The Rise and Fall of the Reading Festival part two

In the first part of my recollections of Reading I recounted how I’d only done the odd day here and there, but never a full weekend. That was to change in 1996 thanks mainly to the line up, which I still say is one of the best to have been at any festival in the UK in my time of going to festivals over the last 25 years.

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The entire weekend was going to be topped off by The Stone Roses so it’d have been rude not to go. Yes, the Roses were not the same force, and half the band were gone to be replaced by session musicians but we didn’t care! It was the bloody ROSES!!

1996 was also when Britpop was still raging but the peak years of 1994 and 1995 were gone, and frankly we were approaching the fagend of Britpop but we didn’t know it at the time, though the likes of Kula Shaker and Gene should have been a hint things were on their last legs, but hey, the rest of the lineup looked ace!

And so it was that myself and my hippy mate Zeb decided to go down together as a sort of dry run for Glastonbury in 1997, so it passed that we’d be one of lots of people going down from Leicester’s legendary pup, the Pump and Tap, but seeing as we didn’t like some of them, or that they’d made other plans we found ourselves quite happy to go down together and play it by ear. First of all I had to get myself a tent, as up til now I’d either borrowed a tent or blagged it, and frankly I wasn’t prepared to do that, so I go myself a nice cheap single skin tent. More of this later…

We’d agreed to go down on Thursday morning as frankly, the less time spent in Reading the better, but we wanted to set up early, and see a set Rocket From the Crypt were going to play at the Virgin Megastore in the centre of Reading on Thursday afternoon, so early on a grey Thursday morning I met Zeb in the Pump and Tap carpark for the start of our Reading adventure.

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Zeb had brought one of his less flashy sports cars to drive down, but seeing as we weren’t going to put anything in the car beyond us, our tents, bags and sleeping bags it didn’t matter as we were going to stock up once we’d set up onsite and headed into Reading city centre to get some beers after the Rocket From the Crypt gig, so off we sped from Leicester to Reading with the full intention to have a bloody serious good time.

The trip down was uneventful and fairly painless of traffic jams as we’d pulled a few short cuts to come down the opposite route to what everyone else would be taking. It was a longer route but it got us there quicker without being stuck so we pulled into Reading early Thursday afternoon with the sky still grey and wondering whether to drop rain upon us as we pulled into the car park. As we did pull into the festival we saw the camping fields (Reading’s bands are held in an arena, with camping all around it)  were filling up near the arena quite quickly, so unloading what little we had between us we headed to find ourselves a good spot in a field not too far away from the arena. Luckily we realised that it was only the first two or three fields that were full and all the other fields were still pretty empty as I don’t think it was even 1pm yet, but we did learn that if we wanted to get in the field by the arena (as Zeb had really wanted) we’d have to get there earlier. That was a lesson for 1997 but I leap ahead of myself…

We set our tents up, with both of us struggling to put up new tents, but we couldn’t have spent more than 45 setting camp up in a very large, empty patch of field and hoping that any neighbours we’d get were not utter wankers.

See, the thing is about festivals is that a large part of the enjoyment of a festival is down to the people you go with, and if you’re not in a big group then you’ve got to hope your neighbours aren’t tossers which was the thought in both our heads as we left our tents to wander into the centre to find a decent pub, see Rocket From the Crypt and get some beers and food for our wee camp. As we left we looked back to see our tents looking lonely for what would be the last time that weekend…

Before the walk into town, we got our wristbands. Now this is a bit of a Reading ritual but basically it involves waiting in a queue to get a horrible plastic wristband (as it was then) which became a serious pain, but fuck it, this was our badge of honour that we’d got in and were officially part of the festival!

The walk into town was slow, but we were taking everything in and this is where I need to point something out in that Reading in the early to mid-90’s was carnage but it was chilled carnage. It was dirty, nasty and drunken but people went for the music, the laugh and to enjoy themselves without being a dick. Again, I get ahead of myself as this is for another part of this series of blogs, but getting back to 1996 Zeb and myself found a lovely spit and sawdust pub called the Duke of Edinburgh which is no longer there, but we got our drinks then, sat down in the sun which had just come out and just smiled like loons as we chilled out, which is of course, the point of festivals. After a couple of beers and a chat with a few other festivalgoers, we headed into the centre to find the Virgin Megastore and the Sainsbury’s so we could get our bearings. The gig wasn’t til late afternoon so we wandered about, got something to eat and squeezed near the front of the Virgin Megastore for what was a bloody storming gig by Rocket From the Crypt which made us both feel like we were fucking alive.

After that it was to Sainsbury’s to grab some beers and food, and by food I mean pork pies and Pringles which is the sort of food you can safely store in a tent, and anyhow, who needs food when you’ve just bought 48 tins of cheaply strong lager?

The only problem with buying  48 tins of cheaply strong lager is lugging them back to the festival, and then to your campsite, which means an awful lot of rest-breaks as both Zeb and myself struggled with the vast amount of beer (did I mention Zeb also bought a load of cheaply strong lager?) back to our site. After what seemed like an age we got into the festival again, and slowly shuffled back to where we’d camped only to find our lonely wee tents were no longer lonely, but surrounded by tents, but not as you’d expect now with nary an inch of space but a crowded site, but with still plenty of space for a fire and to sit together. We just walked through the large group of young girls on one side, and dumped our stuff down outside our tents before being greeted warmly by two lads from Birmingham who were camped next to us. I wish I could remember their names, so I’ll call them Jasper and Ozzy. Ozzy was a fitness instructor, while Jasper was an accountant or something like that. It didn’t matter as we discovered they were sound lads as they were chatting away to us, and the banter between the four of us started flowing into the early evening and ended up spilling into the pile of young girls also camped next to us, who weren’t all young girls, there were some lads who didn’t have a chin (this became a running gag all weekend) but they were from Oxford, and most of them were up for a laugh as it was their first real festival for most of them.

As the evening morphed into the night, I pulled out my massive bottle of dodgy Russian vodka I’d brought from work, and we all started losing those little boundary lines you get when you meet strangers at festivals and we found ourselves becoming one large camp, which frankly was more than either Zeb or I had hoped for when we were sitting planning this at the Pump and Tap months earlier. We even had a couple of police officers come over to warn us that people were nicking from tents, but they really came to try to have a laugh with us but as they did the rain started and the skies opened which drove everyone into their tents and ruined the party.

By this time it was dark, so possibly midnight, but as the rain hammered down I quickly realised why one should never buy a single skin tent as the water started coming through into the tent to form a lovely little lagoon in one corner. Eventually the rain stopped, and I used a T-shirt to mop up what I could and try to get my head down, which was the last real sleep I ended up having til I got home to Leicester on Monday.

