A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Whew! 3 weeks already since my last posting--I've been on holiday in England the past couple of weeks--saw the sights in Oxford, got some pics of the Manor (I also noticed that Mr. Oldfield has a "Tubular Bells 2003" in the shops just today--spooooooooooky..), walked along the canal, had a picnic by a river in some beautiful pasture-land, and stopped "down the pub" for a few pints. My Dearest Flaming Pixie and I also attended the Reading Festival...so, without further adoo...here is:

SLY STONER'S READING FESTIVAL DIARY ~ AUGUST 2003

Friday, 22 August ~ 8:00 a.m.: Rise & shine...pack my remaining clean clothes into my suitcase..then shower..

9:30 a.m.: Bring Pixie's dog Herbie to her parents' house, they are watching him for the weekend--he seems happy to be there--and not attending a three-day music festival amongst hippies, punks, metal-heads and other kooks of all persuasions.

10:25 a.m.: We load our belongings into the car..I keep thinking of George Carlin's "A smaller version of your stuff" bit.

10:30 a.m.: On the road! We stop for petrol and I remove an injured yellowjacket who's been sitting on the dashboard--Pixie is relieved at that..then we're on our way...

11:30 a.m.: Nearly in Reading--Unrest's "Teenage Make-Out Club" is on the stereo--from a mix tape I made for Pixie--we're both boppin' along to it..some amazing countryside around Reading..save the nuclear power plant in the distance.

12 noon~1:30p.m.: We're here!!! Check-in/unpacking (No, we didn't camp at the site--we were "hotel hippies" ;) )--we make our way to the site, the crowds are already enormous. We exchange the tickets for "weekend pass" wristbands (sorta like ones you get in hospital) and enter the main festival area

1:45 p.m.: A band called Razorlight is on in the "Carling Tent"--we stay for two songs. They sound like Supergrass, only louder and without the 'Grass's catchy hooks. Pixie's rating: 1 out of 5 (5 being the best)

2:45 p.m.~3:30 p.m.: In the "Smirnoff Experience Dance Tent", we watch a set by Chungking, a group from Brighton who seem to be carrying the trip-hop torch at the moment. The female singer has some great pipes--unfortunately, most of the music makes Morcheeba sound like an amped-up Chemical Brothers..dull, very dull after about four songs. Pixie's rating: 2 out of 5

4:40 p.m.~5:30 p.m.: Mull Historical Society in the "BBC Radio One Tent". I'm expecting a solo acoustic set, and M.H.S.'s main-man, Colin MacIntyre, brings a whole band with him. I think it's a good show, lots of energy--he's bouncing around the stage like the Keebler Elf on amphetamines. He even leads the audience in a sing-along to extend his set, (performers are fined if they go over their allotted set time) and it's very Peter Frampton-esque, just no 17-minute soloing and that vocoder thing (phew!) Pixie's rating: 3.5 out of 5

5:50 p.m.~6:30 p.m.: We hang around in the "Radio One Tent" to catch Ladytron. I'm a bit excited, because they were featured in The Wire magazine (the ultimate obscure muso-geek's magazine), and because their band-name is taken from an Eno-era Roxy Music song title. What they deliver is sort of a robotic synth-pop which owes more to the early 80s than Eno or Neu! I'm not very impressed, and the monotone vocals become grating after about four tunes. The bass is waaaay too loud and it nearly drowns out everything (of course, this may not be their fault, but the sound engineer's) The two lead singers (women) are decked out in tight matching Mo Tucker V.U. outfits--which leads to a bit of "lad-isms" from the male members of the crowd ("Get 'em out!", etc.) They carry on with their set and it ends (phew!)--I'd say they were O.K., not worth the screaming head-ache I get from the bass-pummelling, though. Pixie's rating: 1 out of 5

7:45 p.m.: We wander by the Carling Tent to hear the godawful strains of McLusky. Staccato vocals, abysmal guitar..this is hardcore for cloth-ears. "Annoying and loud", Pixie says, and I agree. We flee the scene as quickly as possible. (Later it's announced that the band's former drummer has hacked their website and re-directed any potential visitors to his site..if only he could've done more and got them to split up) Pixie's rating: -5 out of 5

8:00 p.m.~8:50 p.m.: Interpol in the BBC Radio One Tent. They get off to a good start, but then by the third tune..the singer does a dead-on impression of the late Ian Curtis. It's O.K. for one or two songs...by the end of the set, it's not so impressive anymore. Pixie quips "I like Joy Division" and "Ian Curtis is having an epileptic fit in his grave". Too true. Perhaps they lack the magic of the studio in a live setting. I find it lacklustre at best. Pixie's rating: -10 out of 5

