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Summer festivals — good, bad and ugly



Sebastien Grainger et les Montagnes are playing the Virgin Festival Monday — the same day as Grainger’s former Death From Above 1979 bandmate Jesse Keeler. Unfortunately, Grainger said there is “absolutely no way” the two will perform together on stage.

May long weekend marks the start of summer, and the music festival season.

This Sunday and Monday, a host of bands will congregate at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium and form good and bad memories among their audiences — and themselves.

While part of the dance-punk duo Death From Above 1979, Sebastien Grainger played many festivals, and said those in mainland Europe really stood out. His favourite, in Oslo, was perfect, he said: from the stage layout to a backstage where all the artists hung out together. He even got assigned a site tour guide.

But not all festivals are equal, and thinking of his worst festival experience, Grainger, who now performs with his band les Montagnes (the Mountains), described one in Ireland.

“Twenty minutes before our set (the organizers) picked us up in a golf cart,” he said. “They were yelling and screaming at us since there wasn’t enough time for setup. . . (That festival) was focused on selling tie-died T-shirts and chips and gravy.”

Relaxing after a festival date last week in Kansas City, Hot Hot Heat vocalist/keyboardist Steve Bay said playing to sluggish crowds during an early slot is hard, and tensions between bands can be high. He said Hot Hot’s drummer was once sucker-punched, and for revenge, the band “rearranged” their rival’s backstage room. And then there’s Glastonbury.

“We were literally driving in a truck with 10-foot tires,” he said. “These puddles of water became lakes, and everything was covered in mud.”

Opening for bands like Audioslave and the Killers is also nerve-racking. To warm up backstage, Hot Hot listens to really loud music and spends the whole day building up to their performance.

“Playing a festival is very humbling,” he said. “People are not there just to see you, so . . . you can’t pull the whole rock star bullshit. You just have to have fun.”


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