A satirical look at music festivals as a form of psychological torture

When we’re 14-28 years old the idea of going to a music festival to see the artists we spend our free time listening to is fantastic. Imagine all that drinking, that mud, that food, those opportunities to seduce and best of all that ambiance. The prospect of going to a music festival is so appealing that we fantacize about going to work as bénévole to have the full experience. I have been through that experience several times as a result of which I chose to have a week off from socialising to recover. Now that I have provided you with context I want to take a satirical look at music festivals as a form of psychological torture for those of us who have grown too “old” to know which artists are playing.


The most evident form of torture is traffic. This comes in the form of passengers in trains, buses and to some degree cars. In trains and buses you will have the pleasure of standing in work clothes next to youths in t-shirts, drinking beers and possibly listening to music and generously allowing other people to listen. Imagine how pleasant this experience is when you’ve just finished a ten hour work day and you want to listen to an audiobook. “If I wanted this experience I’d have stayed in London” is something you might hear the locals say.

Of course this is not limited to public transport. Private transport too is affected. In this case you’re on the motorway and you want to go home but you get stuck in a column of cars so long that it stretches from Gland to Rolle and beyond. This is amusing. As I joked about with a passenger yesterday as I drove back from a day of climbing and filming that traffic jam is usually around Villeneuve or between Lausanne and Morges. At least for once it had the decency to migrate. What a pleasure to be stuck looking at cars in a different place. From here we can see the Rolle vineyards and out towards the Léman and the Alps.

If you want to get off in Gland or Nyon you’d better be patient as there is an excellent chance that you will be stuck for half an hour getting off the motorway. It is for this very reason that when I offered to drive a person I said that I would drive to Coppet to pick her up rather than Nyon. I wrote “In the morning I can pick you up from Nyon but in the evening I will drop you off in Coppet. This turned out fantastically for three people at the end of the day.

Two people were heading back to Geneva and catching the train from Coppet meant that they were on the TPG network. The third person lived in Coppet so my avoiding a music festival provided her with a climbing wall to home village solution.

You see this. A music festival inconvenienced me and yet I still make an effort to simplify the lives of others. That is a demonstration that despite the intense dislike I have for a music festival I still know to be kind and courteous to those who do not inconvenience me.

Noise pollution

Traffic, in isolation is often a nuisance but worse than traffic is noise pollution. The countryside is quiet. The noise of the nearby river is so normal that you do not notice it until you listen to a recording of normal every day sounds. Add to this the summer sound of crickets and birds and you’ve described the noises. In the distance you can hear the train de St Cergue as it makes it way up and down the Jura.

During the music festival you get to hear sound checks from 11am onwards. You hear the sound of the kick drum, voice microphones and other instruments. This goes on until two or three more bands on the Grande Scène have finished their sound check. As a young adult this is nice, this is part of the euphoria of “having a music festival in your back yard” as Americans would say. This is not a nuisance. The torture comes after ten at night.

In Switzerland you are not allowed to shower, take a bath or make noise after 2200 hours under risk of a fine if you do not get along with your neighbours. This makes living in Switzerland civil. Working professionals know that after 2200 they can go to bed and nothing should wake them up.

During the music festival common decency goes out of the window. From Tuesday to Sunday morning if your bedroom is facing towards the music festival you will hear booming and howling until 3am every day. That is the noise that is transmitted through double glazing, thick walls and a layer of insulation. If you open the window you can sometimes make out who is singing. I remember hearing Faithless or other bands when they played years ago when I was still familiar with the artists.

If you’re not working or you have flexible hours then you can shift your sleep pattern to match the music festival. You can wake halfway through the morning and so the impact is neutralised.

Yesterday I did not have that luxury. I am passionate about rock climbing and the great outdoors. For who share this passion usually like to wake early and get to the mountains before the sun is too warm. The music festival kept me awake until 3am and and by 6am I had to wake up to pick people up and drive to the mountains. I had between two to three hours of sleep and waking up was not easy. We arrived at the meeting point early so I had a short siesta in the back of the car to refresh myself at least slightly. I did feel better as a result of this siesta and was able to climb and to film others climbing. I had a good time but I was sleep deprived. If I had not committed to driving another person in the morning then I would have aborted the climbing day and I would have slept. I would have lost a day of doing two things I love thanks to the selfishness of festival goers and the sound gremlins (my name for music festival sound engineers) who flood the countryside with noise.

When I got home and sat at the laptop I could no longer hold my head up. I struggled to prepare dinner and when I ate I was fighting to stay awake. Eventually I gave up and went to bed with the laptop and youtube videos providing background noise to cover the music festival’s inconsistent noise. After the fire works were fired I slept until this morning. I woke but was unable to stay awake several times this morning. Eventually at 9 I woke up and had a deep desire to write this blog post about music festivals as a form of torture.

I don’t want music festivals to stop and I don’t want people to be prevented from having fun. I want sound engineers to do their job. I want sound engineers to design music festival sound so that people at the festival can hear it but so that surrounding villages and working professionals can still sleep properly and work. Sleep deprivation is a torture method and music festivals, for all of their social ideals should respect that not everyone wants to go to a music festival. Music festivals should respect the locals.

I avoid using the name of the festival that inspired this post to avoid giving them free advertising. 😉


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