I knew Friday was going to be mad rush and I should have prepared better but this was a Bank Holiday Weekend at a muddy music festival, not everything has to or particularly can ever go according to plan. I woke up around 7:30am and while enjoying some music television, decided on my plan for the morning. There was a great deal to be done before I headed out to Reading (via Langley).
I showered and changed, organised my car insurance and then wondered into the garage. I had to take three collapsible chairs, including my lounger and look for my wellies. The last time I had worn them had been the first day of Reading Festival last year. Since then, they had disappeared into the black hole that is our garage and even with a quick frantic search, I could not find them. I resigned myself to the fact of buying some from Millets after I had my haircut in the morning. I left the house around 8:45am and took my own car, as I did not want to have to wait around for a bus, I did not have the time for that today. I parked in George Street and then headed over to Jerry’s Street Styles for a haircut before popping quickly into town. Milletts only had a few Wellington Boots left. The comic book decor on the Peter Storm boots did appeal to me (they would come in handy on Sunday) but in the end I opted for a cheap pair of bland green Dunlop wellies. They were brought over from the store by Caleb. He was envious of my trip to the festival, as he had been keen to go himself, but not been able to get any time off work that weekend. Shame! I rushed to Primark just around the corner and bought some socks, I would need something thick to line my new purchases and make walking around in those wellies just a little bit more bearable.
I rushed back to the car and then headed home. I was hoping my sister would have left by now or at the very least moved her car. She had not. Never mind, I had an ultra quick shower and then packed the car with my things. As usual, I left behind my Nike drawstring bag and digital camera (not exactly essential items for a music festival). It was 10:15am, I had hoped to have been on the way to Michelle’s house by now, but not a major worry. I would be on my way in the next few minutes, so I was not running that late. Quite a lot of luggage for a weekend, three collapsible chairs, my weekend bag and plus there was a food and more luggage to fit in before we made the final leg of the journey to Reading.
I ran Michelle to give her an accurate ETA (taken from TomTom Navigator) and was at their house around 11am. To my pleasant surprise, there had already done the food shopping earlier in the morning, so I did not have to go through drawling the aisles of Tesco Extra. We still had to have a quick trip to the town centre but Michelle decided to pick up some bits from M&S and cook a brunch before we headed to Reading. This was good thinking, as we were unlikely to eat again until much later that evening. Steve and I packed the car, but it was not that bad, all things considered. We then caught some Sky News HD and MTV HD before heading out the door around 13:30. We were on schedule with an ETA of 14:02. Great, considering we had now shelved plans for the CostCo visit. We were making excellent time on the M4, it was not that busy. The rush would kick in later that afternoon and the weather was looking promising with the odd break for sunshine between the clouds. However, I needed little excuse to put on my sunglasses.
Day 1 – Friday 27th August
For me the day does not official start, until we are heading to the Festival itself. The entrance is only a ten minute walk around the corner. We had spotted a great number of festival goers in their muddy boots and hot pants. We joined the crowds on this now overcast day and I lead the crowd, pointing out the main landmarks such as the Railway Station on our way. (It was important that Steve got his bearings, for he had to collect Magda later that evening.) It was very busy, but this was just the afternoon rush, it would be busier later that evening and tomorrow. Touts were offered to buy and sell tickets at every corner and we did our best to avoid them (avoiding eye contact is usually the best technique) or just say no thank you. As we made our way down the main road to the crossing, I gave our tickets to Steve to hold in the inside pocket of his Members Only jacket. I felt it would be safer there, rather than the top right pocket of my combats. A few minutes after, the tickets fell out of his pocket onto the pavement. No issue, it was dead ahead of me, picking them up I handed them to Michelle who put them securely in her the top right pocket of her green combats. We continued walking for a few more minutes. Suddenly, my heart sang. Michelle had lost the tickets and rushed back to where she thought they had fallen. Steve and I exchanged awkward glances while waiting outside the fancy dress shop. The thoughts going through my head at this moment, was what I would tell my friends and more importantly Richard about my time at the festival. This was a disaster I had hoped to avoid. Michelle returned only a few minutes later but it felt like it had been an age. She gave us the thumbs up. A lovely Sikh gentleman (in red turban) standing outside his or his families newsagent had seen Michelle drop the tickets and picked them up. This was very lucky. I am sure a tout would have had all this Christmas’s and birthday’s in one go had he or she been able to pick up the envelope containing three weekend passes. We were on our way and this time I took charge of the tickets, I doubt anyone else wanted the responsibility.
With the drama over we made our way with the crowds, past the George Cafe and crossed at the BP garage and onto the Festival entrance. We had our three chairs with us and these were like chains around our necks. We joined the queue, had our tickets checked via the bar-code and then made our way down the muddy path to the festival camping area entrance. It was here, we had to go and get our weekend wristbands but it was a muddy swamp. Obviously we did not have any camera to record this moment and I did not really want to get out my E65 and risk dropping it. (Pav would have a great photograph of Emily to show us later on his iPhone). As we made our way in and then walked through the camp site, I started providing a running commentary on everything to expect over the next few days. One landmark I did point out was the Silent Disco (now labelled Silent Arena) which we were sure to visit at some point over the course of the weekend.
We made our way out of the Funfair and onto the road before turning into the main festival area along the road, which takes us to the Arena entrance. This was it. It was not that busy and we walked through within a few minutes, having to hold up our hands in some kind of strange super power ritual to show our wristbands to allow us entry. The security was light, but then it was before the evening rush and I am sure the security was going to be increased as promised later. We were then in and had a group hug, although it felt a little unnatural without the final member of our party, Magda there. We found a spot, some distance from the stage to set up camp, if you will. This was not the ideal place but I thought it best to stop, and then try and catch up with the others. Pav, Emily, Foxy and the rest of the gang were in by now and back at our “usual” spot the other side of the field. While Steve went to for his first little adventure to the little boy’s room, I left Michelle with the chairs, as I disappeared to firstly find my friends and then go and meet up with Richard. This was a brief meet and greet before heading back to our chairs. Pav had called me regularly and was trying to get me to move over to where they were. In the end, we grabbed our things and headed over. We were practically in the same spot as last year, a yard or two away from the red ice cream van. It was now time for the introductions, which did not take that long but as usually I got a shout of “Terrahhheeee” from Pav followed by a big man-hug!
