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Reading Festival 2009
Member Name: MattyBoosh
Advantages: Excellent value for money, great bands, great experiences.
Disadvantages: After a while, is it really worth all the effort?
READING FESTIVAL 2009
Some bizarre things happen when you attend Reading Festival having turned 25 in the same month - the festival goers have all suddenly turned into children high on TopMan and attitude; the line up is backward; sleeping in a noisy, smelly field suddenly loses its charm; and this year, the security seemed to be taking their inspiration from the Nazi occupation of France. 'Excuse me, but do you have the necessary papers for this 100ml can of dry shampoo?'
Don't get me wrong, I've loved my Reading experiences in previous years and have been just as enthusiastic with the drinking and getting involved in the all round bonkers behaviour that the place instils in people. The festival is An Event (notice the capital letters) and if you've never been before, you need to go, regardless of your age.
But after four years on the trot and having just crossed into the darker side of my 20's, can Reading offer me the same excitement any more?
I think I've reached a point now where I no longer look upon a heavily drunk/drugged 17 year old as a 'crazy little nutter' but as a total nuisance. Wandering around the camp site and main arena this year didn't have the same atmosphere as I'd experienced in previous years and people seemed to have developed a lot more 'attitude'. Not only that, but the 'free hugs' dude has seriously lost his charm. Reading has always been infamous for spontaneous acts of destruction, but usually to the toilets rather than each other. This was the first year I'd seen people want to have fights with each other. It was like somebody had shaved a bunch of chimps, dumped them through TopMan and injected them with concentrated attitude. The thing I loved about Reading in previous years was the desire everybody had to get talking to complete strangers as if they'd been friends for years. I have at least two good friends who started out as Reading Randoms, but this year I didn't really get that vibe. People seemed more interested in outdoing each other in the attitude stakes.
The line up for Reading is always stellar, if getting a little samey. This is partly my fault for going constantly over the last four years or so. But, I don't ever remember a day when I could get away with snoozing until 4 in the afternoon and not worrying about missing anything too important. I also don't understand how they can justify some of the headline acts. It's pure madness that Arctic Monkeys headlined over The Prodigy, in my opinion. (Somebody did tell me that this was due to The Prodigy headlining at another festival... which, if that is the case, is a ridiculous rule and needs chucking away immediately). This isn't a rant about music taste here either - The Prodigy are an epic dance act, whatever you feel about them, and with over ten years at the top of their game, you would have thought they would have been obvious choice for headliners, regardless of whatever other festivals they have headlined this year. It was no surprise that they drew one of the largest festival crowds I had ever seen. I even thought this a couple of years ago, when they opted to put Razorlight over the Kings of Leon. They did get it right with Radiohead, and while not a very big fan myself, were worthy headliners, especially as tickets for their shows can cost about 60 quid a pop.
Camping at the Reading festival is always going to be grim, and because everybody is in the same position, is equally as much a part of the experience as the bands. You'd make sure that you got drunk enough so that you could sleep through anything and that would see you good for the following day. That just wasn't happening for me this year, and my desire for a warm bed and clean toilets was jumping up and down at me as early as day two. I'd go to sleep freezing, wondering if I'd live to see the morning, only to wake up so hot that all that was left of me was a salt outline of my face. To be fair though, this is the territory when it comes to camping, but I just didn't have the patience for it this year. While the weekend ticket is incredible value for money, I'm beginning to look at the overall cost of the festival and think that I could put this money towards a weekend break away with my girlfriend, somewhere warm, comfortable and clean.
I guess my final rant is at the security staff this year. Previous years have seen the security in place to make sure people are safe and not doing anything that would result in major disaster, but in general took a hands-off approach and the vast majority responded in kind. This year, however, they seemed to have some kind of vendetta against everybody. Me and my friends are all in our mid-twenties, and possess stoves in a bid to make a breakfast a more civilised affair than downing a can of Strongbow, not to blow up a tent; dry shampoo as a short cut to semi-respectable hair and deodorant to hide the fact that we haven't had a proper wash for a couple of days, not to chuck on camp fires. Yet, as far as the security were concerned, all were potential ingredients for some kind of fantasy terrorist attack that they were all trying to avert. They used no judgement when it came to confiscating our aerosol 'contraband' and I found the whole thing utterly ridiculous and ill-planned. Besides, what is the difference between 1 can of 100ml dry shampoo, and 2 cans of 50ml? The whole plan was an utter failure, as on the Sunday, in response to the over-zealous nature of the security, everybody went totally loco and huge fires sprang up all over the place. Security, in all their wisdom, decided the best course of action was to stamp out the fires of innocent festival goers trying to keep warm, and in one instance, hurling abuse in the face of one girl who had the 'audacity' to ask why they weren't dealing with the real problem and stamping out tiny, controlled fires. I think their response was 'p*** off and let us do our jobs'. Badly, I might add. Security's ridiculous actions were compounded during a conversation I had with a guy who had come to the festival with his mate and his two grown up children. He owned an old style American fire fighters jacket, clearly an item not part of any British fire brigade and obvious enough to anybody with a brain cell that it was just an item of clothing that existed for its retro appeal, nothing more. On one occasion, he told me, his son was wearing the jacket, accompanied by a pirates hat. Security told him to turn the jacket inside out, as he was IMPERSONATING A FIREMAN. That's some impersonation, if your jacket is 1) classed as a relic 2) not native to this country and 3) accompanied by a pirates hat. Utterly ridiculous, and it is no wonder that people decided to take things a little further on the Sunday than usual.
To be honest, I am giving the festival a bit of a hard time. It's a brilliant experience and for what you get, it is definitely worth the money. I believe I've made the mistake of going year after year, and my advice to people new to festivals would be to take a break every one or two years, or at the very least, try a different festival. I'm pretty certain I will attend Reading again one day, but the old saying 'you can have too much of a good thing' definitely applies here, as if I had written this review last year, or the year before, it would be in a totally different mood to how it is now and 5 stars wouldn't be anywhere near a high enough rating.
Summary: You MUST attend this festival if you haven't already, but don't over do it.
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