Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Musical memories

Ali and I watched a few of the highlights of the Reading Festival during the bank holiday weekend, in between a lengthy gardening session of highly satisfying pruning of next door's buddleias; a great sunny barbeque with some friends we'd not seen for a while (though I did over-cater on the meat and salads front somewhat) and a cycle ride-cum-pub crawl through some of the south Oxfordshire villages near us. This latter was meant to get us out and about in the fresh air - tick - spend some time together - tick - and get some exercise - no tick, could do better. We meandered round some B roads and a few cycle paths, got to the North Star at Steventon, Ali swooned with pleasure at the nectar that was a pint from the White Horse brewery (the name escapes me) and then went to the Cherry Tree for some lunch. Cycling through Sutton Courtenay on the way back, we weren't meant to stop at all, until Ali saw the 'Bank Holiday Guest Ale specials' sandwich board outside the George and Dragon and swerved over to take advantage. It would have been rude not to, as they say.

Anyway, back to Reading. I went 3 times in my yoof (christ how old does that make me sound) - 1995, 1996 and 1998. The first time was with a group of 5 friendly chaps from Cambridgeshire who I used to spend much of my vacation time going to gigs with when I was at university. That first year was amazing - the festival experience became well and truly ingrained into my soul. Highlights were the Foo Fighters' first ever UK festival gig, at which I almost got crushed and nearly passed out from the heat in the NME tent; and seeing Ash, who at at the time were all about 16 and whose official band t-shirt, complete with legend 'three boy hardcore action' on the back, I thought was the height of cool when I bought it. I was even fearless enough to go down the front to the moshpit and go kerrraaaazzzy, something I would rarely dream of doing now in my old and personal safety conscious state. I also (unlike my compadres who were all into US hardcore punk bands like NOFX and Bad Religion) attended Gene's headline slot on the Saturday night in the NME tent and completely fell in love with Martin Rossiter, little realising what a pretentious wanker he was in real life.

Subsequent years were also fantastic experiences and I went to Glastonbury in 2000 which was a whole other level of festival going. I did love Glasto but I do have a special place in my heart reserved for Reading, being somewhat of an indie kid deep down. So watching it on the telly, cider in hand (bad for the diet but that's another story) in the comfort of my own sofa, made me feel quite nostalgic for my mid twenties and the music that was around then.

Having said that, the bands that we saw were a real mixed bag of the good, the bad and the downright pointless. I mean, Razorlight headlining on the Friday night for god's sake. My personal favourites were Maximo Park, mostly because of the tunes, also because I love the fact that you can hear every word of the lyrics really clearly - must be something to do with the Geordie accent - but also (a teeny bit) because the lead singer, Paul Smith, is very fit (ooh what a 90s word). He used to have an atrocious hairdo but has seen the error of his ways and now sports a curly mop topped off with a bowler hat. He's also obviously been in the gym a lot recently...
CSS, Interpol and Kings of Leon were also great, and Trent Reznor doing 'Hurt' was pretty amazing too. Much as I find Zane Lowe a pain in the arse, I did agree with him when he commented that it was good to see NIN 'reclaim' the song as their own from the recent idolatry of the Johnny Cash version, which admittedly does also give the spine a tingle. We did settle down to watch the Smashing Pumpkin (Billy Corgan having roped in a load of jobbing musicians to take over his previous bandmates' roles) trawl through 3 greatest hits before being infomed that the BBC weren't allowed to show any more. Doing it for the fans eh Billy.

Oh, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were shit, as has been the case all too often recently. I love the quote Mandrew has on his facebook profile from Nick Cave: "I'm forever near a stereo saying, 'What the fuck is this GARBAGE?' And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers."

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