The Reading Festival in 1996 is still one of the best festivals, and best times I’ve ever had or spent in my life. Every single thing about it just slotted perfectly into place, and I didn’t even mind the rain that much. Of course most of the media and music press think only of that year’s simply disastrous performance by The Stone Roses as the only memorable thing about it but in reality every day had a succession of bands at the top of their game, or just starting out and this was the year when they hit the ground running.
One of those bands were Ash, who’d been just released their first album 1977 earlier in 1996. It instantly became a favourite of mine so when I saw that Ash were going to play before The Stone Roses on the Sunday night of the festival I was wetting myself in anticipation. As it turned out I stood there with my mate Zeb and all the people we’d gotten to know and hang out with all weekend having the biggest fucking joyous laugh you possibly could for most of the evening of that last night in August 1996. Then Ash came out to the opening sound of a TIE Fighter from Star Wars and that was it. They totally stole the hearts and minds of thousands of people in that field at that time.
Watching the sun set behind us, Ash in front of us and Concorde pass above us all it felt like some sort of film script made real as it was one of those moments that can’t ever be repeated as you have to live in it there and then. You get a small fragment of what it was like with the snippets of video that exist of the gig, but nothing gives a feeling of the glory of it all as when the band did Oh Yeah in a golden sunset. What came after with The Stone Roses was pathos but this was sublime….