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Sitting around with a few of my closest friends I get a sense of déjà vu, drinking before something of a night out. Except I’m not in our townhouse preparing to hit Sugar; I’m at Leeds Festival outside my tent downing cans of cheap cider, having paid almost two hundred pounds for the privilege.
Considering that the student population make up a large percentage of the thousands camping at Glastonbury, V Festival, Reading, Leeds and others, why do so many of us choose to cough up the obscene amount needed to attend? There are many reasons given to justify spending the equivalent of ten or twelve average nights out in just one weekend and that’s before taking into consideration the additional cost of food, drinks and merchandise.
One is the possibility of seeing completely unique and exceptional performances. At Leeds and Reading, the opportunity to see The Libertines back together after such a sensational breakup – not to mention their superb catalogue of hits – was probably enough by itself to justify the price tag to most punters, myself included. It felt surreal singing along to the nostalgic anthems that defined much of my youth and it’s certainly something I’ll never forget. That kind of get-together doesn’t happen very often and, while certain acts inevitably leave casual watchers wondering what all the fuss is about, true fans get treated to something most of them would give almost anything to witness.
Most will plump for the mystical festival experience as their main justification. This term probably conjures images of filthy toilets, freezing tents, fields-cum-swamps, constant rain and a couple of bands playing off-key and a little drunk outside in the cold summer air. To seasoned veterans though, all of the above are not only enticing but also essential. That hallowed experience that they bang on about combines best friends, brilliant music and copious amounts of alcohol with the aforementioned hardships to create something wonderfully removed from everyday life, existing outside of reality just for one weekend.
The claims by many that it is the best weekend of the year are, then, entirely reasonable. This is not the sort of event that draws curious spectators or those with anything approaching a casual interest; it’s an epic experience that transcends money – or a lack of it – and draws thousands of students out of their penny-pinching stereotype, with very good reason.