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My Festival Life… Barry Ashworth, Dub Pistols interview with Virtual Festivals

Barry Ashworth, ex-promoter and the man behind Dub Pistols, takes VF through his Festival Life…

The first festival I ever went to was Glastonbury. I was probably about 14 so it was about 30 years ago. I can’t remember who played there. To me, a festival is about the crowd, not about the bands. You’re more entertained by the crowd than you are by the bands. That’s what makes a great festival: a great crowd who just make their own entertainment. Even though they’ve got the Berlin Wall round it now, I remember we used to just run and keep running as kids. Every time we got thrown out we used to keep going back.

The best show I ever saw at a festival was probably Oasis at Glastonbury. They’re a band that can rock a festival – to me, Gorillaz last year weren’t very good, and Jay-Z wasn’t in 2008. I’m not having a go at either of those artists because I like both of them probably more than I like Oasis, but I think as a headline act at Glastonbury you’ve got to be a barnstormer with anthems. You need big, big records, sing-along songs – that’s what a headline set is. That’s not dissing Gorillaz, it’s just it’s got to be up-tempo and it’s got to rock. The same thing with Jay-Z – that kind of rap at that time of night is not the right thing, that’s all.

My favourite festivals are Beat Herder, Snowbombing, Bestival and Glade. They are all something different and they’re not mainstream. At Beat Herder, the first time I met the promoters it was pouring with rain and I just remember pulling up and the farmer coming out and shouting: “get in there, it’s bloody buzzing in there!” Our tour bus got stuck in the mud and the promoters were pushing it and were covered from head to toe in shit. They were lovely guys, they’d organised something that they were so in to. Snowbombing is on top of the world and it’s totally unique. I’ve been a part of Bestival since the early beginnings when there were 4,000 people and the crowd there have always been really good to the Dub Pistols. I love Glade because it’s an electronic festival that’s a little bit out there.

The best show I ever played at a festival was Bestival two years ago when we had a beer fight with the crowd. The first ever Dub Pistols song was ‘There’s Gonna Be A Riot’, and I just stood there and said: “This is the first song we ever wrote and it’s the last song we’re going to play tonight – it’s called ‘There’s Gonna Be A Riot’. I want everybody out there to throw everything they possibly can at us.” They literally did, it looked like some sort of Western. If you just watch it, it goes on for ten minutes of people just chucking things at us. You can see glasses bouncing off my head. Everyone’s smiling, but the energy from that show was amazing. The stage was trashed. We caused trouble that year, but there were no dark undertones – it was pure fun. 

Also I loved Guilfest 2007 when we played with Lynval Golding. It was pretty amazing. As far as you could see, the whole place was properly going insane, so that was pretty special.

My worst-ever festival experience was last year at Bestival when it all went horribly wrong. We went there as one of the favourite bands of the festival, full of confidence, and flew everybody over. Rob da Bank had given us the best set he could possibly give us which was to close the festival after The Prodigy and we came out and it just went horribly wrong. I didn’t come out of my house for two weeks, I was that upset. A lot of people didn’t even notice, but it really fucking upset me big time.

Festivals are the only place I can get away with everything. Everything I want to.

My advice to a festival first-timer would be to take a crash helmet. Take stabilisers and a crash helmet and really let yourself go.

My dream festival line-up would include The Specials, The Jam, The Clash, Gregory Isaacs and Beastie Boys. I’m trying to think of diversity. It would also include Carl Cox and Leftfield as they were back in the day along with Orbital. I’d headline and do a Jools Holland with all of those people.

Dub Pistols are set to play Glade Festival 2011alongside Trentemoller, Adam Beyer, Slam, Skrillex and many more with the event set to take place at Old Warden Park, Biggleswade from 10-12 June.

Weekend festival tickets are on sale now priced at £135.

Click here to buy Glade Festival tickets.

The group’s fifth album ‘Music Is My M16’ is due to be released later this year.