The party could officially start now, as all members were together. Woo hoo! Pav took a photo of me relaxing on my lounger on his iPhone! I have uploaded here to re-create the ambiance of that festival moment. I am sure it is very difficult to convey this is just a image and some text but I will do my best. Consulting our set lists, my friends were keen to go and see Beardyman in the Alternative Tent. Less than a minute later they were gone. We were stuck with our chairs, they had turned out to be a poisoned chalice. Restricting our movement and making it difficult to have the freedom to roam around the festival tents. Michelle was the first to voice this concern and I knew from that moment we would not be bringing the chairs for the remainder of the weekend.
We spent most of the evening by the main arena, watching Lost Prophets among other bands. The chairs were the main reason we stayed in the same place. Unlike last year, we had no friend of the group like Scott, whom was happy to just sit by the main stage and look after all our things while we went and enjoyed our favourite artists / shows in the other arenas. Scott had not bought a ticket for this year and in any case, most years, (last year being an exception) he has bought a weekend ticket only to sell it on to a friend. We grabbed some food around 8pm, just a nice jacket potato which filled the whole very well. It was then just a long wait for the act to close the opening night.
I am not really a fan of Guns ‘n’ Roses but was looking forward to them performing live. In particular Live & Let Die. However, I got tired after standing up for nearly an hour waiting for them to appear on stage. After around fifty or so minutes, Michelle and I walked back to our chairs and sat down. I know, not very rock and roll, but there was no need to over do it on the first night (unlike some) and if I am honest, I did not really care. We watched from the comfort of our seats but had to view the screens as our views of the stage was blocked by all the bystanders. The performance was okay, but I am sure if I was a die-hard fan of the rock group, I would have been disappointed. Not just with the diva stance of appearing fifty eight minutes later than billed but also trying to play after the midnight curfew. Michelle and I decided to leave (carrying all three chairs between us) around 11pm, I had had enough. It had been a long day and I wanted to get some sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a long day and I would need all my energy.
Before I close the day, I need to give you my personal highlight. As we were making our way back from the main arena to our group meeting point, a girl to our right shouted “Terry!”. My mistake was to respond and turn around to look at who it was. Michelle asked, “Friend of yours?”. I wanted to laugh, I had never seen the girl before in my life. “No Michelle, that lady is actually looking for someone actually called Terry!”. When I recited this event back to Pav it had him in stitches.
Day 2 – Saturday 28th August
Saturday is the main day, the biggest day of the weekend. It is also the busiest day and I do not have the exact statistics at hand but I am sure most day tickets are sold for the Saturday and most weekend pass holders attend at least the Saturday. We got left to head to the festival around 2pm, meeting up with Sarah and James outside The Moderation as we made our way down. It was a full house today, with Ollie and his friend joining us as well. The weather had improved, glorious sunshine all around, so it had the makings of a perfect festival day.
We had left the chairs this time around, so having less to carry made it an easier walk into the festival and we could roam around the arena at our leisure. My friends were going to set up camp, so to speak at the same place near the ice cream van. Four of us however, went to the Alternative Tent to watch some comedy. It was packed, with the tent full of festival goers sitting down on the grass inside, which was a rather strange site. We only got into the site around 2pm and at 2:45pm, we were scheduled to see Jason Byrne. This was the first time I was seeing perform, but Steve and Magda had caught him on television. He was excellent, particularly with his audience participation pieces and observing members as they tried to make a quick exit or entrance. As crowd surfing is band at Reading (I think from last year) the only way he could get a member of the audience to surf the crowd was to put them into a cardboard box and request they make “car noises” while be pushed around. Excellent stuff! We then headed back to the main arena, at the main spot. This was where we would be for the remainder of the day.
Most would agree that the highlight of the day was Dizzee Rascal. We tried to get as close to the stage as possible a while before he came out to perform. Actually we had made our way over ever since the previous act had begun closing their set. While waiting for him to appear, we noticed my friends, Emily, Pav, Ollie, Sarah and James heading in the opposite direction, against the crowd of now stationary people. Ollie came over to give me a hug and shake my hand. The guy his a legend, but he was quickly removed from me and taken away by his young sister, Emily. I found out later that Sarah had felt uncomfortable with all the moshing going on and to avoid any injury, they had decided to move away from the stage. There was a short delay before Dizzee came on and ripped the place up! I am not the biggest fan of UK Grime, but really like some of Dizzee’s songs, in particular Bonkers and Holiday. Plus there was the appearance on stage of ex-One True Voice member, Daniel Pearce. (You may remember him more recently from the last series of The X Factor but he is also a local boy who has had the honour of performing in The Eden Shopping Centre). Dylan Kwabena Mills (his full birth name) has so much energy and puts everything into the performance. It was great fun and the crowd were lapping up every syllable. It was easily up to that point the best performance of the weekend. Plus it made a great change from all the guitar based slash rock bands that had littered the bill.
It was only at this point in proceedings that I noticed that Ash were performing, closing The Festival Republic Stage in fact. I have been a big fan of the indie band for years, Girl From Mars being a personal favourite. I was going to see them and did not really mind going on my own to be honest. My friends were going to see Pendulum on the NME stage. In the end, Michelle decided to occupy me, which was great but I would have been fine on my own. Having said that, although she knew the name of the band, she could not remember any of the songs, well until they started playing.
