After bringing in machines that sucked water and scraped mud from the Reading Festival site in time for it to be staged this year, the organisers of what’s likely to be the last Mean Fiddler Carling Weekend must have been relieved to see the event bathed in glorious sunshine August 24-26.
Now the twinned Reading and Leeds festivals will be presented by Festival Republic, which is basically what’s left of Mean Fiddler Music Group since the company hived off its smaller venues to MAMA Group for £6 million (about US$12 million).
Former MFMG chief Melvin Benn will head the new company. At least some of the MAMA cash is likely to be spent on his plan to expand its festival business, mainly in North America.
Latitude, the highly successful "boutique" festival he created near the Suffolk coast a few years ago, is another outdoor that will change its presenter name from Mean Fiddler to Festival Republic. Glastonbury chief Michael Eavis played down suggestions that his event could come under the same heading.
He shrugged off Benn’s assertion (reported in a U.S. trade magazine) that the company "could still operate Reading and Leeds, plus Glastonbury and Latitude under the Mean Fiddler banners."
"He’s definitely over-egging it here," he told Pollstar, pointing out that Glastonbury has never been under a Mean Fiddler banner.
"I don’t think this is worth a fight though," he added, saying Glastonbury and Benn enjoy a good relationship and the issue was nothing like his very public 2004 spat with then-Mean Fiddler chief Vince Power.
On that occasion, Eavis told the Guardian and Sunday Times he was fed up with what he saw as Power hogging the credit for the festival Eavis and his west country team have created.
Confirming that the stories were "more than just newspaper talk," he told Pollstar, "It makes me very angry when I see Vince using the festival to prop up the value of Mean Fiddler shares."
Mean Fiddler no longer has a share price since being taken private in a 2005 £37.9 million (then US$ 71.6 million) deal with LN-Gaiety Holdings, the company set up by Live Nation chief Michael Rapino and Irish promoter Denis Desmond.
Eavis has always been quick to point out that his deal with Mean Fiddler is based on profit share, after Glastonbury has made its £2 million or so donations to charities including Water Aid, and that the company doesn’t have any sort of stake in the ownership of the event.
Reading and Leeds, which sold out their combined 150,000 capacity weeks in advance, both received favourable press – although a long piece in the Guardian lingered over the Reading crowd’s old reputation for bottling acts it doesn’t like.
50 Cent’s 2004 performance was the most recent incident the paper quoted and the other examples were at least 10 years old.
The acts helping the old Mean Fiddler give way to the new Festival Republic included Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smashing Pumpkins, Arcade Fire, Kings Of Leon, Nine Inch Nails, Gogol Bordello, Lostprophets, Interpol, Panic! At The Disco, Eagles Of Death Metal and Klaxons.