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Up From Below #5: The Didn't-Go-To-Glastonbury Special
The North's best newsletter talks festivals
In this week’s issue: we talk about festivals vs. the good old fashioned gig, and how that plays with sobriety.
As I type this, Elton is bashing out banger after banger, and it’s got me thinking about the amount of time everyone has spent in that big field, waiting for this pensioner to belt his piano for all it’s worth , which is probably fucking loads knowing Elton.
The days spent at festivals build up, as you wait to come up, hit your peak level of pissed, or just keep going until you pass out. Gigs are a fleeting window, with their limited, predictable timeframe. Heading out on a random Thursday and taking in some live music is one of the best things someone can do for the old brain health as far as I’m concerned, and there’s pleasure in the encapsulation of it all.
In drinking terms, festivals are the hectic, booze-filled pub crawls planned weeks or months in advance. Gigs are the few jars on a whim after work, just without the round of shots that takes it too far. They’re beautifully limited.
Since giving up drinking two years ago, I feel like I’ve been living life in one long-running monologue. You’re never taken completely out of your own head as a sober person. That’s fine when you’re in a good place, but can often be the exact reason people turn to drink in the first place.
A lot of the appeal in booze (and drugs) comes from their ability to tear you from your day to day and make you feel like you’re a different person, stripped of your worries by a few glasses or lines of something. It’s all bullshit, of course, you have to deal with whatever was on your mind the next day (or the day after that if you carry on the chaos), but it’s a form of chemical escapism that can make those addictions so dangerous.
There are plenty of reasons people enjoy multi-day festivals, but one thing you’ll always hear is that it feels like an escape, an alternative to the mundanity of everyday life. I think an important stepping stone of improving your mental health, particularly when dealing with addiction, comes from learning to deal with the everyday shit without resorting to running away. Whether that’s by downing a bottle of Glen’s, or standing in a field waving your arms to some bloke called DJ Proper Shite (close enough).
You have to be able to look life in the eye without having “at least I’ve got Glastonbury coming up” as your line of defence against your brain’s darker thoughts. Because one day, Elton will have tinkled his last tune, and you’ll be left with a heavy hangover and some patchy memories of a single weekend, on top of all the shit you come home to.
I realise I’m entirely projecting my anxieties around attending something like Glastonbury here, I’m sure 99% of the quarter of a million folk who turned up this weekend will see it as a truly incredible experience that they’ll (mostly) remember forever.
I just think we should all be embracing the gig a little more, and emphasising festivals a little less. They’re expensive, you end up absolutely reeking, and there’s no warm bed at the end of every day.
Don’t waste your time, money and brain power waiting for the big summer festival. Spend the fifteen quid and go see something at a local venue, your wallet, head, and heart will all thank you.
Unless Elton’s playing, then get yourself off.
Say She She are a trio with outrageous harmonies, and they’ve been pumping out these absolutely glorious disco-funk tunes non-stop since their debut album Prism dropped in 2022. This new tune, C’est Si Bon, is just outrageously fun.
The biggest crime Glastonbury can be accused of is sticking them on the Pyramid Stage before the streams began, meaning maybe everything I talked about above should be entirely ignored. This is the price we have to pay for not forking out a fortune to go down south and sweat with hundreds of thousands of others keen for a two-step.
Nothing this week! I would have recommended The Wailers, just for something a bit different, but they’ve cancelled. So after telling you to go support local live music, here we are. Bit awkward init? Soz.
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