The Carling Weekend Reading, or The Reading Festival, as it is more commonly known, is an annual music event held in the city of Reading. It is held on the August Bank holiday, which was the 22-24th this year (2003). There were over 80, 000 people there each day this year. I went to the last day and night, and it was the first time I've really been to a proper rock festival of any kind. Boy, have I been missing something.
There were over 100 bands playing over the three day period. Most of the less well know bands hail from Britain, however, the bigger acts were from all over the world (though mainly from America and Britain).
The reason that so many people flock to the festival each year is not just for the music, but for the entire experience of the camping, the people and the atmosphere in general.
You get all sorts of people there, from ancient, white-haired rockers, to teenage non-white-haired rockers. OK, so most of the people there are there because they love rock and roll, which is fair enough, it is, after all a rock festival.
Most people staying for the whole 3 days, or over night choose to camp around the main arena in the designated camping zones. There are porter loos
and plenty of good looking people to talk to, so really there aren't many reasons to leave the campus.
The gates open in the morning, and slowly the bands on all of the stages get better and better, until the final acts, who are usually the best. The atmosphere has to be seen to be beileved. Almost everyone is there to just have a good time, and will happily talk to you. Most free time is taken up with the drinking of beer, the eating of food, ad talking about the bands. Unfortunately there are some bastards who go just to be dicks. Most of these people will either try to sell you something dodgy or do anything in their power to get into a fight with you. However, these people are too few to put a dampener on the event.
Stupid things do happen though. With thousands of people jumping around, crowd surfing and falling over people get hurt, and very occasionally killed, so you have to be careful. However, if you should happen to fall over in the mosh pit, people will be helping you up within a matter of seconds, so its not really a big problem. Then there is the copious amount of drinking and drugs which goes on. People get drunk or stoned at do stupid things. Last year at the Carling Leeds Festival (Reading's sister festival) riot police had to be called in to sort out some of the crowd.
But with 80, 000- 90, 000 people at the same place, all out to have a good time, things are bound to go wrong, so it's hardly surprising.
If you love rock music then you should definitely come here if you can. It worth it. It is arguably the best rock festival in Britain at the moment, probably Europe.
If you hate rock music, then you just shouldn't be here, you wouldn't like it, and if you start to complain, people start to not like you.
Allow me to tell you a little of what I picked up in way of the atmosphere of the whole event.
Firstly, the music. Reading, and its sister festival, Leeds are renowned for getting some of the best rock bands in the world. Among this years headliners were Linkin Park, Blur, Blink 182, Placebo, Electric six, Metallica and System of a Down. Though this type of music might not be everyone's cup of tea, there are several stages all playing different types of music. This is a rock festival, so surprisingly there is a lot of rock music.
The main stage plays all of the big acts, as well as some of the up-and-coming bands, which is great for them because they can play in front of huge audiences for the first time. There is a dance stage, playing (of course) lots of loud repetitive dance music (Okay, okay, dance music isn't that bad-mkb). A Radio 1 stage, which plays some less well know bands, as does the Carling stage.
Anyway, I shall now attempt to take your through the events of my day and a bit at The Reading Festival.
I got on a train leaving from Winchester, all by my lonesome, at around 9:00 am, looking around my carriage I can see the odd Metallica shirt here and there and see who among us is heading to the festival. Changing trains at Basingstoke, I wait on platform 8 for a tiny, 2 carriage train, I am amused to find almost everyone on the train seems to be going to Reading. I sit next to some hard-core Metallica fans, and I feel that I don't have enough piercings to be there.
So I soon arrived at Reading and followed the stream of people with funny hair/hats and cool T-shirts to the main gate, past all of the people selling cheap T-shirts and dodgy looking blokes shouting 'buy or sell tickets?!'. I met up with one of my friends form school, a noder by the name of AinSophAur, or Tom, who was going to let me sleep in his tent that night. I handed in my ticket and got a nice little green wristband, so I could move freely in and out of the area. Off we went to his tent, and on the way I saw around half of the total camp site. I was amazed. Never, never ever have I seen so many tents in one place. It was truly astounding. I dumped off my sleeping bag and roll mat at his tent and met up with Tom’s brother. I decided that I needed some of the cheap T-shirts that I’d seen, so promptly left the camp site and bought two of them. We also purchased 24 cans of beer, 8 each, plenty for one night.
Gates to the main arena open at 11:00 am, so we turned up at around 11:45, deciding to be fashionably late, no-one noticed. We sat in the middle somewhere in front of the main stage and watched a couple of the less well know acts. The atmosphere was alive, but was nothing compared to later on. Tom, his brother (Alex) and I were looking forward to the night’s headliners, Metallica (who I knew almost nothing about) and System of a Down (my favourite band, and the almost only reason I went to Reading).
So somehow we spent a few hours doing not very much, looking at the shops, returning to the tent, talking to our neighbours and waiting for fucking ages in a queue for some water.
Everyone I met at the festival was very nice. People didn’t mind if you talked to them, or just laughed at their T-shirts. Occasionally the cry of ‘BOLLOCKS’ would waft its way around the entire camp, the cry would be taken up form its focus point a spread like a wave through the entire area. Drunkards made improvised bands using oil drums and someone’s guitar. You have to understand that most people aren’t there just for the music, but for the atmosphere of the camping, it’s brilliant.
Eventually it was 6:00pm and we decided to go and see the end of SUM 41, (who I was pleasantly impressed with) in order to get good places for System of a Down. We had to shove our way forward a great deal, and got pretty near the front before System came on. The start of System was to be the last time I would see my friend for some hours.
The moshing began. For those who don’t know, moshing involves jumping up and down with several thousand other people and occasionally falling over, while listening to rock music, a hugely interesting experience. I was struck by several crowd surfers and bottles, but I eventually made my way the very front row, and was very pleased with myself, out of 80, 000 people, I was right at the front, and right in the middle. After about 2 solid hours of moshing I dragged myself and my ripped and sweaty clothes out of the arena and back to the tent, where I got changed. I grabbed some beer and headed back to the arena to watch Metallica, who were impressively good, and pretty fucking funny.
After Metallica, who were the last act, everyone headed back to their tents. Here the real fun began. As it was 3 minutes past midnight, it was August 25th, and therefore my Birthday. I promptly became very drunk on the rest of my beer and informed everyone I saw that ‘IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!, HELLO!’. People were very friendly, and I remember lots of girls giving me birthday hugs and kisses, which was nice. I went to see a girl I knew at the other end of the camp site, stayed and talked with her and her friends for around 20 minutes and then promptly got lost. I do recall meeting 2 girls who gave me
some lots of vodka, form then on I can remember fuck all really. I found myself going around with a girl called Fiona, and I have no recollection of how we met. Eventually I found my tent, and after talking to my equally drunk neighbours I went to sleep. But according to my friend’s brother I got up again and came back with a girl, I remember none of this, so I can’t comment on it really.
When I woke up in the morning my entire left side was covered in cuts and bruises, and I was still mildly drunk, standing was difficult. I picked my stuff up and made my way home; it has taken me a good two days to recover.
Every rock fan needs to attend at least one rock festival in their life, and I would highly recommend The Reading Festival to anyone in Britain. It’s £40 for a day ticket, and around £95 for a three day ticket (covering the whole festival). I intend to do the full 3 days next year, if anyone is interested, check out www.readingfestival.com