Friday morning say me rise early to try to dry out the lagoon, and head into town to get some breakfast while trying to sell one of the spare tickets I had (did I mention I had a spare ticket thanks to work, plus I had another spare ticket to give to my mate Sarah to sell, but I’d neglected to arrange to meet her so was hoping to stumble across her in a tent or something), so I shouted to see if Zeb was up, which he was and we assessed the situation was basically, wet. As we were standing around Ozzy and Jasper got up, as did a few of the girls but Zeb and myself decided to got for something to eat and get a programme so we could see who was on when. For younger readers I need to point out that there wasn’t any dapper booklets you hung round your neck, no, we had to buy a programme which was an A4 booklet within the programme or hope that the festival stuck times up on a blackboard by the information points.

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When we came back to the tent the Brummies were cracking open the beers and suggesting a wander into town for a pub brekkie, which seemed like a good idea so off we went with there being hours til the first band we wanted to see which was the Butthole Surfers, so off we went to find a pub which we did and it was closer to the festival than the previous day’s pub, but sadly it’s no longer there but it was a great little pub. We played darts badly, drank beer and had some greasy food while bonding and having a laugh before we realised we should really get back to the festival to see some bands, but first a little detour to our tents to have some Smirnoff blue label vodka..

That proved a bad idea as we got quite pissed, and dozed off so I woke up to see that Zeb had also dozed off sitting near the increasing hill of empty beer cans by our little camp. The others were asleep, and the girls had left to go into the arena hours earlier, but I managed to wake Zeb up and managed to roughly arrange with Jasper to meet before The Prodigy later that night by one of the beer tents.

We managed to get into the arena to catch the end of Ice T’s set, and get ourselves together as frankly we were hammered, and the day wasn’t even halfway through yet, plus the Friday night lineup was something to look forward to. I left Zeb for a while so I could go and watch Bis who were at that point one of my favourite bands, and I have to say, put on a bloody amazing show that evening but the main attractions that night were the double header of The Prodigy and Rage Against the Machine who were both at their peaks in terms of creativity and sheer power as live acts. I left the second stage where Bis played to meet up again with Zeb, who’d found the Brummies so we stocked up on beer and found a good place to watch the main stage for the rest of the night, which meant catching the tail end of the Offspring who surprised me as they were much better than I was expecting, but I was horribly drunk.

This is where I need to take a break from the narrative to point out to younger readers that although Reading was rammed in those days, it wasn’t full of wankers. Yes, it was tasty and full of drunken sods like we were, but the overall mood was that of a lot of people having fun at the end of summer. There was also a feeling that people were there to enjoy the music rather than a box-ticking exercise before they go to university, but again, I get ahead of myself.

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As the night progressed we drank more beer, saw a bloody awesome set from the Prodigy who blew everyone away to such an extent that it’d have been bloody impossible for any band to follow them, so Rage Against the Machine had to and most other times they’d have played a blinder but in that context they paled against the sheer force of nature which the Prodigy were that night. They didn’t play a bad gig, far from it, but they couldn’t match what had preceded them but that aside we all felt privileged to have seen two amazing bands play great shows to a great crowd. I was also amazingly drunk and happy by this point as we left the arena on that first night to head back to our camp to crack more tins of our cheaply strong lager and just banter which we did. In fact we spent most of the night chatting, and we pulled the girls over to carry on some more bantering as we all realised Ozzy had his eye on one of the girls and she had her eye on him…

I can’t remember when exactly I passed out, but I do remember waking up suddenly at dawn wrapped in my sleeping blanket in my tent feeling like death warmed up, and although I was near death I wanted more! Plus, I needed to flog the spare ticket I had and find Sarah as the value of the tickets were dropping and also, I knew I was going to run out of money if I didn’t at least get 20 or 30 quid for the ticket. That was the only bit of stress. It was Saturday. The main blowout day of any festival. This is where you’ve bedded in, adjusted to living as you are and are either loving it or hating it. I was loving it.

First things first though. Pub!

 We got Jasper and Ozzy out of their slumber and headed into town back to the pub from the previous day to again fail badly at playing darts, drink some beer, but the plan was to get back in time so I could see the bloody wonderful Ruby, (the first of two bands on the day fronted by wonderful Scottish singers)  but sadly I seem to remember us arriving back in time to catch the fucking woeful Kula Shaker. Still, this game me time to top up with beer, and realise I’d forgotten to flog my spare ticket, or find Sarah so I could give her the spare I got for her but Moloko were on and I was drinking so one has to deal with life’s little priorities.

Much of the Saturday afternoon was spent hanging out with the other lads, and after watching a great, but frankly utterly out of place Billy Bragg set, and a bonkers Julian Cope set which saw a lot of younger people look bemused, it was all about Garbage who were proving themselves to be a bloody great band, and it was nice to see Shirley Manson become successful as I’d followed her career since Goodbye Mr MacKenzie, and had bumped into her a few times at gigs in Leicester and London. They played a great set and Manson fronting the band was and is a sight to be seen, but when they were fresh and raw it was truly fantastic.

After Garbage it was Black Grape. Neither Zeb or myself had much interest in Black Grape, and we’d also been distracted by the two girls we’d met just before Garbage, so rather than watch Chris Evans introduce Black Grape and watch Britpop eat itself we decided to go off with two strange girls as you do. Again the mists of time have wiped their names from my memory, so I’ll call them Thelma and Louise. Thelma was a girl with long red hair who took an instant shine to Zeb, while Louise was a mentalist with dark hair to took a fancy to me, so we went on a wander around the arena for a laugh for a while before Zeb and Thelma vanished into the night, leaving myself and Louise to dive into the comedy tent to quite literally trip over Sarah. As I dusted myself off I gave her the spare ticket for her, but I didn’t chat for long as Louise wanted beer to indulge in nocturnal pastimes, which is where I draw a discrete veil over the next several hours (I’m sure imaginations can fill in any blanks) and we arrive in the story at Sunday…

I woke up in Louise’s tent which was in a field not to far from ours, so I made my farewells with the vague promise of her turning up at our camp later, and headed back as the morning broke to head back to my tent to try to grab a few hours unbroken sleep as I’d now went without more than 40 minutes or so of decent sleep since Friday morning, and seeing as this was the last day I wanted to recharge a bit for it. I got back to our camp and things were still quiet though I could hear movement and voices from Jasper and Ozzy’s tent while Zeb’s tent sounded quiet. Great! I could sleep for a bit as it was just gone 7am and I reckoned nobody would stick their head out til gone 9.

I mist have been asleep for less than an hour before I was woken up by Zeb asking if I was awake, which I was by this point. Thelma was still in his tent and the chap told me the story of the previous night, which again, I’m sure you can paint a picture if you use your imagination. Zeb told me she wanted to know if Louise was in my tent, so I crawled out of my sleeping bag to inform her I’d not long left her at her tent and she was ok. She stayed and chatted for a bit as Zeb and myself sat looking wasted, and she left before I cracked open the last of my cheaply strong lager as I decided I’d finish the festival as I started. Shortly after Jasper got out of their tent to tell us that Ozzy had pulled one of the Oxford girls and he’d had to pretend to be unconscious while the pair got up to the sort of things that again you should use your imagination for.

