks to the mud, new ways in which to lose Wellington boots. We only mislaid her three times (and only once deliberately). She loved it, though. She is already asking when we are next going ‘tenting’. And the music? Who cares. We had the most fun it’s possible to have while living like rutting hippopotamuses.
Do not wash. Only poltroons, popinjays and pomade-addicts wash themselves during a festival. This is why wet wipes were invented.
Do not eat. Eat well before you arrive. If you feel hungry during the festival take more amphetamine.
Don’t take a capsule wardrobe. Take the clothes in which you usually decorate and a spare pair of knickers (in case of incontinent episodes).
Always wear a sign around neck saying: “I Am The Lord and Your Saviour, the Ruler of all Narnia. If lost please deliver to:….” (in case of psychotic episodes).
Members of royalty and festival-goers with ideas above their station insist on wearing Hunter wellies. The rest should be content with two Tesco’s bags over a pair of badly worn Converse trainers.
Content copyright of Bill Brewster
Buy A Hedonist’s Guide To Life here