It must be because I have been dead set on a steady diet of urban music recently that I had forgotten how much I really do love guitar based songs. Sure, we all go through phases in our music loving lives. I am going to dig out the Ash singles collection I have somewhere and give it a blast in the car. Ash were fantastic, we had a great and being in a smaller tent there was a reduced crowd and more intimate feeling. Really enjoyed their set, they played all their classics and a few new songs. Including Burn Baby Burn, which is probably my second favourite from their back catalogue. There was an older woman standing next to us. Let me qualify older, I would say around mid 40s, but that is no criticism. This is a festival, everyone is welcome, we are all here to have a good time and enjoy some great live music. Within a song, she was on the shoulders of her female friend. A chap came to hand her a drink, her husband or boyfriend I assume, but she just threw the cup out of his hand and the drink went everywhere. Thankfully the cup was only half full of a carbonated beverage (Coca Cola I believe). She was obviously a die-hard Ash fan, nothing and no-one was going to get in the way of her enjoyment of the band!
Around 11pm, Ash closed their set with Burn Baby Burn and we headed for the Exit. Steve and Magda were waiting for us to the entrance of Silent Disco. However, Michelle was not feeling well, so we headed back and let the young couple (twenty four and free) enjoy the entertainment. (For the record and I am talking to only one member of my blog reading audience here – Pav I was up for Silent Disco, it would just have to wait for twenty four hours, that is all). When I checked my Facebook the following morning, I had a post on my Wall. The chorus of an amazing song. I have posted about it way back in late April last year. However, it was only now, some sixteen months later that Pav was listening to the song in full. He had not got the parody before. He did now, in the Silent Disco arena, with the crowd going wild. I was so gutted I missed this, but not sure how my body would have been fairing at ten to two in the morning!
Day 3 – Sunday 29th August
I was determined to make the most of my last day. I actually headed to the festival on my own around 12:40pm. All Time Low were performing at 14:35 on the main stage and there was no way I was going to miss them. I have been a fan of the American punk rock band for over a year. In fact, I first heard their song, Stella at the departure lounge of Gatwick just before flying out to Valencia (ironically a week or so before Reading Festival last year). I got into the festival complex around 1pm, so had a good hour to kill before the performance. There were no sign of my friends, but for good reason (which shall be revealed later). I text Rich, to see if he was around and we meet up for a drink at Bar ’79. However, I had to rush off around 2:15pm, as I wanted to get as close to the stage as humanly possible. I told Rich I would meet up with him later on during the day and most likely the Silent Disco. Rushing off to the the main stage, I suddenly came to the realisation of how much older I was that the other ATL fans! They started to play Good Life by Kanye West and featuring the best auto tune “enhanced” artist of all time, Faheem Rasheed Najm, but you may know him better by his stage name, ‘T-Pain‘. This was the perfect song to get me in the mood to the start of the last day of the festival (for me in any case). As I made my way up as close to the stage as I could get, I took some photographs on my E65.
Some young girls ahead of me, at their first Reading Festival were chatting to another girl, who was applying luminous pink face paint on her arms and face. On her left forearm she wrote an expletive (it starts with the six letter of the alphabet) and on the right, she wrote, “Yeah!”. (This is a catch phrase of the band in general and a band member specifically – it would be repeated at various times during the set). As tempted as I was to have some face paint, I did not make the request, as much as I wanted to get into the full festival spirit. Just before the band came on, I asked one of the festival newbies how old they thought I was, she replied 29, and I felt very old, in comparison to their 17, 18 and 19. I was increasing the average age of the fans here, dramatically but I did not care. I was here for a good time and it was at that moment the band appeared. Time for a bit of good old fashioned Rock and Roll! On their introduction by some BBC Radio 1 presenter (never heard of him before but then that would not be unusual, I tend to be out of touch on these things – a sign of old age!) I learnt that they had started by playing Blink 182 covers. Now, they were sharing the bill with their idols. Blink 182 would be closing the festival some six hours later! They played some new material, but my favourites, Stella, Weightless and actually opened with Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t. Great stuff.
Now it was time to try and find my friends and meet up with the rest of the crew. At least today (of all days) they would be very easy to spot or so I thought. I eventually found Em and Mel. Or rather they found me, She-Ra and Bat Girl respectively and eventually the rest of the gang appeared, Pav (Venon), Ben (Flash), Charlie (Wonder Woman), Geoff (Batman). Foxy, like myself was a mere civilian but joined by his older brother Matt. About twenty minutes later we were joined by Michelle, Steve and Magda. They had left their apartment much later than anticipated. Steve blamed it on having a nice cup of tea after cooking and chewing the fat before making tracks over towards Caversham. So here we were, on the last day planning to make the most of the last few hours of freedom. The last day is always regarded as the fun day, many people dress up or make an extreme effort to look different. Pav and Emily’s costumes should get a special mention, as they were both home made! Poole is a dab hand with the old needle and thread! The rest however were either bought or rented (most likely bought, as you would not want to incur the fine of returning a muddy outfit back to the fancy dress shop!). There are no photos available from Sunday, because it is very difficult to hide a digital camera in your Venon black tights! I will have to see if any of my friends actually took any photos of themselves in costume (perhaps even at the house before they left).
Most of the day was again spent by the Main Arena, there was nothing else I really wanted to see. I was just looking forward to the final act of the day. Ever since I heard All The Small Things (and saw the humourous video, which was a parody of other music videos from manufactured pop artists from the same era, the turn of the century. I have always liked punk rock and this was further underlined by the fact that Blink 182 appeared in American Pie and many of the other soundtracks to movies of the same genre! (For the record, I have only seen American Pie and the first sequel, never caught any others). This links in very well, with my dream of wanting to go to college in the US. Listening to punk rock music, comes with the territory and there have been some impressive bands (All Time Low being the latest incarnation). I refer you to Sugarcult, whom appeared extensively on the Van Wilder: Party Liason soundtrack. I know it will surprise some people, why does this boy who loves his sugar coated pop, suddenly want to listen to a rather crazy band of misfits? I think I have answered the question already, because they are different, wild, unpredictable. It is all about the fun factor, rather than getting crazy about their album sales and chart positions. I particularly liked the way they ended All The Small Things. “We would like to thank Jedward for allowing us to cover their song!” Many cheers and laughs from the audience. The song also has a special place in my heart, for describing a rite of passage, as I was in the flows of college and ever closer to adulthood and real life.