Eventually Ozzy and the girl woke up, joined in our little party and had a laugh about the night before as it seemed everyone was getting their end away the previous night apart from poor Jasper. I realised my priority was to flog my spare ticket as this was the last chance I’d get but as the Stone Roses were playing and the day had sold out, I reckoned I could get 50 quid for a ticket. Zeb and myself also needed some beer for that evening back at the tent as the Bummies, the Oxford Girls and us had all agreed to have a massive blow up after the Roses back at our camp. So with this in mind, we steeled ourselves for a walk back into Sainsbury’s where Zeb and myself bought lots of very, very cheap but strong Latvian lager and on the way back I sold my spare ticket for (I think 30 quid) which was vastly less than I’d have got if I’d put my arse in gear and flogged it Friday morning, but it was more than enough to supplement what little money I had left and in fact Zeb and myself had taken to eating from the Salvation Army tent (50p for soup and bread!) to save more money for beer!

And so we were ready for Sunday. We’d all went to the pub again for one last time, and agreed we’d all hang out for the last day from Ash onwards.When Zeb and myself got back to the arena there was a very damp (it’d rained again) Moby confusing the hell out of a load of ravers as this was when he was in his guitar phase which was actually bloody good. We stopped to watch the Wedding Present for a bit after that and then went back to our camp to meet up with everyone else. As we got back everyone was enjoying themselves, so we took a series of pictures with everyone in front of what was by now a small mountain of empty beercans. I have no idea where these pictures are, or who have them but if by some chance someone reading this was part of this group and have them, then please let me know!

Anyhow, we were pumped for the final few bands of the weekend and we were all seriously excited for the Stone Roses. but before that it was watching Ash playing such a blinding set that brought a wee tear to my eye. At this point I think I fell in love with Ash. Next up was a band Zeb and myself were dying to see which was Sonic Youth, but they decided to be utterly pish so lets move on to the main event which was the Roses. By now we were all dizzy with a mixture of delirium, excitement, sadness and booze. The Roses were a defining band for a generation, and for people like me this was important, and they’d not played the year before at Glastonbury so this was the chance to finally see them live.

The skies were dark. The crowd was primed. The stage was set. The band took the stage. The guitar started to play. The singer came on stage. The stage was seriously set.

Then Ian Brown opened his mouth and the next sound everyone heard was 40,000 jaws hitting the floor in unison. Brown was simply awful. I looked at Zeb who looked around him to see people with their eyes open wide in amazement. Jasper, Ozzy and the Oxford girls were equally confused but as the first song ended we said ‘ah well, he’s just warming up, it can’t get any worse?’.

Yes it could.

This is the point where legend now says that grown men were in tears and you have to normally take legend with a pinch of salt, but in this case legend plays down just how awful it was listening to this in a field in Reading, while at the same time having all the great things about the Roses come crashing down in flames in front of your eyes.  Zeb had a girl turn round and burst into tears, Ozzy had to calm a lad down who was crying and getting angry, while myself and one of the Oxford girls tried to calm down a couple who were spitting rage at the stage.

By the time I Am The Resurrection started  there were three choices; suffer the rest in anger; laugh at it and and enjoy what you can as you watch a great band die in front of your eyes or go watch Underworld who were now starting to draw a large crowd at the tent they were playing in. People were running from where Underworld were playing pulling people to what was by all accounts a blinding set, but the horror of the Death of the Roses needed to be seen if only so I can sit here 17 years later and say ”I WAS THERE”.

The Roses ended mercifully. Our mood wasn’t dampened as the dip we’d had was only temporary as we’d decided to carry on having fun so as the crowds left the arena for the last time that weekend we all looked back at the great, not to mention utterly memorable, times spent there but the festival wasn’t over yet as we were going to have one last night of fun back at the camp. And have fun we did til the wee small hours until we had to give into our bodies and accept we all had to return to the sad, boring normality of reality and this crazy wonderland was coming to a close so to our tents and sleeping bags we all went with the promise that we’d say cheerio in the morning.

Next morning saw us all rise early to avoid the rush home, or at least, miss as much of it as possible. The girls were first off and eyeballs were getting wet, then Zeb and myself said our farewells to the Brummies which made the eyeballs even wetter before we both looked back at the mountain of beercans, and vowed to do Glastonbury the next year, which we did. Before all that planning ahead though, we had to get out of Reading and back to Leicester as 60,000 people were also leaving Reading and it was a bank holiday Monday. Easier said than done, especially for poor Zeb who was suffering from lack of sleep and was driving so I tried to stay awake to help keep him awake. Eventually though after about five hours we got back into Leicester to go our separate ways and have an early night, and meet up down the Pump and Tap the following week. We didn’t want to carry on drinking on the bank holiday all-dayer the Pump had on as we were both skint, knackered and drained.

Zeb dropped me off at my house and I remember walking into the front room where my housemate Roz, and her boyfriend Matt were sitting watching telly. I dumped my stuff off in my room and collapsed in a chair as Matt made me a cup of tea and a sandwich while I told them as much as I could about the weekend. Roz asked if I was going down the pub to which I replied I was skint and only had enough money for lunch at work until payday on Thursday. Matt then offered to loan me 20 quid til Thursday.

Fuck it, they’d seen I was on a high and I was buzzing not wanting the weekend to end so I took him up on the offer, and headed down the Pump only to walk right into Zeb who had a big grin on his face which said ‘I knew we were never not going to come down’. Well, for the rest of the night we carried on drinking and laughing, but I ended up getting a load of beers bought for me, so I barely broke the money Matt gave me.

The weekend had to end though. I had Tuesday off but had to go back to work. I didn’t want it to end. If I could, I’d ensure I could go back in time and live virtually every second of that weekend whenever I wanted.If only time wasn’t linear we could do such glorious things…

I remember walking home after the Pump closed that night in what was a bright clear sky looking at the stars wishing my life away. I was also very drunk/tired so this probably explained my poetic frame of mind but I climbed into bed wanting only to do the previous five days all over again, and again, and again, and again……

Next time, let’s tell the story of Reading 1997….

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The Rise and Fall of the Reading Festival part one

I’ve spoken about festival culture in the UK from the late 80’s, and had a huge focus on detailing my history of Glastonbury in previous blogs, but I’ve not really touched on Reading Festival, so here’s my little potted history of my experiences at Reading, not a history of the festival itself though there’s a little bit of that in my story.

Reading was always a festival I had no interest in when I first stumbled across the idea of festivals back in the 80’s. This is mainly because it looked bloody awful with dinosaurs like Budgie, Gillan and Whitesnake making up the headline acts, but the nadir of the festival came in 1988 which featured Meatloaf being bottled off stage and the festival itself becoming a bit of a laughing stock.

The following year saw the festival give itself a royal kick up the arse when Mean Fiddler took over and suddenly made the festival attractive to a new generation who weren’t just into metal and wanted something more, so within a few years Reading gained a reputation for having bright young talent from the Indie scene across Europe, while still getting the big American bands.

