Monday, 31 August 2009


BBC DJ Steve Lamacq described Florence and the Machine’s performance at Reading Festival 2009 as a “life-changing” moment. To be fair, any artist that climbs up the lighting scaffolding unaided in a tent in front of thousands of people deserves a bit of praise, but she certainly wasn’t alone in putting on a good show. The headliners were Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead - an excellent trio who were supported by a diverse group of artists such as Jack Penate, Deadmau5, Delphic and Little Boots. I found some great new bands I’ve never heard of before - and also saw some shockers - but had an absolutely great weekend. So I thought I’d tell you all about it...

I got to see 23 bands in three days with a group of five other friends, and it’s difficult to pick out the major highlights as there were so many! But The Prodigy were most certainly the best. Their fast-paced dance and drum ‘n’ bass rhythms were a massive hit for the crowd, who absolutely lapped it up. It was surprising that a band of their style were the fans’ favourite at Reading, considering it’s primarily a rock festival, but I suppose this shows how much of a broad appeal they have. My particular highlight was Warriors’ Dance, from the new album Invaders Must Die, which is such a beautifully powerful and menacing song. So well done to The Prodigy - nevertheless, by the end I think most people were so worn out by the intensity of it all that Arctic Monkeys (who were on next) were a bit of a come-down. Although the Sheffield lads were on top form, they also weren’t helped by the fact that many of their songs were from the new album which few people have heard yet. But regardless of this, I enjoyed their set and pretty much everyone else seemed to as well.

The first thing that anybody said to me upon my arrival in Berkshire was “Hey, you - fancy a f***?”, which - as you can imagine - I was rather surprised by, as that’s not the sort of thing one is usually asked (considering the last four years I’ve attended a Christian festival, Soul Survivor, in the summer)! In fact, this was very much the theme for a group of 17-year-olds in the tent next door to me whose hormones were in full flow. I got just two hours sleep on the last night thanks to their late and loud discussions about what they’d love to do to each other. I suppose it’s their first time away from parents and they were at the experimental stage, but what’s the point in paying almost £200 to get in and then spending all of your time drinking, taking drugs and sleeping with each other? And keeping me awake? I saw over 20 bands so I’d like to say I spent my time more wisely and got my money’s worth!

The weekend would not have been complete without a near-death experience, and sure enough it arrived on Sunday evening. I had just been standing up for Vampire Weekend and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, in order to get nearer the front for Bloc Party with two friends. We made it to within five rows of the barriers and I was very happy with that. Bloc Party are probably my second favourite band behind Coldplay, and I’m seeing them twice in six weeks - next up, Sheffield in October - so I wanted to enjoy it. However the crowd started to surge as soon as Kele and the band kicked-off, and I immediately realised this was going to be a rough ride! I ended up on the floor after being pushed and falling during the second song - as did my two friends - but we managed to get up safely after that. I suggested that we could move back but we decided to stay forward together. Big mistake.

The moments that followed were a bit of a blur now, but from the best of my memory, all three of us ended up on the floor again with about five people on top of us who couldn’t get up. Cue lots of screaming ‘help!’, two people standing on my leg which felt like it was going to break, losing my shoe then finding it again in the melee, both of my friends getting squashed, and for about five or ten seconds it was pretty desperate. But eventually we all got pulled up and got ourselves out of the front as soon as possible. I suppose you play the game if you go up to the front, and nobody is likely to be deliberately trying to hurt you when there’s a crowd surge. It was even more intense than The Prodigy - and that was pretty mental as well. However I was relieved to get out of there without losing anything - including my friends!

Afterwards of course we had a good laugh about it, and everyone there seemed to enjoy the weekend as much as I did. Music is one of my major passions - whether it be watching a rock band in concert, singing in church or playing my saxophone - so I loved spending three full days watching brilliant bands and artists across the board. The great thing about music festivals is that (almost) everyone is there to enjoy music - and I was delighted to share that with a great group of friends. Highly recommended! Just don’t start me talking about the toilets...

PICTURES: Andy Whitton (NME), The Music FM, The Online Ticket Exchange, The Guardian.