We stuck around for the majority of the Blink 182 set, and when they disappeared decided to go. Although they came back for an encore of a few more songs, which played as we made our way to the Slight Disco. We waited outside the entrance. Steve and Magda arrived around ten minutes later with the crowds, they had been to see The Klaxons on the NME Radio 1 Stage. We then had a rather long walk into the Silent Disco arena, but I was looking forward to the experience. We were handed head phones as we entered the tent. Away we went! It was not that busy, but slowly started filling up, as it came to midnight and beyond! It was good fun, once you get a grip on things. Your headphones have two channels. One channel was very much a pop channel, while the other was more urban. It was good fun, but taking off your headphones you could hear the crowd singing along to one (or both) of the songs. My highlight, perhaps just a notch below the Rascal, was watching Magda dance to She Wolf! I have a feeling that Steve enjoyed the show a great deal more than me, but then, lucky him, I do not think it was his first performance (or anywhere near his last!). I had text Pav and Rich, letting them know we were in the disco, but only heard back from Rich, so wondered off outside the tent, in the direction of the toliets, to find him. He was there, with his friends (who were smoking, so hence the need to be outside). We caught up for a while and then I got Michelle to meet him before buying him a drink, “There’s a bar in here? We’ve been in here for the past three nights and never found it!”. Rich needs to know when you roll with the Teg these things appear on my radar very quickly. It was coming up to around 2am when we finally left. I recall the all time classic, Billie Jean playing on one of the channels, as we went to meet up with Steve and Magda and decide to not just end the night but our festival weekend!
Day 4 – Monday 30th August
While technically not a day of the festival, it is still important to cover the journey home after the three days and nights of party! There was a great deal of traffic as we tried to make our way out of Reading onto the A329 (M) and ultimately M4. We listened to BBC Radio 1 in the car, the sun was shining, we had the windows open and were going to go out on a high. Chris Moyles with his recorded show of all the best guests, we joined just before the full interview with Louie Spence. (Pav had been sent a MMS from Phil while he was on holiday. It was a photograph of Phil with Louie, although Pav had no idea who it was!) Come on Khural – the camp dancer from Pineapple Dance Studios (yes the show narrated by Michael Buerk – oh how the mighty have fallen!). As the hillarious interview came to an end, Steve shouted from the back, “It’s Teg song…!” the opening beeps of Riding Solo by Jason Derulo filled the car. I had only one reaction, to put up the volume and we four of us sang along! (Please see a previous post for similar breakout of group singing). The next show was Ferne Cotton with the best of Live Lounge, she gave a quick roundup of all the artists and covers we could expect. She mentioned All Time Low and their cover of Gaga’s Ajelandro (I think this has already become my favourite song by LG ever). We sang along when the acoustic version came around 36 minutes into the show. It was a very good rendition, mainly for being so different in sound to the original. Bands please, when you take on a cover, the whole point is to give your own personal take on the classic. By this point, we were on the A329(M) and making our way back to Langley. The next cover, Cheryl Cole with Owl City’s – “Fireflies” the perfect song to end the perfect long weekend?
It had been an awesome weekend, I had an absolute blast. Sure there was not the fun with BT & Lisa like last year, but Steve and Magda more than made up for that! I knew Pav would be on my case very soon to get a blog post written and all my photographs uploaded. I made a promise to him, online via G-Chat a few days after, he would not be be waiting over twelve months for the story of the festival to be out there on the world wide web.
This is only my second time at my local rock music festival but you could be fooled into thinking I was some kind of veteran, giving advice to my girlfriend and her brother, Steve. Of course, the reality is that I just was very well prepared by my friends last year. Although 2009 (as long as it does actually feel) was a completely different story. I had just got back from a week in Valencia (to watch the European GP among other things) and then the following day went straight to Reading Festival for the first time. I do not think you can get more Rock and Roll than that but you can. Foxy, or rather t_dogg, has been in Spain this week and returns just in time for the festival. Did I forget to mention that this boy has been travelling across Far East Asia and Australasia for the past eleven months?
So I am home from work, it has just gone 9pm on Thursday evening. I was watching the report from the festival on London Tonight. (A news programme I hardly get the time to watch at all these days). The mud has not actually put me, I am going to be well prepared with my wellies and my Kag in a Bag. I suppose I could go extreme and take my Ski Jacket if things really looked bad, but I believe the weather itself is going to improve over the course of the weekend. Something tells me though the ground underfoot, will be not so quick to dry. Everything is under control and I am looking forward to a fun filled three days in a field with my friends.
Of course, I am disappointed that my dearest friend Barry and his lovely wife Lisa are not going to be there. I really enjoyed their company last year, it was good fun. Scott, Pav’s work mate is not going this year either, so it is going to be a different crowd in some respects. Having said that, there will still be the usual suspects, the aforementioned Tom Fox, Hannah and Ollie on Saturday, Mel (I believe for the whole weekend), Sarah and James (also for the entirety of the weekend). Last but my no means least there is Michelle and her brother Steve with his girlfriend Magda, so in terms of company, I think I am all set!
Oh I forgot to mention my colleague Rich. He is an official Reading Festival veteran and will not be bothered by the climate at all. He survived the horrors of MudFest at Glastonbury in 1997. Reading should be a piece of cake for him, he is camping with some friends from Germany (as he does most years) and was only in the office on Monday and Tuesday to make best use of his Early Bird Camping Entry. I text him this morning, as I got to my desk asking how his tent was and that I would see him tomorrow afternoon. The response: “The outside is very wet. At least the rain has stopped.” I had been thinking of him, as I drove back home on the M4 yesterday afternoon. It was crazy, the spray was just making visibility poor and some fool in a Honda Civic thought he did not need to have his headlights on! The journey reminded me of the torrential rain I dealt with in January 2009, as we drove back from Gatwick after our ski holiday to Tignes.
