It’s unseasonably cold, it’s extremely wet, I’m ankle deep in mud and on the same day that the reformed Police begin their world tour in Edmonton, Canada, I’m being told by a man dressed as a mid-80s stonewashed denim-wearing version of Sting that I and the rest of the audience are truly rock’n'roll. He hopes that in Edmonton, the crowd is being rained on just as hard
Yes, you’ve guessed it, for the second year running, musicOMH is back at Glastonbudget, the all-tribute bands festival deep in the heart of Leicestershire. And we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
There are lots of reasons why, in amongst the plethora of festivals which have sprouted over the past few years, Glastonbudget stands out above the rest. Much of it is to do with the music – run-throughs of the greatest hits of five decades from Oasis, The Sex Pistols, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Who, Pink Floyd, Take That, The Police, Queen, Arctic Monkeys and many others, by competent musicians who can perform these songs as well as the originals. But equally importantly, there are reasons such as these:
At Glastonbudget, you don’t have to queue for three hours at one tent in order to buy tokens so that you can then queue up again before exchanging them for over-priced, watered-down beer in another. You just give happy, smiley, friendly staff money for beer. Direct. You know, like you normally do, in pubs.
At Glastonbudget, you don’t get frisked by a security baboon who treats you as if you’re on the FBI’s most wanted list and confiscates your half-drunk bottle of water as if it’s a tub of liquid explosive. Instead, you get smiled at by happy stewards who say hello and look as if they hope you’re having a good time. Even though they looked soaked to the bone and about to freeze to death.
After two days of solid rain, gale force winds and temperatures that not only stick two fingers up to global warming but kick it in the groin when it’s down, things like this really do make all the difference.
Glastonbudget does not exist to bleed you dry of every last penny you own in order to swell the coffers of mobile phone companies and The Man. Glastonbudget exists because people care about music: the audience, the performers and, most importantly of all, the organizers. Its tagline, ‘Keeping the music alive’ could equally be ‘Keeping the festival spirit alive’.
In coming back for a second year, we’re also starting to notice the real dynamics of the festival. The second stage, on which the new, non-tribute bands play, isn’t so much the second-choice, admirable-but-mostly-ignored arena we mistakenly assumed it was last year. It’s where the teenagers go while their parents watch, teary-eyed, as Pink Fraud noodle through an 18-minute opening to Wish You Were Here over a backdrop of pictures of a young and beautiful Syd Barrett. We’re slowly realizing that as well as all the other things there are to recommend it, Glastonbudget is truly a family festival, crossing the generations and providing entertainment for all.
For anyone who’s loved music for most of their life, this is an opportunity to experience, live, great music made by people who died before you got a chance to see them. Nirvana, Queen with Freddie Mercury, Sid Vicious – this is the only chance you’ll get, now, to sing along to Smells Like Teen Spirit with 5,000 other people in a field full of mud. The best chance you’ll get to listen to U2 or The Police without mortgaging your house and selling your children into slavery. And on top of that, you get the Antarctic Monkeys and the Dead Hot Chili Peppers as well.
For anyone who thinks that all of the above counts as Dad-rock, on the New Bands stage you can see some of the best unsigned local talent the country has to offer, from indie-guitar heroes in the making The Utopian (who do a mean Libertines cover in case this original material lark doesn’t come off), Emo lovelies Plastic Toys (we especially like their girl bassist’s pink glittery instrument and the lead singer’s floppy red fringe), and a host of others. Why Dirty Pretty Things-alike Music Roll Exchange don’t have a record deal yet is a mystery – they’re much better than half the dross I get to review on CD.
The Starrlings and NON, a Slovenian band who seem somewhat confused over why they’re here (I think it’s just the language barrier), also deserve honorable mentions, although in truth not a single one of the many newcomers we see over the weekend lets us down. They simply make us feel guilty for not coming over this way more often the last time we were here.
Regardless of what they sound like, the kids playing on the New Bands stage deserve medals for soldiering on in truly appalling weather conditions. With our hands in our pockets, we can barely feel our fingers; how skinny, pale 16-year-olds are finding the strength to play guitar in this can only be down to a tenacity that deserves high praise.
Our waterproof hoods go off to all the weekend’s performers. Band after band struggle on until the second stage is eventually closed on Sunday evening for fear of electrocution and we all troop back to the main arena for the closing spectacle of ace Queen tribute band Mercury. Like so many of the weekend’s performers, they applaud the crowd for sticking through to the bitter end.
There is more we could mention: the fire-jugglers from The Burning Crew who are struggling with the weather more than anyone and yet still manage to entertain us as the new bands play on in the background. The free food and beer and the warm, dry press/VIP trailer are all very much appreciated, thanks.
Camping in the backstage crew and artists enclosure gives us the opportunity to talk to the performers and bask in their enthusiasm. Dave from The Utopian and his friend Lee, whose band Jonah are playing at the ‘real’ Glastonbury later this year, erect their already soggy tents next to us with such infectious enthusiasm that it makes us feel their age again. It’s their first festival ever and the weather is not going to get in the way of them enjoying it.
The rain and the wind aside, this is what a festival should be. Friendly, approachable, enjoyable and filled with good music, both of the kind you’ve loved all your life and the kind that you can discover for the first time here and love into the future. Wouldn’t it be great if in 20 years time, a Music Roll Exchange tribute band hammer out two decades worth of greatest hits as, in the next field, you remember the time you first saw the real band here, on the New Bands stage, as the music comes full circle?