|Thursday 26 August
Knowing how bad the queues get, and having received reports of possible flooding in parts of the camp-site, Kev and I take the unprecedented decision to forgo our traditional pre-Reading beer festival session for an early night. And a very early start in the morning. 5am in fact. Ouch. Still, we struggle manfully into Kev's car and onto the road south.
Progress is good as we take the faster all-motorway route, and we are in mobile phone contact with the london contingent shortly after getting onto the M4. They're only ten minutes behind us and we're barreling along at a cracking pace. Once we turn off the M4 into Reading, however, things take a turn for the worse. The traffic jam is solid (apparently because there's no form of traffic control whatsoever in the centre of town - nice one) and we crawl along, taking the best part of two hours to cover the last couple of miles to the site. The others have missed the turning for the short-cut and followed the festival signs - their route is, incredibly, even slower.
Kev and I get into the usual camp-site to find it filling up fast, but we're nothing if not cunning, and have brought a "decoy" tent which we pitch to save some space for the others. Some lad wanders across, saying he's trying to save all the space near his tent for his mates. Tough luck - it's first come, first served around here. Tents up, beers opened and we receive a visit from the boys in blue, who are extremely friendly and warn us about looking after valuables. One of them tells us about his visit to Glastonbury in the 1990s - he had a "very good time, know what I mean"... Yes, we think we understand you, now fuck off and catch some criminals.
The others pitch up about 90 minutes after us, and so we're just awaiting the arrival from Liverpool of Quayley and Karen, which leaves plenty of time for starting the serious business of the weekend - drinking.
It's a beautiful afternoon, and we're nicely drunk, so we wander into Caversham for a pub meal before returning for a nice fire and some more booze in the camp-site. And a meet-up with Mar (and hubby Troy and their two boys) from the fatreg.com forum. It's really good to get to meet somone who visits the site at last.
Friday 27 August
Aah... Friday morning brings that lovely feeling you only get when your tent has sprung a leak. In fact, mine has sprung several leaks, and there's now nowhere in the tent big enough to put down a sleeping bag without it being in a puddle or under a leak. nice. It's always a horrible experience dragging yourself out onto sopping wet grass in the morning but relief is at hand in the form of a pub breakfast. As we stroll through the campsites towards the river, we're very glad we're not camped there as the mud is several inches deep and the metal trackways are bouncing up and down in liquid slime.
The pub breakfast turns out not to be a relief after all. It's okay for the meat-eaters, but, this year, us veggies are very badly served - not least as we appear to be continually put to the bottom of the queue. When it does arrive (after a wait of nearly an hour...) it's pathetic, cold and looks like it's been thrown at the plate. Ah well, all good things must come to an end, and for me, that'll be the last visit to our usual festival breakfast haunt.
The mud makes getting back on-site a tedious trial and we catch mere moments of Goldie Looking Chain, which is a shame, but along the way Kev and I have drunk beer under cover so we're not too fussed.
A few days before Reading it was Karen's birthday and she's cottoned on rapidly to the single-figure mental age we each possess (well, she is going out with Quayley...) and has brought us each a party bag. Needless to say, all the sweets and chocolates are devoured instantly (they go so well with lukewarm lager, don't you think?) and the inflatable guitars and microphones are put to splendid use as we beat the living crap out of each other for, well, several hours actually. A cry of "WASP!" is pretty much enough to cause a mass leathering of some poor soul.
Now, you're probably thinking that, even by the usual standards around here, there's been bugger-all mention of the bands at the festival. And you'd be right. But if you think the band-count's poor so far, just wait until Sunday... but the first thing I see on Friday is Do Me Bad Things, who have "Student Band" written through them like a stick of rock - if you'd never seen a band before and they played your Freshers' Week, you'd think you'd died and gone to heaven, but, for me at least, it's all a bit contrived. Still, most of the (youthful) crowd lap it up. They'll learn...
On the main stage The Hives are doing what they do best, which is telling everyone how great they are. And d'you know what? They really are great. Which is something The Donnas are not. They try hard, but just can't cut it. Their sound lacks the power (and the songs lack the riffs) to connect with the crowd. The cavernous acoustics of the Radio 1 stage's big tent don't help, either.
But the Carling Stage holds one of the weekend's highlights - from Toronto, Canada: Danko Jones. As usual, Danko doesn't disappoint, though it's by no means the best show I've seen him play. If this were mainland Northern Europe, he'd be headlining the Radio 1 Stage, but here he makes do with 4th on the bill of the third stage. Still, a reasonable crowd greets every song with gusto, and there's thunderous, prolonged applause at the end of the set. Nice one, Danko. McLusky can't follow that, and are dull, where last year they'd been one of the weekend's best acts.
But, after a couple of beers to top up the system, the main stage sees the mighty Darkness. OK, so they've been playing the same set for two years now, but all the songs are singalong classics, and they really know how to work a crowd. A huge set of lights spelling out the four-letter words is an inspired touch, too. The two newies are lacklustre (something Justin admits a couple of weeks later) but it's a crowd-pleasing set. The following week, the NME will claim that the crowd was streaming out of the arena well before the end of the set. Well, NME scribblers, I was in line with the arena exit, and that wasn't the case. Nope, everyone was staying till the end for the mighty firework display. And were weren't disappointed there, either. Tens of thousands of Pounds worth of pyrotechnics round things off perfectly. In fact, the only thing that can possibly follow that is sitting round the fire talking shite with yer mates...
|Click on pictures to see them full-size|
|Bands of the day
• The Hives
• Danko Jones
• The Darkness