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How grey policies killed Doctor Music Festival

The recent cancellation of Doctor Music Festival, aka the Festival of the Cow, which was scheduled to take place this summer, was a bitter pill to swallow.

The circumstances that brought about the cancellation of the event are surreal to say the least, and would appear more befitting of a Kafkaesque state than a Spanish administration that claims to be concerned with popular culture and the development of rural areas.

Doctor Music Festival was due to take place in July 2019 in Escalarre, in the Pallars Sobirà region of Catalonia, set among an idyllic valley in the Catalan Pyrenees.

This vast meadow, which spans over 100 hectares and is surrounded by high mountain peaks and natural parks, had already played host, some 20 years ago, to three of the festival’s previous editions, which are forever engrained in the history of Europe’s live music scene. In 1996, 1997 and 1998, the region saw three special editions take place, bringing together tens of thousands of people for unforgettable events featuring the likes of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, and hundreds of other legendary names.

This year, the festival was going to make its comeback with the Reincarnation Edition, which looked set to put the Pallars region back on the international music map.

Someone, somewhere, sat in a grey office in a grey building, found a way to extinguish the magic

The 2019 line-up included names such as Rosalía, the Strokes, the Chemical Brothers, Smashing Pumpkins, Greta Van Fleet, King Crimson, Underworld and Christine and the Queens, along with cutting-edge DJs such as Black Coffee, Damian Lazarus, Luciano, Jamie Jones and many more. It was going to be a three-day/four-night extravaganza of music, friendship and nature. A special communion between people, music and the stars.

The event had been designed following the most rigorous of standards when it comes to sustainability, recycling, zero-waste policies, locally sourced produce and harmony with the natural surroundings. The end goal was to leave the valley exactly as it was before the festival took place, or maybe even better.  And then bureaucracy happened…

Someone, somewhere, sat in a grey office in a grey building, found a way to extinguish the magic. Thanks to the board of directors at the Agència Catalana de l’Aigua (Catalan Water Agency), and spurred on by a small local group of urban ecologists of questionable reputation – “eco-opportunists” is perhaps a more fitting term – it was ruled that the open valley was at risk of flooding – despite never having previously suffered flooding as far as any existing records show, and despite the final remnants of snow on the surrounding mountains having melted two months ago. And just like that, the dream was over.

It was a small victory for bureaucracy. Despite protests from the valley’s local residents and mayors, who continued to emphasise the positive economic, touristic and cultural impact the festival would have on the local agricultural communities and residents, the decision remained unchanged. The powers that be had already decided that the local countryside was better used as a “theme park” for city folk to escape to on weekends, where they can enjoy a fleeting illusion of their eco-friendliness, or of being “at one with nature”.

The powers that be decided that the local countryside was better used as a theme park for city folk to escape to on weekends

The harmonious development of rural communities, encouraging nature-friendly human activities and working to bring wealth and cultural enrichment to areas that have otherwise been overlooked by these administrations clearly weren’t as important as their desire to demonstrate who ruled the roost.

Their argument was based around the possibility of a flood occurring in Escalarre… maybe. At some point. Perhaps.

What happened next is already common knowledge. We tried to relocate the festival to the Catalunya-Barcelona Formula 1 Circuit in Montmeló, but the general public were not convinced by this swap from lush green valley to urban racetrack. The spirit of the cow had been mortally wounded (at least for the time being) and the magic behind this celebration of music, peace nature and friendship was over.

Live music in Spain owes a lot to Doctor Music Festival, but there is no greater debt than that owed by political parties to the citizens who vote for them.

I hope they bear that in mind when it’s election time and they start promising the citizens of Spain a wonderful and colourful country. The colour they are referring to… might just be grey.

 


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Doctor Music Festival cancelled

After a three-year campaign to resurrect the brand, and just weeks from opening its doors, the Doctor Music Festival (DMF) has called time on the revived event. DMF’s comeback was due to take place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmeló from 12 to 14 July, but requests for refunds from ticket holders have forced promoter Neo Sala’s hand.

“Cancelling the comeback edition of Doctor Music Festival is among the toughest decision of my promoter career,” he says. “At the same time, it is inevitable. The recent relocation of the festival has not been well-received by the public. Since the ACA (Catalan Agency d’Aigues) surprisingly ordered us to move the DMF, we’ve seen a huge number of fans cancelling their tickets. While sales for our new location in Montmeló have risen in recent weeks, we ultimately won’t be able to offer the experience we were striving for.”

“Cancelling the comeback edition of Doctor Music Festival is among the toughest decision of my promoter career”

DMF was forced to move site in April after the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) warned that the event’s original site in the Pyrenees was at risk of flooding. In a press conference at the time, Sala talked of ecologists and “eco-opportunists”, criticising those who felt the valley was “theirs, and untouchable”.