Part of the attraction of Reading was the way you could buy a day ticket, so if you wanted to go for just a day to enjoy a band you wanted to see you could which was a huge advantage over Glastonbury, but as I’ve pointed out before Glastonbury wasn’t just about the bands. Reading however was, and if you didn’t want to sit though bands you hated then the day ticket was a nice way to dip your toe in.

I didn’t get myself down to Reading until 92 for the day to see Nirvana,  which was the last time I’d go until 1995, but even on that one day I instantly loved the thing for the sleazy, drunken end of summer party that it was. See, the wonderful thing about Glastonbury is that it’s a celebration of everything good, positive and wonderful about summer, our culture and society generally. Reading used be a farewell to that as well as wallowing in the Bacchanalian joy of everything good and bad about summer, and also, as it was held in a pretty dreary city which suffers from not quite being London, but not quite being somewhere where it can develop it’s own character and culture. In other words it’s a perfect place for everyone to impose what they want upon the festival.

I don’t remember much of 1992. We turned up early on Sunday and had started drinking the day before, plus when we got in we carried on drinking hard so by the time Nirvana came on we were hammered. I can at least say I may have been there in body, and possibly, spirit.

I did a few other days over the next few years, but ultimately the day trip is fun but it’s not the full experience as it’s really foreplay for the main event, so after 1995 and an incredibly fun day which saw me with very short, dyed red hair for reasons which to this day I’m unsure about, but I did decide to dye my hair red which made me look like this.

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This was taken at the legendary lost Leicester pub, The Pump and Tap on a Sunday shortly before Reading in 1995, and the other chap with the long red hair is Steve, who now has no hair at all, but there you go….

1995 was fun and everything as we were getting in free as we’d got free tickets from the brewery as I worked for the same local group which also owned the Pump, so we belted down early on the Sunday, got hammered and I do remember Neil Young being quite bloody awful.

After 95 I wanted to do a full Reading Festival and lap up all the sleazy joys it offered, and with Glastonbury taking a year off in 1996, there was a gap so in early 1996 myself and a mate, Zeb, (who’ve I’ve mentioned before) came up with the plan to go down.

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That however deserves a blog of it’s own, so in the next part of this I’ll go into the details of what still is one of the best three festivals I’ve attended in over 20 years of going to festivals…..

The first cut won’t hurt at all….The Rise and Fall of Festival Culture in the UK-part two

Last time I outlined a brief history of the rise of festival in the UK in the 90’s which drew a very wide bow but with good reason as all my experiences in the 90’s needed to be put into context as I discuss the fun and games at the other festivals I went to outside of Glastonbury (which I’m still outlining in a series of separate blogs) and Reading (which will be done in separate blogs) so let’s get stuck in.

I’ve outlined how I used to attend free festivals & raves in the late 80’s and early 90’s but memories of them are vague, plus I’m keeping some of those reminiscences back as I really want to focus on the corporatisation of  festivals in the UK. One of the first to highlight this was T in the Park held in Scotland since 1994. Sponsored and run by Tennants brewery it’s original idea was to give Scotland it’s own festival on the size and scale of Glastonbury or Reading. This was (and is) a bloody good idea as Scotland has always supported live music in all shapes and forms, plus getting to the likes of Glastonbury was expensive and impractical for most people at the time.

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So in 1994 and buoyed by the relative success of the first Phoenix Festival in 1993 which showed a larger market for festival than most people thought, T in the Park was born on a July weekend at Strathclyde Park in Hamilton, a smallish town just outside Glasgow. The fact it was held here meant easy commuting from Glasgow, which meant no camping so crashing at Gary Erskine’s flat was the option rather than camping at the festival campsite which was the other side of the M8 from the site. Not a good idea.

That first year was fun and the idea of a festival in the West of Scotland where summer weather was at best erratic was a risky business, but it was hardly beating away people at the door as one of my big memories of the festival is lots and lots of wide open spaces, oh, and lots and lots of branding for Tennants everywhere. Being used to the free festival/rave culture, not to mention having now a couple of Glastonbury’s and a few Reading’s  under my belt meant that it didn’t really feel like a festival to me as opposed to a big series of gigs in a field. Which is fine, but pitching this as a ‘Scottish Glastonbury’ as some have over the years misses the fact it owes more to Reading than the Glastonbury type of festival.  It didn’t even feel like the Heineken Free Festivals which I’d attended in Nottingham in London in previous years (it was at one of these in Nottingham that I saw two girls hold a third girl as she squatted into a men’s urinal to have a piss which is a sight  I’ll carry with me til my death) as they were glorious messy affairs where you could bring your own beer in rather than have to endure drinking the swill that is Tennants.

That first year was deemed a success even though it seemed numbers were thin on the ground. The next year I’d managed to convince around half a dozen friends from Leicester to go, and so it was that during the long, hot summer of 1995 two cars set out from Leicester to Glasgow and with Gary kindly offering to turn his flat into a home for us all (poor sod) we drove the amazingly long drive to Glasgow.

I’d like to say it was fun and much of it was. I remember pulling the Pulp Fiction ”royale with cheese’ line to some wee girl at a Burger King in the Lake District as we stopped off for a break. I remember  being amazed at how truly lovely this country is when you get out of the cities & how dry everything was due to the weeks of dry warm weather that’d started before that year’s Glastonbury a few weeks earlier. Most of the time though it was dull, and trying to keep two cars in a convoy for 300 odd miles in the days before mobiles was easier said than done but somehow we got up to Glasgow, and to Gary’s flat which we then invaded for the next four days. I should also point out that several of Gary, and his then partner, Magz’s friends were also staying so how we all crammed in I’ll never know.

That first night was getting my mates from Leicester to acclimatise to the Glaswegian accent, and to the general carnage that awaited us all. One of our number even got a wee bit friendly with one of Magz’s ex’s but hey, we were at a festival and the line up looked good.

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That year’s festival was fun, but like Glastonbury a few week’s earlier it was boiling hot all the time and there was even less escape from the heat here. Also the crowds were phenomenal so by the time we rolled onsite the festival was crammed full. You also couldn’t move without seeing a Tennants logo in front of you trying to convince you  that their urine coloured swill was worth drinking but it it was hot and it was one of the few choices to drink at the bars.

As the festival ended we all looked back on a fun time but the festival was outgrowing it’s location and that was very clear in 1996 when the site was just too full. It was also a pretty bad festival even though I’d again brought up a little group from Leicester in an attempt to capture the previous year’s glory. The less said of 1996 the better.

Which amazingly brings us to 1997 and the festival moved to it’s current location on a disused airfield in Balado in the middle of nowhere. Amazingly it was a dryish weekend and the new site was larger, better and if it rained it still had former landing strips so you had somewhere firm to stand/sit for a bit rather than drudge through mud. This year the group boiled down to just a few of us as I’d made the trip myself from Leicester as nobody could be bothered after the rubbishness of 1996, plus Glastonbury had taken it out of people with it being a muddy year. So it was myself, Gary, his cousin and a couple of others from Glasgow who went. Here’s some of us in all our glory….

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We’re all so young thin and dynamic aren’t we?

