Others may consider me bonkers but in all honesty my mantra for the past six weeks or so truly has been ‘but I just think I’m free’ too over indulge in live music events. Covid restrictions saw to it that the events originally scheduled across the whole of 2020 were due to multiple date changes all condensed in to this small time window.
The mayhem kicked off with the adventure to Newquay to catch up with festival buddy Pauline at Boardmasters. I felt as if I had been cast in some strange ‘reality tv show’ with the possibility of eviction ever present on the say so of a single positive lateral flow test. Before during & after was filled with nerve wracking moments as one waited for the vital pink line to emerge granting you permission on to the next event.
Given that horrendous weather had derailed Boardmasters in 2019 only to be cancelled again due to covid in 2020 it felt exciting to be a part of it in 2021. Indeed nothing blew the lingering post lockdown blues away quicker than exchanging happy banter whilst checking tickets & dishing out wristbands to hundreds of fellow festival goers.
Off shift we got to listen to live music & explore the local area which I had not visited since my twenties. Originally a surfer meet due to the quality of the waves I guiltily confess to having thrown a wet suit & boogie board in the car that I didn’t actually get around to using them.
It was almost impossible not to be moved by the various artists emotional response to stepping out on various stages after what was almost two years. Some voiced how they had begun to think live performance was a thing of the past & others how strange it was to play music that had been released yet never toured so they had no idea of how their fans were going to respond. They needn’t have worried though as the crowds cheered and danced as the alcohol flowed (which was amazing in itself given the prices) but it certainly was great to be able to see so many happy people.
Whilst not a Dizzee Rascal, fan listening to this live rendition of Bonkers by the artist supported by the crowd of thousands enthusiastically singing along it did make me consider just how important music is to lots of people. Personally I would have found dealing with the long weeks of lockdown so much harder without it.
Festivals are all about discovering new music & Inhaler were definitely a good find but also I found the personality of Beccy Hill & Maisie Peters very compelling though their style very different. Newquay hasn’t changed over much & catching the double decker bus that ferried us along the coast road brought back many memories.
The chaos caused by an incident on the road before me forced an unscheduled break in what was initially an empty rest area. As the car park filled & not wishing to sit for hours in a traffic jam I decided to cut across the Moors. Not quite a short cut it certainly was a journey down memory lane as I whizzed past pubs & places last frequented with hubby when we first started going out together nearly forty years ago. Amazingly most looked to still be in business so I think we will have to put a revisit on the ‘too do’ list.
No sooner home the grubby camping gear was washed, sorted & repacked ready for Reading Festival about 10 days later. Still involving water this festival flanks the banks of the River Thames. Reading I have discovered is my ‘musical home’ such were the plethora of bands I wanted to see I had to make a complex schedule on the back of my shift sheet. Sad & old school maybe but when the app was down it made for easy decisions on where & when to dash between stages to maximise listening potential.
In my stewards tabard I started to feel like the ‘patron saint of lost things’ successfully reuniting the tearful & very grateful man to his lost phone which contained his whole universe to the lad who arrived minus his glasses at the remote gate I was on. His powers of navigation had been nullified by what ever he had been imbibing as he was resolutely walking in completely the wrong direction into the dark wilds of Berkshire. Escorting him to the festival entrance & the bridge back to ‘Neverland’ (well the festival campsite & his mates at least) left me musing that none of these tasks featured in the steward training sessions.
Bands in my experience recently are a bit like buses – you might wait a long time to see one but then they all come along at once. I had tried to get tickets to see Biffy Clyro many times & failed miserably so I jumped with joy when I finally got tickets for a gig in Glasgow.
With all the lockdown restrictions in addition to the Scottish rules I began to despair of seeing them at all until the music gods took pity and it was revealed they were to play at Reading in addition to You me @Six.
Until then I had only seen YAMAS in smaller venues so that was a real unexpected treat. Due to the shift patterns I could only catch a bit of my favourite band The Hunna by ‘dashing’ from one side of the arena in the ubiquitous speed walk of a nurse traversing a hospital corridor dodging people & obstacles. Just one of many odd transferable skills that have proved useful in retirement.
Despite the risk of a dousing from ‘beer’ ( rather not think of the alternative warm liquid it might have been) randomly thrown into the crowd my favourite off duty haunt was The Pit or Lockup Tent.
From the quirky Waterparks with front man Awsten Knight’s madcap antics & generally upbeat tunes to the dark often quite challenging lyrics in songs by Badflower. It was amazing to see both bands actually had been able to leave the USA to appear at the festival as nothing was a given due to the effects of covid & the ever changing rules. The icing on the cake was Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes appearing as the ‘surprise guest act’ with their ‘old school style’ slightly angry, shouty punk which for me summed up a lot of what was making many currently angry.
Saying thank you & cheerio to Pauline for again being a great festival buddy it was time to sit in the car for several hours in order to leave the site. It took longer to drive the mile or two up the winding track into reading than the entire journey home. This time tent was aired and packed away & bags re packed for the next trip the following weekend.
Take care for now & back shortly with Part 2.