Mud, Fire, Angry Gorillas – The Most Disastrous Festivals Ever

Last weekend’s Benicassim wasn’t much fun.

Highlights? The pathway to the site burnt down, vicious winds ripped tents to tatters, campsites were closed, and people had to be bussed to a nearby leisure centre to bed down like refugees.

Luckless revellers must have wondered which catastrophe might befall them next. Volcanic eruption? Plague of locusts? Attack by Mechagodzilla?

Yet, all things considered, it can’t have been much worse than Glastonbury 2005, when flash floods left Worthy Farm looking like a cross between an atomic weapons test site and the Irrawaddy Delta.

By Friday lunchtime, the only people having a good time were the ones who’d unfathomably brought canoes. Meanwhile, the rest of us dreamed of escape to somewhere less depressing – such as war-torn Kinshasa.

But even when Glastonbury is hot and dry, there’s still a high likelihood of disaster striking – and it’s usually turd-based.

Spare a thought for the bloke who lost his footing and plunged into the long-drop toilets. Or the saucer-eyed ravers whose buzz was abruptly ‘mellowed’ when a nearby sewer truck flipped from suck to blow, drenching them in liquefied shit. Presumably they stopped reaching for the lasers at that point. Nice one, top one… oh.

Still, at least you’re guaranteed a good line-up at Glastonbury – unlike last year’s legendarily ill-starred Zoo Thousand, where a stage collapsed and half the bands refused to play.

Angry punters demanded their money back, threatening legal action if they didn’t get it. A post on the festival’s forum summed up the mood: “I can’t believe how fucking shit this was. Would have had more fun camping in my back garden with some heroin and a razor blade.”

I can sympathise – I was there, and it was a festival out of control: five thousand pilled-up, shirtless roofers from Ashford with nothing to do except scowl at each other and break stuff. The ‘centrepiece’ of the main arena was a burned-out Ford Focus. Appalled, I escaped to the adjoining animal park – where a gorilla hurled a rock at my head. It was pretty bleak.

Although perhaps not quite as bleak as Woodstock 99. Famously, rape and looting raged, beneath a sky blackened by the toxic smoke from a thousand plastic-bottle bonfires. Anthony Kiedis compared the unfolding horror to ‘Apocalypse Now’. None of which could prepare the assembled fratboys for the final atrocity: a performance by Limp Bizkit.

Woodstock 99 has been spoken of as a ‘corruption’ of the 1960s counter-cultural dream – as if that wasn’t already a deeply flimsy construct, based largely on the myth of the original Woodstock, which in turn has only endured because an Oscar-winning documentary was made about it.

If it hadn’t, we might now think of the stabbing at Altamont as being wholly representative of the 1960s liberal dream, rather than a symbol of its implosion. This was the decade of My Lai, the Tate murders, and exploding urban crime – none of which deserves to be glossed with a few archive images of naked hippies sliding around in mud.

But I’m getting off track here. In conclusion: festivals are uniformly hideous and only a demented masochist would even dream of going to one.

Same time next year, then?