This time last week, the last evening of music at Reading Festival ’14 had commenced. Myself and the other eleven people I went with had set up camp on Wednesday evening, thanks to early entry tickets (which turned out to be a smart move, as finding a spot to camp in was difficult enough on Wednesday, let alone Thursday).
After a dreadful, rainy day and a two hour coach delay on Monday 25th, I arrived home and was glad of a decent meal, a hot bath, a clean toilet and a warm, dry bed (with probably the same surface area as the tent that my boyfriend and I had shared for the festival). But after the initial luxury of returning home wore off, I actually started to miss the campsite, the noise, the music and the crappy food. No, I didn’t ever start to miss the toilets.
So I thought I’d do a post about my Reading experience. I apologise in advance if I go into too much detail, complain about silly things or bore you. This post is as much for my own future reading as it is for that of others, as I figured it might be nice to record everything about Reading whilst I remember it, so that I can look back and read all about it.
I worked out that, by the end of the trip, it probably cost me around £400. Thinking about it that way makes it seem like an awful lot of money; I could have spent the same amount and gone to France for a few days! But actually, it was well worth the money.
We got the coach from Brighton coach station on the evening of Wednesday 20th. I didn’t realise at the time quite how heavy my luggage would be- but I’ll come to that later. Funny how a car or coach journey always seems much longer when you begin to need a wee en route. But we eventually arrived (a little late) and thankfully, it wasn’t raining. After grabbing our luggage, we went through the main gates, got our wristbands and started the long trek to the mystery campsite we would be calling home for the next few days. And what a long walk it was. We were all lugging our bags through fields for over half an hour, I’d say. One of my friends had to help me carry my bag; it was unbelievably heavy and I’m unbelievably small. But eventually we found a spot big enough that it would fit the twelve of us and our tents.
By the time we had put all of our temporary homes up and pegged them into the rocky earth, it was dark. We had all worked up an appetite and we decided to walk the ten minutes to the nearby Tesco. Most of us wanted to stock up on alcohol and I wanted to grab some food (though I did end up getting another bottle of Malibu- just in case!). On the way back to the site, there were food stalls dotted along the side of the road. We’d seen them on the way to Tesco and I had planned to get a pizza on the way back because my tummy was starting to grumble. I cannot describe my disappointment upon arriving at the stand and being told that they had sold out of pizza. “We can make you a double cheeseburger with bacon for the same price!” It was supposed to provide consolation for the lack of pizza, but for a vegetarian, it only served to disappoint me further. Admittedly, I came out of the situation a little grumpy, and walked back to the campsite hungry.
That night, we had our first campfire of the festival. Whilst it was crackling and hissing away, we played a few drinking games (including a variation of this, which was hilarious) and had an overall charming opening night. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get any photos of the campfire because it was too dark for my phone camera to pick up. However, we certainly managed to achieve a desirable atmosphere, created by a cluster of tents surrounding a campfire, jackets and blankets to ward off the midnight air, alcohol to warm our bodies from the inside and each other’s company to warm our souls. We were also pleasantly surprised when, every now and then, a Mexican wave of cheers erupted and made its way across all of the campsites. It made an impressive amount of noise and filled me with joy to be a part of something so brilliant.
The tent was cold, but considering there was most definitely not enough room for me, my boyfriend and our massive bags (of “essentials” that probably weren’t particularly essential), I got an average night’s sleep: not remarkably bad but also not the most comfortable.
We awoke before anyone else in our little division, so we got up early and decided to wander to Tesco in search of something hot for breakfast, some civilised toilets, and a cup of tea (vital). I remained in my pyjamas, because I was comfortable and, quite frankly, couldn’t care less if people judged me for rolling out of bed and wandering off in my PJs in search of tea. So, long story short, toilets were found, breakfast was eaten (a fried egg baguette- half of which, annoyingly, ended up down my clothing) and a glorious hot cuppa was cherished and enjoyed on the way back to the tent.
The remainder of Thursday was spent exploring the site, buying some overpriced goods from the little stalls that were peppered here and there (including camp chairs for sitting around the fire at night and a really warm poncho to ward off the cold!) and enjoying each other’s company. My man and I also had a few games of cards. Seeing as i couldn’t grasp some of the simpler, more mature card games, we resorted to ‘snap’, which actually turned out to be far more enjoyable for us both- even though we realised that neither of us could actually fully remember the rules of play.