Which was more than could be said of the line up.

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Dodgy! Ocean Colour Scene! Gun! Bush! Reef! ‘Take yoir ‘aaaaaaaannnnnndddssss’

There was Daft Punk though, and did I say we were dynamic?

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Anyhow, it was fun & enough worth seeing but I couldn’t shake off the increasing feeling this wasn’t going to be the festival for me as the larger site meant even more Tennants branding everywhere.

The following year was to be my last. I went up with my then girlfriend Tash, and went down again with Gary, Magz and a few of their crowd from Glasgow. It was all fun, with the first day being amazingly hot and bright (If I can find them I have pictures of the main stage taken at after 10pm which was still bathed in sunlight) but the Sunday was wet and shitty. I remember just sitting on the bus back to Leicester being depressed and fed up as I don’t want to go to festivals to be sold crap as that’s why I go to festivals to avoid that. Also the type of person going to festivals had changed from a load of dropouts, students and wasters to the sort of person who thinks going into town for a kebab and a fight is a quiet night out.

This was clear during my first and last appearance at V Festival in 1996. Pulp were playing and it was the festival’s first year, plus it had a pretty good line up. OK, it was all about Virgin selling you their services but the real horror of that didn’t dawn on us til we got onsite. Imagine being in a house on the hottest day in the year, and the coldest drink you’ll ever drink is at the end of a very long corridor but you have to fight through people lined up on each side trying to sell you insurance in the smarmiest way possible to get to that drink.That’s how it felt. Plus there was the amazingly odd sight of plastic laid down on the grass in front of the main stage so that as the day progressed it became slippy and and bit risky as you spilled your overpriced slop of a drink.

Pulp were great and everything but it was a dreadful experience, plus being in Chelmsford meant you had people there who frankly were looking for a scrap. Again, I go to festivals to avoid these people who litter our city centre’s, not to stand next to them as they should ‘show us your tits’ to any passing person who may have even the possibility of having a vagina.

Which isn’t to say Glastonbury and Reading were immune to this as the BBC coverage of Glastonbury made it look like a big gig in a field and skimmed over the other aspects of the festival as it’s never been a music festival, but a performing arts festival while Reading changed post-Britpop from somewhere which was a bit tasty but still fun, to somewhere where people setting fire to toilets and generally being pricks was seen as ‘fun’ rather than the kickable offence it actually is. The problem was that festival culture had been packaged up and sold to the masses in an easily digestible, and overall safe, package that screened out some of the flaws of free festivals but also screened out the creativity and general ambiance of these festivals where everyone really was of a same mind and culture even if they weren’t, for just a few days.

It also helped to depoliticise festivals so they were no longer something which may attack or challenge the mainstream as it’s hard to challenge the mainstream when you’re trying to flog beer or insurance to pissed festival goers.

This isn’t to say either that the type of festival I’m talking about is totally dead, but it still lives, albeit most of the time it’s wrapped in a cosy Guardian-esque middle class comfort blanket. The festival culture in the UK has endured a death of 1,000 cuts, but it lives on in parts of Glastonbury, & the few smaller festivals which try to marry past and present. The likes of V or T in the Park and even now, Reading aren’t for the likes of me anymore as I’m not that type of consumer as that’s what they are-excuses to sell shit to wankers rather than creating a life affirming event free of the pain of everyday life.

When you’ve got people like Emili Sande or The Script as your top bill then you’re going to attract a certain type of person and the organisers know this, hence the blandness.

Like I said-selling shit to wankers.

So when you’re sitting down to watch highlights of these festival think of what once was, and how these festivals only took the shell of what a festival is, but they didn’t think of adding a soul. It’s only the people going and the ethics of the festival itself that can do that.

 

 

 

Find me on a pale horizon-The Rise and Fall of Festival Culture in the UK-part one

As those who do follow this blog might know I’ve been doing a series of blogs about my experiences at the Glastonbury Festival from 1992 onwards, but there’s a bit of a larger story to tell in regards festival culture in the UK.

There’s been festivals of some shape or form in the UK since the 1950’s. You can study the history of the growth of festival culture by looking at the excellent site, The Archive, which details festivals from 1960-1990, or searching out the splendid Festivals Britannia documentary that BBC Four broadcast a few years ago. It’s really the story of my perception of what happened to festival culture from the late 80’s onwards that I’m on about.

As I’ve outlined in the past, I grew up in a very working class part of Glasgow which didn’t mean I was ignorant of festivals as I knew they existed thanks to reading the NME from an early age, but that was mainly things like Reading Festival when it was going through it’s Jurassic phase. I only really learned about the wider world of festivals after reading an article about Glastonbury in an edition of the NME from 1985.

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I was intrigued by the sounds of Glastonbury and the idea of a load of people sitting in a field somewhere listening to music and generally getting together. Not that was an alien concept to me back in Glasgow in the mid-80’s as sitting around Kelvingrove Park was a pastime, plus the odd open air gig used to happen in Glasgow so I’d had a tease but nothing anywhere near the full experience.

It wasn’t until I moved to Leicester in 1988 and drifted gently into various scenes in both Leicester and London that I started to dive into the whole festival culture. Leicester was, oddly enough, where I experienced my first full one day festival with the Abbey Park Festival which was a one day event normally held in August in Leicester featuring frankly a selection of some pretty naff bands, but I enjoyed the whole ambiance of the day and it was fun most of all.

Most of 1988 and 1989 was spent splitting my time between London and Leicester which was easily done thanks to my job, and being a young man with more money than sense I took great advantage of the delights and pleasures of London at a time when rave music was not only at it’s peak but it was colliding with other cultures such as the traveller and punk culture which is where it caught me. I used to finish work on a Friday and rather head back to Leicester, head into London to see gigs, or hang around various pubs in Camden or Kentish Town. I’d stay overnight wherever I could, so a floor, a bed or when there was a comic mart the next day, I’d find a cheapish hotel round Holburn and spend the previous night in Soho after being at the Astoria til the wee hours.

Then in 1990 I decided to take the plunge and go to that year’s Reading Festival, which had seen itself make the dinosaurs which used to play there extinct and started showcasing bright new talent from both sides of the Atlantic. I didn’t end up going, but I did start going to various free festivals on my increasing trips to the South West of England, and I’d stumble across groups of ravers in London pubs who’d drag me to a field somewhere in Hertfordshire.

When I left my job and became rooted in Leicester I fell out of that lifestyle, but festival culture was still attractive to me because it was very much still an underground and alternative thing to do, plus the free festivals were fun, but had a huge element of danger to them thanks to the somewhat dubious people often involved with them, not to mention the gangsters who’d follow them around selling drugs. Most of the time though the free festivals of the early 90’s were fun affairs which sometimes seemed never to have an end as they’d go on and on and on….

There was also a beginning and end to the summer with Glastonbury kicking it off with this huge life affirming party to welcome the summer months and Reading ending it with this dirty, filthy party in a field next to a railway line.

