Rock O’ The North…Pt70

Just how many rock festivals can one country take?

That’s the question on everybody’s lips right now as a nation in the grip of recession continues to embrace a succession of top class events showcasing the world’s very best bands.

No sooner had Sonisphere announced itself as the major rival to Download than plans were in place to launch the classic rock-themed High Voltage festival for 2010.With ZZ top and ELP confirmed to co-headline this year’s new kid on the block – and Maiden and Rammstein leading the charge at Sonisphere – the pressure’s on Download to deliver.

But more than that, the pressure’s on rock fans everywhere to dig deep and make some pretty tough choices.

Pearl Jam are headlining Hard Rock Calling and we’ve got the Leeds/Reading three-dayers and Bloodstock vying for our hard-earned cash. It’s clear that this could be another costly year.

But right now it seems demand is still outstripping supply. Both Hammersfest and Hard Rock Hell are growing year-on-year – with the latter adding a summer jaunt to Ibiza to its traditional winter slot.

And word reaches rushonrock that Newcastle is now ready to throw its hat into the festival ring with talk of a glamfest coming to Tyneside later this year.

On the face of it there’s never been a better time to watch a load of live bands under one roof. And many musicians are making more money trawling the festival circuit every year than they ever will selling albums.

But we can’t help feeling saturation point has very nearly been reached. And when it does just what will happen to a festival scene which is spiralling out of control?

Growth simply can’t be sustained at the current rate and the big fear is that as soon as one festival fails to reach its financial target promoters of the others will get cold feet. The fall could be as rapid as the rise.

Those of us who have lived through various popularity peaks and troughs in the past are understandably pessimistic at a time when optimism should reign supreme.

If we’re wrong and our favourite festivals continue to flourish then we’ll be as happy as the next over-indulged rocker. But we can’t help feeling it’s a very big if.

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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