WHEN a festival dies, there’s a range of lamentations. The organisers make their apologies to the “community” that’s grown around it. The local politicians regret the loss of income from thousands of revellers coming to their locality.

Some of the regular attendees, and a few of the acts, may mourn the end of these particular epiphanies – but mostly they’ll move on to the next “unique experience”. Because there’s bound to be one. Festivals, these days are irrepressible.

That’s been the pattern followed by the announcement of the end of Loopallu (Ullapool backwards), after this year’s event. Fifteen years is a good run, and Loopallu had brought Mumford & Sons, Franz Ferdinand, Paolo Nutini and Echo & the Bunnymen to the West Highlands.

However, the local agreements that often make such an event possible – aligning site, accommodation, technology, pricing – can’t always hold.

The Electric Fields festival, birthed in Dumfries and Galloway, and equally as starry as Loopallu (Noel Gallagher, Frightened Rabbit, Primal Scream, Dizzee Rascal, Young Fathers) hasn’t survived its transplantation to Glasgow.

The liquidators were called in a week ago.

I’ve noted that a media narrative is building about “the day the music died” in Scotland, with the gaping absence of T in the Park and the Wickerman Festival, and several other high-profile cancellations.

I’d like to resist that story. Not because I have some secret formula to improve their prospects. As the US website Vox says, festivals are “a business that is effectively Russian roulette, with weather systems and bathroom lines”.

But nevertheless, the urge to make and partake of festivals – often starting from a bunch of enthusiasts with access to a field – is to me one of the most interesting modern social trends.

It rides on big underlying shifts. One that’s obvious is the degree of alienation felt in the everyday lives of various generations on these islands, and across the developed world. “Control”, and the lack of it, is our major contemporary keyword.

This isn’t just about raw economics – poor wages, credit indebtedness, no reserves – although it clearly is. The lack of “control” is now, often, psychological too.

How many of us are asked to align our emotional lives and energies with the requirements of an enterprise, and its brand, to “fully service” the needs of its customers or users? How many of our personal resources for community, or morality, or friendliness are required of us in our daily wage-labour? (And how many, nowadays, are waiting for the AIs to supplant us anyway?)

We know how to cope with this. Retail waits for us with its endless arms. Jet trailing to the resort, to lie stupefied in the sun, is another solution. So how is paying your three-figure sum for your music festival experience any different?

I don’t think it’s quite the same. Perhaps you’d expect me to say that, given that I’m usually being an artist at these things.

Whenever we turn up in the tour bus to do a festival, I always immediately feel that something ancient has assembled here. The temporary nomadic settlements; the bazaars of food, drink and other diversions; all of this radiating around the pagan stage, with the dancing shamans (starting from 2pm).

You can turn up the dial on this primevalism (“to 11!”, as they used to say on Spinal Tap). The Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert is probably at 12, where a fantastical city is built on the playa and then removed without a trace. There’s a stunning global circuit of these kinds of events now.

But even a hillside of families in the Midlands, listening to the favourites of their youth as they sprawl in the sun, partake what the old anarchists used to call a TAZ – a “temporary autonomous zone”.

And part of that autonomy is expressed by the artists themselves. I’ve met a few musicians who are cold-hearted, formula-peddling mercenaries – but only a few.

Most of them are irredeemable utopians and idealists, writing their songs or pumping out their tracks because they feel a better world, or at least a constant heart, should be evoked or shaped in audiences, somehow. The genre doesn’t really matter. It can be the full EDM display, one human at their laptop, triggering digital overload in sound and animated graphics. Or it can be some set of lean post-rock gods, riffing away to achieve a moment of intensity. But they, and the crowd, have both turned up to try to create a moment of transcendence.

We’re all looking for a lyric, or a melody, or a groove to bind a crowd together. And audiences want to embed in themselves a collective memory – something can sustain them through all the performance reviews and team assessments of their rest-of-the-year, workaday world.

Sometimes the event gets to that place – sometimes it doesn’t. But the aspiration for epiphany is, I think, inherent in every festival. Otherwise, why endure all the fuss, mess and discomfort?

The role of carnival and festival in letting off social steam – turning things upside down for a temporary, exhilarating moment, so that you can bear the grind for the rest of your life – is perennial, certainly pre-modern.

But I’ve been wondering whether our current era can demand a different experience from the festival.

Can these temporary autonomous zones carry a passion for autonomy – that is, for shaping your life and society – beyond their boundaries and stage shows? Where the music opens you up to being excited about ideas and practices as well?

Two festivals I’ve been at in recent years explicitly explore that possibility. The Bluedot Festival has all the big names – this year Hot Chip, Kraftwerk and New Order, previous years the Chemical Brothers and the Flaming Lips – but takes place under the massive bowl of the old Jodrell Bank radio telescope.

So the theme is science, environment and the universe. This year you could wander about the Jodrell Park, sampling the likes of James Burke and Jim Al-Khalili, exploring the theme of Science and Cosmic Culture.

I compered their Futures tent last year, and encountered the brightest and most activism-ready audience I’ve ever worked with. You would go back to Bluedot every year to be reminded that there are joyful, wide-eyed scientific rationalists around you, keeping the flame of progress alive.

The other one was deep in the south-west English forests, called Noisily (I was speaking in a talks series there organised by The Alternative UK, of which I am a co-initiator).

It is, not to blur the matter too much, a psychedelic festival – in which, let us say, certain kinds of euphoric states are rigorously and determinedly achieved.

For a few days, Noisily carefully builds and curates a pulsing techno-arcadia – where dancing can be day and night, and clothing is both a fantabulous statement, and an optional choice.

Yet because Noisily’s values are explicit and “deep green”, you will find talk tents full of thoughtful (if a little crumpled) revellers, very much up for the practical-utopian ideas of the day. Whether that’s using tech automation to grant universal basic income, high-quality public services, shorter working weeks, a full carbon-consciousness throughout our lives.

The Alternative UK is helping them to create something called a Citizens’ Action Network this year. This is a structure with two functions. One is to encourage Noisily-goers to think of themselves as an radical community, who can take their planetary consciousness back home with them and make it real. And the other is to look at the wide and impressive range of skills and techniques that go into making a festival (organisational, engineering, technological, artistic). The challenge is: can we make such a transforming “festivity” part of our immediate communities and weekly lives, not just an annual explosion?

It’s not that there are no “transformational” festivals like this in Scotland (next week’s Solas Festival in Perth fits the bill well). But it might be a creative strategy to think about, beyond the sheer fact that it’s sexy to bring all the rockers to your wee part of the world.

That Ullapool festival, I’d say, sounds like a pretty good name for it. As they say on their own official statement: Loopallu is dead! Love live Loopallu!