The Beeb has been going almost as mad for Glastonbury in the last few days as it has for Wimbledon, with multiple channels, as well as certain regions of the mystical land known as ‘The Red Button’, devoted to coverage of the festival. So of course all the usual festival-goers who couldn’t quite make it this year are tuning in all evening to watch other, more financially secure (or at least more on the ball) middle-class white rebels have an absolute whale of a time while they’re stuck at home.
Oh wait, no they aren’t.
The festival experience is about community, partying, committing to a whole weekend in a tent, abandoning social norms, refusing to eat or sleep in a vaguely healthy manner, drinking too much, and, yes, mud. Try as they might (and who knows, maybe 3D TV will one day accomplish this), the BBC cannot bring this to a living room audience. Live performances are only worth televising when there’s something particularly special about them. Jools Holland still gets views because bands are doing live sessions intended for TV audiences; things like The U2 360° Tour, The Rolling Stones’ A Bigger Bang Tour and Michael Jackson first doing the moonwalk on Motown 25 are valuable because of their special significance.
There’s nothing especially significant about Rita Ora playing the Pyramid Stage on a Friday afternoon, except perhaps as a sad indictment on the state of the festival today (Professor Green was on next). After a great deal of back-and-forth, The Rolling Stones, who initiallly insisted that none of their set be televised, have eventually conceded for an edited hour of their set to be shown on the BBC. Maybe they have the right idea. Apart from the obvious financial motivation of wanting to sell their own performances themselves, Jagger was reportedly worried about quality control. Music at festivals quite simply doesn’t sound as good as indoor concerts; the acoustics are unmanageable. Of course, no one who’s actually there realizes this because they’re all, quite rightly, off their faces.
By all means film the acts, and allow those who went to relive it by finding the footage online (I for one scour all the footage of bands I saw trying to see myself in the crowd), but don’t fill up the weekend’s schedule with non-stop coverage, and don’t pretend that it comes close to replicating the experience of actually being there. After all, the only way one could precisely replicate the experience of seeing Mumford & Sons headline the Pyramid Stage at the end of Glastonbury 2013 live would be to lie in the middle of the road while one of your mates repeatedly ran you over in a car and another one jumped up and down on a huge pile of broken banjos and ukeleles.