The festival site has officially opened for the day and we’re still at home.
MC Tom Deacon is introducing the (probably quite small) audience to the day’s comedic delights at the Alternative Stage.
We’ve just got off the number 19 bus in central Reading and are having lunch at Burger King or the West Cornwall Pasty Company, depending on whether you’re Samantha or not.
At the Alternative Stage, Rob Beckett has finished his slot and Rob Delaney has taken over.
We are slogging our way tediously through the queuing system at the site. You may have seen the snaking systems at many places to prevent post offices or funfair rides, for example, getting swamped with peaks in demand. Often the route will have gates to change the route so that people don’t have the travel the whole length unnecessarily. Not so here. From entry to exit of just the buffer area was about 1200 yards instead of a straight line distance of 120 yards.
Funniest part was seeing a large bloke and two small women lugging two large, heavy bags between them up and down each line. I was tempted to ask why the trio didn’t just repeatedly lift the bags over the fence and walk round each time to where they would be waiting. What stopped me was the fact they were at the end of the system and would likely have pummelled me into the ground.
Finally, we have our wristbands and are inside the festival site proper. Half a mile still to go past the red and green camping zones before we can enter the main arena.
I’ve reached the Alternative Stage and sat down. A short film (Cardinal Burns) is coming to an end as the break between first and second comedy sessions finishes. The stage lighting means taking photos is made trickier for trying to not have a bright light behind the comedian’s head all the time.
MC Tom Deacon (left) introduced Elis James (right). I can’t say I rate Elis. Maybe it’s the location – a large tent that’s nowhere near full, at lunchtime. The stories are mildly amusing but the delivery wasn’t there. Highlight was Elis talking to a member of the audience that was also from Carmarthen to find out if they had anything in common only to find he’d asked her before at a previous gig. I use the word “highlight” loosely here.
After a break, Nathan Caton is next on stage. I’ve enjoyed his appearances on “Mock The Week” and he’s just as likeable here. Set mainly composed of funny stories about living at home with his parents and younger brother. Loved his “put the hug into thug” line to reflect the fact he’s not as tough as he looks.
Shappi Khorsandi is next up and tries out some of her smuttier humour on the audience. One of her pieces is about pornography and how the youth of today (i.e. most of the audience at Reading Festival) have it really easy. She asked for shout-outs from those born in the 90s, the 80s and then the 70s. I was most thankful she stopped there as, looking around the tent, I was probably going to be making a noise on my own. Sue found the situation most amusing.
The second comedy session was over so time for a loo break. It was quite disconcerting to be using an open-air urinal with 16 people flying around overhead. Luckily, they had more pressing concerns to keep them from admiring the view.
According to the timetable ((£5, including lanyard. Ouch)) The Computers, who I’d seen recently supporting The Damned, were supposed to be playing the Lock Up stage at this time so I thought I’d catch a few of their songs. The band weren’t there and the festival website, unknown to me, had them instead at 5:20pm so I would eventually miss them. I have no idea who this band is:
Back to the comedy tent. Idiots of Ants were an accomplished comedy sketch quartet. ((Idiot Savants… geddit?)).
Some of the work was made up of easy targets, such as the post-hen-night-sex-change sketch which relied on the stereotypical differences between men and women (farts, driving, shopping, etc. etc.). Similarly, Call of Duty in Real Life ran with the girls-are-shit-at-computer-games theme. Others, such as Make Football, Not War and Toilet Humour were more original.
A running gag through their set was that they had gone out with a member of the audience five years ago. Between sketches, they would each in turn say “hi” and reminisce about their time with, in this case, Hannah, a Student Union president from London. Slight embarrassment ensued when they worked out how old she would have been at the time.
The crowd participation as an air orchestra went well – the air cellist was a natural:
Jamie Kilstein would appear to be the political comedian of the night as everyone else (that I’d seen) had been pretty lightweight.
One thing I might suggest for a comedian at a festival – have a brief chat with others on the running order to see what subjects are coming up. Both Shappi and Jamie had long rants about pornography which was OK first time round but dull two hours later.
