There’s a global, religious sect of seasoned, hardened festival goers for all genres. No, not the two or three you’re part of every year. I mean booking accommodation 12 months in advance, finding each other through dedicated Whatsapp chains and secret Facebook groups, seeing each other eight times a year, purely at festivals, then retreating back to separate real-world lives as IT consultants, HR managers and Video Editors.
I’m not a seasoned Festival Goer. I was proud of my 2 Glastonburies, my 1 Rock the Bells, 1 Benicassim, 4 Fringes, 2 T-in-the-Parks and 1 Electric Elephant. Silly me.
This lot share countdowns to purchase tickets in the discount window, weeks before early-bird tickets, months before the line-up is announced. And it was my pleasure to have these aficionados as my guides at Primavera 2015.
All festivals are a platter of intense highs, epic crowds, shared passions, ringing eardrums, a myriad of live performances, spontaneity, moshing, mass elation, extreme inspiration and variation, lack of sleep, odd tattoo choices, sweating in the open air, appalling nutrition, cheek-ache from smiling too hard, questionable hygiene, mindbending, phone loss, high Hipster count, and your alternative 5-a-day.
Primavera encompasses all of these, year in, year out, with a superb alternative list of the world’s most talented live musicians NOT typically streaming on commercial airwaves, and a real connoisseur’s mix for global ‘Festheads’. Some of these Festheads are famous purely for their passion – Big Jeff Johns from Bristol is now a facet of the music media without writing a word, as the tall, very recognizable ginger grin at the front of every discerning gig in every discerning festival. When his face appears on the monitors, the crowd gleefully shouts “Jeff!!!”
Dubai’s very own Festheads include the inimitable and exhilarating Mo El-Amin, described by another Festhead as “30% as famous as Big Jeff”. His 6-foot-afro and pearly white ecstatic grin can be found at the front barrier, or in the heart of every mosh pit. Mo led an elated but confused crowd of thousands at Dan Deacon’s behest, in a dance that was an inspired ‘holy moment’. He’s not the messiah, and he’s a very naughty boy, who was tossed personally into the crowd by the lead singer of Fucked Up, and of course, praised by Killer Mike himself with a “Shout out to that crazy motherfucker with the afro, crowdsurfing! That nigger – Jesus”. In every crowd, Mo was a beacon to other Festheads. A reminder, if we needed one, that as much as we’re all here for the music, we’re also here for an intensive celebration with likeminded souls.
Other Dubai Festheads include Nazy; a stunning Iranian who is by day, a musical Encyclopedia, and by night, crowd-surfing fiend and moshing behemoth. Then there’s Mike-and-Aaron, (buy one get one free), a respectable Dubai Editor and Businessman, who become the phone-losing, shoe-losing front row stalwarts and backbone of this ragtag group of mischievous misfits. Not to mention Jane, proprietress of Dubai’s favourite alternative (or ‘Portlandia-style’) Indie-Rock night ‘Bad House Party’; small in stature, epic in presence, screaming one-way conversations at lead singers from the front row , and of course, crowd surfing.
Now to the festival. While Primavera’s two main stages hosted the Big Guns, the Pitchfork, Ray Ban and Adidas stages were where our motley crew typically resided, supporting Up-and-comings, Alternatives and Cult classics, sharing and exchanging enthusiasm, and in many cases being blown away by spectacular skills, energy, passion (and of course, our own collective awesomeness).
In a group of about 20, we were all able to peel away to catch favourites. None of us saw entirely the same menu of acts, but here, according to my makeshift criteria, is a chart-review of the wonders I discovered at Prim 2015.
So when my mother says “I think now would be a good time to stop and think about where you want to be in ten years time”, I sincerely hope Primavera 2025 will be on the cards. (And we’ve already booked the hotel).