That evening, I planned to have a veggie burger at one of the food stands, as I had noticed that they had veggie burgers advertised on their van. I was looking forward to having a delicious burger, especially after The Pizza Disappointment the previous night. After queuing for about fifteen minutes, we finally got to the front. “One veggie burger and a cheeseburger please” was met with: “No veggie burgers, sorry”. I was furious and, once again, very disappointed. It really bugs me that most places don’t cater at all for vegetarians, and it made it worse that we had waited in the queue for so long with no result. So we found a pizza stand and ordered a vegetable pizza (£9 for a 12-inch), which we shared. In the end, I was actually glad that the other stand hadn’t had what I had wanted, because the vegetable pizza was absolutely delicious (and was delivered far quicker). Thank you, trusty Italians!
Friday was the first day of music. The main arena was now open, within which was yet more food stalls and some fairground rides which were immensely overpriced. A minute long ‘go’ on one of the rides cost a fiver. Extortionate. But it appeared that a lot of people didn’t mind paying it, as there was always a queue. Though, much to my delight, the main arena most certainly delivered on food, as we actually found a vegetarian/vegan food stand! My excitement was beyond words. I took great pleasure in buying a veggie burger with salad and houmous. I was so happy that I took a photo.
The main artist that I was bothered about on Friday’s bill was King Charles. Luckily, minutes before we planned to head over to the Festival Republic tent, our tall and strong friend showed up, which meant that I was able to enjoy a few treasured minutes of actually being able to see King Charles during his set- a rare occurrence for me at gigs and in crowds, as I suffer with shortness, at only 5’1″ tall. So King Charles live was an incredible experience. I understand that not many people have ever heard of the guy, so if you’re among those, I urge you to visit his YouTube channel now and listen to some of his music. Or simply search him in the search bar and have a trawl through a few of the resulting videos. His music is very upbeat and ‘feelgood’, perfectly suited to the festival vibe and therefore a perfect show to enrich my Reading experience.
We also caught some of Vampire Weekend and the end of Paramore‘s set. Metronomy played in the NME tent that day too, a group that we didn’t expect to enjoy as much as we did. The Courteeners and Mallory Knox were two more artists that we managed to catch some of, alongside a good laugh with Bill Bailey in the Alternative Tent early that afternoon. When we arrived back “home” that night, we all sat around the campfire again- the noise sounding far later into the night now that everyone in the campsites had been injected with their first dose of music and excitement in the main arena.
Saturday was probably the day of the festival that I was most anticipating; it was the day that Foster The People were playing. The previous day, I had seen a Foster The People t shirt on one of the merchandise stands, so Saturday morning I forked out £20 to go and buy it. I may come across as a bit of a sad act, but I sort of wanted to wear their t shirt for their show, which is why I bought it that morning and not Sunday (not to mention the concern that my size would sell out). Most of the day was spent wandering around, relaxing at our camp and spending time together as a group. We also spent a little while preparing each other’s faces for the day, which consisted of drawing lines and patterns in neon face paint on our cheeks and noses et cetera, et cetera. All very predictable and festival cliché. But myself and my boyfriend thought we would do something a little different from the norm. I had promised him the previous day that I would make him up to resemble his beloved comic book Joker. So I fulfilled my promise and spent all of about fifteen minutes encircling his eyes in black eyeliner and painting a broad crimson smile across his lips with lipstick. It was the first time I had ever put make up on him and so proved to be an odd experience. Everyone remarked on how impressive it looked when we emerged from the tent, however, which filled me with an unexpected sense of pride. He also attained numerous strange looks and comments from other festival goers throughout the day, which was amusing at times (one person in the crowd with a worried expression asked him if he was alright, which we found entertaining). So anyway, after completing his mask for the day, I was faced with the difficult challenge of trying to think of something I could make myself up as that would look equally as splendid. My imagination let me down in this case, though, as the best I could come up with was a cat. So a cat I became. Some guy gave me a high five for it that evening, which I suppose made the effort somewhat worthwhile.
So clad in my new Foster The People t shirt and cat make up, my Joker by my side, we made our way to the main stage for Foster The People at 5:25 pm. I wanted to get as close as possible without being too far into the crowd, as I wanted to be suitably involved in the music and excitement without being crushed or killed. I ended up not being able to see much anyway, even though we thought we were a good distance away from the bulk of the crowd. The curse of shorthood. And as Sod’s Law would have it, I started to feel incredibly lightheaded during my most highly anticipated band’s set. Typical. Despite all of that, I still thoroughly enjoyed “seeing” them live (figuratively speaking, as I didn’t really see them at all- an image of my view is below).
Among the other artists we saw that day were Imagine Dragons, Bombay Bicycle Club (whom we enjoyed far more than expected), The Hives, Jake Bugg (whose nasal voice unfortunately wore thin after about ten minutes) and The Tea Street Band, who were brilliant.
For dinner that night, I found a Mexican stand that did veggie burritos. Though fairly messy, it was absolutely delicious (as it bloody should have been for £7), and it was incredibly refreshing to have something with fresh salad in it. I will begrudgingly admit that I was also very naughty that evening and had a bite of my boyfriend’s beef burger, as I was sick of wandering around for ludicrous amounts of time looking for vegetarian food. BUT, what happens at Reading stays at Reading, so ssshhhhh!
And then, at around quarter to ten that night, we made our way back to the main stage to await the Arctic Monkeys. My boyfriend was looking forward to them the most out of the whole line up, so I was conscious of not really knowing many of their less well-known songs, and also conscious of not wanting to end up in too dense a crowd, once again, for fear of being crushed and killed. However, this turned out to be wholly unavoidable, as it would seem that around 89,999 of the 90,000 festival attendees were eager to watch the Arctic Monkeys too. I couldn’t see much throughout most of their set, due to the tallest and bulkiest people deciding to stand right in front of me. There was also a father right in front of me who insisted upon lifting up his little girl every five minutes, which further impeded my view of the stage and big screens. My boyfriend, aware of my lack of height and view, was kind enough to lift me up every now and then so that I could actually see the stage for a few seconds. It is entirely possible, therefore, that we were irritating people behind us just as much as the father and daughter in front were irritating us. Never mind. The stage set for the Arctic Monkeys was very cool. In keeping with the design of their recent album cover, it was a lit up sound wave with ‘AM’ in the centre. Alex Turner was, of course, excessively conceited and exerted endless confidence and charisma. He took swigs of beer between songs and strutted back onstage for the encore shrouded by a cloud of smoke. However, something about his self-importance and arrogance somehow makes him annoyingly alluring, and I found myself not wanting their set to end.
Sunday’s line-up included The 1975, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Klaxons, A Day To Remember and You Me At Six– only two of which we actually made it to. But the highlights of the day for me were most certainly The Kooks and Blink-182, who were the last of the festival to play on the main stage. The Kooks did not disappoint. The crowd was incredibly dense and spilled out of the NME tent. I was lucky enough to experience some of their performance from more of a height, as my boyfriend was kind enough to seat me on his shoulders for a couple of songs. They played a delightful mix of new and old, among which was ‘Seaside’, which is one of my personal favourites.
But the end of the night was by far my favourite part of the whole festival. Blink-182 put on an incredible show, which I admit, at one point, actually brought a lump to my throat. Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus were amusing in their banter and occasional changing of the lyrics, and Travis Barker did an impressive drum solo part the way through the set. Their stage backdrop changed three times (the last being an expletive spelled out in flames- of course it was) and they fooled us all by ending the show surprisingly abruptly with an ‘okay, that’s it, see ya’, before coming back on five minutes later to do a last few songs.
So that was it for music. Reading Festival was over.
We went to sleep that night and when we woke up in the morning, it was raining. We were lucky, really, that the weather had been so kind to us on all of the other days we were there. However, it did mean dismantling our tents, packing our stuff away, walking to the coach station and waiting for the (2 hours delayed) coach, all in the pouring rain. It was my all time low of the festival, and I was incredibly glad to get home after the awful day I had just had. But, as I said before, the rest of the festival was an unforgettable experience and I soon began to miss it. Whether I will visit again in future years is yet to be seen, but I highly recommend attending a music festival at least once if you get the opportunity!
Thank you for reading, I apologise for the length of this post! But if you did enjoy having a read of this, explore some of my other posts- which are a little shorter, I promise! You can follow The Cosy Onion by email or through WordPress, by selecting so on the menu to the left!
The Cosy Onion