Pav has been building up to this moment for weeks, although there was no Junk Mail posted to me this year! It should be a great three days, even with the mud! Just been having been reading some entertaining tweets using the hash tag #ReadingFestival. The tweet from Thames Valley Police, did make me chuckle!
I will try my best to update my Twitter feed, but I doubt I will be taking my phone into the festival arena considering the current conditions. I may also leave my camera at home, as these are other things that potentially will either get lost, stolen or more likely damaged. I will try my best to update the virtual world when I am back in reality of four walls in the evenings at the close of play each day. Most people know that I am not really a big rock music fan (entries from this blog would be a clear indicator of my true musical persuasions) but in any case, there are reasons why Reading does literally rock! Only 13 hours and 19 minutes to go as I publish this post! I better get a wiggle on!
PS – Yes I know Pav, I still have to blog about my Valencia holiday and upload the photos to FlickR! Give me a chance!
I suppose I should start by explaining something. Recently, perhaps as little as the past two years, I have started to classify my weekends. Rank them in terms of ‘events’ and outrageousness. Almost a year ago, my big lad’s weekend would have been described purely as ‘premium’. Sure, two major national (if not global) events back to back. However, just over something missing that did not enable it to get the label, Ultimate. That is deserving only to weekends such as this. A weekend, that is so busy, you do not have time to breathe or even think. A weekend, where you end up having less than two and half hours sleep on Saturday night / Sunday morning. I will start, as all my best blog entries do, at the beginning.
I had quite a few errands to run on Saturday morning, so got my sister up early and we drove around town to pick up bits and pieces and get all the jobs done. By the time I got home, it was 10am and I quickly vacuumed and washed the 307. I cannot remember the last time it had been cleaned but I did not do a dedicated job, it was more a case of having a cleaner car to drive around, rather than sparkling detail. That could wait. I packed up my things, had a quick shower and as I was about to head out, got the phone call from Charlie. I was literally going to call him in a minute to explain I was late and leaving now. It was about 11.35am precisely. I was late, however, we had made a major logistical miscalculation. It would have been easier for Charlie to pick me up and drop me off as he would later drive right past my house, on our drive up to Stratford. Never mind. I got to Charlie’s flat at 12:09pm, after the TomTom took me on an extended route around the back roads. As soon as I turned up, Charlie appeared at his door and was ready to go. I dropped my case and sleeping bag and we jumped in the Vectra. We drove around to the local Tesco Express, literally around the corner, got some food for lunch and were on the road. This is where we soon realised that it would have been easier to grab a lift, as Charlie explained his proposed route. He was going to get onto the M40, but get off at Banbury and take the country roads around to the festival venue. This would be best to avoid the traffic. He put the volume up on his dance compilation and put his foot down, we were on our way.
The journey was uneventful really, the Vectra Estate was quite happy to cruise at three figures. Not bad for a 1.9 diesel. Of course there were weekend drivers, clogging up the fast lane but we eventually got them to pull away and overtake. A white van man temporarily lost control of his vehicle while in the fast lane at around 80, but Mr. T had the reflexes of a cheetah and responded with the brake in plenty of time. We came off the motorway and then hit the country roads. The sun was shining and we were looking forward to a pleasant afternoon. On the country lanes, we came up against more slow movers, but Charlie dispensed with them quite easily, over taking in quick session. As we approached Long Marston, we spotted the AA road signs, we were heading the right way to the car park. We had made the journey in less than two hours. It struck 2pm exactly as we entered the car park. We were guided by quite depressed stewards, some just far to bored and lazy to even put up their arms fully, let alone smile. We drove for about ten minutes, circling the car park and being taken towards and then around the perimeter of the site and parking up in the field. We were the first row of cars, parked on the field, right up against the fence for one of the camping areas. I looked at the clock on the dash, 14:08. Not bad going at all.
We got out, and while a few of the people around us headed straight for the entrance, we had some food and drink. There was no rush, the gates and only just opened and we were here. Relax. Take the weight off your feet before the afternoon and long night of party begins. Charlie called a few friends, firstly Crystal. One of the people he had met on his camping trip up to Scotland in the last week of June. They were camping for the whole weekend and explained it was a total ‘mud-fest’. Looking down at my shoes, I realised, maybe I should have brought my wellies! Never mind, how bad could it get. On the advice, Charlie changed from his trainers into walking boots. Wise man. After grabbing some drinks for the walk down, we locked up the car and headed down. The ground was quite dry and hard, apart from the odd puddle I had to leap over. So far so good, I thought. How naive would I feel some thirteen hours later. It was a good eight minute walk around to the entrance gate, and I expected security to be tight. I bought a programme, for £6 from a girl as we walked into quite a busy crowd of people. Some were collecting tickets, some waiting for their friends. As we went through, we had to first dispose of our drink cans and then have our tickets ripped up and thrown into a big black bag. Great! So much for the souvenir. We then came to the security check point, bags were being checked but no one was being searched. A police sniffer dog was patrolling, walking in and out between the people. However, police numbers looked light for an event of this size. As we walked through, we took a quick look around and headed for the main stage sponsored by BBC Radio One. I used the opportunity to take some photographs.
