As the saying goes, the best things in life are free – and it applies more at certain festivals than others. Forget all the typical bugbears of a festival, and be transported into a world of clean toilets, free food and booze, exclusive performances and ultimate luxury. If you have the right connections, these festivals are the ones to pick for the ultimate backstage experience, writes Claire Evans
V Festival – UK
The biggest bands in the world, one of the biggest festivals in the world… V Festival sees a total of 172,500 people flock to its twin sites in Essex and Staffordshire. But for the privileged few, there’s so much more than global superstars.
The festival’s Louder Lounge takes the concept of hospitality areas to the next level. With free food and drink, plus gifting suites from fashion brands, free tanning and ice cream, there’s also a high likelihood you’ll bump into one of the many celebrities that visit the festival, or even some of the acts playing. The temptation is you’ll never want to leave to go to the main arena.
Glastonbury – UK
This is the ultimate liggers’ festival. Everyone from the creative and media industries joins (or tries to avoid) the likes of Prince Harry and Kate Moss backstage, in the area between the Pyramid Stage and the Other Stage or one of the other many hotspots, from the campervan and RV park to the teepees. If you don’t have an invitation to somewhere you want to get into, you probably know someone who knows someone who does.
Øya Festival – Norway
Renowned across Scandinavia for great line-ups, Øya festival in Oslo has a secret up its sleeve for international guests. If you are lucky enough to be invited to attend the event, the organisers also put together a programme of excursions and activities so you can make the most of your trip. From trips out on the fjord to backstage tours of the city’s extraordinary opera building, you can pack a city break in with your festival ligging.
Coachella – US
This is the nearest civilians can get to really living the rock star dream, and it even kicks the legendary Glasto backstage well into the long grass. The Indio polo club’s gardens behind the main stage are given over to RVs for the bands – it’s easy to work out who’s where as they all have signs on the windows – and there are easy chairs by a lake and barrels full of beer you can help yourself to. It’s actually pretty surreal just hanging around with Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse on one side, Zooey Deschanel on the other and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Robert Pattinson just wandering around. Here’s some advice, though: don’t camp next to Tommy Lee. We can’t reveal why.
St Jerome’s Laneway – Australia
It’s like an ASOS fashion show backstage – which is funny because ASOS is a past sponsor. The Sydney festival is the most hipstery, and the backstage area is filled with lanky ladies in Megan-from-Mad Men hippie clobber. The backstage DJ plays cheesy hits by 80s Aussie soft rock bands – all the better to dance to – and the punters drink wine because Aussies love a drop – whether from a bottle or a goon box. It’s all a bit style over substance… but when everyone’s so good-looking and tanned, who cares?
SXSW – US
One of the best showcase festivals in the world, featuring what will no doubt be some of the hottest acts to hit a festival field in the next few years. However, there are always queues for the biggest gigs and it can be frustrating trying to get in somewhere which reached capacity hours ago. So forget waiting in a venue all day to see the one band you’ve been desperate to catch – get yourself along to one of the myriad parties hosted by record labels, music export offices, booking agencies and more, where you can drink beer and whisky and eat barbecued meat from the moment you wake to the moment you fall into a food coma.
Rock in Rio – Brazil
So, you’ve managed to tear yourself away from the beach and headed into the festival. Make a beeline for the hospitality area. A huge temporary structure, it may look like the inside of a hotel lobby, but here you can escape the heat while grabbing a glass of something cold from one of the wine bars. There are also chefs dishing up restaurant quality food and a viewing platform from which to watch the biggest bands in the world in comfort, never too far from the bar. This is a corporate festival, so provided that doesn’t irk you too much, this is one of the most comfortable ways to get your festival fix.
Isle of Wight Festival – UK
You like food, right? And you like great cocktails, yes? For free? Then you’ve got to head to the Isle of Wight, where the bars are run by Hard Rock Calling and food is served by Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts. If you know someone who’s loaded, you should opt for the ‘stay offsite’ package, which means you stay in a warm, comfy bed (not under canvas) and get all your transport organised for you. (Plus, organic hampers!) The onsite backstage bar is a pub where all the bands hang out after their show. Get in there and you’ll be ordering a Guinness shoulder-to-shoulder with someone you’ve just seen onstage.
Rock am Ring – Germany
Festival founder Marek Lieberberg is renowned for being a man of exceptional taste – not just with music (he’s promoted acts from Pink Floyd to Michael Jackson) but also with food. And it shows. The food here is among the best you’ll encounter at any festival. And it’s all gratis. Wunderbar!
Sziget – Hungary
Festival organisers are generally very friendly people, but the folks at Hungary’s Sziget are probably the friendliest in the world. Their passion for the festival and their home country is so strong that nothing is too much trouble to ensure you have a fantastic trip. You want to head into Budapest for a sightseeing trip? You got it. Want to try some of the local delicacies – sorted. Another free glass of (local brew) pálinka? They’ll drink one with you and toast your health with it. It makes for a warm fuzzy feeling which lasts all week.
This article originally appeared in PSNLive 2014. Go to our digital edition archives to read the whole magazine!