By 1992 or so the amounts of festivals had started to grow partly due to the response to the Castlemorton festival which saw the government start to crack down on free festivals, which meant all these people who were going to festivals wanted to go somewhere and there were decreasing amounts of places willing to host them. By the time the Criminal Justice Bill became law the amount of free festivals were dropping to single figures, and the days of the illegal rave were numbered. This meant big business saw a market and a chance to repackage what was an alternative and underground culture for a mainstream, so by 1993 you had the Phoenix Festival rear it’s head in what was the first attempt to introduce a new major festival to the calender to challenge (the 1996 lineup is to this day the best of any festival of any kind I’ve ever been to) Glastonbury and Reading.

The first year was frankly a disaster with security extinguishing campfires and getting people to turn off soundsystems which for those of us used to free festivals was a bit of a shock, also there was not enough water standpipes and toilets. It never really recovered from that first year as it gained a reputation after this, but it was where the campsite cry of ‘BOLLOCKS’ originated which hung around festivals up til the early 21st century. It did peak with the 1996 festival though more of how that failed in many ways in the next part of this series of blogs.

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Phoenix never really brought in the mainstream punter, but rather the Glastonbury/Reading veteran & the person who couldn’t get their free festival hit any more.  Attracting the mainstream would mean a change in the mainstream itself, which is exactly what happened when Britpop broke which meant the mainstream wanted to see bands like Blur or Oasis or Pulp and they played lots of festivals, so the mainstream slowly started feeding into festival culture. It wasn’t until 94 or 95 that people started seeing festivals as something to do rather than a Spanish holiday or a trip anywhere else. The fact you now had festivals organised by beer companies (Reading was only sponsored by Carlsberg Tetley) like T in the Park and also by large mega-companies like Virgin with the execrable V Festival.

And that sets up quite nicely my experiences at all the festivals I went to that wasn’t Reading or Glastonbury in the 90’s. This gives you a little bit of background as to what was happening and in the next part I’ll outline the exploitation of festival culture by the corporations and how it all went horribly wrong.

 

My First Glastonbury, or What The Buggery Bollocks Happened 20 years Ago?

As I’ve mentioned previously, in 1993 I was living in Bristol  working at Comics and CD’s and having a jolly good time, but as the summer of 1993 approached I realised I was living not far from the Pilton Pop Festival, or Glastonbury as it’s better known to non-Bristolians. So I could go down and experience my first real Glastonbury Festival!

This is where I make a confession. I’d been to Glastonbury in 1992 when I was still living in Nottingham. It was a total and complete disaster. We ended up not leaving Nottingham til very early Saturday morning, and then I foolishly dropped some pills just as we were passing Bristol and came up just before we got near the site which meant I spent hours not knowing what exactly was real or not, plus I was being smuggled in the back of a van with four other people so we could get in and frankly once we were in I was in no fit state. I vaguely remember hanging round the Green Fields and it wasn’t til the Sunday afternoon that I started to get over the trip and becoming lucid again. By this point it was time to leave as the person who drove the van had to sign on first thing on the Monday morning so we had to get back to Nottingham pretty early on Sunday afternoon. Basically, it was a fucking dreadful time.

Never trust a hippy and just say no!

Moving on..

So in summer 1993 I wanted to experience my first full Glastonbury. Only problem was the shop and working there, but a solid week of making big sad eyes at Chris who owned the shop, and Sam who actually did most of the day-to-day work in the shop meant that Sam especially just turned round and said ‘oh just bloody go, I can’t have you moping around being miserable’, so with her permission I was ready to go on the Friday, but I had to open up on that day and not only that, I had no tent, booze, food, and no ticket. All I had was on my back so I utterly and totally winged it.

To be honest, I had tried to blag a ticket from the ticketshop in the centre of Bristol, or some of the shops on Park Street which sold tickets, but they’d sold out in the week running up to the festival and I’d already checked that the bus which ran from the bus station to the festival site was regular enough and quick enough to get me down without worrying about hippies and when they need to sign on..

The Friday came and I opened up and waited for Sam to show up with the plan being that once she came I’d be off, and somehow try to get down and get in. Sam turned up, took over the till and as she did a bloke came in with a huge box of comics, and seeing as anything related to pricing up comics, or buying collections was my side of things I knelt down to look through the box expecting to see the usual load of rubbish with the odd one or two gems. I was pissy as this was wasting my time.

Then I looked at the first few comics. They were Valiant Comics. Back then they were hot items and quite a few issues were especially rare, so when I saw this…

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I realised I might be onto something as this issue was exceptionally scarce and being sold in excess of £50 at Comic Marts. Going deeper into the box I found more scarce titles, not just from Valiant, but Marvel, DC and various other companies. It was, basically, a goldmine but I was torn between giving this bloke a fair price, and getting my arse down to Glastonbury. So I came up with a figure after giving this collection my best going through and fired out the ‘line ‘well, it’s good stuff, how about £60?’ hoping that he didn’t see my face when I noticed Rai #3 like Sam did who by this point was behind the till looking concerned about me being stuck in the shop and trying not to laugh as I was acting my arse off to try to make £60 sound like a fair price.

And fuck me, he thought it was too and this must have been a box of 200 comics. His only haggle was he had to pay for a taxi to get the box to the shop, so I said we’d chuck him a fiver to cover it. He was happy, left with his 65 quid and I could barely control my grinning face as I took the dozen or so prime issues he had in the box, bagged them, priced them up and realised just with those alone we’d make nearly 200 quid profit if we sold them at that price.

With that, Sam told me to piss off to Glastonbury after a job well done and who was I to refuse the demands of a pretty woman?

I grabbed one of the spare backpacks we had upstairs which we had as Chris (one of the owners) would dump stock from his real job upstairs, and promptly legged it down Gloucester Road to the bus station, only making a stop at Tesco’s in the centre to fill my backpack up with booze, not to mention get a toothbrush and some toothpaste as some level of civillisation was required.

While at Tesco’s I bumped into a lad who’d hitched all the way from Cork, and was also stocking up for booze for the festival. He was camping with mates who were hopefully already onsite and he also had no ticket. Don’t ask me to remember his name, it was a long time ago and brain cells have gone to their Valhalla in that time, but for the sake of this we’ll call him Cork Lad which does make him sound like a superhero who has the power of cork at his disposal.

After myself and Cork Lad stocked up on booze, we headed over to Bristol Bus Station which back then was smelly, loud and dangerous, so pretty much as it is now. We found the big, obvious queue for the bus to the festival and here I bumped into a friend of a friend in Leicester and she was there with her Goth boyfriend. Again these braincells are fighting forever in Valhalla never to return, so we’ll call the friend of a friend FOF and her bloke, Bloke. Now we’ve got that settled, we’ll move on….