Crystal and friends were on their way from the camping area and would us by the Tuborg tent. This is a poor man’s Carlsberg, for the the uninitiated. One of the sponsors of the festival I believe. We got some drinks and just waited to meet up with our friends. Charlie called Sarah, whom I had met twice last year. First in early August at the Tiesto gig at Slinky, Bournemouth. Then a little eight days later at Pav’s legendary barbeque. They were just in Banbury and on the way down. They would call Charlie when they got in. We consulted my programme schedule and headed over to the nearby MixMag tent, which had a mixture of music just to warm up the crowd for the main event. The sun was out, the temperature was reasonable. I was looking forward to my second festival experience. This was much bigger than HiFi, which I had attended in Winchester last May. I think I have caught the festival bug, but more on that later. After fifteen twenty minutes, we were still waiting to meet up with Charlie’s friends. In that time a girl had approached us twice and handed over a handful of Trident chewing gum, with the words, “You never know when you might get lucky!”. Charlie gave me a knowing looking. After a few minutes of a phone call we found them. We then decided to head over to God’s Kitchen tent as the Radio One stage, which had been scheduled to start at 3pm, was now delayed by an hour. It was when we headed this tent, the other side of the complex, I began to realise what they meant by mud. I was literally falling a few inches into the slush as I made my way half way through to the stage. We had been here just over an hour. Then as I watched the stage, I noticed a familiar face, walking down back through the middle of the revelers.
It was my school/college friend and former workmate, Daniel Crennell. I instantly walked over to greet him. At first he didn’t recognise me, but eventually he did and gave me a hug. I tried to ask why he had not added me to Facebook or replied to my message but his response (if you can call it that) was undistinguishable. I think the medical term is, he was “off his face”. He gave me a hug and then disappeared. I came back to Charlie to explain who I had just tried to say hello to. I wanted to get some photos of him and I did a bit later. We were outside, for a bit of a break and I noticed Daniel outside too. He had lost his friends and in his drunken stupor, tried to text and call them. I captured the few moments on camera. It was a shame really because that last time I had seen Crennell, as we used to call him, was almost exactly five years ago. Since then, we had lost touch as he had moved away from Wycombe. He appeared on FaceBook and for a time was in the London network before switched to no network and not responding to my friend request and message. Friends come and go, the odd few you meet up again several years later at a dance music festival.
After getting some more drinks, we decided to have a walk around. Crystal, Rob, Nicola and friends headed back to their tents to change and rest before the long evening session. We were supposed to meet them at the same place at 18.30 but we would not see them again. Charlie and myself headed around the site to take a look around the various tents and also the all important toilet break. The cubicles were provided by Andy (Andy’s Loos) and were much better than those a HiFi. In Winchester, it was a communal high raised train with no flushing facilities. Not nice, trust me. We then headed back to the God’s Kitchen tent and chilled out for the about an hour or so. It was at 6pm we heard from Sarah. She was by the Radio One stage. As we came out of the tent, the Red Arrows had started their display. (I had heard about their performance on BBC Radio One this morning, while driving in my sister’s car). As we walked over, I grabbed my camera and grabbed a few patchy photographs. The blue skies had got a light shade of grey. Heading towards the front of the stage, we used the directions from Sarah’s directions via text. Left of the main stage, twenty metres back from the left screen. We split up and looked around and could not find them. In between, I caught the climax of the performance up above. We had almost given up, when Charlie spotted Sarah in the crowd and we met up with them. There was Sarah, her boyfriend James and their friend Dan. Dan was a character, but little did I know how crazy he would be over the next nine odd hours. We watched the final few songs of David Guetta, with my favourite, “Love Don’t Let Me Go”. The crowd went absolutely nuts! We headed back to the God’s Kitchen tent, this is where we would spend most of the night, into the small hours.
I have completely lost track at this moment in time. The line up, looking at my programme was as follows, Eddie Halliwell (6.30pm – 8pm), Judge Jules live on Radio 1 (8pm – 9.30pm). The the other highlights afterwards were, Armin Van Buuren (10.30pm – 12:00am) then the headliner, Paul Van Dyk from midnight until 2am. There was some light rain at 9pm, so we did not head over to see Basement Jaxx over on the main stage, but I was not that concerned, I was happy to stay with my friends as we were. It was around 8.30pm, that we ventured out into the drizzle to grab some food. We got some light snacks from the stalls behind the entrance to the tent. Charlie, Daniel and James went off to get drinks while Sarah and I tried to keep dry under the covers. After refueling, we went back in for some more, Judge Jules’ set coming to a close for Radio One listeners. Charlie mentioned to me that he had hoped Pav had recorded the whole set. Van Buuren was very good, but the main draw was the man from East Berlin and he did not disappoint. Of course, I am only familiar with PvD from his commercial releases. (Although I also have another story. When I was in Berlin for my History trip back in October 1999, one of my friends Rachel was hunting down Dyk albums for her boyfriend, even going to the length of calling him to make sure it was the right CD.) He was amazing, really got the crowd going, the tent was packed out and we were near the front, to the left of the main stage. Perfect view of both the DJ and the dancers in front of the screens. There was a VIP area, behind the barrier with a few people dancing, quite self-consciously on a crate. Now, I could not tell you which tracks were played, although Charlie was quick to pick up and point out the ‘classics’. However, I enjoyed the set, it was fantastic. The middle part did lose a little momentum but he was able to pick it up for a breathtaking finale! Well worth the ticket price and dancing around in the mud.
Any DJ to follow Paul was going to have to pull something out of the hat to match him, and as you can expect, Ferry Corsten was a bit of a let down. My feet by this time were absolutely buckling from sheer tiredness. I doubt I would last until 6am at this rate. Charlie, James and I went for a walk to clear my head and get some fresh air. That helped, we came back to the GK tent for a few more hours of trance action. At 3.20am, we made the decision to leave. Heading out, it took us a good ten minutes to walk to the gate and other fifteen minutes to walk back to the car. We said goodbye to Daniel, James and Sarah as they headed off ahead of us. Daniel back to his tent to go sleep. On our walk back, we were asked to help push a BMW 5-series out of the mud and gladly obliged. As it was rear wheel drive, it was quite easy to push out of the slush, once the driver followed our directions in terms of steering. Our car was parked around the corner, but there was a dark blue Corsa. The driver, Jenny was quite distressed. Her car had been parked next to ours but moved by someone and also damaged. The roof dented in. We offered to help moved it and after three attempts got it shifted to the left hand side, out of our way and onto the drier grass. Charlie had mentioned to me several times before today and on the journey down about hoping that is car did not get stuck in the mud. I had dismissed the comments, not paying any attention to him. I was foolish to be so ignorant. Switching back to his trainers and got into the drivers seat. I got out of my muddy shoes and took my socks off and threw them into a bag. He started his engine and off we went. The problem is, we did not get far, we got stuck two yards ahead, into the thick mud. There was no alternative, I had to get out and push. I put on Charlie’s muddy walking boots and braved the muddy field. Jenny helped me and we got the car out of one ditch and into another. We asked some passersby for help and moved the car a little further but there was no luck. Charlie got out of his car now and we were considering waiting for a tractor or 4v4 to come pull us out. Jenny was more optimistic and we decided to clear the road of cars and then get a big gang of guys together for one final push. We first moved a gold Astra Cabriolet, then a silver Fiesta. By now, we had a group of guys helping us move the Vectra. The guy who was by the drivers side wheel got caked in mud. The car was a state, we took some photos before we eventually left the complex.
