The American comic Dave Barry once quipped that camping was ‘nature’s way of promoting the motel business’.
Yet festival season forces thousands of us music-lovers to pack up our tents, ground mats and granola bars and make the trek to boggy British fields, risking life, limb and embarrassing failures of personal hygiene along the way.
When you get past a certain age the practices of washing yourself in beer every morning, enduring endless campfire murderings of Give Peace a Chance and surviving on ‘noodles a la salmonella’ begin to loose their charm. Who cares if your favourite band is playing the set of their lives on the main stage if you’re emptying your bowels into a foul-smelling chemical toilet situated behind the tribal drumming expo? Not me.
So if, like me, you’re approaching your Victor Meldrew years and despairing of being ever able to hear music al fresco again, fear not! The boutique festival is here to help and, it must be said, empty your pockets, too. Boutique festivals are aimed squarely and surely at the DINKY market: the couples whose dilated pupils met upon the dance tent just as Aphex Twin dropped Windowlicker, but now prefer to watch Glasto on the telly while they’re sipping Californian plonk.
Festival organisers have schemed for years on how to separate this newer, older generation of music fans from their larger disposable incomes, and it looks like they’ve finally hit on a winning combination. The ubiquity of these smaller, compact outings is confirmed this year by the arrival of Scotland’s very own, the Connect Festival, a kind of older, wiser, cleaner sibling to T in the Park.
You know something’s really arrived when the Scots get around to it: we’re notoriously poor early adopters, distrustful of anything new and, well, English, fer chrissake. And so it’s possible to look upon Connect with some cynicism, being set in the grounds of Inverary Castle and all that.
The thing is, Connect has a gob-smackingly awesome musical lineup. Possibly the lineup of 2007′s festival season. No nights are dominated by one musical genre, with a good sensible mix of younger bands at the bottom and established acts filling the later and longer timeslots. Connect’s main stage is headlined by Beastie Boys, Primal Scream and Bjork and overall, a sense that more does not necessarily mean better – see our review of Field Day as proof of the hubris of some festival organisers.
There are an embarrassment of musical riches on offer: chief amongst them on the main stage will be the reformed Jesus and Mary Chain, back to show the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club how frizzy-haired scuzz-rock should be done; Edinburgh’s own Fire Engines, back to show Franz Ferdinand how angular intellecto-rock should be done; and LCD Soundsystem, back to show, well, just back, really.
Delights on the smaller stages include a rare Scottish gig for The Bays, the UK’s best live-band-who-don’t-realise-records, the made-in-heaven double feature of Slam followed by The Black Dog on the Manicured Noise Stage, Nathan Fake’s nursery rhyme minimalist techno, Teenage Fanclub and Big Star with their teenage symphonies to God, and finally, and sadly, Aerogramme’s last ever gig.
It maybe all seems a bit sensible and grown-up: forget plastic cups filled with beer of dubious parentage, instead get ready to have your taste buds tickled and your neurons muddled via the festival’s rather more salubrious choice of the Loch Fyne Whiskies Bar, transported from nearby Inverary for the weekend. Or chill out in the Kopparberg Cider Garden, schlop some Loch Fyne oysters, or even enjoy the cabaret vibe with Club Noir and Vegas in their Unknown Pleasures tent. The festival has a rather sensible (there’s that word again) 2am curfew, too, so you can stick around and enjoy some of the later DJ sets, or just enjoy the spectacular scenery. Take an umbrella though, this is Scotland after all.