I hate music festivals. There, I said it.
I actually did say it this morning, during our morning meeting.
But what I really meant was I hate everything about music festivals.
The traipsing from one stage to the next to see bands you’re, at best, ambivalent about… the sinking realisation that you’re here for the duration and the only way you’re going to get through it is to get mind-numbingly drunk on gassy lager…the camping… the crowds… the cost… everyone who’s taller than 5ft 3 and has ever stood in front of me.
I’m not even going to start in on the toilets, because surely that’s a given.
The younger workmates on the call – the ones who are younger than some of my band T shirts – looked genuinely horrified. Like I’d said I didn’t like breathing. Or happiness.
And then I realised I didn’t hate music festivals.
I just got old.
I understood the jig was up when a pal suggested some of us get tickets for Connect at Ingliston next month and the word “no” was out of my mouth before I’d even thought it.
The line-up is cracking – Massive Attack, The National, Self Esteem. I could drive there in under an hour. I did it for the Highland Show last month (which probably says a lot about the stage I’m at in life).
But if I’m socialising with my favourite people I want to do so at a table, with a seat, and a crisp white tablecloth and several bottles of expensive wine, not schlepping back and forth across a muddy showground populated by pissed-up strangers.
And yet, there was a time when that would have sounded like bliss.
A survivor’s guide to 30 years of festivals
I went looking online for the poster for my first Glastonbury to check I’d got the year right and found it on the festival’s website. 1987. It looks more like the Declaration of Arbroath than your gateway to the hottest ticket of the summer.
Elvis Costello and Van Morrison headlined. There were lasers. Very eighties.
The Proclaimers were in their pomp and Michelle Shocked performed songs from her Short, Sharp, Shocked album seated beside a camp fire – just her and her guitar – and I never forgot it.
(I did forget to bring my friend Boat’s tent home, however. And any time I’ve seen him in the intervening 35 years the first thing he’s always asked is: “Where’s my tent?”)
My initiation into T in the Park dates back to before it moved to Balado in 1997, when it was still at Strathclyde Park.
This was the era of Leftfield and the Chemical Brothers so memories are a little hazy. But I do recall a lot of time spent hunting for Keanu Reeves, who was playing that year with his band Dogstar.
Keanu Reeves was on my flight from London to NYC today. A young boy asked for an autograph at baggage & then began to fire off a series of rapid-fire questions. Keanu happily responded to every single one… pic.twitter.com/T7m7PciL5C
— Andrew Kimmel (@andrewkimmel) July 4, 2022
And then in 2007 I went to what might have been my last big festival. The first Connect at Inverary.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, Jarvis Cocker, Teenage Fan Club and Bjork spread out before me like a smorgasbord of all my favourite musical delicacies, and all I wanted to do was go home, put my jammies on and watch it on the telly.
There were countless others in between. At which I vomited, I whitied, I whinged, I made bad choices. I got wet feet, sore feet, backache, headaches. I spent too much. I lost my way.
But I also had a ball.
Music festivals are places to make memories
As I was writing this, I came across an old clip on YouTube from the Dunnichen Festival at Letham Village Hall in Angus in 1987.
This was a festival in the old sense. The ‘let’s put on some music in the back of beyond and see if any dafties turn up’ sense. And I was among the hundreds who turned up.
The Waterboys headlined and the footage of them playing ‘Meet Me At The Station’ amounts to four minutes and 21 seconds of unadulterated joy.
It’s shoogly and low-res. The sound quality wouldn’t pass muster today. Lord knows what it was shot on. The first smartphones weren’t even a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye in 1987.
But as the fiddles soared, I was transported to a time when I was young and daft, and the closest thing to a care in my empty head was absent-mindedly wondering how I’d get back home in time for work on the Monday morning.
Which is why my curmudgeonly older self hopes all the festival-goers heading to TRNSMT this weekend have a blast.
That all those of my vintage who still have the stomach for it get out there and have it large.
And that all the readers who enjoyed The Courier’s coverage of past T in the Parks this week are inspired to dig out those wellies and give it one last shot.
I’ll sit this one out if you don’t mind. But enjoy your summer of festivals you dafties and, in the words of His Bobship, may you stay forever young.