As usual I set out with a notebook and started writing the festival up as I went. By halfway through writing up Saturday (on Sunday morning) I gave up. But still, I have the timetable for reference, so I'm sure I can remember enough.
Agreed to meet Ernie and Florian at the station in time for the 5:15 train - and dashed to catch it with and Florian and I lugging Ernie's bag between us while he got his railcard renewed so he could run and join us at the last minute. That plan worked perfectly - so obviously the train then sat around for 15 mins and then ran slower than usual. Still we had a good trip down and hopefully managed to warn Florian a little of what to expect. We arrived in time to put the tents up before it go properly dark, and I seem to have managed reasonably well under the circumstances. New tent definitely faffier than old one. Proof really that I shoulnd't buy things on Ebay just because they're cheap.
Since then we've been sitting around the fire talking, drinking and so forth, apart from one brief foray to buy beer and collect our glasto-style wristbands. Ern thinks the old ones are much better but at least these don't fall to bits so easily.
Some nice faces from previous years (Rick, Craig, Bailey, Spock, Steve, Beth) and some new ones (Danni, Stu, Dan and Dave I think) but it's a nice (if big) bunch. With the addition also of Ed who I've not done Reading with before but know reasonably well). He's even got a new campfire drinking game named after him. "Call me Ed". V Silly.
Still it's nearly 1:45am and I was beginning to get cold so I've come to bed. Music starts tomorrow and there are plenty of people I'd like to see. And they don't all clash. I think this is going to be a good one.
I've come to bed 'early' at about 1am because it started to rain and I didn't fancy sitting around uynder the gazebos instead of the fire trying to stay dry. It's now pissing it down.
It rained somewhat earlier too but that only dampened the occasion a little rather than stopping play: The Kaiser Chiefs defied it, Franz Ferdinand just ignored it.
Anyway after a lazy morning around camp we headed into the arena en masse, and I saw a couple of bands in the lockup tent with the others before heading off to be indie on my own for most of the rest of the day - I bumped into ernie after one set we both watched but we immediately split up again.
- King Blues
- Only because they were on when we arrived in the lockup tent. Surprisingly mellow for in there. Definite reggae influences and one track was a mix of their own material and a Led Zep song. Wasn't paying much attention but quite liked what I heard.
- Send More Paramedics
- Zombie thrash metal. Or something. Better enjoyed from the crush but I'd volunteered to watch various stuff for people. They also had power problems leading to a 10 minute gap between the first two tracks. Nice to catch them live though, even if I only really knew one track well: their signature tune "Zombie Crew'.
- The Long Blondes
- Missed the beginning of their set but arrived in the middle of one I recognised. They seemed so much more confident and polished than when I saw them in Cambridge earlier in the year (in May?) and were consequently much more enjoyable. Great set.
- Wantered to see the bands before and after on the same stage and had no objection to seeing these guys, especially as it was in the shade (up until about 6pm it was a very sunny day really). Enjoyed a couple of tracks but otherwise it just washed over me - too much twiddly keyboards.
- Gogol Bordello
- Basically folk punk. For me that's a winning combination. Got up nearish the front, bounced around a lot, loved it.
- At a bit of a loss next I was intrigued by Tom's description: "As in German electro-clash lady? She's awesome, albeit kind of mental and obsessed with her minge". This turned out to be absolutely accurate. She wore a shiny bikini, the two keyboard players were in silver hotpant catsuits, her set had a giant glowing penis on it, and in terms of audience participation she asked people to swing their dicks or tits. I quite liked the music but couldn't get in the mood for the lyrical content - perhaps she should have sung in German!
- Fall Out Bou
- Suitable for teenagers they seemed quite popular but I only caught them cos I was early for the main stage. I remember sod all about the music (bad sign) just them encouraging the crowd to throw rubbish at each other. Nice.
- Belle and Sebastien
- Lovely. Played plenty of stuff from the new album which I loved. Got one girl to put mascara on the singer while he sang Anthony (?) and another up on stage to dance on Jonathan and David. They finished with "The boy with the arab strap" which t'other guy interrupted in order to get the whole crowd to sing Happy Birthday to Stuart. Aww Bless!
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Carried forward by the crowd for this I found it a bit too rough to stay there. Love the music but hadn't quite expected them to look quite so insanely glam. Great fun.
- Kaiser Chiefs
- Good as ever. Apparently they've got the new album written so they gave us a few tracks. They got the crowd to ignore the rain which started just before they came on, and finished with an impressive singalong. Fun.
