I could probably write up some sort of massive diary post about how each day was, and it'd take up several posts and be fucking long as hell. However, I imagine it'd be a bit boring and most people probably wouldn't enjoy reading it that much, so I wont. Instead I shall do this, something of a summary, because I feel I should at least write something. It'll still be long, but I'll try and keep it to reasonably interesting portions of the weekend. I'd punctuate this post with pictures, but we didn't really take any, so wall of text it is. (EDIT: Turns out Jenny Marshall went, so I've nicked a picture from a Facebook album :P)
Thursday was a bitch. It took me about an hour to walk from Will's place to the back of the queue for the festival, and then another hour and a half to get from the back of the queue to my wristband. The walk was fine, because it was fairly sunny, and I could wheel my bag behind me. The queuing however was not. It absolutely pissed it down once I'd gotten into the main site and into the wristband queue proper. I'd switched from my trainers to wellies just as I got inside and I was fucking glad I had, because it was muddy as fuck in the main queue. Deep, wet mud, and fucking huge puddles all over the place that went up well past ankle-depth.
Yellow campsite, courtesy of Jenny's friend:
With wellies it was mostly fine, the only downside is that I didn't want my bag to get muddy. Not for cosmetic reasons, more for the fact that it was going to have to go inside my tent, and I'd rather not get a shitload of mud inside my tent for the next four days, so I was having to carry it. It was heavy as fuck and not really designed to be carried comfortably, so the straps dug into my shoulder a fair bit and after an hour or so it was really painful. And the rain was absolutely epic. Epic to the sort of proportions where my eyebrows ceased to function and I was just getting water streaming into my eyes.
Eventually I got through, got my wristband, got to orange campsite, which was a fucking long walk, the rain stopped a bit, I found a spot and put my tent up, and then just waited for everyone else to arrive. I can't actually remember how long it was until Nick and Gerry arrived, but I don't remember it being that long after I'd gotten there, and frankly I was fine to just sit in my tent. I remember Chris took ages, but that's pretty much it. We got camp set up, went to Tesco to buy supplies and booze, came back, and then went back out to find a pub in Reading.
My impressions of Reading as a city aren't great. It was a fairly large walk to get near the city centre, which didn't help, but pubs seemed pretty fucking scarce. I actually don't think I really saw anything that much resembled a proper city centre in the city at all for the entire time I was there. It seems largely to be a bit of a shithole with housing estates and a few shopping outlet parks dotted around. 7
We had a few drinks at the pub, met Will, watched some football (or at least I did), got drunk, had fun, headed back. Sleeping was a bitch, because the rain while I was queueing meant that my sleeping back was damp near the top, and completely fucking soaked at the bottom, so I spent most of the night in something resembling the foetal position trying to keep my feet from getting wet and cold in the bottom of the sleeping bag. It also rained all night, and I'd not closed up my tent properly because I was drunk and couldn't be bothered, so the next morning I had a load of rain in my tent, as did Nick and Gerry.
The next day was Friday, so onto the music! Jamie arrived, we went to the arena, Nick, Gerry and Jamie stayed at the main stage for most of the afternoon and got right to the front. I went and saw Emo Phillips with Chris. Chris wasn't much impressed but I thought he was hilarious. Then we arrived back at the main stage for Billy Talent, who were fairly good. We knew that Nick and co were right at the front somewhere, and I went to find them while Chris disappeared to see someone else (and that was the last we saw of him for the rest of the day). Amazingly, I actually found the guys, and was with them for Gogol Bordello and NOFX, who were both pretty good, I think. It's actually fairly hard to remember because I spent most of the acts just trying to keep myself from getting crushed.
The thing with the main stage crowd is that it's so fucking big you just can't move at the front because you spend most of the time completely pressed against the person in front of you. Far worse than you get at normal gigs. What made it worse is that for the first day you get a load of fucking keen people who get to the front but really don't belong there. Mostly girls, and wimpy guys who can't cut it and spend the whole fucking time moaning about how squashed it is and are completely fucking useless at holding their ground when the crowd moves around.
We moved back during Lostprophets's set, during which the crowd was fucking brutal, which was especially surprising given how poor their set was. Biffy Clyro were good, as were Queens of the Stone Age. I waited with Nick for Guns 'n' Roses, because we were going to at least see a couple of songs before deciding if it'd be worth staying for. They were late, and we got bored, so we went to see Alkaline Trio instead. They weren't bad, but the sound was pretty poor and you couldn't really hear the vocals so we disappeared halfway through the set and went back to the tents.
By Saturday things were getting a little better mud-wise. We hung around on the main stage for a while, then went to the NME stage, saw Kids in Glass Houses and Frank Turner, then I went to the Lock-Up stage to see The Get Up Kids and also watched the NOFX secret set. There'd been speculation between us all week to who the secret slot on the Lock-Up stage would be, but in hindsight it was pretty obviously going to be NOFX, and they were pretty good.
