With more than 2,000 music festivals about to take place across Europe in the coming months, it seems that the youth of 2007 are set to embark on a new Summer of Love, bringing a tidal wave of sweaty hedonism to rival the apogee of free rave and acid house. A combination of high temperatures, cut-price train and air-fares, and the frustration generated by months of constant winter downloading and intermittent gig-going, has sent ticket sales for outdoor musical events soaring.

The festival scene is now a booming industry, and its expansion across the co ntinent is warming the heart of many a cold-blooded profit forecaster. Yet even slick affairs like Virgin’s V Festival, where you half expect the grass to be made of plastic and the bands to be puppets, tap into the perennially attractive fable of the festival experience. Nourished in the pungent cauldron of sixties counter-culture, the potent hybrid of mythology and reality that surrounds milestones like Woodstock still inform current attitudes. They also, however, inform the marketing departments of Sony Ericsson, O2 and Virgin, who use them to exhaustively plot, graph and target consumer demographics.

Corporate s ponsorship is virtually ubiquitous for the larger musical events, to the point of insidiously taking centre stage without the glazed-eyed consumer noticing. See for example, the integrated-consumerism-as-emancipation line implicitly taken by O2’s Wireless and Apple’s Download festivals. The idea of harnessing the choice-filled but individualistic culture of music downloading to the communality of the festival is an attractive one. So why complain like a foamy mouthed G8 protestor at the links between the long-commercialised music business and wider corporate interests?

Because the festival, so the venerated Woodstock ’69 ideal goes, not only involves spontaneity - a break from the grinding mundanity of daily life, participation – even if only in through critical engagement with the artists, but also a vague hostility to the links between creativity and business. Can such woolly ideals continue to exist while at the same time being co-opted by corporations? Possibly, but not if their future lies with the V Festivals and the T’s in the Park. The utopian daydreams of hippies have b een rehabilitated for a generation unconvinced of the worth of idealism, and consumed like so many dubious Reading festival cheeseburgers.

But we can still support those festivals that aren’t subordinated to the grubbier demands of the music business. Let’s not be smug – bands can’t all be Godspeed You! Black Emperor collectives carefully detailing the links between record companies, Mr. Men, ice-cream makers and the military industrial complex - and neither can all of us. But we can at least recognise when we are being force-fed crap.

The recent gamut of micro festivals may not necessarily be all good news, spanning from the darker side of Shoreditch to the designer-Wellington extravaganzas of boutique events, to the distasteful spectacle of triumphantly unreconstructed hippies messing with the system by wearing hemp trousers and playing croquet with baguettes.

But festivals such as the Secret Garden Party, All Tomorrow’s Par ties and Supersonic offer choice and participation divorced from consumerism. The expansion of the festival business in recent years need not necessarily lead inexorably toward commercialisation. It also offers the possibility of avoiding complicity with the creeping marketisation that obscures the idealism and escapism behind the old notion of the festival.

Tapestry Goes West
10-11 August, S. Wales
Tapestry Goes West is a small, strange event, taking place at Margam Park in South Wales. Inspired by non-corporate festivals of the 60s and 70s, the musical line-up is largely free-spirited and/or psychedelic fun: The Clientele, The Duke Spirit (recent darlings of NME), Hot Puppies, and more. Inspired by the site’s ruined abbey, it is medieval-themed, and features archery, jousting, ‘inns of wonderment’, and apparently festival-goers don fancy dress. It has been called ‘a perfect festival’ (Playlouder.) and ‘very strange an d beautiful’ (The Guardian). Sounds like rollicking good fun. Put on your pointy damsel hat and go. Tickets £50 including camping, from wegottickets.com
Becky Varley-Winter

Summer Sundae
August 10-12, Leicester
Three days for £85 – already things are looking up. Especially when you consider what you’re getting at Summer Sundae Weekender in terms o f line up, atmosphere and accessibility.

Firstly, on the practical side, the location is ideal, in the centre of town (though you wouldn’t believe it, so green are the gardens of De Montfort). Then, the atmosphere: to add to the festival spirit, they dole out free tots of Jim Beam every day. And the line-up contains a veritable feast of alternative, up-and-coming and established bands.

Headliners include Spiritualized and The Divine Comedy, but my vote goes to the lesser known Simple Kid, Kate Nash and Candie Payne (if you haven’t heard of them yet, check out their MySpace profiles). Vetiver is also playing this year, as his sometime collaborators Devendra Banhart and Vashti Bunyan have done in the past; looks like he’s jumping on the Summer Sundae bandwagon, and so should you. Tickets £85 from summersundae­­.com
Verity Simpson

Eastern Haze
July 20-22, Suffolk
The West: Arthurian legends and legendary cider; sun, stone circles and summer festivals. The East: cowshit and concrete; Lowest oft high street and Lil’ Chris. Hardly a fair comparison.

But with a string of new festivals popping up in East Anglia over the last couple of years, it seems that times are changing. Eastern Haze, which kicked off last year, is the sister festival of Somerset’s Sunrise Celebration. With three days of music from the likes of The Blockheads with Phil Jupitus, the Ozric Tentacles and The Levellers, across stages catering for tastes ranging from acoustic to psytrance and drum n’ bass, Eastern Haze looks set to be a high point in the Suffolk summer.

But stray a little from the beaten track to take in the Hazy Green area’s crazy cabaret, complete with Native American sweat lodge, and you might find what seems to be the true spirit of Eastern Haze – one infusing many festivals that have sprung up over the last few years and which harks back to a pre-modern Golden Age. Tickets: £65 from easternhaze.com
Salman Sh aheen

20-22 July, Suffolk

Originally an offshoot from Glastonbury, Electronica fest Glade has attracted acts like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and 808 State. This year Squarepusher returns to the main stage alongside a range of lesser known acts such as Babyhead and Lunaseeds.

Other tents range from soul, breakbeat, house or minimalist electronica to the frankly dodgy ‘Pussy Parlour’ with ‘glamorous bar staff and gritty cleaning ladies’ backed by Gypsy music, Balkan beats and Flamenco. Whilst it may sound full of nerds, Glade never strays from providing a good time and a more interesting alternative to the festivals filled with ‘scene’ electro bands chasing the Klaxons. Why pay to watch identical bands with token synthesisers, when authentic, sophisticated electronica can be found here? Tickets £110 from gladefestival.c om.­­
Tom Hamilton