For some reason some bloke in the audience went to the front and exposed himself to Jamie. Can’t for the life of me remember if it somehow tied in with a joke that had been made but it was slightly weird. The flasher came back later with a pint to apologise for his conduct. As Jamie posted later on Facebook:
Sometimes you’re on stage, someone gets mad, try’s to hop the fence, shows you his dick, feels bad and then presents you with a drink. Then you tell him you don’t drink and he drinks the drink, waves, leaves, and someone else shouts “THAT’S ENGLAND!”
Jamie produces a podcast for US news coverage which I might give some attention to.
All too soon, the comedy comes to an end for the day and it’s time to find some more entertainment. The crowds seemed to be all moving to the NME/BBC R1 stage but the tent was full and no one was playing yet so moving on.
Amber were just starting on the BBC Introducing stage as I drifted by. Very much in the Mumford & Sons / Noah & Whale mould and pleasant on the ears. Would have listened to more of their set but decided to rescue Sue from killing people instead.
BΔSTILLE were attracting a very large crowd at the NME/BBC R1 stage which is not always a fun experience, as we found back in 1995 trying to watch the Foo Fighters. This tent is enormous but it still fills up with people and then it becomes a real challenge to get out when you decide you don’t like getting squashed. This band may have been better moved to the main stage instead of The Deftones but it’s hard for the organisers to know in advance how popular each band is going to be on the day.
If the audience outside could just sit down then that would be really handy. It’s almost impossible to see the stage in the distance anyway and the big screens are obscured as well by everyone in front of you. Sit down – the music sounds exactly the same.
Here ‘s one (of many) cool tops being worn around the site.
System of a Down are one of those bands I feel I should like but just can’t get into. I can sing along to Toxicity but I’m just not metal enough, I’m afraid, to appreciate their songs. Sue’s a bigger fan but even she learnt something new from their set – “Needles” is about what ?!?!
The screens are good quality which is important as the band are so far away. It can feel, though, that you are just standing in a field watching a recording of a band and you need to have a look at the stage every now and then just to confirm for yourself that the band are actually there playing live.
In the break before Green Day, I went for a wander and ended up in the Festival Republic stage tent. Nothing seemed to be happening so I left, only for Surfer Blood to then come on. Typical. Reasonable US band reminding me a bit of The Pixies in style. [[I’m listening to on their album Tarot Classics on their website as I write. It’s actually very good]].
After listening to “Miranda”, I moved on and passed the Radio 1 box where bands were regularly being interviewed against a backdrop of the main stage. Sometimes they’d give us a wave.
Alkaline Trio were on at the Lock Up/Rock stage playing to an appreciative audience but I didn’t have time to stay.
9pm – 11:15pm
I’d been looking forward to Green Day for some time now. I have their first 8 albums (i.e. not 1/2/3) and bought Green Day Rock Band but had never seen them live before. They’re the reason I bought a festival ticket as none of the other bands were anywhere near as appealing. Just checking the line-up and Green Day are the only band I own music from (the SOAD CDs are Sue’s).
To make sure I was ready for their set, I had planned to refresh my memory of their albums and play the Rock Band game for a while well in advance. Needless to say, that didn’t happen and I was appalled to find out how few of the words to their songs I really knew. It’s one thing to sing along on your own in the car, for example, to the bits of Green Day you know but totally a different situation at a festival where every one else around you seems to have rehearsed the lyrics.
This was made a little easier when Sue texted me ten minutes in to their set to say she was leaving to go home and that I had the house keys. After extracting myself from the mass of people to hand the keys over, I found the view and sound better from the edge. Less true fans around too.
The set list wasn’t what you’d normally expect as in the middle they ran through Dookie in its entirety as they were gearing up for it’s 20th anniversary. So probably as old as a fair portion of the audience. The rest of the set was made up of half of American Idiot and a handful from the rest of the back catalogue.
Apparently Billie Joe smashed his guitar after getting the chords wrong to Waiting. Not always easy to work out what’s spontaneous and what’s part of the act.
And so, in the words of Green Day,
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.