It was 3.30am, when we got to the car and it was 4.18am, by the time we were heading for the exit. I asked various people if they knew where the way out was but everyone did not, and we eventually came to a steward who told us it was straight ahead. There were moderate crowds of people leaving but you could still hear the music from the various tents on the other side of the fence. We got back onto the M40, the roads were clear. We pulled up at Handy Cross around 6am and had caught up with Sarah and James in their StreetKa. Charlie opened the window and explained our hour long adventure in the mud. We got back to Charlie’s flat at 6.30am, we had some breakfast and a nice cup of strong tea (no sugar). After that, I set my alarm for 8.30am, and got into my sleeping bag on the sofa and drifted off to sleep. I got up and left at 9am, got some petrol and then headed home. The next part of the weekend adventure was about to begin.
This was literally a pit stop. I had a shower, got changed into my Arsenal gear, grabbed my things and was out the door about quarter past 10. I had wanted to leave around 11am originally but was glad I was ahead of schedule for a change. I got to the train station just after 10.30am, and it was busy. I bought my ticket and headed for platform three. I looked at the notice board and saw a message about Global Gathering this weekend. I would see it for first hand shortly. The next train was late but would be stopping at platform 3 at 10.33am, it was 10.31, so I ran across down to and through the subway. The area was packed for a Sunday, with one Arsenal fan and girlfriend in the corner. As the train arrived, I looked through the window of the carriages and was shocked at what I saw. Muddy wellies and foil sheets. It was jam packed with Global Gathering revelers, on their way back home. The train had no seats left and even standing room as at a premium. A few brave souls decided to push and shove their way on board. I opted to wait for the next train, after all it was a faster service. The next train arrived a few minutes later, it too was late (only by 5 minutes) but almost empty. I boarded the train, grabbed a seat and put on my Zen. At Beaconsfield a couple got on with their daughter, they were taking her to the game, she must have been two years old max. A family outing, it was a lovely picture moment really. Although the thought of a beer belly showing underneath the Arsenal top, reminded me I need to get back to the training later this week.
When we pulled into Marylebone, we were moments behind the earlier train. As I got to the barrier, I noticed the campers from Global queuing on the other side of the platform, I rushed through and down onto the tube station. The next part of my journey could begin. It was 11.25am, I noted from the clock and I got to Islington around midday. It was relatively quiet, with a few other early birds milling around. I headed straight to the stadium and decided to pop into the Armoury for a little window shopping. On my way, I bought a programme from the usual spot and asked about the result from yesterday afternoon’s game. I had missed it from the radio on the drive back from Reading. The shop was packed with little room to move around. I checked out the new away kit first hand but opted against a purchase, I will wait for a while. I am not in a rush.
I headed back to my turnstile (A) and waited outside, the doors were not going to open until after 1pm. They eventually did, and I grabbed a pie before taking my seat. It was right by the dugout, within touching distance of Arsene and the team. It was only the second time I had sat in the lower tier (the first time being for DB10′s testimonial) and then it had been at the opposite end. A selection of club officials (both home and visiting) were out by the dugout, including match referee Mark Halsey. They were joined by Arsené Wenger and Gerrard Houllier. I took some photos with my N73 but they were quite poor and the zoom is rather pathetic in these circumstances. The ground slowly filled up but was by no means up to capacity, with empty seats all over the place. The first game was good, but the fans were quite passive. PSG won, quite convincingly while Valencia went missing. Then it was time for the main event, the first time I had seen the Gooners in action since March. The result was great, but I was more impressed with the overall team performance. We continued to constantly press and probe, did not lose momentum by going a goal down and never gave up. I am looking forward to next season.
I left soon after the trophy was presented to the team and caught the Victoria line train from Finsbury Park. Perhaps I should have taken the Piccadilly. I got stuck at Warren Street, so got the Northern Line down to Embankment, then switched to the Bakerloo line. As I rushed up from the platform to Marylebone concourse, I was shocked to see more muddy wellingtons and camping gear! People were still coming back from Stafford-upon-Avon. It was about 7.30pm, thirteen hours since I had got back from the festival with Charlie!
Above is the final photograph from a wild weekend. I think you will agree that it sums up the two days very well. As “Rock & Roll” weekends go, it was one of the best. It perhaps goes down in the short history of this blog as one of the greatest weekends ever. However, the record will not last long, expect more in the coming few days, next weekend is camping in Wales!
