No more mud for at least 10 months! 27/08/2008
And so my summer of festivals 2008 comes to a grinding halt and I can honestly say I’m a changed man. Before, I was aware that I didn’t “get along” with camping per se but now, I’m absolutely positive that camping can well and truly be reserved for delusional people who believe the ‘great outdoors’ has something to offer them other than misery, general moistness, hunger, toilet based lethargy and misery again.
I feel it necessary to state here that this blog will probably make me sound like a snobbish cock and I apologise if it does. I can only assure you that I wasn’t raised by golden swans with platinum spoons and various other forms of precious cutlery in my mouth, nor was I pulled up backwards by a pack of one-eyed, three-legged wolves, who were both poorly educated and ignorant in the way of social etiquette.
V Festival was my first port of call and so a good friend and I headed down the M6 after a hard day in the office and finally arrived on site at around 10:30pm. I’ll put my hand up right now and admit that this was a silly idea. Now usually at most festivals when you are lucky enough to have guest tickets you often have a separate car park and camping site allowing artists, industry, guests, staff etc to get to and from the site as easy as possible. At V there is no such thing which is fine but it then dawned on us that the other 85,998 people who were already there had arrived in Stafford about twelve hours earlier and had started drinking rather shortly after that. Cue the hour and a half walk in darkness as we hunted for a spot to pitch our modest tent.
We eventually settled on what can only be described as Floridian marshland which had a rather unique funk of mud, urine, manure, stale lager, despair and just a touch of excrement. A smell which thankfully disappeared once you had become acclimatised to the inside of your tent and you would only receive the faintest of whiffs again when a fellow V attendee would walk past and say “Why the f**k would you camp there? It smells like death”.
We managed to sleep thanks to various levels of inebriation.
Saturday came and along with it some initially promising weather for the first few hours. Noah and the Whale entertained a crowded tent with their whimsical ditties and Girls Aloud showed why they arguably should have had a higher place on the bill by making every man, woman and child dance like recently out-ed 18 year old homosexual young males on their first visit to G.A.Y.
Now regular festival goers will know that weather can make or break a festival. For example, remember Leeds 2007? Where four days of glorious t-shirt friendly sunshine made everything that 10% more enjoyable? Well I hereby apologise to the powers that be that I didn’t appreciate said sunshine enough at the time as whoever is in charge of precipitation well and truly bitch-slapped me when Scouting for Girls came on.
Yes, yes, it’s my own bloody fault for going to see Scouting for Girls I know but my friend assures me that they do “reet good pop” and I should give them a go. Well god damn them. God damn them all to the firey (and ironically warm and dry) pits of hell as when they started their mediocre pop fuelled set the sky cried tears of audible agony.
And it didn’t stop.
At the time I wasn’t too bothered as after my Germany adventure (where I was caught in two separate thunderstorms) I made a conscious decision to sacrifice all style in order to stay dry warm. This decision led me to wander down to an Army surplus store and invest £20 in a mackintosh big enough to cover a small house and a hat with flappy ear bits that makes me look rather special but my toasty ears more than make up for it.
So there I was, watching all the young pretty things get muddy and wet and as they laughed it all off I secretly thought “Ha! You laugh now as your seven pints of cider keep you faux-warm, but just wait till you return to your tent and you realise you’ve got mild hypothermia! You just wait!”
Onwards to the main stage for potentially the hottest band in the world right now: Kings of Leon. I make such a bold statement as after they announced they would be releasing an album so soon after the utterly brilliant ‘Because of the Times’ I envisaged they’d made a huge mistake. After an album so good fans are usually more than happy to wait a couple of years to hear something new as they know you’re probably not going to achieve it, but having heard the new single ‘Sex on Fire’ and the opening track of the new album ‘Crawl’ it would appear they may equal, if not better their last effort.
What followed was a masterclass of a festival set: vocals that portrayed emotion that might not even been there, guitar riffs that screeched and echoed their way thoughout the site and probably all the way up the motorway to as far as Liverpool and the dirtiest bass sound I’ve ever heard come out of a P.A. that made you feel naughty just listening to it.
They sounded massive.
The Verve followed and I couldn’t have cared less. Sorry Ashcroft; well done on making a catchy little single but even you know you couldn’t follow that set. Inexplicably there are tickets left for Kings of Leon’s winter tour; if you’re reading this and even if you only know a couple of their tracks then I implore you to go treat yourself to a ticket. You won’t be disappointed.
It’s a good thing they put me on such a high as when the crowd dispersed and I could see that the main arena was around a third standing water, the walk home took a sinister turn.
Alas, we were flooded. The tent and sleeping bags were ruined and the extra special pork and apple ASDA sausages were floating around in their watery grave.
When you’ve drunk enough beer to kill a small pony the idea of saving a £30 tent at half past one in the morning in the pouring rain doesn’t seem rather appealing for some reason so the long, long walk back to the car with whatever we could salvage began.
