5 Annoying Music Festival Traditions That Can Never Be Stopped

It was announced today that after a strangely tiny petition, that Glastonbury have added Native American feather headdresses to a list of things that the onsite vendors are no longer allowed to be sold. There are many other pet hates that festival goers wish would follow suit, but just can’t do anything about.

reading festival_4


Jeremy Allen of NME gave a good list of things that he wishes would disappear from UK festivals, and I agree with every word, as a serial gig and festival goer myself. However, I have an additional few myself that drive me nuts. Unfortunately, though these are all things that no matter what a festival promoter and staff try, will never be prevented.




Jeremy suggested that filming at festivals should end, and I agree completely. Filming just won’t end because no special recording equipment is needed anymore, and so, I fancy clamping down further.

Festivals are a brilliant place to treat as an escape. A bubble from the outside world. All that matters is within the confines of the festival site, so why on earth does anybody need to bring an iPhone with them? Also, has everybody forgotten what phones are actually for? You know… phoning somebody? With a clunky old Nokia I can do just that, and it’s all I need. No videos. No social media. Just shutting oneself off, and having a convenience to contact family at the end of the day, is more than anyone needs.

Not that phoning is of any use anyway, as everyone else’s smartphones have run out of battery by the end of Day 1. If there were a Day 14, mine would still be in action. For once, the invincible Nokia isn’t a vintage hipster artifact or nostalgia. It’s just a decent phone that serves better than others that cost hundreds. Go figure.


No thanks Peter.
No thanks Peter.

Until duck tape over mouths becomes obligatory at festivals, this will go on for as long as there are irritating individuals who find it funny.

Anyone even thinking of doing it should be ejected from the premises. This irritates me more than anything else about festivals, and Download Festival seems to be great for this. To put this into perspective, at 11:30PM on Friday night, en route to my tent, I took notes on my Dictaphone for the sake of writing reviews. I briefly celebrated that I had not heard a single person shout “Alan!”, “Bollocks!”, and (most irritating of all…) “Buttscratcher!”.

At 11:31PM I was forced to press record again to state that my celebration had been premature. One irritating attendee listed every single one at deafening volume. If there was any benefit, almost everyone within a few metres radius groaned with similar irritation to my own. The fact that he got no response was a mild smug victory on my part though. It was mildly humorous when I took my 15-year-old brother to his first music festival (Reading 2009), and he was stunned thousands replied to someone nearby’s immortal question – “SPARTANS! What is your profession!?”. OK, now you have your answer, and it isn’t going to change. Stop asking.



Campfires are normally banned. It’s a shame, but totally justified. In terms of safety, these are essentially flying campfires. What better place to set a fire into flight that could fall to earth at any moment (and they have done), than fields densely packed with 80,000 festival goers’ tents?

Sure they can look beautiful in mass, at a themed event (The Yi Peng Sky Lantern Festival looks amazing), but what is the point anyway? Unless some beautiful mass release of many, it’s not even that interesting. They might be entertaining to those flat on the floor drunk and staring at the inevitably cloudy night sky, but these are not a good idea.

Sky lanterns are actually on the banned lists of many a festival, but nothing will ever prevent many, many attendees from making their own from disposable lighters and plastic bags, making them an unstoppable campsite habit. 


Moshpit2This is more a pet hate, as after three or four days of bands shouting this at you, the audience have got the message already, and it’s very irritating. It’s something that certainly shouldn’t happen at bands’ own shows, but screaming to get a crowd who are unfamiliar with your music into physical action might be tempting. But it shouldn’t be.

Steel Panther suffered greatly this year after a slightly sterilized Download Festival, after cameras were no longer allowed to the audience to capture young women flashing their chests. Considering how all banter was based on sex, this was a real blow. They also didn’t seem to notice that they only had an hour-long slot, and were happy to banter for ten minutes at a time.

However, there is one thing about onstage banter that really grinds my gears – asking the audience to mosh. Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely no problem with moshing and circle pits. Anyone at heavier festivals should expect them. Much to the surprise of anyone who thinks I’m boring, I’m usually in the centre of it all.

Download Festival 2014 introduced a ban on bands asking for circle pits in the crowd, and it almost worked. This actually made me very happy, because the fact of the matter is that if we want to mosh, we would be doing it already. Big co-operative and choreographed things like ‘walls of death’, or Slipknot’s signature ‘jump the fuck up’ routine, are alright to ask for, but something as commonplace and natural as a circle pit? No.

This was great, but backfired slightly into some of the most cringeworthy moments of the weekend, as bands tried to evade to the rules, but hinting at what they wanted, peaking with Bury Tomorrow’s Daniel Winter-Bates reminding the main stage crowd that “we like one shape. It’s a motherfucking circle.” Good for you.


Muse's Origin and Symmetry themed stage
Muse’s Origin and Symmetry themed stage

Here is a mainstay that isn’t only unstoppable, but is encouraged. This needs a bigger post on it really, so for the time being, here is a little micro-rant.

While the whole act of getting the crowd going might be slightly needed at festivals, and a large chunk of the crowd might not be familiar with your work, if any bands perform albums in their entirety, then they are asking for trouble.

Some bands can get away with this, so long as the albums in question are iconic. For example, Metallica’s Black Album (Download 2012) and Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory (Download 2014). However, there are others that, however great and acclaimed they were, will inevitably be lost on a festival crowd. The most major culprit that I’ve witnessed in Muse at Reading 2011, where they performed Origin of Symmetry, start to finish. Everyone knows ‘Plug In Baby’. Everyone knows ‘Feeling Good’. Most know ‘New Born’. Beyond that, it didn’t really work due to a massive clump of obscurities. It seemed lost on everybody, and even the brilliant stage and status as one of the best live acts on the planet got the crowd going.

I was near the front every day that year, and it was just dead, getting the coldest reception of all four headliners, at least for the first half of the set. I thought the performance was incredible, and it’s an important album in my musical journey, but this really wasn’t the place.

Well, there’s a few rants to set you all off. Does anybody have their own festival pet hates?


One thought on “5 Annoying Music Festival Traditions That Can Never Be Stopped

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  1. stumbled across your blog when googling stuff about Download, been a DL goer for 15 years with sprinkles of reading, T in the park and Glasto. you have hit nail on a couple of my all time hate but i would like to ad the recent trend of dragging out band announcement for months on end by promoters (Download really stretching credibility with that this year). Greed of some vendors (this is based on an experience i have had a couple of festivals. official band shirts on sale for £20-£25. im cool with that but when looking to buy a t shirt for a baby from a stall in the arena they tried to charge £40.)

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