- Franz Ferdinand
- I was flagging by this point and the floor was too damp to sit on really. They did rather seem to me to be doing a good job of demonstrating that their old material is much more catchy than the new stuff. Enjoyed what I saw but left before the end and limped my way back to the tents.
From a day on my own almost all the time to a day mostly in company, I ended up hanging out with Ernie.
Caught the end of Sonic Boom 6, then Adequate 7 and Captain Everything on the lockup stage. Mostly from the comfort of my waterproofs on the floor at the back of the tent. God but I wasn't as ravingly fond of them as the others. Then took boots off and went for a wander and caught 10 mins of Milburn - a bit of an Arctic Monkeys clone. Then danced to Capdown near the back of the packed tent and only got stood on once. (here my notes end).
I wandered off to catch a bit of the Futureheads, but although I heard them from the back of the crowd I decided I couldn't manage all day carrying my boots in bare feet and went back to the tents briefly to find my pumps instead. Which thankfully didn't rub the big hole in the back of my ankle. I also dumped my bag and left with just my waterproof round my waist and the wallet, phone and programme in my pockets. By the time I got back they'd just about finished and I headed stage left and found Ernie again for Dirty Pretty Things, who were great. It wasn't the most intense set ever but I really enjoyed it. At a bit of a loose end we spent ages looking for real coffee, and then had some food while we caught the end of The Fall in the NME stage. I commented something along the lines that I quite liked it but didn't think I got it. Ern said he wasn't sure he liked it but it was just what he needed. We stayed for the beginning of Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah, but ern only lasted one song, and I didn't stay much longer. At least partly because we wanted to make sure we caught all of Flogging Molly back in the Lockup again. Ern's crowd-shoving skills got us near the front by the time they started, and him on the barrier in the center with me right behind him before the end. They were excellent as usual (Irish folk punk, as compared to the more eastern european gypsy style stuff of Gogol Bordello). Ernie even managed to get a copy of the set list.
Back at the main stage we caught Arctic Monkeys. They've added a new barrier halfway back through the crowd this year, and I hate to think what it would have been like without it, because even with it it was pretty lethal in near the front. We managed to get maybe five or six people back from the barrier before they started, and it was squashed and a bit rough but bearable at that point. But when they came on the whole thing went insane, and to be honest you couldn't really pay much attention to the music at all from that point. I fell over and was picked up pretty quickly (thanks Ern) which is quite disconcerting when you know you've landed in such a way you can't help much in terms of pushing yourself back up. After that I decided it was time to get out. At some point I'm going to have to learn to do it the easy way and asked people to lift me up so I can go out over the crowd, but being as fat as I am I've a bit of a mental block about it, despite other people just as heavy coping, so I did it the hard way and pushed backwards until I could go sideways. I got out eventually and after a couple of songs to calm down ended up singing along from way on the sidelines and actually enjoyed the end of the set. It turns out ernie didn't stick it out to the end either, having decided it was just too dangerous, before working out there wasn't much point staying if you weren't enjoying it anyway. Just goes to show how silly it is wanting to be at the front I guess. As far as the Arctic Monkeys go, they still need more of a show though, and better patter. The music's brilliant, but they haven't learned how to work a crowd yet, even when the crowd loves them that much.
After that it was a bit of a dilemma time, what with Muse and the Raconteurs clashing with Reel Big Fish. But in the end the latter won, and we headed over to the lockup stage for the last time, just catching the end of Antiflag (who were quite good in an angry sort of way). I debated heading up the front again, and would probably have enjoyed it in this case, but with the lessons of the last set in mind I opted to let Ern head in on his own and stay at the back and dance. And it was a good decision. There were three girls near me who were just as keen as I was, which made it even more fun, and we danced and sang along, especially to the trumpet parts. Brilliant set, and left the crowd wanting more, so much so that they yelled for 20 minutes for an encore with no success. We did get a curtain call, and a quick blast on the trombone, but they wanted the tent cleared to use as a cinema and weren't going to give in and let them play. It was a perfect end to the day's music though.
When we eventually got back to the tents some of the others had already gone to bed, and we dwindled what felt like fairly rapidly. But a small handful of us stayed up talking, and despite getting called boring by the kids with the tambourine for telling them to shut up we stayed up til nearly 5am. It was a lot less rowdy than previous years perhaps. I suspect they all wore themselves out on Wednesday and Thursday night to be honest.
