Gig Goer of the Week, part 5: Festival Campsite Etiquette

I’m going to interject before The Ledge finishes his Summer Sundae reviews, as he’s been too busy with Fantasy Football to bother. We’ve had a pretty good run of shows, actually, so I’ve not been inspired to one of these, but there was this guy on the campsite at Summer Sundae who deserves a special mention.

Now, I’m a really light sleeper and as a result, I don’t always do well at festivals. I could not cope at Glastonbury in 1999 because we were camped next to a group of speed freaks who had decided if they were not sleeping then nobody else should. I didn’t try the whole camping thing again until last year when we decided driving back and forth between Leeds and home was just too exhausting. We took our airbed. I took earplugs. I prepared myself for late nights drinking with people on the campsite and we had a blast. I did not sleep well, I was wrecked for the whole next week (I do need a good 8 hours to be human), but I had a great time. But it wasn’t that loud. It wasn’t that loud in that the noise was more of a general din that could be tuned out than one horrid booming voice right next to me.

T in the Park worked out well because we didn’t get our tent up til about 3am when most everyone had gone in, and then it was raining so hard on the Saturday that nobody could sit outside and so just went to bed. Plus we weren’t camping on the festival site, so it was sparse.

So, 2 for 2 in recent years yeah? Yeah. Third time lucky it seems.

Now, Summer Sundae is an unusual festival. It’s small, it’s indie, and it’s geared at families and an older crowd. It’s also in a residential area. The campsites are in a local college and the local university and they regulate the number of tents. They also ask for a “silent” campsite between 11pm and 9am. It’s written on the ticket. It’s written in the newsletters they start sending you regularly when you buy a ticket. It was repeated a few times from the stage during the course of the day. There’s a good reason for this – if it’s noisy, the people in the houses next door to the site will get a bit irritated and the festival won’t get licensed again. Plus there were loads of kids about, and who wants to be at a festival with tired, cranky kids? Let the kids sleep!

Now, I was looking forward to this. Imagine, a festival where I might get a decent night’s sleep! Heaven! Umm..almost.

Night number 1. After a few drinks I was dead to the world until about 2am when I had to get up and take myself to the toilets. Halfway across the field I heard a guitar. In a silent field, I mean totally silent, some asshat was playing a guitar and singing. Badly. Like it was sub-James Blunt bad. At 2am. Everyone else was asleep. Luckily he soon shut up because I’d probably have fixated on it and not gotten back to sleep.

Night number 2. We get back to the tent and behind us a group of middle-aged cockney men had set up tent. One of them had the loudest voice ever which was coupled with the filthiest mouth ever. Luckily he shut up when I climbed out of my tent, shone my light on him to see where the effing and blinding was coming from and then made a loud remark to The Ledge about filthy mouths around kids. Rude on my part, I know, but every other word involved the act of copulation. The moment he went quiet(er) we could hear the guitarist again. Only this time he was trying to play the blues. Badly. Like, very badly.

Here’s the thing: What on earth goes through the head of someone who’s been asked to be quiet on the campsite by the organisers (I assume they meant try and keep it down to normal speaking voices), who decides to bring his guitar, play it as loud as he can around 1,000 people who were trying to sleep and think anyone wanted to hear it. Were girls flocking over there and offering themselves to him? I mean, he was really really really bad. He really should have been too embarassed to sing in front of people, yet he was forcing the hideous sound of his off-key caterwauling on hundreds upon hundreds of strangers. Did he think a record exec might be around and just pop over to his tent and offer him a record deal? Seriously? What goes through the head of an extremely amateur musician in a field full of sleeping people?

So here’s some festival campsite etiquette for you:
If you are a shite guitarist and/or a shite singer, leave it at home. And if you must, don’t wait until the entire campsite goes quiet to serenade people. At least do it when all the other noise will drown the sound of your hideous voice out!

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