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.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.
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).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.