Artists confirmed to appear at DMF included The Strokes, The Smashing Pumpkins, Rosalía, The Chemical Brothers, Greta Van Fleet & The Good, The Bad & The Queen. All ticket holders will be fully refunded for the event.

“I’d like to thank everybody who, over the past three years, gave a helping hand in revitalizing one of Southern Europe’s most successful festival brands – artists, representatives, sponsors, partners, and, above all, the fans,” Sala says. “A special thanks goes to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, who have done everything possible to adapt their spaces to a festival that had been originally designed to occupy a whole valley of the Pyrenees.”

 


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Doctor Music Festival forced to move by flood threat

Spain’s Doctor Music Festival (DMF) has been obliged to change sites for its comeback edition this summer, after the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) warned that the event’s original site in the Pyrenees was at risk of flooding.

Neo Sala, the founder of promoter Doctor Music, confirmed today that Doctor Music 2019 will take place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Formula 1 track in Montmeló, near Barcelona, from 12 to 14 July. The festival was originally planned to take place over four days at Escalarre, in the Àneu valley, from 11 to 14 July, with the change meaning that Smashing Pumpkins will play on 14 July rather than the 11th, as originally planned.

Smashing Pumpkins will now play before Sunday’s headliner, the Strokes, after agreeing to “accommodate the date and time change for the sake of the festival, their fans and the other bands”.

Doctor Music Festival took place in Escalarre in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Festival organisers said they considered the ACA’s warning to be an exaggerated interpretation of the theoretical risk of flooding, in a valley that hasn’t flooded in summer for as long as records exist.

In a press conference to announce the change of venue, Sala talked of ecologists and “eco-opportunists”, criticising those who felt the valley was “theirs, and untouchable”.

“In the festival’s opinion, there has been a very over-exaggerated and destructive interpretation of the regulations surroundings theoretical flood risks in the valley, which has never before flooded in summer (at least as far as current data shows),” says DMF in a statement.

“We have found Montmeló, which is a fantastic place”

“The stringency levels which have been applied in this case far surpass the norm and we have therefore been forced to abandon the originally planned location in order to ensure that all artistic commitments made are complied with, and make sure that the festival goes ahead as per originally designed for this new edition.”

All of the artists confirmed for DMF 2019 will still perform, with the exception of Chris Robinson Brotherhood and the Prodigy, who cancelled all their live dates following the death of Keith Flint.

All tickets remain valid, though a refund policy has been implemented for those who no longer wish to attend. Ticket prices have also dropped, in reflection of the new three-day nature of the event, and promoters will reimburse those who already bought passes at the old, more expensive rate. Full information is available from www.doctormusicfestival.com.

Sala said he hasn’t considered the future of DMF beyond the 2019 event. “We are not even thinking about it,” he said. “We have found Montmeló, which is a fantastic place. And we are concentrating on having the best possible festival in Montmeló.”

Doctor Music today also announced new names for the festival, including Empire of the Sun, Johnny Marr, Texas, Kamasi Washington and Luciano. Swiss DJ Luciano will play in Force Field, an open-air stage dedicated to electronic music curated by DJ Damian Lazarus.

Sala also spoke on DMF’s impressive technical specs. The main stage will be 162m (531’) wide – apparently the largest concert or festival stage ever used in the south of Europe – and is designed by Ray Winkler of Stufish Architects, which has worked on stage design for the likes of the Rolling Stones and U2.

The festival’s lighting is being overseen by Patrick Woodroffe, director of Woodroffe Bassett Design, who designed recent tours by AC/DC, the Rolling Stones, Adele and Black Sabbath.

 


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Doctor Music Festival 2019 announces first acts

Spain’s Doctor Music Festival has announced its first wave of artists for next year’s ‘reincarnation edition’, including several who will perform multiple times throughout the festival.

Both King Crimson and Underworld will perform three sets apiece, giving fans more than one opportunity to see headliners and “reduce the anxiety generated […] by the worry of missing any of the key concerts”, according to festival promoter Neo Sala.

Sala explains: “I do not want people to have the feeling that they will miss something – the famous FOMO [fear of missing out] effect that you get in those big events will be reduced at Doctor Music Festival.”

Other performers include the Strokes (who return to the road in 2019 after a two-year hiatus), Smashing Pumpkins, Greta Van Fleet, Primal Scream, the Prodigy, Sisters of Mercy and Eyellusion’s Frank Zappa hologram.

The full line-up for the festival – which takes place from 11 to 14 July 2019 at a 350-acre site in Escalarre, surrounded by the Catalan Pyrenees – will be announced early next year.

A poster showing the first wave of acts in full is below:

Doctor Music Festival 2019

 


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