Festival Virginity: Reading 1994

Where are Dumpy's Rusty Nuts playing?
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My first festival experience was back in ‘94 at Reading. Having recently left school I was contributing to a number of local magazines and well on the way to becoming the biggest gobshite in the whole of West Yorkshire; example - how about a lengthy article on how 60ft Dolls are our generation’s version of The Jam – big fail and in no way an isolated one.

Equipped with two blagged tickets thanks to Echobelly or some other band of indie losers, we hit the National Express pike-bus from Leeds station full of giddy festival cherry popping anticipation. Cunningly putting red wine into coca cola bottles we drank ourselves jolly and occupied ourselves during the four hour hike by laughing at the now almost certainly dead racist lush at the back of the bus necking cheap vodka and emitting wafts of urine smelling displeasure for all to not enjoy.

Festival attendance procedures are incredibly complex these days (headache tablets, ear plugs and wet wipes have long overtaken booze, shit speed and a Rage Against the Machine t-shirt; long sleeved for protection against the night cold. We borrowed a tent but had no idea what to do with it so I busied myself with pretending to sort things out of the bag while my equally as clueless buddy struggled on.

The escapades we got up to far outweighed the excitement of most of the music; Cud, Senseless Things and Honky were on the NOT to do list, we did however discover key life skills like how to start fires, the power of fucked up Tresor cassettes being blasted from blanket stalls and the power of shouting the word bollocks repeatedly at 4am.

The very public melt-down of Courtney Love was played out for all to see in ’94, unsurprising as her husband had only recently killed himself. Her car-crash set with Hole on the main stage was just the start of it, she would later be seen screaming Lou Barlow’s name at Lou Barlow while he was performing with his band Sebadoh, Barlow trying his best to ignore her.

The following day we hung backstage star spotting all the greats, and Gene. It didn’t take long until we saw the dreaded Courtney, this time lurching towards US! My companion was wearing a Morrissey t-shirt which she took great offence to and started shouting abuse at us, luckily while on her way to scream us, she caught sight of David Gedge the naturally jet black haired lead singer of The Wedding (Are they still going??) Present. Forgetting her original targets, she ran up to Gedge and started calling him a piece of shit for recording with Steve Albini (producer of Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’), she managed one slap before NME hack Everett True pulled her away from causing further trouble.

Despite getting overly excited about Adam Franklin from Swervedriver minding his own business and disappointed by the shortness of New Order’s Bernard Sumner, we hit gold by spotting the ultimate indie wank fodder of the time, Miki from Lush. After leering for a while we tried to engage, or rather I instructed my mate to talk to her while I looked down her top - disappointment ensued.

I managed to almost die that night, not by the tawdry offerings they referred to as food but when B-Real lead rapper of the main stage headliners that night Cypress Hill stage-dived into the crowd landing right by me. In the crush to catch him, at least twenty people fell into a pile on the floor with me at the very bottom of it kissing the dirt and rapidly running out of breath. After what felt like hours and on the verge of passing out, someone pulled me out and carried me to the side of the stage. This guy saved my life and I never listened to Cypress Hill again - although that’s probably due to them becoming eternally rubbish very soon after.

Although battered, bruised and mainly underwhelmed by the musical offerings it was the beginning of a very happy relationship with music festivals. Although some of the off the cuff magic has been lost with things that weren’t even imaginable back in ’94 - such as Excel spreadsheets to highlight any set clashes and exact knowledge of who is playing and when via social media - you still can’t beat drinking beer before mid-day while having a big old stomp in a field. See you down by the ice-cream van by the left screen at 4, yeah?

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