At festivals you get plied with freebies – evidently they’ve done a bit of research into the sort of things students like: free things is of course the top answer. Amongst this is lots of condoms – what on earth am I going to use them for? I might be over crediting a condom’s emotive capacity but they must despair once they get handed to me because the chances of them getting used plummets to somewhere between zero and nil. The extent to which this is true is easy to seen in the fact that I now have a sizeable collection of condoms in a draw that have been handed out at festivals and around university by well meaning types trying to protect the well being of festival goers and students, but unwittingly wasting the earth’s rubber supplies.
With the onset of the last day comes a desperation to watch as many bands as possible in order to get your money’s worth. This meant spending a little time watching the Unsigned Bands Stage. We saw The Last People On Earth, or at least they claimed to be. They’re from Hull. Cue the inevitable jokes about how if the last people on earth are from Hull then we’re all screwed. More to the point I wonder how we’d end up with such a scenario. My best guess would be that anyone hell bent on destroying the planet would take one look at the place and reckon somebody else had gotten there first.
We took a quick trip to the Carling Stage where we caught Youth Group, who apparently feature the bassist from the Vines. Any hopes that Youth Group might have more in common with them than a member were short lived as they very nearly put me to sleep.
Another stage and another band as we went to watch The Cribs in the NME tent. I’d seen them play last year and they were brilliantly energetic, so I had high hopes of a repeat performance. And again they managed to put on a good show. Next on the bill was Nine Black Alps – supposedly the new Nirvana. Seeing as how I can’t stand Nirvana I’m not really sure that there was much point in me checking them out. The comparison was fairly accurate, which meant I didn’t enjoy it all. However for fans of depressing, moaning music they’re probably very good.
I chose the moments after Nine Black Alps had finished to demonstrate my incredible abilities of getting lost and separated from my friends. After a ping-pong match of text messages we were reunited and went to the Carling Stage to watch Mystery Jets, I can’t say I was particularly bothered about seeing them play – the main reason for watching them was in order to get into the tent for the Arctic Monkeys who were on after.
The NME in their infinite wisdom had put them in their list of fifty-one reasons to go the Leeds/Reading weekend. Given that Leeds is just up the M1 from Sheffield the impending crush and lack of oxygen that came with the band’s presence on stage hardly came as a shock. My friends moaned that most of the people there were just trying to be part of the scene and that the music isn’t even that good. Which is all very well, except why were we there? It was the second time I’d seen the band play inside a month and I enjoyed it. At least I would have done if I hadn’t had someone’s elbows in my back. And ribs. And stomach. And my own elbows. And pretty much any part of the human anatomy you’d care to mention.
Our trip to the comedy tent for the day was to see Ed Byrne. He raised a few laughs but his whole act seemed to rely upon his: being Irish, being skinny, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. His best moment was:
Ed Byrne: “I was at the Reading Festival yesterday”
Ed Byrne: “You do realise it’s the same festival just in a different place?”
Which is fundamentally true, but Leeds is much better.
It was a short hop from the comedy tent to the Carling Stage after Ed Byrne had finished to watch the end of Yeti’s set. They’re the band fronted by the Libertines bassist. I was told not to expect anything like the Libertines, but I’d dispute that. They did have a similar sound, except – and you’ll find this a bizarre statement – with a bit of a country vibe in there. Whatever it was it worked okay.
I must take a few moments to pay tribute to the great freebie my friend Chris got from the V festival: an inflatable beer holder. You know how it is. You're drinking a can of (warm) beer and you want to pick something else up. You put the beer down on the ground but gravity's having none of it. Before you know it half your beer is on your jeans and everyone's pointing and laughing.
The evening run was kicked off by Arcade Fire in the NME tent. They were most notable for the fact that they seemed to have enough drummers for all the bands at the festival. I counted at least three. Perhaps Oasis ought to get in touch – they get through drummers at a similar rate to most people get through milk cartons. It was an interesting performance largely because it was so different from anything else I saw all weekend.
Due after Arcade Fire was Babyshambles, would they or wouldn't they turn up? Would they be any good? Does anyone really care anymore? As it happens they did manage to make it onto the stage, albeit ten minutes late. You could argue that they were fashionably late, but everyone else managed to get there on time. What's so special about a band who have only managed to release two singles? We didn't stick around for long as we wanted to get in position for the Foo Fighters in good time but what we saw wasn't exactly spectacular.
However the Foo Fighters more than made up for any inadequacies of the other bands. There's something extra special about the last night of a festival especially when it's to see a band as uttely brilliant as the Foo Fighters.
Dave Grohl really knows how to play to the crowd, unfortunately when I've seen them play in the past there's been a little too much chat, when all you want them to do is get on with rocking. On this occasion though he managed to keep the talking to a minimum and stuck to blasting out great song after great song. Up in Arms and The One were particular highlights.
The one criticism would be the sucking up to the crowd. "I gotta tell you guys something," someone stod behind us figured out what was coming and pre-emptively shouted out "bullshit!" Dave Grohl then proceeded to tell us that he loves Reading (crowd boos) but people in the north are more "f*ked up" and that he likes f*ked up. I think it was a compliment though I'm not entirely sure.
For the encore we were treated to Grohl taking up the sticks behind the drums and Taylor Hawkins singing on one the tracks from the acoustic album – I'll be damned if I know which one.
Back at the tents and the campsite nazis, or security as they call themselves, were out in force stamping out fires. We saw one instance of a festival goer being brutally thrown to the floor and handcuffed, all because of a fire. Cue us stamping frantically upon our own, though thankfully much smaller fire. I got the impression that the person in question had given the security guards a bit of lip but the response was slightly over the top.
The only trouble with festivals – except for the massive crowds trying to get everywhere at once, the over priced food, the idiots parping klaxons at 4am, the litter created by over a hundred thousand people, all the bands you don't want to see hogging the bill, occasionally poor sound quality on the main stage, mud, getting there, not showering, getting back and, of course, the terrible smell from the toilets – is the people running them.
Traditionally you're allowed to take in empty bottles as you can fill them up at taps inside. On the first day I was stopped trying to take an such a bottle in to the arena. The pea brain at the gates stops me and tells me that:
"You can't take in opened drinks."
"What?" I failed to see the point he was trying to make.
"You can't take in opened drinks."
"It's empty" (At this point I took the top off and turned the bottle upside down – just to display the moron what empty meant)
"Is it open?" (How else would it be empty?)
"Well technically, yes."
"You. Can't. Take. In. Opened. Drinks."
I really had no idea if he was saying this for information or whether he wanted me to bin the bottle. Okay, okay, you can't take in opened drinks, but I didn't have an open drink. I had an opened bottle, it ceased to become a drink when the last remaining drops of liquid were poured out.
"So you want me to bin it?"
There's very little you can do to argue in these kinds of situations so resignedly I chucked the "opened drink" into the bins. I wonder which asylum they get their staff from.
We left early in the morning, around half seven, in order to beat the traffic queues on the way out. It worked and we were soon blasting down the M1. The first thing I did upon getting home was to take a shower, if only you could accumulate cleanliness from consecutive showers. I'd take five or six before for good measure. After that there's only one thing you want to do. Sleep.