LENGTH: 664 words
HEADLINE: Pop: Such a perfect day
BYLINE: David Sinclair
Festivals are not for everyone. As the American singer Aimee Mann once put it: "Personally, I hate being in the middle of a muddy field, being constantly barraged by extremely loud music, along with several hundred thousand screwed-up people and no toilet - but that's just me."
The image is familiar and everyone has their favourite horror story. But even in the most trying conditions, there is nothing quite like the Great British pop festival for prompting an outbreak of the Dunkirk spirit. One of my most vivid memories of Glastonbury is of the year I ducked into one of the big tents on the edge of the site to avoid yet another cloudburst and came across Rolf Harris performing to a crowd of bedraggled souls. Having conjured a mood of bonhomie that was little short of heroic, he launched into a version of Lou Reed's Perfect Day. Several thousand voices joined in, while rain sluiced off the canvas all around: pure heaven. For no matter how commercially driven they have become, there is still a spiritual dimension to the modern pop festival, a sense in which, even as the litter bins overflow and the plastic beer glasses pile up, people feel that they are connecting with a simpler, more bucolic way of life by standing about listening to music in the great outdoors.
It's mostly nonsense, of course, but when pop festivals began in the 1960s there was a lot of idealistic talk about the younger generation discovering a new set of communal values and reclaiming some sort of mythical freedom, a theme helpfully illustrated in the media by pictures of naked young women (and occasionally men) frolicking near clear blue rivers and green fields.
In fact, the early festivals were nearly always a complete shambles with sites that resembled refugee camps, little in the way of organised catering, non-existent sanitation and timetables for the performances which were abandoned before they were begun.
Nowadays festivals are much more professionally organised and events such as V2001, The Carling Weekend and T in The Park function like well-oiled, if sometimes rather dirty machines where you can catch as many acts in one weekend as most people would expect to see in a year.
V2001: Indie-rock heaven, with a dash of glamour from pop princess Kylie. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Texas, Coldplay, The Charlatans, Foo Fighters, David Gray, Placebo, Kylie, Muse, Toploader. August 18 & 19, Hylands Park, Chelmsford (020-7287 0932; www.vfestival.com; www.gigsandtours.com)
The Carling Weekend: Indie-rock contingent out in force, but outranked by a single American rap phenomenon. Eminem, Travis, Manic Street Preachers, Ash, Green Day, Fun Lovin' Criminals, Queens Of The Stone Age. August 24-26, Richfield Avenue, Reading & Temple Newsam Park, Leeds (020-7344 0044; www.meanfiddler.com; www.ticketmaster.com)
T in the Park: The Scottish version of the Carling Weekend. Stereophonics, Texas, David Gray, Coldplay, Beck, Placebo, James, Muse, Stereo MC's, Tricky. July 7 & 8, Balado, near Kinross (0141-339 8383; www.tinthepark.com)
Radiohead: Glum-rockers play a home fixture, with Beck, Supergrass, Sigur Ross, Humphrey Lyttelton. July 7, South Park, Headington, Oxford (www.radiohead.com)
Bishopstock Music Festival: The blues, the whole blues and nothing but the blues, with Johnny Winter, Nina Simone, Taj Mahal, Jimmy Smith, Gary Moore, Booker T and the MGs. August 25-27, Bishop's Court Palace, Clyst St Mary, Exeter (01392 875220/875330; www.bishopstock.co.uk)
Cambridge Folk Festival: Plugged-in folk. Richard Thompson Band, Levellers, North Mississippi Allstars, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, Capercaillie. July 26-29, Cherry Hinton Hall Grounds, Cambridge (01223 357851; www.cam-folkfest.co.uk)
WOMAD: World music. Soweto String Quartet, Asian Dub Foundation, Regis Gizavo, Rachid Taha, Orchestre National de Barbes. July 27-29, Rivermead Leisure Complex, Richfield Avenue, Reading (0118 939 0930; www.womad.org/reading/)