Festivals

Issue 01/15

At the dawn of humanity we celebrated a new life, a good hunt or a fine harvest. Today we make pilgrimages to the promised land and the delightful moment of a festival.

Man has always felt an irrational need to give prominence to the events that have marked his existence. The beginning or the end of a life, the fruit of a harvest or the result of a hunt, the onset or the finish of a journey could well be considered as distant relatives of the festivals we enjoy today.

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Jonathan Stathakis: Jimi Hendrix en Woodstock Music&Art Fair, 1969. Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Yet, with the passage of time and the inevitable accumulation of experience, the act of celebrating has undergone a profound metamorphosis. A new type of festivity has emerged, one that celebrates the true collision between time and space. Although this statement may be a little abstract, we should focus on the event that changed the history of rock’n’roll and became a landmark in the course of the history of music. Under the slogan ‘Three Days of Peace and Music,’ the Woodstock Music&Art Fair managed to bring together over 450,000 people on a farm property in the state of New York. The year was 1969, and young people in America, intoxicated by the hippie movement which was then at its height, spoke out against the government’s warmongering policies. The need to protest and the voices of dissent in the music scene of the period created an unprecedented collective spiritual connection that continues to be highly influential many generations later.

Today’s map of festivals doesn’t only consist of a wide musical offer but also of the distinctive and attractive atmosphere they all, more or less successfully, generate. This is precisely their common denominator—their utopian nature. Suffice it to think of one of the most noteworthy, and perhaps more extreme festivals, Burning Man, a chimerical event created each summer with its own legal system, based on respect for the environment, sustainability and total freedom of thought, where the usual monetary exchange loses value in favour of the trading of primary assets such as food and water, or even of improvised artistic creations such as a small play. The main objective of all those who make their annual pilgrimage to Black Rock City—the ephemeral city built in the sand of the desert of the same name in the state of Nevada, is to open a spatio-temporal gap in their lives.

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Sarah Bartell: Burning Man—Spread the LOVE, 2011

And what are those of us who regularly attend the various festivals that dot the Spanish landscape actually celebrating? Long-standing festivals such as the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim—or FIB, and Barcelona’s Primavera Sound and Sónar may stand for the end of our exams, the beginning of ‘the summer of our lives’ before we start university, or simply the pleasure of being close to our favourite performers. I like to think that we attend festivals for each and every one of these reasons, and for many others of which I am unaware. In any event, the area, the ‘space’ we occupy collides with the ‘time,’ the vital moment of physical or emotional youth we experience and interweaves, almost magically, each of the souls present to create a unique and delightful utopia.