After a couple of hours sleep in a car that was the vehicular version of a thermos flask (a repetition of freezing, then boiling, then temperate etc) we decided what we needed was a good old fashioned English fry up. Stafford was our saviour with a lonely Weatherspoons coming to our aide and it was one of those ones where everyone knew everyone so when a couple of irregulars came in – wellies and all – it put them off their Sunday beverages somewhat.
If Muse had not had been headlining that night I’m pretty sure we’d have given up and gone home but as regular readers may be aware, I’m quite the fan of Bellamy’s antics so we were tenacious in our cider drinking.
The Hold Steady kicked off my day two which is always a nice way to start the day although the crowd had pretty much buggered off after the previous act (Shed Seven) finished their retro half hour leaving the Brooklyn five piece a rather underwhelming reception. I’m sure the gallimaufry of five star reviews they have received for their new album will more than make up for a poor festival appearance though.
Then we found ourselves with an hour to kill so we took the opportunity to see something we wouldn’t normally go see: fellow Sheffielder Paul Heaton. An expectant tent filled up with conversations of “you reckon he’ll do Happy Hour first? Or finish on it?” and “I hope he gets the crowd to sing Caravan of Love” and five songs into the set those questions were still going unanswered as he continued to rollout solo work and withheld the hits that everyone was expecting to hear. At this point we cleared off so for all that I know he might have finished on some form of Beautiful SouthMartins jamboree and please inform me if he did but there was a certain Geordie act about to take the main stage that required my attention.
Maximo Park were as fantastic as ever but a lack of new material has started to make even the most hardcore of fans weary of their name appearing on festival bills. They finished the set promising us that new material will be on its way in 2009 and I for one will be thoroughly looking forward to hearing it.
The Kooks then played. Meh.
Stereophonics turn next with a set that was never going to disappoint due to its support of their new ‘Greatest Hits’ album that the band are set to release in November. The crowd sung along as Kelly Jones wooed everyone with his effortlessly amazing voice that took centre stage during a solo performance of ‘Maybe Tomorrow’. So good was the performance in fact that I saw several folks gargling with a mixture of mud, broken glass, steel wool and dry Weetabix in a fruitless attempt to replicate the Welshman’s dulcet tones.
What is that next to the stage? Four giant revolving satellites that periodically fire lasers into the crowd? Oh, and look at the jets of towering smoke that are bellowing out of the stage, and least us not forget the sound of impending apocalypse… ah, that’d be Muse then.
What could you possible want me to say about Muse’s live act that I haven’t already said before? Read here if you want to lowdown but needless to say, they were top banana.
After a weekend that put me off camping so much I almost considered taking up agoraphobia as a hobby I was actually quite chuffed that I only managed to blag a day ticket for Leeds ticket rather than the full weekend so on Saturday I made the cheeky journey up the M1 and sat myself down in front of the BBC Introducing stage for my first artist of the day: the Situationists. The inexplicable exclusion of ‘The City Holds Us All’ tainted an otherwise acceptable set from the Sheffielders whose EP I purchased the other week and is now sitting in front of me in all its aesthetic glory. Who says packaging is dead eh?
The sound on the main stage was horrific for a few of the acts I saw so it’s be unfair to judge their set somewhat so my apologies go to Dizzie Rascal, Biffy Clyro and The Enemy who could have been great for all that I know but it sounded like you were playing from the main stage at Reading from where I was standing.
A highlight of my day was the fantastic Florence and the Machine who seemed utterly delighted with the reception she got from the northern crowd, telling them all that they were just “sooo much better than the Reading crowd” (funny that isn’t it; every time you go to a festival that spans more than one day over two sites, you’re always told you’re better than the first site they played at?). A cracking voice and nothing short of an elaborate stage presence makes FATM well worth seeing.
The final two bands to cap off my summer of festivals were Queens of the Stone Age and Rage Against the Machine. Artists who I both saw in Germany this year but were both more enjoyable this time around due to the extra 20,000 people or so that were milling around for their performances.
News that Josh Homme is to produce the next Arctic Monkey’s album has left me giggling like a schoolgirl in anticipation and Mr Turner was to be seen in the crowd for the Queens set (taking notes? Not like he needs them of course…) another top set from one of the coolest acts in the world.
Rage Against the Machine were brilliant. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band before that makes we want to punch people when I’m listening to them. I obviously didn’t as I’m a well brought up middle class boy who took said ability to provoke such emotional power in me as a positive reflection on the attributes of the band in question. Bloody marvellous.
So there it is: my year in festivals. Latitude, Rock IM Park, V and Leeds. It’s been emotional; I’ve laughed, I’ve cried; I’ve urinated in places my mother would be disgusted to hear about and I’ll probably do it all again next year…
Either that or I’ll sod it off and go somewhere warm for once.
What I’m listening to this week: Florence and the Machine and Kings of Leon
What I’m reading this week: The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom