Living in Reading, it’s pretty much law of the land that you attend Reading Festival, even if just once. I’ve been a few times now; I’ve gone full out weekend camping, just for the day, and this year I had a weekend ticket but had the luxury of popping back home for a nap and a shower, which may or may not be why this year was one of my favourites ever.
Because I wasn’t camping this year I missed out on the drunken mess that is the Thursday night, but I also missed out on various other Not So Fun experiences that come along with the whole festival package, which included that Hell Walk into the campsite.
I mean, there really is no sugar coating this shit. Unless you’ve made the questionable decision to camp in Red Camp, then you’ve got a long way to go buddy. Just seize your backpack, say a little prayer and open a can. If you’re camping in purple, brown or white – open two.
Side note – what you choose to take all of your stuff in is one of the most critical decisions you will probably ever make. It is, essentially, life or death. One year, my friend and I took a wheelbarrow – brilliant idea in theory, fucking terrible in execution. Not only did we have to wheel this thing, laden with a tent, all our food and about fifty cans of cider through the whole town of Caversham before we even reached the festival site, but navigating our way through the sea of tents already pitched was tough. This goes for trolleys, granny bags, or anything on wheels actually. With the criss-cross of ropes blocking your way to the only decent spot away from the footpath, a big ass trolley on wheels is not your friend.
The other issue you are faced with, of course, is what to pack. I honestly can’t help you much with that except to say yes, you will need all five crates of beer for the weekend no matter how heavy they are to carry. No, you probably won’t use baby wipes to substitute a shower. Dry shampoo is your best friend. Bring a re-fillable water bottle because £2.50 is daylight robbery. And don’t forget suncream.
Thursday night I’ve always found is when the really weird shit happens. There isn’t really any feeling more freeing than the first night of the festival, when there’s nothing to do but get absolutely wasted and do all kinds of things your parents would be horrified about. Be prepared for boys being naked for absolutely no reason, people pissing here there and anywhere (sometimes rather unfortunately on your tent), random shouts of ‘ketamine’ and ending the night being best friends with the people in the campsite next to you. Also be prepared to regret at least 84% of it in the morning. Truth is, you’re gonna see things this weekend. And you need the drink to process them.
Another side note – if you’re gonna do drugs please do them safely. It doesn’t take much more than a quick Google search to know how to take your shit.
Other than that you just need to be prepared for the Satan’s pit that is the campsite toilets (use the arena ones whenever possible), the way the crowds get pretty rowdy especially later on in the evening (it’s generally a lot more fun to chill towards the back with your mates) and to just head into the weekend with as few preconceptions as possible.
Friday morning rolls around and the festival really begins. You cure your hangover the healthiest way you can – with more alcohol, and head into the arena.
I have to be honest, when I saw this year’s line up I was a little underwhelmed, but actually, the quality of music displayed at the festival this year was unreal.
So many people love to say that ‘Reading festival just isn’t rock anymore’, and sure, looking over the stand-out names on this year’s poster you’d be hard pressed not to agree – Eminem, Glass Animals and Fatboy Slim sat alongside Muse, Liam Gallagher and Bastille. It’s not exactly head-banging and breaking a rib in the mosh pit material.
The thing is, rock as a genre is dead. Genre is dead. We are living in a post-genre world. Music, film, people… they cant be put into boxes anymore. But as the boundaries of genre have dissolved, rock has evolved to encompass so much more than old white men on electric guitars. It has always been so much more than that. Rock music has always been about saying a big ‘Fuck You’ to those in power that try to divide, control and oppress us.
And if you take that to be your definition of rock then rock was absolutely fucking all over Reading festival this year.
Muse bringing out Brian Johnson to perform Back In Black was rock. Eminem getting what felt like the entire festival to chant “FUCK TRUMP” was rock. Loyle Carner owning the NME tent having released his first album just six months ago was rock. Bastille’s anti-right wing show concept was rock. Every time the band on stage paused the set to give a speech on love and unity and not letting the old white guys on top divide us was rock.
Five pound for a pint of Carlsberg? Not so rock. But that’s besides the point.
My weekend began with meeting up with some friends and having one of them pull out a bottle of suncream, open it and say “there’s vodka in this”. An absolutely genius way of sneaking alcohol into the arena but 100/10 would NOT reccommend. It smelt like whatever it was that killed Joffrey Baratheon.
But at least you now have some idea of how the weekend continued.
The first band I saw was Mallory Knox on the main stage, who have definitely come a long way since they first played that stage. I actually interviewed the very lovely Sam from the band just an hour after their set, where we chatted about the theme of mental illness on their latest album and about where they’re heading with their new music, which I will upload here very soon!
I was also lucky enough to catch a bit of Rat Boy before my interview, after which I RAN through the festival site to catch Watsky’s set in the 1 Extra Tent.
Watsky is someone that I have been supporting for a while now and highly recommend to everyone I know. I’m one ‘listen to Watsky’ Tweet away from handing out personally made fliers for the guy. But seriously, his lyrics are bitingly relevant and he delivers them with such integrity, passion and super-fast rapping that I am continually blown away by him. He owned that tent, and I came away from his performance with the unshakable feeling that he had achieved something great during that set – something really incredible that I had been fortunate enough to have been a part of. Just… listen to Watsky.
Friday was wrapped up with a main stage set from the wonderful Bastille. Their live performance has come on so far from the first time I saw them, actually on that very stage. Dan’s stage presence was captivating, as were the screens behind him displaying news reporters from ‘WWCOMMS’, with a cheeky dig at Theresa May not even remotely going unappreciated by the enthused crowd. Honestly, any band that can deliver anti-right wing narrative that brilliantly is a band worth stanning. Besides, with Dan’s vocals and the band’s joyful energy, it’s enough to make even the most tory of grandparents vote Labour.
After that, we headed to the NME tent for old time favourites of mine, You Me At Six (who I also interviewed a while back and can be found here!!). I love this band so much. I have done for years, and I can honestly say that they just keep on killing it. I’m already looking forward to getting to see them again.
Saturday morning I actually had to go to work for a couple of hours. I’m sure someone once said something about working hard and playing hard, but honey, I’m 21 going on 48 and I was not going to risk drinking on Friday night when I had to be at work for 6am.
What that did mean, though, was that Saturday was sesh day. And I actually remember very little of the day, apart from drinking a LOT of boxed wine with the most wonderful people, getting VERY upset over the concept of Tony Stark being killed in the final Avengers movie (thanks Tristan) and of course, Eminem.
Eminem was so much fun. The sound was way too quiet, and at one point we all got very distracted by some guy that had climbed to the top of one of the sound towers and decided to party on top of it, but nevertheless, it was pretty incredible. Eminem, admittedly, is not exactly the poster-child for social justice, but honestly I can’t think of many moments in my life that felt more empowering than being in a crowd of thousands yelling “fuck Trump”.
Sunday, we went for a cheeky TGI Fridays lunch as there is a TGIs just a ten minute walk from the festival site. Honestly, the best idea for that post-3 day bender hangover that inevitably dampens everyone’s final day of the festival.
The other heroes of the hour at Reading fest are the Swansea Road Christians. These guys stand outside a house on the road opposite the site, for the entire duration of the festival offering free coffee, tea and lollipops. Not exactly how I imagined Enlightenment would come into my life, and yet… there they were. God really does move in mysterious ways.
Sunday, for me, involved quite a lot of chilling at my friends’ campsite until the evening when Liam Gallagher was on. I mean, what an icon with his fucking parka. But seriously, he was great and is there anything more magical than seeing Liam perform Wonderwall live?
After Liam’s set, we headed over to the NME tent to catch some of Halsey before Muse and oh my God, I was blown away by how good she was. I absolutely adore her music, but her stage presence was something else. I need to see her at her own show.
Finally, closing the weekend, was Muse. Obviously, they were insanely impressive and such a powerful end; there was something very apt about their final two songs – Uprising and Knights of Cydonia – wrapping up such a politically charged weekend.
I had the best time at Reading this year, it really is one of my favourite festivals. If you haven’t been before, I reccommend it – just be prepared for all the weird! And if you have been, let me know if you have any fun stories from your time there! Huge thanks to Zeitgeist and Major, and of course everyone I hung out with for making it so much fun!