9:30 p.m.~10:15 p.m.: One of the bands I've really come to see, Elbow, takes the stage in the Radio One tent. They live up to my expectations and play a solid set comprised of tunes from their brand new record and their first full-length. They don't exactly ooze stage-presence, but lead singer Guy Garvey banters between songs, at one point joking that the group have re-christened themselves "Hellbow", in reference to the festival's line-up of shite metal bands and thanking the crowd for supporting the band and listening to them. It's nice to hear, especially after the studied indifference of Ladytron and Interpol. I hope to catch them headlining at some point. Pixie's rating: 4 out of 5

10:45 p.m.~Midnight: The Polyphonic Spree in the Radio One Tent. Yup, they bring their gospel-revival-for-acidheads stylee to Reading. Main man Tim Delaughter does his whole jumping off the monitors, ear-to-ear grin, psychedelic "Up With People" bit..and the crowd eats it up. They're good, but as Pixie remarks "They can't be that happy, *no-one's* that happy". The Spree's main focus is feeding off the "idiot energy" in the crowd, and they succeed in spades. The music comes off as a Flaming Lips/Incredible String Band hybrid..as they manage to cram a grand harp, theremin, some brass, drums, guitar and choir onto the stage. They go over their allotted set time, and the security people don't seem to be soaking up the good vibes, maaaaaaaan. Toward the end of the set, we really just want to sleep--and when they're finished, Pixie says "At least they're not Linkin Park." Amen, brothers and sisters. Pixie's rating: 3.49 out of 5

12:30 p.m.: Knackered. Back to hotel. Shower and sleep.

Saturday, 23 August ~ 9:00 a.m.: Wakey wakey. Breakfast and shower.

10:00 a.m.: Back to sleep, still knackered from Friday.

11:00 a.m.~12:45 p.m.: We prepare to brave the festival site again--we check the schedule of groups and decide there's no-one worth getting there early for. I watch some BBC while Pixie gets ready. Then we're slouching toward the gathering of freaks again.

1:00 p.m.: Well here we are--the site resembles a dust bowl and is already mobbed. There's no band on that we want to catch, so we wander around, checking out some of the vendors' wares..lotsa hippie jewelry, clothing..."legal" highs, and a couple of henna tattoo stands..and of course, the over-priced, undernourishing festival food stands. We buy a cider at one of the bars scattered around the site and continue wandering.

1:30 p.m.: We sit down for a bit, while Junior Senior are on the Main Stage. They truly are horrible and it's a wonder that they were booked. Pixie explains that they are this years novelty act--like Daphne & Celeste a couple of years ago. They don't seem to be getting "bottled" off-stage, even during a mind-blowingly awful cover of "Twist And Shout" (incl. a bit of "Push It"--I'm not making this up). Pixie says "Please make it stop."..and after about ten more mnutes, her request is granted. I bet no-one will remember Junior Senior after next year..I hope, that is. Pixie's rating: -100 out of 5

2:00 p.m.: Another drink is purchased..I also buy an Elbow T-shirt and a knit hippie hat (which Pixie turns into a 'hat-puppet' later on...don't ask)..then on to the toilets, which are frightening by now..

2:45 p.m.: The Libertines on the Main Stage. Not bad, sorta typical 4-piece Brit-garage rock...and they're pretty energetic...we were hoping to see The Darkness, but it appears they they have swtiched sets with The Libertines, who are trying their best to rock the crowd. Some works, some doesn't..far better than Junior Senior, though. Pixie's rating: 1 out of 5

3:30 p.m.: We wander some more...I attempt to purchase a Mars Volta T-shirt, but the vendor is sold out of them--I offer to buy the display shirt, but no can do. The Streets are on the Main Stage--and it appears as if their style doesn't suit a festival's big stage..the rhymes all sound monotone and the beats get lost in the mix. Still, the kid's got some flow for an English white boy, even though he slips into some ladisms from time to time. Pixie isn't a Streets fan, though, and makes it abundantly clear...we wait for Doves to takes the stage. Pixie's rating: -10 out of 5

4:30 p.m.~5:15 p.m.: In the mid-field for Doves on the Main Stage. They have an epic, sweeping sound..it's kind of oceanic. The crowd really enjoys it. One funny thing is that when one of the crowd attempts to get on another's shoulders--they immediately get bottled by the crowd..and it's an easy task, as there are hundreds of empty water bottles laying around in front of the Main Stage. Doves finish their set with a spacey jam, while images from "2001" flash on the big screen--very cool!! It's my first time seeing them--I thought they'd be sort of stand-off-ish, no stage presence..but they were lively and played some up-tempo tunes. Pixie's rating: 4 out of 5

