Reading Festival 2006.
As I arrived on the Rivermead site at Reading on the Wednesday lunchtime before the festival began, the heavens opened, just as they did last year. It right royally pissed it down and I was not a happy bunny. I was even less pleased when my tent decided it wasn't going to be erected. It is an umbrella tent and by rights should be the easiest of tents to put up, but somehow the struts had become twisted and the bugger wasn't having any of it. In a rain storm and with the very kind assistace of one of the camp security guys it eventually became untangled, after taking the thing apart, and it went up with out any further problem.
Some of the other Attitude Is Everything stewards also arrived, namely Mark from Northampton and Tony and John from Hartlepool and we all managed to set up camp together. We were the only people in the whole disabled campsite at this time so we were able to spread out a bit and chill out. After signing in with Oxfam, getting our shifts sorted out and going to a briefing meeting that evening we were free to do what we wanted until our first shift on Friday morning. We made the most of it by sitting about drinking beer and smoking tabs whilst listening to some top tunes from the Hartlepool lads cd collection. Another of the Attitude crew, who was looking after the Attitude info tent in the disabled camping area, DJ Void better known as Tom, had also arrived at this point.
The first official day of the festival was on Friday. Mark and I had been allocated as stewards to the Lock Up/Dance tent. The first two days of the festival featured punk bands in the Lock Up tent and so it was acoustic Ska band Blue Kings that kicked off my festival musically. They put of a good show and had quite a following. Then came a bit of Zombie Thrash Metal with Call More Paramedics, the highlight of their set was an impromptu "circle pit' that started in the middle of the tent around the main tent pole. For those of you who don't know what a circle pit is I'll explain. Basically you and several other people mosh but at the same time run round in a circle, if any one goes down the pit stops, picks up the faller and then carries on. When a circle pit is in full swing in the middle of a large crowd it looks fucking brilliant fun. It was to feature heavily in the tent for the next couple of days. After several more ordinary, in my opinion, punk bands I managed to swap tents for about an hour in order to see The Gullimots, as one of the guys in the Radio 1/NME tent wanted to see Lightyear. I was more than happy with this as I was really looking forward to seeing them when the line up was announced. They are a very good live band indeed and went down well, this despite not really being suited to such a big arena. I would love to see then in more intimate surroundings.
My shift finished at 4 o'clock so I went and had some food and then made my way to the main stage to see Belle and Sebastian. It was Stuart Murdochs birthday on Friday so Stevie got the crowd to sing 'Happy Birthday' to him, to which he looked highly embarrassed. As Belle and Sebastian shows go. this was a little disappointing. Fab as they are live, a big arena such as the Reading main stage, is just too big for their kind of sound, not that they were bad in any way, far from it, it just lacked some atmosphere. The same can be said for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set. Now I really liked the first Yeah Yeah Yeahs album and the second isn't half bad either, but live!! Dull, dull, dull. Karen O rolls about on the floor with a silly mask on and tries her best but the theatrics are lost because of the vast arena.
John, Tony and I had agreed to meet up back at the Lock Up stage to watch Ice T's thrash metal band Body Count. T glided on stage wearing a Michael Myers mask to an estatic welcome. What followed is just maybe the best festival gig I have ever seen. They were blindingly good. The power and speed of the music and Ice T's rapping were mesmerising. Body Count in the Mutha Fuckin House. Indeed.
I then went off to see the Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli, ex of Afghan Wigs new band. I have recently bought their new album and whilst I like it I thought it lacked something. Live however I needn't have worried, they were very good indeed and the guest spot by Mark Langegan was great. One of my favourite artists Jeff Klein was also present on keyboards.
The headline act on the Carling Stage on Friday was a band that my supervisor Rob, who I got on famously with, had told me about. Bedouin Soundclash play a funked up reggae type sound that had the audience bouncing along with them. It was a good end to the day.
My Saturday shift in the Lock Up tent meant missing some bands that I had really wanted to see, like The Fall and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but all in all it was a good day. The first thing I saw, prior to my shift was the Watford punk band Captain Everything. They had brought along quite a few fans with them and it made for a good atmosphere in the tent. They aren't anything new but they sounded pretty good. Straight down the line punk.
My shift started mid way through a set by punk-ska outfit Capdown. There was a couple of fantastic circle pits in eveidence and a fair bit of crowd surfing. As a result six single shoes, a watch and five mobile phones were handed in. Only two shoes were claimed by mid-night!!!
Flogging Molly had already played on the main stage earlier in the day but this didn't stop the tent being rammed. Their Pogues like material whipped the crowd up and the moshing was fierce but good natured. Not my cup of tea musically but great fun none the less. Later on we had those lovely American boys Anti-Flag to contend with. I've seen them before and am a bit of a fan of their political brand of punk. We had more stage divers (well flag pole divers) for this than any other band over the weekend. In fact I had to call in the security guards to stop it as it was getting so bad. It's not the people diving off the poles I was worried about but the poor bastards that had to catch them when they have jumped from about 15 feet. Anyway, security handled it in a good natured way and the two guys who were standing on the barriers to stop any diving were duly soaked to the skin by water and beer.
Reel Big Fish finished the night off fantastically. They are the perfect festival band. I've never been a huge fan of ska really but this band do it so well. They banter with the audience non-stop, play loud and fast and generally have a good time themselves. It was a fucking great gig and left everyone there wit a huge smile on their face.
Sunday was dance day in our tent and I wasn't really looking forward to my shift. Especially as I had only knocked off 7 hours beforehand. Still it wasn't too dreadful. I quite enjoyed Shit Disco who sounded like they had come out of the Manchester funk scene circa 1979. Very like A Certain Ratio to my ears. Sway was the usual egocentric rapper, but wasn't half bad and Lady Sovreign was not the novelty act I expected. She is darn good at what she does. That was the end of my shift as a steward for this year. I went to see Hope Of The States play what is rumoured to be their last ever gig and then met my mate Richie and his girlfriend. We did listen to Slayer and whilst I can appreciate the musicianship it didn't move me any. It seemed souless and clinical to me.
The last thing I saw was perhaps one of the best things I saw. The Klaxons are going to be huge, judging by the reception they received in the Carling Tent. They play a sort of raved up punk and they do it brilliantly. The tent was awash with glowsticks and er.. klaxons as the band hit the stage. It was the most tightly packed tent I saw all weekend and the dust cloud that the bouncing crowd surfing punters caused was a sight to be seen. Last year The Artic Monkeys stole the weekend with their mid-afternoon show, this year I reckon it was The Klaxons. You'll be hearing about them very soon.
I had intended to go and see Pearl Jam who were headlining the main stage but after The Klaxons and three songs into the very ordinary Larrakin Love's set I just ran out of steam and went back to the tent.
How was this years Reading compared to last year's? Well musically I didn't think it was as good but I had a better time. I made some great new friends and look forward to working with them again next year.
Top Five gigs at Reading 2006
1. Body Count
2. The Klaxons
3. Reel Big Fish
4. Twighlight Singers