Glasto, 2011: Keep calm and carry on glamping.
Glasto, 2011: Keep calm and carry on glamping.

The music festival experience - from the other side of the stage

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here!

SEATTLE — As the drummer of Spacehog, I’ve played in front of big crowds at Summerfest, at least three times (or so I recall). I have some fond memories, rolling into Milwaukee, taking the opportunity to skim new music in the open air of your beautiful lakefront.

As a fan, I have huge affection for my own hometown's annual music fest, the Leeds Festival in England. For many years now I have flown in for it. Similarly, it’s a great chance to catch up with old friends and float about the site skimming the bands of the moment – a festival equivalent of channel surfing. It puts the onus firmly on the bands to deliver something memorable. Personal highlights include Morrissey, James Brown, The Arcade Fire, Late Of the Pier and The Foo Fighters.

As a band, the festival environment can throw some serious challenges to any group braving the outdoors. For a start, there's the weather. On last year’s Summerland tour we got literally blown off stage by a thunderstorm – twice, with near fatal consequences. Fortunately, the weather at the Wisconsin State Fair was perfect when we visited in August.

Turning up at a festival levels the playing field for bands large and small. It’s a logistical nightmare getting everything working and looking/sounding good in the 15-30 minutes one usually gets during a "change over."

Being left-handed, I am now used to wrestling with rental drums in the allotted time in order to play an instrument I actually recognize. But next time you see a great show in the great outdoors, spare a thought for all the technicians, sound and lighting guys, and the local oompah loompahs, that made it all possible for you.

Of course, it doesn't always go perfectly. Playing …

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