I then had the clash between Bad Religion and Ash. As much as I wanted to see Bad Religion, I decided I'd go with Ash just because I know their songs far better and I figured I'd probably enjoy it more. I don't regret it either, because Ash were fucking awesome, and probably the best set I saw all day. No disrespect to Bad Religion, because I'm sure they were good, but I absolutely loved Ash. The extra guitarist they have for touring makes such a big difference, and they were so much better than when I last saw them. The lighting setup was fantastic as well. I enjoyed it so much I even bothered to hang around afterwards and scab a setlist:
I got back from Ash to find that my tent had been opened, and the same for Nick's, which was a bit shit, though it appeared that absolutely nothing had been stolen, so no real harm done and we didn't linger on it for that long. The others got back, we played some cards and drinking games, got fairly drunk (Nick got very drunk), and it was a pretty good laugh.
The next morning we were a little hungover, and my legs were pretty sore. Having spent the last six or seven weeks sitting in a chair for pretty much the entire day, aside from one or two bike rides, I wasn't really in much physical condition to spend four consecutive days walking around and standing all day. We were a bit late into the arena because we were all tired and a bit hungover, and I ended up on my own for pretty much the entire day, because I went to see some stuff in the comedy tent for the start of the afternoon. It was good, and I got to sit down for a while. Angelos Epithemiou was pretty funny, and after him I went and caught bits of Limp Bizkit, Cypress Hill and Kele, and got some stuff to eat.
For the headliners I would have gone into the packed bit of the crowd, but my legs were pretty fucked, so instead I went to the back of the front section (there's a barrier about 50m back that segregates the crowd) where there was space. Weezer were fucking awesome. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed their set, and it was fantastic. They were pretty funny, and got the crowd going really well. They did a brilliant cover of Teenage Dirtbag, and also an excellent cover of Kids by MGMT, which then merged into a cover of Poker Face. For a band that I wasn't really planning on seeing at the start of the weekend (I was going to go see Band of Horses instead) I really liked their set.
Paramore were a bit meh. Pretty much how I expected, and I guess I could say the same for Blink-182 as well. Maybe it's because I was fairly tired and not hugely up for it, and I'm hardly a massive fan of theirs anyway, but I thought their set was pretty standard. One of the better ones I'd seen over the weekend, but not mind-blowing.
We met up at the exit of the arena, bought some doughnuts and hot drinks, and headed back preparing to defend our tent for the night. The riots at Reading and Leeds on the last night are fairly notorious for being pretty bad, and we'd specifically chosen to camp in Orange to reduce the chances of our tents getting wrecked and/or set on fire. For example, a picture of Leeds I took after it had been trashed in 2008:
This year they'd stopped people bringing alcohol into the campsite after 6pm on Sunday, which I thought was a bit of a dumb idea, given that it's not hard to stock up (we had plenty left on the last night, and when we left, and that wasn't even intentional). However, what probably was a good idea was that they'd banned campfires on the last night. This basically meant that rather than putting campfires out after people were doing stupid shit like setting tents on fire, or throwing gas canisters on them, they were putting out the fires before anything like that happened, because they were just putting out all of them. They didn't have to try and figure out who was lighting a campfire to then cause trouble, and who was just innocently making a campfire, because they just put all of them out. They were pretty rapid about it too. We had some twattish 16 year olds behind us who kept starting one, and theirs got put out about three times before they were told they'd be kicked out if they did it again.
Things got a bit rowdy, but we never had any actual trouble come to us, and things died down fairly early and I at least had a pretty decent night's sleep. We got up the next morning around 9am and went home, and the campsites looked pretty much intact as we went through them. Certainly not the desolate post-apocalyptic scene that there was after Leeds in 2008. So kudos to the organisers, because they clearly did a pretty good job at keeping everything under control.
Between Reading and Leeds, I'm not really sure which I prefer. I would say Leeds is better in terms of the arena setup, and in terms of the people there, and it's less of a bitch for me to get to, but at the same time it's in the middle of fucking nowhere, and you can't just walk to a supermarket. Plus, even though it wasn't the case this year, the chances are the weather is going to be nicer in Reading, and that can make a fairly big difference. I'm not sure if I'll go again, but I'm fairly torn for which place I'd pick if I did.
Another final comment would be the food prices, because they were fucking ridiculous. A burger was £4 at the cheapest, and generally you were having to pay £7 or more for a not-so-substantial meal, which was just shit. It's not like festivals are cheap to go to in the first place, and the fact that it cost so fucking much just to eat in the arena was really a pain in the ass. Water taps were free, which is better than it is at some festivals where you only have bottled stuff you've got to pay for, but the food and drink in general was still a fucking rip-off, so I tried to mostly fill myself up in the morning on food I'd gotten from the supermarket before I went to the arena.
Either way, I enjoyed myself. The line-up wasn't fantastic, but I didn't really spend much time over the weekend not watching a band I at least partly enjoyed. Nick's friends, Gerry and Jamie, were pretty awesome guys, and as a whole I'd say the weekend was pretty good. I was tired as hell when I got back, and in desperate need of my first shower in five days, but that's just par for the course really. At the very least, I've got the next month to do fuck-all aside from Musashi typesetting and Frostii work, and I really plan to enjoy it. Plus I'm going to see Muse next weekend, which I'd mostly forgotten about just because my schedule was so dominated by the Reading festival. Then a new year at university, which I really can't wait for. So overall, in pretty awesome spirits right now.