I couldn’t think about doing festivals with out consuming. Pulling it off crammed me with aid – and pleasure | Laura Snapes

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I couldn’t think about doing festivals with out consuming. Pulling it off crammed me with aid – and pleasure | Laura Snapes

Twenty years in the past this August, I went to my first music competition. My greatest good friend’s mum kindly – bravely – drove us two 15-year-olds from Cornwall to Studying and supervised from a distance whereas we queued on the signing tent to satisfy Goldie Lookin’ Chain, Razorlight and the Hives, joined within the euphoric yells of “bollocks!” that swept throughout the campsite and eschewed the do-it-yourself meals she had dropped at rejoice in consuming kebab-van burgers as flat and flavourful as CDs. Within the images, we glance drunk – wide-eyed and giddy on the (relative) freedom, the disbelief that the pages of NME had been coming to life earlier than our eyes. However we had been fully sober. Save for a few small native occasions the next summer time, I believe that was, till very lately, the final time I ever went to a competition with out consuming. And work has taken me to a whole lot of festivals.

“Competition-drunk” is a specific form of drunk. It tends to start its regular pickling as quickly because the solar is over the yardarm and final a very good 12 hours or extra. At its greatest, it’s a heavenly feeling: your most glowing, sunkissed self, your shut mates, the soundtrack to your lives writ giant in entrance of you; the suspicion that Carly Rae Jepsen may be a toddler of God. The day is each countless but in addition laced with untimely nostalgia for the current second.

I can sew an entire quilt of those moments from my twenty years of festivalling: dancing with mud-filled Crocs because the Pet Store Boys headlined Primavera Porto final yr; watching Alabaster dePlume enchant Le Guess Who? in Utrecht in 2021 because the unplanned final act of the evening after the Dutch authorities imposed a last-minute Covid curfew; fulfilling a teenage dream of watching from the aspect of the Pyramid stage when the Nationwide performed Glastonbury in 2017. Generally there’s even pleasure within the ache – popping out of Glastonbury’s NYC Downlow squinting, horrified on the daybreak solar as you realise you’ve run out of street, and trudging arm in arm down the railway observe to mattress as evening turns into reminiscence.

I don’t wish to pathologise any of this or counsel that darkness lingers behind each good time. However within the underbelly of competition consuming, there’s forgetting the music you’ve gone there to see, realising that purchasing a number of rounds of black cherry White Claws has left you with 67p in your checking account, throwing up, smoking whenever you want you hadn’t, falling down a rest room at Glastonbury twice, being varied shades of annoying to your fellow punters and, maybe extra importantly, your folks (in addition to taking the well being dangers of binge consuming). I’ll spare you the specifics of my regrets, apart from to say I’m nonetheless residing with the implications of spending 11 profoundly dissolute days on the double weekender of Primavera 2022.

For me, consuming and festivals had at all times gone hand in hand. Ingesting and music, actually, too. An ex-policeman typically used to do PSHE classes at college and as soon as requested us all to swear that we’d by no means drink or do medicine: I refused as I knew I so badly needed to. I revered boozy indie music tradition and needed desperately to be trolling round Camden after Pete Doherty and consuming at Libertines hub the Boogaloo. As a substitute, from the age of 15, I used to be allowed to go to the native indie evening on a Thursday after faculty – the place I drank Jack Daniel’s and Coke, discovered to smoke roll-ups and often ended the evening on my knees in the bathroom. My mother and father would decide me up at 10pm: I might protest that this was too early, although now I’m shocked I bought away with any of it. Once I began working at NME in 2010, it was nonetheless very a lot the times of going to the pub on a Friday lunchtime, then returning to the workplace, the place we’d gchat each other about being too tipsy to pay attention, then roll again to the pub at 5pm for an additional 4 or 5 hours.

