Festival Guide 2012: A spotter's guide to festival excess

Smug Tweeters. Gurning Techno stilt loons. Naked am-dram mums. Bewildered teens. Key parts of any festival, says Nick Moore

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The Independent Culture


1. Day One Social Network Show-Off

As the festivities begin, spy the dullard too busy Tweeting retro-style photos of Enter Shikari or pounding 140 characters into their iPhone about what an awesome time this is to actually have any fun. Roll on day three: the batteries are long dead and their friends back home might just stop hating them.

2. Staggering Stag-doers

Ten boiler maintenance men from Billericay in Borat-style mankinis; 15 Cardiff clowns perfectly painted as Smurfs; a 20-strong Mansfield mob with a gimp-suited groom on a lead. All these wonders await this summer: you'll find them with a 50-pack of Stella, yelling at Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds to play "Champagne Supernova".

3. Slumming A-lister

Keira Knightley, Emma Watson, Daniel Craig –they've all poked pampered toes into festival waters. And while they may have backstage compounds replete with ice sculptures and legions of fawning minions, they do also occasionally venture out among the plebs. Bill Oddie would term these rare sightings the festival equivalent of a Madagascar Red Owl, so score 10 points each (award yourself an extra 10 for actually seeing Bill Oddie himself).

4. Potential deathtrap circus skills brigade

Found at less commercial gatherings, you won't catch this mob – who have names like Cirrus, Orb and Ferret – watching bands. Instead, they lurk on the fringes, demonstrating astonishingly proficient – and utterly pointless – diablo-tossing and fire juggling skills. Dreadlocked, chain-smoking, and quite often the daughter of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Be on high alert for bonus-point didgeridoos and bongos.

5. Sleeping It Off Man

Just as every Spanish beach has a berk who fell asleep four hours ago and now has second-degree burns, every festival has a regally refreshed reveller who peaked early and decided to have a lie down – usually found topless alongside a campsite thoroughfare. Left in the recovery position, they'll sporadically reassure concerned parties that they're "absolutely fine" before returning to their deep slumber.

6. Stilt maniac

The easiest spot of the weekend, seeing as they're six five, have doubled their height using stilts, and quadrupled their visibility by daubing tribal paint across their boogaloo-ing bodies. Oh, and they're blowing a whistle to ear-demolishing jungle while pulling an expression that'd usually get you sectioned. Have a point, and run for you life.

7. Wacky hat wallies

The humble hat has fallen from mainstream popularity, but in festival land, headgear is king. There's the ill-advised gents' fedora (you don't look like Don Draper: you look like a homeless Secret Squirrel) and the generally lovely ladies' wicker trilby, but score points here for the perennial party-pillock favourites – the Mushroom, Jester and Viking.

8. Lack of perspective singer

Playing festivals is overwhelming for many bands – and less experienced participants are finally achieving a major ambition that can bend their tiny minds. Points, then, for front men (and women) opining that this is the greatest day of their lives, weeping openly, or suddenly developing a massive God complex and declaring that they've written a song that'll sort out that Kony bloke.

9. Tragic abandoned welly

Like an infant's shoe lying alone upon a suburban footpath, every lone festival wellington has a sorry back-story, usually involving a 16 year-old girl's debut with cider. An even sadder sight when they're those pretty ones with floral patterns and ribbons. Have a point, and spare a thought for the rollocking one-booted Jessica is going to get from her mum later.

10. Midlife crisis man

The middle-aged middle classes abound at festivals nowadays – they're the only people who can really afford it – but this demographic, and associated glut of reforming bands cashing in on their nostalgia, can lead to some undignified scenes. Score ladies who lunch shedding tears to The Cure, or fifty-something men wigging out horribly to Pearl Jam.

11. Festival perennials

All festival celeb spots aren't equal: the ubiquitous Keith Allen, Billy Bragg and Sanjay from 1990s Eastenders are so common they don't count. Bez and his coterie of Mancunian madmen get a point for sheer endurance, and double that for spottable masterpieces Kate Moss and Tony Benn. Minus points if you're unlucky enough to see Will Mellor from Two Pints.

12. Squashed tipi

One to spy on your way home. The flattened tent is a sure-fire signs of either an extremely good (or extremely bad) weekend: a time in which a sturdy sanctuary has been deemed surplus to requirements or abandoned. Treble points if somebody's carefree legs are still jutting out the end.

13. Regrettable nude

An unexpectedly common sight, and one you almost always rue: like naturists and victims on Embarrassing Bodies, nude festie folk never seem to be the ones you'd actually like to see unclothed. Still, hats off for leaving just their hats on – even if you are a 57 year-old earth mother and amateur dramatics enthusiast blasted to the eyeballs on gin.

14. Mud angels

There are two plausible reactions to festival mud: to trudge stoically through it like a defeated Napoleonic solider returning from Russia, or to embrace it as a sort of filthy theme park. Perhaps it's the emolliating skin benefits, but young girls seem to relish the opportunity to splash around the most: a point for every head-to-toe "mud angel" encountered.

15. "I've lost my mates" man

Found at noon on a Monday, this unshaven, wild-eyed berserker decided to stay up for the entirety of Friday and Saturday, before falling asleep in a faraway glade for 36 hours and awakening to find out that his furious friends – who have got bloody work in the morning – have left. I've Lost My Mates Man has also inevitably misplaced his wallet and phone. Please offer a lift home as you mark down your point.