With the end of the year inching closer, The Sherp looks back at some of the most headline-worthy incidents from music festivals this past year.
Music festivals are now safely assimilated into popular culture; more than when they were the exclusive hobby of a few. From the most popular artists, to the most qualitative ones, from established musicians to upcoming underground labels, everyone chooses to be associated with them.
And with great power, comes great responsibility.
In 2015, music festivals, in general have had to deal with a lot. From a merry-making musical event, they’ve grown to become high-production events with their share of highlights and controversies. From legendary performances to technical breakdowns to artist feuds, they’ve seen it all!
Kanye West at Glastonbury
Kanye West is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in contemporary music. From the music he produces, to the albums he makes; his word is a constant riddle to his narcissistically chaotic mind. The multi-Grammy winner’s inclusion in the Glastonbury lineup, therefore, should have surprised nobody. Especially given how music festivals are attempting to be all-inclusive than the rock-n-roll foothold they held not many years ago.
Except, Kanye might just be one of the most disliked musicians in the world, despite his undeniable talent. Soon, protests and petitions begin to roll out, in spite of Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis’s impassioned letter supported the star’s inclusion.
“I’ve seen people this week saying that Kanye shouldn’t appear because, in their opinion, he’s not a positive role model or because they think he’s too self-assured. We book our acts by choosing the best and most challenging musicians on the planet – not by applying some kind of arbitrary morality test … Ultimately, there is no question in my mind that we have got one of the greatest artists of his generation headlining, and we have no regrets at all about booking him.”
While the performance did take place as planned, a few members of the audience crossed lines by carrying flags, not just derogatory to Kanye, but also to his wife, Kim Kardashian.
That was until Lily Allen had had enough and displayed an unparalleled level of badassery by burning one down!
SFX TomorrowWorld fiasco
SFX is the parent company that is the proprietor of two of the most popular music festivals in the world – Tomorrowland and TomorrowWorld. Except, no one, not even them, may have preempted TomorrowWorld’s wash out moment of 2015.
While the festival was otherwise well executed, Day 3 of the festival ended on a glaring note of mismanagement. With mother nature playing spoilsport, heavy rains were a sign that the festival may not progress as smoothly. But single-day ticket holders and non-campers were in for a rude shock, when festival organisers announced than the festival will be exclusive only to campers. This resulted in an absolute disaster, with several hundreds of people stranded for hours with no food, or even water, in the poor muddy conditions.
This resulted in major losses for SFX, who, despite promising to refund tickets, lacked the contingency to make that happen. This resulted in major plunges in the company’s stock, with some bemoaning that the company may not survive this hardship. A news that, undoubtedly, sent shock waves through the successful dance music industry myth!
Conversation around cultural appropriation
While some might argue that people around the world are seeking new causes to be offended about, it holds true that society and culture is an undeniable participant in anything and everything we might do. With festival fashion reaching new levels of eccentricities, conversation this year has steered to to the topic of cultural appropriation several times.
It all began with American festival goers sporting American Indian mastiffs and head gears, a move so obviously offensive, given the violent oppression of the latter. In the conversation, festival fashion borrowed from India and other racially offended parts of the world began to be included.
Everyday Feminism explained it best, for people believing the conversation to be highly disputatious, with a quote from Susan Scafidi, the director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University –
“What’s the significance of the necklace you’re about to put on: Is it just jewelry or a set of prayer beads? Did the source community invite you to wear that traditional robe, perhaps via voluntary sale, and does the community still suffer from a history of exploitation, discrimination or oppression? And how similar is that designer adaptation to the original: a head-to-toe copy, or just a nod in the direction of silhouette or pattern?”
Emma Watson interviewing Malala Yousafzai at the Into Film Festival
One is a global icon, a once-upon-a-time child star now grown into a successful actress and global spokeswoman for Feminism reporting to the United Nation. The other, once a child thrust into vicious violence, who rose against all odds, to become the face of the global education movement. And, when Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson came together for an interview, it became an iconic movement above all else.
From Emma being absolutely humble to Malala who she considered a hero, to Malala admitting to being a feminist since Emma’s vocal support of the movement, the interview is replete with some of the most inspiring words to have ever been spoken.
Drug-related deaths at Stereosonic Festival
For several years now, the rise in EDM culture has become synonymous with the rise in drug usage. Music festivals like Tomorrowland and Hard Summer are dealing with drug-related offences and deaths every edition. But it is Australia’s Stereosonic Festival that seems to be mighty jinxed when it comes to drug-related casualties.
From attendees attempting to smuggle drugs by drilling a hole in the building, to the death of attendance Sylvia Choi to three police officers testing positive for drugs, the conversation around drug usage at music festivals is now stronger than ever.
Festival Hookup Apps
Tinder and its several functional versions have helped not just revolutionise social dating, but also hooking up at music festivals. While music festivals have always been infamous for their share of sexual liberation, the advent of technology to help fasten that has been appreciated.
From Tinder hookups increasing by 300% at Coachella, to new music festival-oriented variants of the app such as FanMatch, make hooking up with someone with the same musical taste as yours, so much easier! This is 2015, people. Get on with the times.
Florence + The Machine cover Foo Fighters at Glastonbury
“We would like to dedicate this song, to the legend and all-round incredible human being – Dave Grohl.”
In the year of 2015, two performers have stood out in incredible fashion. Foo Fighters, who despite Dave Grohl’s broken leg, inspired covers and performances dime a dozen and Florence + The Machine, who’ve delivered some spectacular shows this year. But when Foo Fighters had to pull out from Glastonbury due to Dave Grohl’s leg, all it took was one splendid Foo Fighters cover by Florence Welsh to get the tears rolling.
When Florence + The Machine were upped to headliner status following Foo Fighters’ withdrawal, they decided to cover the latter’s Times Like These in pure individualistic fashion, to give a taste of the two for the gathered some. The result was a cover, so spellbindingly soulful, that it even drove Dave Grohl to tears.
The Great New York War Between Festivals
First, it was California’s Coachella who decided it wants to make its foray into the Big Apple. Then, it was resident New York music festival Governor Ball who wouldn’t have any of it. Then, Madison Square Garden decided to join the fight for a new New York festival location.
It all began with AEG Live wishing to have a very Coachella-like festival called Panorama, next June two weeks after Gov Ball. The latter, not too thrilled about it, kickstarted a petition asking the Mayor of New York to reject it. Between all this, Madison Square Garden decided to encroach upon the same venue, NYC’s Flushing Meadows Corona Park, with a quintessential New York festival of its own.
Goes to show, the industry is more competitive than it has ever been!
Women representation in Festivals
Gender representation, stereotypes and roles are questions that must be addressed right now! For, it’s 2015, and we still find ourselves battling for equality. One of the most noteworthy conversations this festival year has been the absolute absence of enough female artists in festival lineups.
In fact, music blog Crack in the Road decided to allow us to judge the same by editing off the name of all the male artists off of prominent festival lineups such as Reading and Leeds, Coachella and Governor’s Ball to reveal stark truths. There just weren’t enough female artists in there!
So why is this happening? Aren’t there enough female artists out there, because there definitely are. The conversation is a part of the on-going debate about marginalising female performers in performance arts. With bands like HAIM hoping to kickstart an all-female music festival and Ellie Goulding voicing her displeasure over the lack of enough representation, it’s probably time to fix this.
The Year of Bans
Reflective of an environment waiting to correct things, or censor it, howsoever you chose to see it, this year saw a rise in the number of things music festivals were eager to ban. While some, correctly, might we add, banned native American headgears and other items of cultural appropriation, some chose to ban drugs with a definitive security check. In a rather whimsical note, the festival of Summer Sessions chose to ban douchebaggery instead, that is shirtless men, whereas some other festivals have chosen to ban kandi and rave wear. With the increase in drug overdoses at Hard Summer, organisations have even sought to ban dance music festivals! One cannot preempt where this will end.