Did you know that the origin of the most famous present music festivals find their roots in the Pythian Games, in Ancient Greece? Variating from athletic to musical type, those competitions were held in honor of Apollo. The live music scene evolved since then, relative to it clothing did the same. Between image and meaning, it spoke for itself. Is it still the case?
Britannia’s love for music festivals – From Jazz to Blues, to Jazz and Blues, to Rock’n’roll, Psychedelia and co.
LOOKING FOR FREEDOM is definitely the motto that remained through the ages of the festival’s history. It has always been about being alive by cutting from the life that one leads. According to jazz musician Terry Lightfoot,
“Jazz festivals were among the first, if not the first“.
It offered an escape from convention when a British aristocrat, Lord Montague started in 1956 a yearly jazz festival that became really successful. However, music festivals did not always spread peace and love like the hippie movement sincerely did. 1960 saw a first glimpse of the anarchic potential of the festival’s culture with the Riot of Beaulieu jazz festival in the Hampshire. The British youth engaged in serious political movement, assuringly willing to save the world. Huge social gatherings started as Blues festivals slowly replaced Jazz: the same minds pretty determined that the world would not go forward at that time. Music festivals had become synonym of youth, music and politic mixed altogether. A time of development and change followed in the mid-60s, as the live musical scene began to see flowers everywhere. The buzz of hippies was on. Folk music was mainstream, revolutionary ideas equally. Britain bored its youth during those years. A Victorian Britain kind of – everyone wearing bowler hats. A transition needed then to happen, from people who wore suits to the ones in jeans. Queen Victoria was finally gone! And the music flooded from that place. Everything seemed in a process of awakening. No barriers, no security, the festival’s police by the time was run by the Hells Angels; thousands of people in the same green area, the situation was unreal. Woodstock changed a lot of things, the Isle of Wight’s perhaps more. All of the festivals were free, as people could not afford it in the other case. However, the whole experience changed in August 3 1969, leaving space for the commercial era of live music. The first edition of the Isle of Wight Festival certainly triumphed musically while also ringing the changes: there must be a better way of doing festivals.
Despite the magical aura and honest belief of Glatonsbury’s festival-goers in changing the world, the tone was shifting in the mid- to late 70s. More rock, more punk, and more political festivals. The British youth of the early 80s fought the oppression, resist to Thatcher’s politic by… “PARTYING“. Aware of the increasingly growth of unemployment and an uncaring society, they unified by the music. Renewing the festival experience, the post-punk urban Peace Convoy collective rather left peace and love for anger and resentment. It went then to a scary stuff, pretty ugly at The Battle of Beanfield where brutal riot police happened. Still illegal, the new age travelers and ravers of the 90s made dance music mainstream. Quickly becoming expensive, unreliable and seedy, the acid house’s movement, sometimes absolutely rubbish sometimes awesome, brought new British legislation. The UK dramatically changed from what it was to what it became.
Since 2002, no one would get to Glatonsbury for free anymore. The Isle of Wight’s anarchy is over. Festivals have been obliged to get serious regarding security. They have been domesticated and ceased to be frightening as they were. Everything became codified, even if live music remained precious.
As the song writer Billy Bragg said, “you can download the music but you cannot download the experience“.
Festival Clothing – An evolution where image has shadowed the music itself
Boho Chic seems to be the must, the number one of the 21st century festival culture – proving below that there is no need to limit to the boho hippy stuff for festivals. In spite of inspiring from the hippie movement, it looks less sincere more calculated. Not to say that the past history of festival clothing was without any superficial traits. As clothes have always carried messages, the present situation does not provide convincing evidence of it. What has now replaced the all bright and awakening blooming process of the hippie movement? And that community’s feeling at the Stonehenge Festival? Not the festivals only appear to have been domesticated through history, but also the different styles. Hippie-bohemian-urban-chic, what does that mean? Does it prove anything? Like the claim of everyone’s right to freedom, for instance. Has the all “be yourself“ experience of festival history left the field for good? In a society – talking for Europe and the USA especially – where one gets what it wants, if not everything, there is nothing left to prove or fight for.
Festivals now are nothing else than an appearance’s matter, involving the best dressed female and male, i.e. to admit human skin as new fabric.
Zalando.ch – hashtag IAMREADY4FESTIVALS – offers the possibility to win tickets for the Lollapalooza Festival in Berlin next September 12-13. Pick the stuffs you like, the dreams festival-goers had a long time before you and anticipate what could happen tomorrow. Clothes played their role, play yours.