Festivals are awesome; they are a gathering of culture seekers in a way since the festival experience nowadays brings not only music but other activities to keep people stimulated and interested in the festival. Massive festivals such as Wacken, Hellfest, Brutal Assault among others bend over backward to provide attendees the kind of experience they pay for. However, there is a downfall in such massive experience for fanboys and fangirls alike, and here it is the loss of connection with fellow fans from the band you got nuts for. Let me explain you my hypothesis.
Festivals, in general, are a cost effective way to see as many bands as you like for a relatively non-expensive price. In three or more days, you can switch from one stage to another depending on your predilection on bands. Festivals organizers make their band’s line-up having into consideration the legendary bands for which a lot of people will go to no matter what and every band that is making an impact in a very crowded scene ensuring this way that festivals will have a diverse audience. Diversity is always a good business. However, diversity also brings a downfall, not regarding tolerance among fans, but more in the lines of the overall excitement among the audience. Those who go to check their dream band and completely lose themselves in the music and the mosh pit may see their experience diminish by those who just paid the ticket to have the festival experience, rather than going for one band.
You may argue my hypothesis on the grounds of “it’s an experience between bands and fans, you go there to see your band, and that is it,” however, I believe that is in the general trance of everyone liking the same band what makes the experience so impressive. You see, when you are a complete fanboy or fangirl of a particular band you take your being into another level of consciousness that inhales and exhales that band you care for, you know all the songs, the breaks, you even have your way to headbang to the beat without missing one. But for those that are at the festival for the joy of the festival, the experience is different. They go for the adrenaline of the mosh-pits they are the first ones in the line of a wall of death, rest assure those are fun things to attend. Nonetheless, those people that are there because they can interrupt the flow of energy to those that go genuinely for a band. But that effect only occurs on the back side of the audience. At festivals, there is a gradient of “fandom” inherited in it where people who are fans of heart they are in the frontline, screaming, headbanging, the lot. The more you advance farther away from the stage, the excitement decreases gradually. This phenomenon can be seen nearly in every festival, and if one inquiry to attendants regarding the effect of X or Y band, one will find that level of enthusiasm or perception of success of said performance will have a difference regarding the distance in which they were from the stage.
On a concert where there is only one band to play, the energy is completely different. From front to back there is no gradient in which one can identify those who are fanatics of the band and those who are not so easily. Everyone present at a concert is just as excited to be there. The feeling, the experience of participating in a mass gathering is substantially different. In a place where everyone around you is at the same level of fandom as you, you can let go of any inhibitions, singing along with the rest and headbanging at will, no remorse in mind. Perhaps that difference is perceptible for bands since they see how not only the people at the front react to what they are giving, but depending on the side of the venue, they can feel the energy coming from all around. Case in point, an Iron Maiden concert versus Iron Maiden as the closer act of a festival. I’ve been at an Iron Maiden concert where every single one of the 30000 people present was there to see them live, the massive energy emanated in it was superb and infectious to the point that the band excelled everyone’s expectations including the band themselves, making it through three hours straight of playing with no sign of exhaustion. Now, if you witnessed the performance held in Rock in Rio, first of all, the band is constrained to perform in less time, and you can see the gradient, I described earlier. Yes, it is still showing a lot of people excited, but somehow the experience is somewhat different, it is less intense.
Don’t get me wrong, I still applaud the festival experience for the great variety it represents, but if I have the chance to go to a concert with one of my favorite bands as sole act, I will prefer to go that concert in order to let myself go completely and get lost in the mass experience. Perhaps my perception of the events is still empiric, but when you have the chance or if you remember seeing a band in both instances, you may give us your opinion on the matter, and we can open a healthy debate.