The four of us were chatting in the queue for the bus, and we all realised we didn’t have tickets but this was back in the day when you didn’t need tickets to get on the shuttle bus from Bristol to Pilton but you either legged it over the fence with the help of some helpful Scallys, or a Yardie gang from Bristol or London would throw you over the fence or find another way. We all agreed that finding another way made more sense, even though FOF and Bloke had nothing apart from a rucksack between them. Only Cork Lad had access to a tent and that was his mates tent who he hoped was set up and ready at the festival but we were hardly worried about that as we’d started drinking and I’d made a very deliberate point not to touch the stash of Class A Substances stashed in my boot until I was in the festival, or as a possible bribe to get past security to get in as as I’d been told this was a way people had got in.

Eventually the bus turned up (an old double decker which is probably still used today as a shuttle bus for the festival), we boarded it after paying our fiver return to get there and back and we were on our way!!!!

This is where I need to point a few things out-I didn’t bring a tent because I didn’t own one, and I had the insane (to me now) idea that seeing as the summer of 1993 up to that point had been lovely, things weren’t going to change and anyhow, I’d blag it if it did rain.

Oh the rashness of youth.

I’d also only brought one change of underwear, 12 paracetamol, and toothbrush and some toothpaste. In fact I looked somewhat like this….

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I’m second on the right in this picture as you can probably see. This was taken about a year or so later in Leicester and I’d not changed much in dress sense or look but that’s pretty much exactly how I looked except I had a black Nexus T-Shirt which meant I had a big yellow flash going down one side like in this picture..

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The point being that if you watch Glastonbury-The Movie and look really hard you can spot me in it twice wearing that T-Shirt, but I’m jumping ahead of myself…

Back on the bus, myself, Cork Lad, FOF and Bloke are trying to work out how to get in when we realise that only myself and Cork Lad have been before and I was caned the previous year, and Cork Lad was driven in two years ago so basically we didn’t have a bloody clue. Now the journey from Bristol to Pilton takes about 90 minutes at festival time and the route used to be peppered with touts, especially from Shepton Mallet onwards, but we were confident we’d find something, and if we didn’t then well fuck it, we’d just sit around somewhere, drink our beer and get the first bus back to Bristol.

This is where I need to point out the bus back then dropped you at an offsite carpark, and not as it is today in a carpark which is part of the site, but at a drop off point about a half mile from the festival itself. They still use this today as a more general drop off point rather than just a bus station. Here it is from a few years ago…

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Anyhow, the bus started buzzing as it became clear we were getting near the site as we’d passed Shepton Mallet so we were not far.

And then we all saw it.

We were on the top deck of the bus so we had a perfect view and it was a perfect day as the festival site was unwrapped by the trees as we got nearer and we got an awesome sight unfurl in front of us.

This is what it looks like a few years ago:

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It was smaller back in that summer of 1993, but the sight was still awesome as the trees unwrapped themselves to give us a perfect view of the scale of the festival with it’s gaudy tents, and then there was the noise. You could hear this constant buzz of excitement coming from the site over the roar of the bus engine and by now, the excited chatter of the passengers on the bus!

This was it, we were at the drop off point and the four of us worked out our bearings and followed everyone down a very long, and very dusty path (which if I’m right, is now part of the festival site itself) which is where we finally lost Cork Lad as he took a sharp turn away from the rest of us and trotted off with a jaunty spring in his step and we’d never know is he really did have the power of  bark tissue ever again.

This left me, FOF and Bloke working out which way to go, as most people were heading to   one of the main pedestrian gates which meant getting near the masses of police which were outside which wasn’t a good idea due to the lack of tickets and all of us having illegal substances on our persons. Then in a fantastic stroke of luck a passer by saw us and advised us to walk down to the performers gate which is where he got in yesterday, so taking his advice we did just that and were almost instantly offered a ticket from a passing car leaving the site. We refused thinking it was dodgy, and walked on only to look back and see someone buy it, walk past us and walk straight through the gates past the large security guys who had by now seen us obviously look like three people without tickets.

By this time it was getting to be late in the afternoon and I just thought ‘fuck it’ so strapping on my best brass bollocks I strode up to the largest member of security and asked bluntly ‘how much to get us three in?’. The chap grinned, took a look at us and just when I thought we were going to be turned into glue he replied ‘a tenner each’. I shouted the other two over from their position cowering 100 yards away and the security chap showed me the racket he was working which was taking some used ticket stubs giving them to us, who then walked to the performers gate and his mates would then let us in after taking our stubs and then pass them back to the first security man. It meant we we couldn’t leave the festival as we didn’t have performers wristbands or a stub but we had no intention of doing so. It was around 5pm on the Friday afternoon and we were on site and part of Glastonbury festival!

We walked deeper into the site from the performers entrance and the entire site opened up to us and we walked in a daze for about an hour taking the sights, sounds and smells in. Eventually we found the cider bus….

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We stayed there for a bit and got ourselves sorted. We had beer. We had cider. We had drugs. We didn’t have tents, changes of clothes for any wet weather but The Velvet Underground were on and things were good.

For that first night we dashed around the site trying to take it all in and we were getting drunk on it, and of course the beer, cider and Class A Substances taken in moderation.

We headed up to the Green Fields which is where we were told to go by a customer of Comics and CD’s who’d I’d bumped into, so we followed the signs but got stuck on the way up by the various bits of anarchy happening all around the site. I don’t mean the slightly organised, slightly pretentious and slightly corporate anarchy on these days, but genuine ‘have I just bloody seen that?’ anarchy. Eventually we went from being in a tent playing cheesy 70’s disco and shifting my boogie to this classic from the era, which I loved when I was ten and didn’t know better, but hey, I was having fun. We really did need to get to the Green Fields and the Stone Circle though.

So tearing ourselves from cheesy Eurodisco we walked up to the Stone Circle just as it was getting dark, sat down, and then realised it was dark and we were looking at a sight very much like this and we wept…

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Not because there were no more worlds to conquer in this domain laid out in front of us, but because there was so much out there and we’d barely scraped the surface of what was out there. That and the gin and speed of course.

We stayed up most of the night, found a sound system (in fact this one) jumped around a bit, had a cup of tea, found the Hare Krishna tent, chilled and asked if we could crash for a few hours which of course they were quite happy to let us kip with the large amount of people who were doing the same as us and as the sun slowly rose I nodded off for a few hours sleep to get my energy levels up for the Saturday ahead of us.

A few hours later I woke up lying on the carpeted floor of the Hare Krishna tent as FOF and Bloke were munching away on breakfast of veggie curry the Hare Krishna’s had kindly dished out. So after a cup of tea, some breakfast and a wash under the cold tap (which was needed as it was hot, and we were all sweaty from the day before) it was back off into the site for more fun and adventure and to stare and the weird, wonderful and potentially lethal sights out in the site.

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I have no idea how that thing stayed up all weekend without killing dozens of people but still…

Saturday morning. What did we want to do? Well, it’s at this point we realised we didn’t actually have a programme or a timetable, so we trundled to the Pyramid Stage area to mingle at the information tent on the right of this picture:

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They didn’t have any programmes a lovely young girl managed to rustle up and couple of timetables for us, and there was every intention of seeing bands but first a relaxing stroll round the festival site.

