Friday, 26 March 2021

My First Festival ...

I'm not a great one for Festivals - not a lover of standing in the rain with a pint of under strength lager, sleeping in tents, or trying to find a useable chemical toilet.
In short - I'm a grumpy middle-aged middle-class bloke who likes a bit of comfort.

I've never been to Glastonbury, but have experienced many Festivals over the years including various Reading Festivals., Monsters Of Rock/Download Festivals, Rewind, and a few of the Butlins Holiday Camp Out Of Season shindigs.
Remember what I said about comfort?  have you ever been in a basic chalet in Skegness?  The phrase "Comfortable" should be preceded by "Not very" and suffixed by ",but it'll do".

The first Festival I went to was Reading Rock 1987, and living in Reading travel was not an issue - one bus to the Town Centre and then walk it.  As a Festival Virgion the walk to the Site was a part of drinking in the experience (basically watching all the crusty old rockers venturing into town for breakfast and a pint to start the day, before returning for a days vigorous headbanging and Rough Cider.
1987 was also the Festival with the "Rock" name before it tried to broaden the appeal and public persona by simply becoming Reading Festival and booking some bands who had not formed in the early 70s and looked forward to their one open air gig each year (see the Enid on Sunday's bill below).

So, 1987 - having just started work, an Apprentices Wages could only stretch to a one day ticket - I had a choice to make:

I discounted the Friday because I didn't own anything black or gothic enough for the mood of the day.  And then had to choose between Status Quo and Alice Cooper - a tough call.
Sunday also offered Zodiac Mindwarp and The Stranglers, but the Quo won out because:
(a) they're the Quo
(b) Bad News were on the bill
(c) I think my mate couldn't go on the Sunday anyway

As with every published Festival line-up, bands were added and some dropped out - although as I recall Sunday remained as published.  The only change on Friday was the non-appearance of Spear Of Destiny (Kirk Brandon broke his leg(?)) to be replaced by Graham Parker.

The first change on Saturday though was announced at 12:00 - Blues n Trouble had broken down on the way to the gig.  It was too late to find a replacement, so The Quireboys went on early and ghot an extra 15 minutes.

Dumpy was Dumpy - a last hurrah/hangover of the Reading Rock Glory Days - and played a growling Biker Metal set of Hawkwind/Motorhead inspired noise.  I liked them and saw them again a couple of years later (in a Pub in Aldershot)

Mammoth were replaced by Shy - all big hair and sub-Bon Jovi "nice" metal, but I bought the album anyway.

Now whether it was a combination of late Summer sun, cheap beer, and too many Benson & Hedges, I have no recollection of Glory, Terraplane or MGM
(in fact, to this day I have no clue who Glory actually are?).

I do remember Lee Aaron though - those sort of memories stay with a 17 year old ...
(in truth, the music was nice enough, but not really substantial or indeed a classic live performance)

Georgia Satellites and Bad News swapped, meaning Bad News lifted the waning early evening spirits (and brought Brian May on stage), and Georgia Satellites got the early evening slot (as the sun was fading) with a storming set of Southern Boogie.
Taking Status Quo out of the equation, The Georgia Satellites were the best band to stand on that stage on that August day in suburban Berkshire.

Competent though they were, there was no way the Prog affectations of Magnum could follow that lot.  And many burgers and beers were consumed while the band noodled on stage.

And then darkness fell, the stage lights descended and then slowly rose again - "Allo Reading!" and straight into "Whatever You Want".
Wall-to-Wall bangers for 90 minutes, including the live crowd joiner-inner "Dirty Water (always better live than the studio version) - a proper party atmosphere in a field.
Just looked up the set list on the ever helpful - they played 13 tunes (17 if you include each separate track in the medley), and 4 tracks as an encore.  Not a bad way to break your Festival cherry.

Grinning from ear-to-ear I left the site, bought a cheese sandwich, a cheap bottle of lager, and a bootleg Status Quo T-Shirt and wandered home.

1988 I did both Donnington Monster of Rock and Reading Festival within a fortnight of each other. Again, a one day ticket for Reading meant I missed out on seeing Iggy Pop and The Ramones on Friday and Squeeze on Sunday - an annoying oversight I am happy to report I have rectified many years later.

And I returned to Reading (often for full weekends) for some years after that (and finally catching Iggy Pop live in 1991).  I may have missed the 1992 Festival as I have no recollection of the now mythical Nirvana live performance.  I think the last one I went to was 1994 (I'm sure I saw Primal Scream, the Manics and Radiohead standing in a muddy field) but despite living less than 2 miles from the Site I have no real desire to return.  The line-up never seems to be strong enough on a single day to warrant the investment (or the "Festival Experience") and besides I'm an old fart now, so would need a quiet nap halfway through the day, and the organisers would probably balk at someone taking a deck chair in (although not at the 80s Rewind Festivals - they don't seem to mind there).

Like many things, you never forget your first ...

Quireboys - Mayfair

Georgia Satellites - Battleship Chains

Status Quo - Dirty Water


1 comment:

  1. A great read.

    I would have been similarly torn - not between Alice & the Quo, but between Alice & The Satellites. I suspect I might have gone with Alice, but I'd have hated myself for missing a change to see the GS.