THE BLOG
02/09/2013 13:22 BST | Updated 01/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Why Music Festivals Are The Only Real Connection We Have Left

Festivals, where everyone has the same seats, the same nightly discomfort, the same yearning for discovery, are perhaps the last bastion of connectivity.

It's very important now and again to embrace the things that most upset you. With the exception of Nazis, obviously.

Which was why I forced myself last weekend to lie in a tent, gently vibrating to the snores of my drunken neighbour, painfully stifling an urge to use a reeking toilet decomposing just 15 minutes through a minefield of ropes and discarded cider cans, listening to a wasp trying desperately either to escape or attack me in my sweaty sleeping bag.

I hate camping. It upsets me. Sometimes as much as Nazis.

I loathe the thought of having to share toilets with people. Not just people but, yuk, strangers! I hate having to cook and eat on what is, in effect, a rubbish tip with grass growing on it. It upsets me.

Yet every year, for 72 hours or so, I love it. Even now as I write this, the grey film of filth that has been my armour for the past few days ecstatically washed down the plughole, I am making plans to return. I feel certain that the rest of the family can't wait. Yeah, right.

Perhaps it's not so much the camping that I want to return to, as the event itself. Much has been written and talked about the End Of The Road Festival, the last major summer music shindig. On the borders of Wiltshire and Dorset, in the idyllic setting of Larmer Tree Gardens, it has become a musical Mecca for alternative, electronica, alt-country, Americana. Basically anything that involves the lead singer brandishing a beard or singing like Florence/Gillian Welch.

There's hardly a duff note played and the headliners, unusually for a music festival, are not really what it's all about. Certainly, Sigur Ros were hypnotically romantic; a hard rock Eels were something of a force of nature, jocular tracksuited Mark Everett even made the rain give way to a beautiful double-rainbow that lit up the fields; David Byrne sang hits from 30 years ago with a voice that hasn't aged a day and a playfulness that was the perfect antidote to everyone else's hirsute earnestness; and a typically lush Belle and Sebastian brought things to a sentimental close, reminding everyone what good pop music sounds like.

But they weren't the highlights. Most people come to EOTR to see and hear acts that most radio-listeners have never heard of. My daughter dragged me to Daughter (a little too timid but with a haunting voice exuding angst), my snoring neighbour saved me a front row spot for the U.S West Coast's next big thing, literally, Dawes (download A Little Bit of Everything if you want to impress your dinner party guests next weekend along with the stuffed lamb) and I even stumbled on a multi-talented hip hop street poet (The Cartoonist) who deserves to be huge but will shamefully probably never get the chance to impress beyond festivals like this.

But underneath it all, thousands of people, for just a brief moment, were united in embracing the things that they spend 362 days of the year avoiding, like me and camping. Songs were imbued with feelings of loss and abandonment, alienation, love affairs soured by infidelities, missed opportunities, regrets, anger at the system, life decisions that turn out for the worst. In particular, I noticed, in our digitally regressed era, stages were filled with a sense of loneliness.

All these emotions defined the acts. Here in an English paradise we came to hear about ruin. And we loved it. And we shared it with our neighbours. And we walked to the next gig and bumped into strangers and said, 'Oh have you seen so and so,' and then followed recommendations from people we'll never see again. And we talked to each other. And we connected. In a way that a billion internet cables will never be able to do.

In an age where people 'recommend' and 'like' without really knowing what they're recommending and liking and who they're recommending and liking to, this music festival - every music festival - reawakens a sense of communion that no longer exists in our everyday lives.

At home families exist in separate rooms, work is a hushed slog played out in miniscule cubicles, churches provide increasingly isolated solace, even Saturday football is merely fuelled by hatred for the opposition and envy for those in better seats.

Festivals, where everyone has the same seats, the same nightly discomfort, the same yearning for discovery, are perhaps the last bastion of connectivity. Events that encourage us to forge the sort of bonds we spend our lives avoiding - just in case they end up disappointing or upsetting us.

It's just a shame we have to get so bloody filthy to do so.