Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Mud, Beer & Rock n Roll (Part 2)

So you have heard about all the wonderful people who made Reading Festival so good this year, but what about the music? If you are expecting a write up stating how wonderful "Muse" were, then you may as well give up reading this blog right now.... no really... stop reading... Frankly they bore me, I stomached 15 minutes of them before losing the will to live. Sure they are talented musicians, they simply do not inspire me one bit. Sorry! So if you are still here and want me to now tell you how great "The Strokes" are - they are shit... end of, go and cry in the corner or something! In fact how the hell did a band that is so bad get to headline a festival that is so good?

For me the weekend was all about "Flogging Molly" on the Sunday night, hell they may have been on the somewhat smaller "Lock Up Stage", and not even the headline act, but they do know how to put on a show and a half and it goes without saying that the tent erupted when the band played their anthem "Drunken Lullabies". I have always had a love for the lock up stage, in fact I could quite easily stay there for the bulk of the festival! I had been there the previous night for "The Mighty Mighty Bosstones", who I hadn't seen before, or in fact heard. I knew of them, but didn't know what to expect. Frankly they were fantastic, and to have a ska dancing dude on stage for the full set...boy he has stamina! I have always had a love for ska rooted music, a guy called Martin Atkins got me into it back when I used to work for Argos as he loved Less Than Jake, and got me into some of the music I am into today. I wonder whatever happened to Martin?

It was a good day for ska, as earlier that day the somewhat iconic "Madness" had graced the main stage. I really didn't know how well the crowd would take to them, seeing as Reading always attracts a younger crowd, and Madness of course being a band of our parents generation, I feared they might have been snubbed. In fact the complete opposite happened. If it were not for the fact it was broad day light, based on the sheer number of people there to watch them and the response they had, you could have easily have mistaken them for the headliners. The band of course played all their classics, along with some newer numbers. I was really pleased to have seen the band, they really were fantastic and had got me in the mood for the Bosstones later that evening.

It is rare so many pop-punk rooted bands play the main stage, however with "New Found Glory", "The Offspring" and "My Chemical Romance" all playing the Friday, it was quite a day for me. In fact I think in all my time of going to Reading I have never spent so much time on the main stage as I had that day. It was my first time of seeing My Chemical Romance live since 2004, a lot has changed, and I must say I am loving their new tunes, even if that is a shocking thing to admit, am I digging myself a deeper hole if I admit that I sang along to "I'm Not Ok"? There are so many MCR haters, and truthfully I am really not sure what their problem is. They are a great band with a huge following... deal with it!

Just like MCR it had been some time since I had seen "The Offspring" live, I won't lie, I was a little disappointed by their set. There seemed to be a lack of interaction even if the music was good. I love "The Offspring", but honestly I know they can do better, it just felt like they wanted to get on, play, get off and go home. This however was not the case for "New Found Glory", who made the most of their main stage opportunity, I love NFG and the moment the first chord of "Understatement" blasted out of the PA speakers I was in my zone.

It however isn't all about the main stage, I only made one trip to the alternative tent, to see "Tim Minchin" perform. The tent was bursting at the seems, literally there were thirty or more rows outside the tent on top of those who had been crammed in like sardines already. I somehow always overlook this tent, having missed one of my favorite acts "Stephen Lynch" there a couple of years back.

I also managed to catch "Thirty Seconds To Mars" who are now on an indefinite hiatus, looks like I caught them at the right time. Honestly I wasn't blown away by them, but to be fair I didn't expect to be. Another band that did little for me were the former "Pennywise" frontman's new outfit "Black Pacific", just seemed a little average really and the poor attendance reflected that they were nothing on "Pennywise".

I had seen "Pulp" at the "Wireless Festival" in London just the month before Reading. I never had great expectations of them, but had been really impressed by their live set. Needless to say I was keen to do it all over again this festival. There is something about Jarvis Cocker that just makes him the perfect front man now he has matured a little. Ironically it was 17 years to the day from when the band made their first Reading Festival appearance, playing "Common People" for the first time. Who would have thought they would have been playing the same song to a rapturous response all those years later? On the conclusion of their set I was just about able to catch the end of "The King Blues" lock up tent performance, which I thought also was rather good, shame I didn't get to see more.

So overall who was I most disappointed with? It has to be "Jimmy Eat World". I love their music, but their live show seems to lack that interaction with the crowd, I felt so disconnected, and was really looking forward to them as well. Who on the other hand was my festival underdog? This goes to "Frank Turner". I wasn't expecting to like him too much, but he blew me away, to the extent I am planning on seeing him next time he plays the UK!

