Biffy Clyro: Saviours of the UK festival

September 8, 2013 10:19 pm

On Sunday night (August 25th), Biffy Clyro closed Reading Festival’s main stage to millions of adoring fans and couch potatoes alike around the world. As one of the Scottish trio’s most awe-inspiring nights, they didn’t only offer flaming guitars and thrashing anthems; they reinvigorated a flailing franchise in the process.

Whether you’ve been to a music festival or not, you’ve surely witnessed one of these often life-changing experiences through some sort of technological medium. Be it on TV or streamed through the internet, organisers are finding it ever-more difficult to entice potential punters into shelling out for a ticket when many of the acts performing over the weekend are available at the click of a button.

Which is a shame. Much of a festival’s appeal is crafted by its atmosphere. I don’t mean the cup-of-piss-to-the-face atmosphere, but the communal, liberating and overall convivial atmosphere. The one that throws new friends and merry memories at you through sun or rain. But usually the latter.

Some of the UK’s major festivals – which have hefty ticket prices and mostly sub-standard weather conditions in comparison to their overseas cousins – are now trying even harder to make themselves less about the music and more about the experience. Michael Eavis doesn’t just want you to go to Glastonbury to watch the acts perform; he wants you to take a slide down the helter skelter, feed Worthy Farm’s animal inhabitants and get lost in its heritage.

This is all well and good in the short term, sure, but people get bored of that. It’s nice to have a few rides to go on here and there when you’ve had a bit too much to drink, but the crux of the visit is still the music. The way to keep British festival culture alive and thriving is with next-generation, attention-grabbing line-ups. Which brings me to this year’s Reading & Leeds Festivals.

2013 saw Green Day, Eminem and Biffy Clyro top the billing for the events, two of which are almost universally known. The third, Biffy Clyro, are a band perhaps not accustomed to headlining large festivals like Reading & Leeds, and whilst they were panned by many – including Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor – for not being popular enough for such an honour, the Kilmarnock threesome sent all 70,000 onlookers crazy with ease.

What made their performance even more rewarding for the viewers is that Biffy Clyro are the new headlining behemoth. Watching Muse or The Killers dominate the biggest stages has always been fun, but it’s starting to get staler than festival toilets: and nobody wants that. More to the point, the R&L organisers have found a sweet spot with that booking that got people interested in their festival again. Benicassim might take place next to a beach in Spain, but Reading & Leeds had Biffy Clyro headlining. It’s also testament to this that weekend tickets completely sold out for the first time in years.

It’s not just the headliners that this new ethos should apply to, though. Amongst the highest-billing bands were some up-and-comers. Oxford-based ‘math rockers’ Foals, for instance, recently made their first festival headline appearance at Latitude, and found themselves third below only Eminem and Chase & Status at Reading on Saturday night.

Three albums deep and with various accolades declaring them the best live act on the circuit, Foals smashed their slot effortlessly, enforcing the burning question of this article: why do festival organisers rest on their laurels when it comes to line-ups, when young bands are not only capable of tackling the major festivals, but vital to their success? The answer lies in their deeply buried belief that festival goers want only the biggest and most bombastic acts to play the night shift, but this is an untrue sentiment and one that hopefully other organisers will notice when choosing next year’s bills.

So enough with the millionaire acts, please. Take some risks and let’s see some Foals, Paramore and Queens of the Stone Age action at the top, and make the UK’s festivals the best in the world once again.

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