As soon as I began going to festivals with out parental supervision – normally for work, although I take most of my holidays to them, too – they felt synonymous with consuming, one thing I didn’t query for a very long time. On the finish of 2017, I began what would turn into an eight-month interval of sobriety, primarily to show mistaken somebody who didn’t suppose I might do it. I broke simply earlier than Glastonbury, discovering it inconceivable that I might benefit from the competition with out consuming. (I don’t suppose I’ve any particular regrets from it, however I can also’t bear in mind something particular about it in any respect.) On the finish of final summer time, I went to numerous one-day London festivals, usually intending to not drink, however capitulated each time. I sorely regretted the fee, the ache, the dearth of self-control. Now I see them as a part of a basic spiral that worsened over the second half of the yr.

In mid-September 2023, within the midst of a reasonably precipitous decline – together with being aggressively trolled, by accident chopping off a part of my thumb and coping with the emotional fallout from one other competition two weeks earlier – I used to be resulting from fly to Oslo for the by:Larm competition. That morning, I awakened with one eye profoundly swollen shut, the newest in a sequence of endless calamities. I began the day in hospital at 6am and wasn’t positive if I might make the flight, although I did, navigating Heathrow with my good eye (the opposite aggressively blocked from biking on a dusty day). In a state of some destitution, I made a decision I needed to do my first grownup competition sober.

It was, I admit, considerably extra boring. One evening, mates went off to a cocktail bar and I stayed to observe Bar Italia and waited on their promised return. They didn’t come again – I didn’t begrudge them! Time melts whenever you’re having enjoyable – so I went to mattress. I didn’t go to any of the after-hours membership programming. However there have been joys, too. I had a Bounty bar as a reward each evening, acutely aware that the amount of pints I might normally drink in a single evening would add as much as the equal of consuming about seven Bounty bars. A good friend and I danced in a near-empty bar and her pure exuberance overrode my self-consciousness and left me feeling excessive. I remembered all of the music I noticed and remembered that sober enjoyable, at its greatest, can really feel like having your Bounty bar and consuming it. Every morning I ran across the metropolis’s stupidly stunning harbour and felt a mix of shock, aid and one thing like pleasure that I had caught to my weapons. It additionally made me rethink the purpose of going to festivals.

It’s essential to make the excellence that I’m not an alcoholic and I don’t suppose I’ve a traditional consuming drawback – extra a disgrace drawback, a extremely biddable nature and an lack of ability to at all times act in my very own greatest pursuits. I think lots of people are on this place, significantly in relation to expectations round consuming in social conditions, of which festivals could also be one of the vital acute.

If you wish to attempt sober festivalling, inform your folks what you’re doing (in the event that they object, they’re not your folks) and discover a substitute deal with for the night. Belief your instincts and don’t fret about going to mattress whenever you’re accomplished, no matter what everybody else is doing. (Your drunk mates will plead with you to remain however neglect you’ve gone inside minutes: I communicate from expertise because the drunk pleader.) I’ve set encouraging reminders on my telephone for moments of weak point all through the evening, written within the form of lovingly deranged language that I’ll recognise as a honest message from my previous self. Textual content a good friend at residence who is aware of your intentions and allow them to cheer you on from the sidelines. I can’t say that the enjoyment of having succeeded is essentially nearly as good as occurring Glastonbury’s ferris wheel razzed at 5am, however it’s fairly nice. And also you’ll bear in mind it.

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That Norwegian competition wasn’t a line within the sand. I took a break from consuming for 2 months earlier than going to Le Guess Who?, the place I drank as common and had a beautiful and completely non-regrettable time. However the data that I might do it felt like a talisman in my pocket – one I reached for this weekend at Rewire in The Hague. I confess, I meant to do the competition with out consuming and wrote the remainder of this text earlier than I went. However in the long run I did two out of the 4 days, didn’t drink within the afternoons and actually reined it in in comparison with regular. I really feel faintly disenchanted in myself but in addition happy that I approached it far more consciously than succumbing to the same old competition vortex.

I’m going to not less than 4 extra festivals this yr. I received’t lie – I really feel actual trepidation about them. I’d love to do them with out consuming, however I do know my propensity to cave from a mix of being seduced by the solar and undermined by my worry that I will likely be much less “enjoyable” if I don’t. My greatest hope is to strategy them with the curiosity of the primary time, below my very own watchful eye.

Laura Snapes is the Guardian’s deputy music editor


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