In all a fantastic festival, and echoing the words of part 1 of this blog, thanks to all of those who made it so special - in no particular order: Jordan, Zach, Gayle, Ross, Allan, Ryan, Nathan, Sam, Ann, Reiley, Bethan, Jonny, Jonesy and anyone else I have forgotten!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Mud, Beer & Rock n Roll (Part 1)

Right, so it is pretty well known that I love acting and drama, however music also plays a huge role in my life. It is what pays the bills, and takes up just as much, if not more of my time than all that performance shizzle. So I guess it is only fair I dedicate some time to write about up about this. The next few blogs will probably cover most of this having just returned from Reading Festival 2011, then in a weeks time I hit the road with a band called The Bottom Line as they embark on their UK tour. So it is a little diversion, but hopefully will remain just about readable.

Anyone who has been to festivals, will have that strange love hate relationship with them, for days you hate the fact you try to sleep in a cold tent, with so much noise you barely get any shut eye at all. The fact that you are dwelling in mud, have to use the worst toilets ever, look like a tramp and don't smell much better. It never feels to great lets be honest. Yet somehow there is that attraction that makes you want to do it again and again, and despite all the complaints and the longing to have a decent shower and to take a crap in a real toilet, you somehow miss it all when you walk away from the festival site for the very last time.

For me festivals are about the friends you go with and the people you meet. I won't lie, you can meet some great people who you never see again, equally if you are lucky you will make some great new friends, and for me it has been a fabulous year for that. (camp word used especially for Gayle). There of course is always the fear that you will be camped next to the festival assholes... and trust me there is enough of them, yet to date I have always been quite lucky.

I set off knowing I would ultimately be camping (different camp word - in the not so gay sense this time) with my mate and fellow music promoter Allan Sargeant. There are two things that are really cool about this, firstly the shouts of "Alan..... Steve" which plagued the site all weekend pretty much drove him insane - it was rather funny I won't lie. Secondly, Allan is great, we have a very similar taste in music, so this was also going to work out well. We were also joined by Jonny - a fellow drama students other half who I have got to know quite well over the last few months, who is one crazy mofo, but an amazing guy and his friend Jonesy. It was all set to be a pretty small circle, so I really wasn't sure what to expect from the camping side of things this year. But this is Reading... expect the unexpected.

The circle soon expanded, with two lads from Birmingham named Zach and Jordan, (who were later joined by Juliet and even later Mickie - she has really cool green hair) and two students from Southampton named Gayle and Ross making up our little collective for 2012. These six were not known to myself or Allan, yet were absolute legends, I could not have asked for nicer neighbours. We all got on amazingly well, shared our alcohol and banter. I can say from the heart that this was the best circle of people I have ever had at a festival, and in my infamous and over used words of this festival huge lad points to all of them (Gayle, Mickie and Juliet included... lad points can be scored by girls also!). So in all before the music had even started I was set for one of the best festivals to date. The people always make a huge difference and I was lucky enough to be camping with the best of the best - absolute legends, all of them!

What I really love about the festival spirit, is you mix with people who in normal circumstances you might never give a chance too, people from different places, different backgrounds and of different ages. It makes you realise that if you treat people for who they are and take them at face value rather than worrying about barriers, you can make some amazing friends. It goes without saying that we are all planning to meet up again next year if not before!

I guess the only thing that went against us at this festival was the weather. There was mud, lots of mud, and where there wasn't mud there was sludgey puddles. Sure, you might say that it can't be a festival without mud, but it gets a bit old after a while, and welly boots are REALLY uncomfortable when you wear them for days on end. It rained a lot on Thursday and Friday, which dragged down the atmosphere a little - this said, Gayle and Ross ended up with their own garden pond by their tent porch - I am sure that is something estate agents look for in houses... water features surely add value to a property?

The circle was sludgy, but that didn't stop the camp fires (I like to burn things) and the chance to have a good time (and a few beers... ok a lot of beers - excluding the beers bought from arenas, I think between us it was something like 14 cases or more). For some reason Saturdays seems to always be the day I pull an all nighter, and this time around it was with Zach, Juliet, 2 new neighbours whos names I forget. The camp fire was epic, I kept it burning for almost 8 hours - thats a mean feet if you are drinking I assure you! Later we were joined by Joe and Alex from the festival campsite assistance team - they were great guys, even though security did have a go at them for hanging out with us for far too long. They joined us again on the Sunday night none the less, kind of gutted I never grabbed their facebook's or something really. They were right legends - never be put off by the Reading campsite staff in the green jackets - they are the cool lot, the reds and whites are the assholes generally.

Soooooo.... BHS 11 item breakfasts for £3.59, far too much money spent on shitty festival food, amazing new friends, legendary old friends, smelly toilets, lots of mud, camp fire stories, lots of beer and plenty of cider. Everything was perfect, now all we needed was the music... but that can wait for another blog. I need to hibernate now to make up for all the lost sleep of the last 5 nights. Part 2 of this blog will follow in the next day or two.