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Reading Festival 2009
Member Name: stevek181
Date: 26/09/09, updated on 26/09/09 (94 review reads)
Advantages: Good line up, organisation and atmosphere
Disadvantages: The horror of festival toilets
The Reading and Leeds Festivals take place simultaneously on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the August Bank Holiday every year. Thought to be the world's oldest popular music festival still in existence, highlights from Reading have included The Who, Eric Clapton, Nirvana's last UK appearance and The Stone Roses last show together.
Having attended back in 2001 (acts included Manic Street Preachers, Marilyn Manson and Eminem); I returned this year, lured by another quality line-up headlined by The Kings of Leon, The Artic Monkeys and, one of my personal favourites, the mighty Radiohead.
Despite advice to use only licensed ticket sellers, I went to www.theonlineticketexchange.com. My advice is simple. Don't. After (hindsight is a wonderful thing) shelling out over £500 for two weekend tickets, I searched for online reviews of the company and found out they were basically a bunch of crooks. After failing to receive a confirmation email of my booking I tried emailing and phoning the company with little success except for a vague email reply saying all the tickets would be sent out nearer the event. Several months of nail-biting followed. A week or so before, I received an email informing me I would have to collect them at the venue (which, according to the online reviews is standard practice). The day before, another email gave me a mobile phone number to ring. On the morning of the event we travelled up to meet the ticket seller in a car park outside TGIs. "You can't miss it", I was told. Well, I could and I did. Thanks to the miracle of Sat Nav, we managed to navigate our way through the festival traffic to TGIs and, feeling slightly like a shady drug dealer, hand over the money for our tickets. I have no complaint about the money I spent, I know I paid over the odds, but I knew how much I was paying and would happily pay a similar amount again. What I didn't enjoy was the worrying about whether the tickets were going to arrive. Normally I would do loads of research into the bands that were playing, maybe visit a few websites and buy a couple of CDs. Due to the uncertainty, I arrived at the venue barely sure who the headline acts would be. My advice would be - go with the vendors the official festival site recommends. If you absolutely must use somebody else, do research into the company.
People say that by staying in a hotel, you miss out the festival experience. If the festival experience involves lying on muddy ground, listening to the delicate sounds of men urinating outside your tent intermingled with the pleasant aromas of fresh vomit, then I'll give it a miss every time. I stayed in the Millennium Copthorne Hotel just outside Reading. I will do a full review later, but basically it was cheap, clean, welcoming and quite impressive, if slightly corporate. Also, one of the local taxi firms has got a deal with the festival, meaning that you never have to pay over a £15 to get there or back.
The Festival Site
The site itself is fairly impressive, boasting 6 stages - The Main Stage, The NME/Radio 1 Stage, The Dance/Lock Up Stage/Cinema, The Alternative Stage, The Festival Republic Stage and The BBC Introducing Stage. There are also shops selling various merchandise and other amenities - cash point, chemist, lockers, showers etc.
Considering the amount of people on site (reckoned to be 80000 per day), it is kept reasonably tidy as there are clever schemes in place meaning you can get beer tokens or money off vouchers for returning/collecting beer cans, paper cups and other items of litter. This explains the new festival phenomenon - young kids running around with almighty towers of empties taller than themselves.
Expensive at £10 each, but an invaluable source of information. With over 150 bands spread over the three days, you'll need to know who's on when. It's actually a fairly decent read anyway.
Food and Drink
Plenty of choice - including chicken and chips, donuts, pizzas, noodles, baguettes, Chinese and all the other usual suspects. Prices are high but no longer extortionate - there is a new policy whereby sellers have to keep their products to certain limits. Expect to pay about £10 for a meal and a beer.
The Festival toilets are an experience in themselves. Proof that a few pints can undo millions of year's worth of evolution. Basically you s**t in a pit. That's as advanced as it gets. It smells. It's messy. People forget to bother aiming and spray up the walls. It's not pleasant. If you absolutely must use them, remember to bring your own toilet paper, because you won't be able to find any on site.
This is only an opinion, but having first-hand experience of all the major festivals, I have always considered Reading to have the best line-up. It's a real music lover's festival with a mix of rock, indie and dance. The great and not so great at this year's festival included:
The King's Of Leon - Bland and overrated. Would have been better in one of the big tents, as I thought they were slightly out of their depth. Had a bizarre rant at the festival crowd who they claimed seemed to be "Sick of the Kings of Leon". At least they got something right.
Kaiser Chiefs - Not my favourite band, but gave a really great performance. I've seen them three times and they've always been entertaining and well received. The ideal festival band. Kings of Leon should take note
Glasvegas - I gave the Artic Monkeys a miss to watch this particular band and was well rewarded. Their sound filled the Radio 1 stage.
Radiohead - My personal highlight was the last performance on the last night. I've seen Radiohead once before and was slightly disappointed, but this time they were simply awesome, dominating the stage with their vast back-catalogue of hits. New songs featured heavily but were played with real gusto, whilst the old hits also made some rare appearances - including Just, Creep and the epic Paranoid Android
White Lies - Formed in October 2007, this "post-punk" (whatever that is) band were my find of the festival.
Vampire Weekend - A band I was looking forward to seeing. Their upbeat poppy melodies really lifted the crowd
Placebo - With a huge back catalogue, Placebo were a real stand out band and gave a top class performance
The sound was of very good quality compared to other festivals and big gigs I've been to, but did seem quite quiet from the main stage unless you were right at the front.
The Alternative Stage, hosting a collection of comedians and poets of varying quality (plus a bizarre yet entertaining hypnotist and his dog), provides a welcome diversion from wall to wall music and is well worth a visit or two.
The camp site is divided into five coloured zones each one with a Zone Manager and Campsite Assistant Teams (CATS). These were friendly, but not always particularly helpful, as I spent over an hour in the first night wandering around in the dark trying to find an exit. Some signs would have been useful.
Other than that, the event seemed very well organised - although there are always inevitable problems with drugs, crime and violence, I didn't see any major problems myself.
As people arrive at different times throughout the days, the queues to get in weren't too bad and I didn't spend too long waiting to get my wristband.
A great experience and a top atmosphere throughout. I discovered some new bands and fell back in love with an old favourite. As a music lover I couldn't ask for much more. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the whole weekend and can't wait to go again!
Summary: A music lover's dream