Back from my first festival experience this afternoon. (2006 is turning out to be a year of firsts). You may wonder why there is so little build up to the weekend, unlike previous events that have been hyped and over hyped on this blog. The reality is Pav asked if I wanted to come along and I said yes. Purely because I wanted to see what it was like. My biggest fear perhaps is that none of the music being played would be to my taste. It is no secret that I am not a big fan of dance music. I probably sound 84 rather than 24, but anything too heavy just puts me off. Pav knew this but wanted me to come along anyway and enjoy the day regardless. I love the fact that he has his very own forum, where all his friends (while at work) can post entries about almost anything. Eventually I got around to buying a ticket, after constantly the weather for the event several times. Pav eventually went to HMV in Reading and bought his over the counter, whereas I had to wait for a special delivery at home. It arrived on Thursday, after my Dad went to collect it from the local sorting office. Great, I had my ticket. Even though there had been heated discussion on the official forums about late delivery (if any at all) of tickets. Pav even mentioned having to take a printed copy of my e-mail confirmation and my credit card to a ticket collection point on arrival. Just the thought of another further wait before I could enjoy the festival made me feel glad that my ticket had arrived.
On Saturday, I bought a sleeping bag from Argos and packed a small overnight bag for my stay. I would only be sleeping for a couple of hours, before heading back so there was no need for luxury, just bare essentials. I headed off to Langley, to pick up a friend before driving down to wards the south coast. I wanted to take the M4 –> A33 –> M3 route but my passenger’s opinion was the M25 would be clear enough. They were wrong, but it was not a major delay, just stop start traffic for about ten minutes before we got on our way again. The M3 is quite a comfortable motorway (even if it does cut through some beautiful Hampshire countryside.) We made great time and were in the outskits of Winchester by 2.30pm and quickly joined by a few others. Dumping the car, changing to some suitable footwear, we were driven down in our friend’s VW Polo to the Bowl. Rather a tight squeeze with four of us in the back but it was only for fifteen minutes or so, but due to the one way system outside the entrance, we had to drive all the way down the dual carriageway to a roundabout and then turn back on ourselves, overtaking the festival shuttle bus in between. We pulled up and made our way into the ground. It was two minutes to 4pm, I had called my Dad to let him know I had arrived safely. My first festival experience, was about to begin.
Surprisingly it was not muddy, in fact it was dry but we still had a good fifteen minute walk to the main entrance. On the way down we bought our programme and Pav commented on the number he had built up on the years. We quickly tried to find out which acts were still to come that we wanted to see. Ian Brown caught my eye and a few of the DJs, who had some commercial success. Either way I was more than happy to follow the lead of these festival veterans. The walk around the perimeter, gave us an opportunity to see the main complex for the first time close at hand. The drive down the valley, had given us a great view, but as I was squashed against the window, there was no way or time for me to get my camera out. The first entrance was for VIP ticket holders, so we had to walk a few metres further down to the main entrance. There were only a few other late comers around, so as we walked down the rails, our tickets were taken off us. Gone was one souvenir from the weekend. (Why not just let me have half? Apparently so many counterfeit tickets were knocking about that they had to take the whole ticket to confirm authenticity.) We were searched for illegal substances, weapons and any banned goods, such as alcohol or glass. Then we made our way through a small break in the hedges to be greeted by the site of the fair. I had finally arrived and it was now time to start taking in the experience. I was surprised by the high number of stalls, selling an assortment of items, from clothing, hats, to herbal medicines. There was even a stall (or should that be booth) for the Samaritans. We made our way around, carefully consulting the site map to check which tend to head into. Mel grabbed my hand and took me into the Gods Kitchen tent. Now this was my type of music, chilled out, nothing too heavy. The ground was quite small, but I wondered why the tent was so big. Pav quickly told me that this was a small festival, particularly by his standards. Wow! Perhaps this was the ideal event, to take a sip of the music festival movement. Generally it was a great laugh, after a short few minutes in this tent, we moved around to the other tents and decided what to do. We were hungry, so got some food and drink. The veggie burger tasted really good, ideal way to get some energy before partying hard into the long hours. As we came out of the main dance tent, called the Electric Arena, I noticed a middle aged guy, in white Adidas tracksuit top. He shook hands with Mel, and she went ecstatic. There is a picture of her fantastic expression here. Then, as he walked off into the distance I tried to take some photos. Now, this will shock some people, but I was a big fan of indie music in the early 1990s. Sure, it was rather commercial Oasis and Blur but it was a Indie, never the less. I grew out of that phase, but still appreciate the odd guitar rift. Ian Brown is an artist I like. Sure I have not heard much of his material and only have two of his mp3s (one from the Stone Rose heydays) the other FEAR (which was the closing number on his set.) Can someone seen as squeaky clean and innocent, really be shouting and worshipping a Northern lad from the wrong side of the tracks? Before Ian Brown however, in the early evening, we went to watch Kosheen in the Live Arena with Kev, as he was a big fan of the band. In between, Pav and I went to the Shapeshifters in the Electric Arena and they were fantastic! It was starting to get dark and the capacity of the festival had been reached in terms of new people appearing from across the hill. There was a good crowd now, but I think only the hardcore festival goers. Most of the “day trippers”, (if you can pardon the pun) had gone home or would soon be heading home.
Brown’s performance was very good, and I text my friend Dave, to let him know I had just seen his idol on stage. No reply though unfortunately. Fast forward several hours and perhaps the next big act was Paul Oakenfold, who I knew from his occasional flirtations with mainstream music. His set was exceptional, even to my untrained hear and he really got the place buzzing. I could go into further details about what actually happened but it would just be boring, so I have opted to take the easy way out. I took my Cyber ShotU, as it was ideal for this type of event, discreet and easy to handle. Perfect companion while out in the field. Plus I was not the only one, with some people with hand camcorders, some with digital SLRs. A bit extreme, if you ask me but perhaps if you are going to capture the moment, capture it in style. We left at 3am and I eventually fell asleep after 4am, only to get up less then seven hours later. Rock and roll. I had survived my first festival experience.
Took 121 photos, but only 86 were suitable for my latest set on FlickR. There are of course, other images that have been uploaded from other festival goers. I have also added a picture of my ticket and programme, so you can see the ‘official’ logo from the day. I am well impressed with my FlickR account. In the last six months since I upgraded to pro membership, I have 540 uploaded and counting. My pictures are slowly growing in popularity as I get more comments and views every week. Hopefully they will continue, just as my picture taking improves in quality.