Mike was due to join us on Sunday, but overslept a little and then discovered the trains were a bit useless, arriving rather later than intended. Still, in the spirit of things I'd decided to catch the metal stuff on the main stage anyway. First up were Mastodon, who I've never really heard of. The point of them is that they're technically very brilliant, and I have to admit even I was impressed by the drumming, but they weren't hugely my cup of tea. Killswitch Engage followed them and were much more engaging. The music was rougher but more my cup of tea (I don't have words to describe metal, sorry) and they were funny with it too. If very foul-mouthed. Once they'd finished a round of text messages managed to unite me and Mike, which would have been quicker if he'd not entirely failed to see the big "no crowd surfing" sign. Still, it was nice to see him. Most of the others wandered off, not wanting to watch Taking back Sunday, but we sat around in the sun until they came on, at which point we quickly decided we couldn't be bothered either, and went for a walk to dump Mike's gear at the tent. On the way back we stopped for a while by the NME tent and caught the first minute or two of the Dresden Dolls set. It would have been quite nice to stay but we'd promised to see the others back at the main stage for Less Than Jake. Who were great fun - and had the crowd really going. There was a piggy-back wall-of-not-quite-death, and on seeing some lass take her top off they had the whole crowd do the same and whirl them round and round their heads. I've never seen anything like it but it looked brilliant. Definitely excellent stuff for a sunny Sunday afternoon set.
Mike and I were far too lethargic to move so we stayed on our own for Bullet For My Valentine, who neither of us knew at all. We were expecting something fairly teenage and emo and so were pleasantly surprised that they were a bit heavier, and rather enjoyed them. The others were back for Slayer though and that was definitely something else. I guess a bit old-fashioned now, and they seemed a little disappointed not to get even more crowd reaction, but they were very very good. We were one of the few sets of people who stayed on after that for My Chemical Romance, and those who did seemed to have mostly stayed to throw plastic bottles, which was a bit of a shame, although clearly at least partly the fault of whoever put those two bands on the lineup next to each other. Anyway I was impressed that they did their best to ignore the bottles and carry on. The music was a bit whiny and not my cup of tea but I could vaguely see the appeal, and they're moderately good looking lads. They made me cringe inside though with what they said between tracks. OK fair enough try and defend the Emo genre against things like last week's Daily Mail article, but "We're not a cult... we're an army" is not the best move. And I'm sorry but you *don't* speak for every single person who's felt isolated through not being popular. Still, I'm sure they'll grow out of it. We stayed hanging out in the vaguely stage left area, but didn't manage to spot any of the others after this.
Next up were Placebo, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Having his hair completely shorn didn't do much for Brian Molko's looks, and they managed to completely goof when a technical problem meant his guitar wasn't working by making a couple of lame results and then disappearing entirely. They should have at least kept the crowd going, or tried to think of a song to sing that could do with only one guitarist or be sung acappella. Still, the cameras were on and showing on the big screens, so they kept the crowd amused by zooming in on any woman sitting on someone's shoulders and cheering her if she'd flash her tits. And most of them were up for it. Usually it's a game played between sets at the festival but they'd not been keeping the cameras going this year. Still, they came back on eventually, and played a reasonable set. There was a bit too much new stuff, but two or three that I knew, and they sweetened the whole thing by ending on Nancy Boy. They still rock.
And last on the bill were Pearl Jam. I don't know much of their stuff, and all I can say is that the people in that crowd who were real fans must have been having the most incredible time of their lives because even with my limited acquaintance they knocked my socks off. We pulled back late in the set and sat down to watch from the sidelines, but it was just brilliant. They looked like slightly-middleaged untrendy blokes, because that's what they are, but they played like anything and boy what a voice. It was a wonderful feelgood set, at the end of a perfect festival day - warm and sunny without being too hot. I'm getting a bit heavy on the superlatives now so I'll stop.
We made it back to the tents to find everyone else raving about it too, but rain stopped play to a certain extent and I gave up and went to bed, and was apparently out like a light and missed quite a drunken evening round the last of the logs on the fire.
We got up as late as we could on Monday, about 10am by the time the heat forced us out of bed. All packed up we sat around with the others just chilling for a while. The plan was to all go into town and get breakfast together before splitting the party and leaving by van and by train, but Mike wanted to get off so we said our farewells to Ed, Ern and Florian and made our way home, to a hot shower and an evening watching DVDs in bed and an early night.
Half of me wishes I'd stayed that bit longer to see the others off properly, but never mind, there's always next year. I've got two tickets bought already, for me and for Mike if he feels like it once they know the lineup. And now I'm just getting over the cold that apparently most of our bit of camp came down with, and looking forward to the next festival more than ever. This was a good one.