Now at this point I have to stop again and point out that the idea of a ‘relaxing stroll’ round Glastonbury Festival then (and now) is easier said than done, but back then there were so, so many distractions, so we wandered round the site. Met some weird and wonderful people, saw Ozric Tentacles, and at some point Spearhead but the afternoon was mainly wandering, getting sunburnt, eating falafels and getting ready for The Orb later that night. Before then we spent some time hanging around the Pyramid Stage as the sun was going down and it looked somewhat like this…..

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This isn’t my picture, it’s one I’ve found by scoring the internet but it does look as if someone took a memory, painted into onto film and then it’s back here as this is exactly how I remember things. It’s even at roughly the same angle and distance from the stage as we were. I’m buggered if I remember who was on stage, but it didn’t matter. Things were golden and wonderful.

As the sun was going down we made our way to the NME Stage, which is roughly where the Other Stage is now.

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The stage was at the bottom of a field at the bottom of a slight hill, plus tents were everywhere the further back you were so by the time we got there the field was rammed to the gills. Doctor Phibes and the House of Wax Equations were playing, and they were putting on a show which set up The Orb perfectly which meant using up some of the last of the Class A Substances which we still had, but it was bloody worth it as there was a low hanging cloud over the site which the band beamed the message ”watch the skies” onto . That show still ranks as one of the best live gigs I’ve ever seen, so it was a pity about the Stereo MC’s who were and are, one-trick ponies who came on afterwards which saw us all wandering off for a long night of fun.

I watched a high-wire show. I watched trapeze artists flying in the dark. I talked to weird and interesting people as we worked our way through the night (I honestly can’t remember half of what happened) to the Stone Circle for the sunrise.I remember looking round and seeing someone filming the entire thing (anyone filming anything was a rare sight back then, so they stood out) so somewhere in that video, I’m there with FOF and Bloke, but the main show was in front of us….

Once the sun came up, we hung around the Stone Circle for a bit, chilled before going back into the main site to get some food and somewhere to sleep for a bit. I remember we found a cornflakes stall, sat there joking with the staff before making our way to the NME Stage and crashing in front of it which is where we spent most of our Sunday sitting there on the blankets we’d bought, drinking the last of the gin and supping cold cider while chatting away to whomever near us in what was an increasingly wonderful atmosphere as the Sunday of Glastonbury then was open doors to locals so lots and lots of picnic blankets were springing up, and several people took pity on us three as two days of sleeping rough, partying and running around had left us looking exceptionally disheveled and looking in need of some charity.

I remember seeing Back to the Planet and wishing I hadn’t as they were dreadful, but Senser who were on next were bloody astonishing and to this day, I wonder why they didn’t become bigger than they did.

It was now getting late into the afternoon in what had become a brilliantly hot sunny day and we had to make a decision whether to stay the night, or go back to Bristol. Bloke was pretty sunburnt and FOF was a bit worried, so they decided to go back and even though I had to be back at the shop on Monday morning I decided to hang around for one last night, plus I’d spent two or so days in other people’s company at Glastonbury and I wanted to go off on my own.

So I did after seeing FOF and Bloke go off with a plan to meet up with them the following week at the Cadbury House back in Bristol. Once they were gone, I headed back into the site, wandered round the stages and settled in front of the Pyramid Stage for a while chatting to a pair of girls from Cardiff who I spent the rest of the festival with. By now you know my brain cells are fighting in Valhalla never to return and they’ve taken with me their names, so we’ll call them Girl 1 and Girl 2 which makes them sound like extras from a film, but they kind of were. You see, it felt like being in a film that weekend. Everything was vaguely unreal and by now I’d turned into something from Mad Max 2 which meant I was having the time of my life but sadly without the car chases and the crossbows strapped to my wrist.

Remember the Nexus design I mentioned earlier? Spot me here in this screengrab from Glastonbury The Movie

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Again, I spent the late afternoon and the evening talking, bantering with anyone, before making our way from the Pyramid up into the Green Fields before again settling down for a  sunrise up at the Stone Circle which was exceptionally emotional as it was the last night. Sure, some people would stay for a few days, some for a few weeks to help clear up, some lucky people might even have got up off their arses and changed their lives because of it, but I was a visitor and once the sun came up it was over for me. I said some very sad farewells to the girls making an arrangement to pop up to Cardiff to see them which I did, but I might tell that story another time..

I walked down from the Stone Circle with the girls making sure they went back to their tents ok, and headed back to get my bus back to Bristol while walking through the memories of 70,000 people on my way out..

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There’s a sadness at the end of festivals (and comic conventions but I’ll outline that another time) that cannot simply be told. It’s like having your Christmas and birthday at the same time for three or four days solid and then at the end of it having it all taken away in the most painful way you can imagine. The only reason the pain isn’t agonising is because there’s a chance you’ll come back, which to this day I have.

But to finish off this story; I made my way up the hill to the bus. Jumped on it, sat down and promptly slept for the rest of the journey back to Bristol. Around 10ish or so on the Monday morning I got into the bus station and decided to make the walk up from the bus station to Comics and CD’s.

Once I got in the shop, I managed to shock Sam but looking quite different. I’d become a bronzed Adonis as I’d spent the weekend wandering around with my jacket stuffed in my rucksack, or most of the time topless, plus I’d barely eaten, plus I’d been walking to even though I should have been dead I felt quite fit and healthy apart from the lack of sleep which saw me nodding off as I sat down to have a chat with Sam to tell her about the weekend. This made her send me home, and I plodded home to fall into bed and sleep which brought to climax the end of my big adventure at my first real Glastonbury.

Now there’s stuff I’ve forgotten, but every time I watch Glastonbury-The Movie, the film they made which was mainly filmed the the 93 festival, bits and bobs come back to me. For example, there’s a scene in the film with a couple of girls (one is in a white dress) dancing around the crowd in front of the NME Stage, and that was not too far away from where we were sitting. Look closely and I’m there….

There’s also this Youtube video  which is astonishingly evocative in places and brings back memories and gives you an idea of the little bits of chaos that was everywhere instead of as it is now where it’s seperated into areas.

Glastonbury 1993 wasn’t my first festival as I’ve pointed out, I’d been to the Heineken Free Festivals  in Nottingham, not to mention a few raves in 89 and 90, and Reading Festival the previous year to see Public Enemy and Nirvana. I’d never experienced something like Glastonbury properly in a way which made my senses overload, and I frankly could not bloody wait for 12 months to pass so I could go to the next one but that’s another story…

As I write this there’s eight weeks to this year’s Glastonbury and I can’t wait. It’s the 20th anniversary of me going as long as I dump 1992 into the wheelie bin of history. I intend to make this one the truly life-changing event 1993 was, but this time I won’t blink when I stare into the brightness of the future. You see, as much as 1993 did change me, I backed away from where I should have went in life, but as I’ve said in previous blogs, the power of hindsight is the one superpower I want.

So, sorry about the cryptic end. I didn’t want to end on a sad, or a melancholy note. Just a mildly ambiguous one….

Next time: back to comics for the tale of UKCAC…..