Fest is Best: Leeds 2005
Last year we made the grave error of setting off for the Festival after lunch. This resulted in waiting for four hours in traffic queues usually reserved for smartly dressed business people commuting in busy city centres, not scruffy students/miscellaneous misfits sauntering along in what would be quiet city suburbs. Not to be caught out again we were off by 9am. On the approach to the junction off the M1 were braced ourselves for the sight of a long line of traffic, but to our immense relief found none. We continued on the same roads that a year ago had been so full with ease. It was a huge shock to the system and a hushed awe set upon us out of fear of jinxing it. This worked and we were in the car park before midday.
We set off to find base-camp: my friend Chris ringing up our camp-mates to try and find it with no success. However as is often the case in such scenarios we bumped into them purely by chance – it’s amazing how this happens at festivals. It’s as though there’s some sort of psychic connection brought about by the music.
No sooner had we put up the tent than Leeds treated us to extreme weather conditions, Glastonbury may have been all but washed out, but did they have hail? It may have been a festival – such events aren’t subject to the normal weather climate, almost anything goes – but ice falling from the sky during August came as a surprise.
We went for a wander around the festival site to check out the lay of the land. Naturally it looked the same as it had done the previous year. On this wander came an example of utter stupidity: people asking me for directions. I don’t understand why but you could put a hundred people with maps stood next to an information desk and a lost person would still ask me, possibly staring at my feet wondering why one hundred people with maps need to be stood by an information desk, for directions. I must look like the sort of person who knows where they’re going. Members of the University of Warwick Orienteering Club will tell you that this is emphatically not the case. In this case the directions I needed to give were simply “keep going and you’ll find it”, which I always find by far the easiest to give. I do wish people wouldn’t ask me as I always worry I’ve sent them to some frightening place like Baghdad, Mordor, or in this case: the centre of Leeds. I do like to help though – I don’t smoke but I’m sorely tempted to start carrying round a lighter just so when someone goes “Got a light mate?” I can go “Yes!” and make myself useful.
I woke up typically early and seeing as lie-ins in tents aren't half as much fun as their bed equivalent I got up and went for a walk around the site. As always with festivals there were lots of people about – though it was impossible to tell whether they were up late or up early. I walked past the Samaritans tent and was asked how I was. This is all well and good, you'd hope the samaritans wouldn't tell people passing by the go fuck themselves, but it made me a little paranoid that anyone might think that I'd have a less than acceptable well being. As an aside when i first went to Leeds in 2000 I got dumped during the festival so if anyone had asked me how I was I'd probably have broken down in tears.
Friday was the "rock" day on the main stage, ergo an opportunity to spend some time in the NME and comedy tents. The first bands we saw were The Rakes and Sons and Daughters. Unfortunately both were very poor so halfway through Sons and Daughters we went and plonked ourselves down in the comedy tent. As luck would have it we managed to catch the exceptionally funny Reginald D. Hunter.
Then it was back to the NME tent to watch Maximo Park - a band I'd heard very little of but was impressed by. Well, thank goodness for that. I like comedy (why wouldn't I?) but I didn't want to have to keep plodding into the comedy tent every five minutes because the bands were so bad. Apply Some Pressure naturally was a real highlight, possible because it was one of the few songs I'd heard but was performed nicely.
A quick trip back to the tent to cook some, soon to be rather black, sausages on a disposable barbecue was followed by a deliberate and unusually planned outing back to the comedy tent to see Toby Foster – Les from Les Alanos on Phoenix Nights – ripping into the police, southerners and had the audience been different I presume students would have been next on the list. It was fantastic! It's horrible but there's nothing funnier than hearing a good slagging off, especially with such well chosen subjects.
We wandered across to the main stage and caught the end of Marilyn Manson. Unfortunately it was only the end of the set and not of the band itself – it brought back memories of 50 cent from last year, a combination of bemusement and general what-the-hell?
The headliners were Iron Maiden which meant my appeals to watch the Futureheads fell on death ears. Unpertubred I went to see them on my own. It was a great show, much better than Maiden of course. During Hounds of Love they split the crowd down the middle for the "oh, oh-oh" and "oh! oh! oh!" bits at the start. Unfortunately I couldn't actually see the band so had no idea which side I was on, neither it appeared did anyone around me.
After the Futureheads I found myself at something of a loose end. Next up on the NME tent was Bloc Party – a band that I find incredibly dull. On the other hand we were camped near the fairground so perhaps something so completely mind numbing might help compensate for the terrible wailing of mixed up crazy frog gibberish being blasted out and help me get some sleep. On the Carling Stage was Echo and the Bunnymen, of whom my knowledge is limited to knowing that they once did a song with Liam Gallagher on the backing vocals. Though his contribution was only singing “Yeah, yeah, yeah” a few times.
In the end I opted to watch the rest of Iron Maiden on the main stage. Well, it would be foolish to not at least check them out. I proved my rock and roll credentials by standing at the back with a nice warm cup of tea trying my best not to shiver in the kind of cold that can only be found out of the crowd at open air concerts. The band didn’t particularly amaze me though I could appreciate that they were probably quite good if you like that sort of thing. I don’t much go in for gigs with giant devil/monster puppets. As it happens I was once accused of looking like I was an Iron Maiden fan. I can only presume the accuser was blind seeing as a typical Iron Maiden fan is fat with long greasy hair and a menacing miserable expression on their face, compared with my scrawny frame, short well kept hair and permanent slightly nervous grin. I left before the end in order to avoid the dull trudge out of the arena in the huge crowd.