Saturday morning is kind of a blur, as I bumble around, make coffee and cook a big ole fry-up (grease and caffeine. Curative and preparatory all at the same time. if England has ever given the world anything greater than the Full English, I’ve yet to see it), give Clare the blow-by-blow account of yesterday’s events, while waiting for the crew to arrive from points east. I’m mellow and not at all aching, deary me no.
Dad’s got a ticket as a 60th birthday present from me, as he’s a bit of an old rocker. He bounces in at about 11, pleased as punch and ready to party. We’ve cracked the beer by the time Dom and Tony arrive. Dom has a family connection to one of the headliners, so it’s backstage all the way for that lucky pair. No begrudgeness, though. I did the same thing with Dom back in ’03. I’m just looking forward to a day out with chums and family.
We hit Richfield Avenue at about 1, settle in with a beer and some veggie chili, and let Biffy Clyro peel our skulls back. I’ve got a sort spot for avant-metal, especially when it’s played with the verve and enjoyment with which these boys deliver their set. The lead singer is resplendant in a white hooded tracksuit that doesn’t stay clean for long. At one point the bass response is strong enough to knock Dad’s hat off. A good start.
We amble around and take in the sights a bit before finally getting our asses up to the R1 tent. Clare’s curiousity has been piqued by Juliette Lewis and The Licks, so we decide to give it a go. Huge fun. The music is nicely primal rock and roll. Juliette struts about in a spandex-and-bra outfit giving it serious amounts of Iggy attitude and, initially at least, a Viking helmet. We’re all jumping by the end, and Juliette manages an extended crowd-dive that surprisingly doesn’t end up in her losing her top. The banners go up: “Lick me, Juliette!” A new Queen of Rock is born.
After that, it’s time for Mojitos at the B-Bar, which makes a nice change from the ever-present Carling, before ambling back up to the main stage. Dinosaur Jr are laying down slabs of noise that instantly put a grin on my face. J Mascis looks like a shoo in for Dumbledore in the next Harry Potter movie, all long white hair and slouch, and he is a bit of a wizard on the Fender Jag (sorry). They finish off with “Just Like Heaven” and “Freakscene”, and even dad admits it’s an impressive racket.
The Charlatans are next up, but we’re too busy chatting and drinking for them to make much of an impression. Dom and Tony are at the front, though, and loving it. The Charlie’s are a fine soundtrack to a warm summer afternoon, but to my mind just that: backing music. I guess, though, it’s really like the Coral yesterday. My mind is on the next band on the bill.
The Arcade Fire hit the R1 tent and on my insistance we’re front and centre. The buzz is extraordinary. this has the feel of a real event, and the Canadians do not disappoint. They launch into “Wake Up”, and everyone, strangers and friends alike, got their hands up and their voices high. The mood is joyous, celebratory. Any immovable object on stage gets used for percussion. Mock fights break out on stage. There’s a newie or two, an oldie for the hardcore, and all the best bits of “Funeral”, which is, let’s face it, just about all of it, get fired off with a verve and energy that takes the roof off. Extraordinary. transcendant. Everyone’s chuffed, and I quietly point out to Clare that this is the album I’ve been playing for months when she asks why she’s never heard of them. Band of the Festival. If they’re not on the main stage next year, a major injustice will have been done.
After that we need a break, so Kings of Leon mumble away agreeably in the background while we nosebag noodles and espressos. babyshambles? I’d sooner eat my socks, and I’ve been in them for eleven hours.
All of a sudden it’s ten o’clock, and the Foo Fighters insist they will die for our honour. Very nice of them. Dave Grohl’s speech on how Reading is the best festival there is has been widely reported, but he does have a connection with this site, and we pour love back at him. When he tells us he fuckin loves Reading, well, so do we, and at this point there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
The Foos are, as always, fantasic live, keeping everyone bouncing and singing along, slinging out gigawatt lasers in the night that must go halfway back to Caversham. Off to one side of us, a guy who’s had ten too many lurches about. His girlfriend, deeply unimpressed, edges closer to us, at one point hiding behind Clare. Finally, as the buffoon nearly falls over someone, she loses patience and stalks off. Several seconds later, matey-boy notices and lollops after her.
He returns half an hour later, not smiling any more. A couple of songs later he will fall over. A few years ago that probably would have been me. Right now, I’m just jumping up and down, hollering to “Monkeywrench.” A cracking end to a storming day.
It’s a slow but jolly walk home, as we amble and chat. Poor Dom and Tony still have a drive back to the Smoke ahead of them, but for the Wickings contingant it’s a well-deserved cuppa and bed. We promise to get our weekend tickets in early next year, and bemoan the fact that we’ll be missing Iggy and Maiden. But that’s next year. For now, we’re just enjoying the glow. Does Reading rock? Only completely!
*As yesterday, I’ve cribbed photos from other sources, mostly eFestivals.co.uk, and the Reading Festivals site. Fanks.