6:45 p.m.~7:40 p.m.: The Mars Volta in the Radio One tent. They play a 45-minute set straight through--no breaks, nothing. Cedric Bixler, the lead singer, is a blur of arms, microphone and Rob Tyner-esque afro. They play songs from their debut, but because of the continuous flow of the tunes--it's tough to tell which is which (plus, I only bought the album recently, and haven't learned all of the song titles yet). They jam and the Fender Rhodes is up-front in the mix...Pixie leans close to me and whispers "Prog shit"...Ha Ha Ha..exactly, my dear. They win her over with their energy and punk riffing. I'm glad I caught them, one of the highlights of the festival. Pixie's rating: 3 out of 5

8:00 p.m.: We decide to get some pizza--which turns out to be almost tasty. Then we catch some of Cooper Temple Clause's set in the Radio One tent. They're sorta catchy..a dark mixture of chugging guitar, electronics and banshee-howl vocals. Unfortunately, a lot of it sounds the same after about four tunes (again, they *could* be victims of the botched sound mix in the tent). Not bad--but not extraordinary either. Pixie's rating: 2.5 out of 5

9:30 p.m.~10:25 p.m.: Over at the Carling tent, Brendan Benson takes the stage. We're both a bit curious to see him, as he has opened a few Flaming Lips shows on the previous Lips tour. He gets off to a strong start with his big "hit" (can't recall the title, sorry)--it's quite good, sort of a folkier Matthew Sweet-type sound. After that, though--things get a bit bland, and I find myself almost bored by the end of his set. Seems a nice bloke, though--and he puts energy in to his performance. Pixie's rating: 1 out of 5

10:40 p.m.~11:30p.m.: We stay in the Carling tent for Billy Bragg's set. Billy doesn't disappoint--it's just him, his guitar and his caustic wit. His in-between song banter is hilarious and right-on (He makes a joke about Reading being the festival of comic-book and Pink Floyd fans--which gets a huge "woo-hoo" out of me). He runs through a lot of his most well-known songs, as well as a few brand new ones (including a slide-guitar version of Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues", which he calls "Bush-wah Blues")..and closes with a brilliant version of A New England, which he turns into a great audience sing-along. Good times, good times! The man's gettin' older, but he still rocks!! Pixie's rating: 5 out of 5

Midnight: Back at the hotel. Watch a strange comedy about undertakers on the Beeb. Fall asleep.

Sunday 24 August ~ 8:30 a.m.~9:30 a.m.: Sleepers awake! Breakfast.

10:00 a.m.~1: 45 p.m.: There isn't anyone playing early that we want to see, so we catch some more Z's and watch footy highlights on the Beeb. Then the Hungarian Grand Prix Formula One race comes on, and we watch some of that.

2:00 p.m.~2:30 p.m.: Back to the dust-bowl for the final day. The toilets are absolutely horrifying, and holding my bladder becomes a necessity, even after some lager and cider.

2:30 p.m.~2:50 p.m.: A band unknown to either of us, called Keane, is on in the Carling tent. Just a singer, piano and drums. The singer has Bono-like pipes (only better and less of a show-off arsehole) and Jarvis Cocker-like stage presence..and the other two prove deft musicians. Quite a nice sound. They've got a single coming out on Fierce Panda in September, the singer tells the crowd. You should look for it, indie-popsters, it'll be good. Watch out for these guys, is Sly Stoner's tip o' the day. Pixie's rating: 4 out of 5

3:30 p.m.: That lame excuse for a "pop-punk" group, Good Charlotte, is on the Main Stage. We attempt to avoid it--but it's good fun watching them get bottled by the crowd. We flee the scene quickly (Later, it's told that they ended their set early, when after provoking the crowd to repeatedly bottle them..they got what they asked for). A bloke is walking around with a "Good Charlotte Fucking Suck" sign..I snap a photo--for posterity, of course. Pixie's rating: -50 out of 5

4:15 p.m.: We hear the very end of Radio 4's set in the Radio One tent. My man M.A.D. hipped me to them on a mix tape last year. What I hear sounds pretty good-and they invite Har Mar Superstar to join them for the last tune.

4:30 p.m.~5:45p.m.: Another one I've been waiting for...Primal Scream are on the Main Stage. Bobby Gillespie seems a bit disinterested, and Mani makes repeated jokes about the stink of the crowd. Still, it's nice to see Kevin Shields on a stage, even if he is messing about with his gear half the time. They perform mainly tunes from their last couple of records ("XTRMNTR" & "Evil Heat")--but they throw in a surprise "Burnin' Wheel" and "Kowalski" (from "Vanishing Point"), and "Jailbird" and "Rocks Off" (from "Give Out But Don't Give In"). Of course, the encore is "Movin' On Up" from "Screamadelica"--not the most spirited version, but good enough considering the heat of the day and the crowd (whom Gillespie admonishes for being "slaves" and watching "abysmal bands like Metallica..") Mani ends their set with a resounding "Fuck you hippies!" Pixie's rating: 3 out of 5

5:00 p.m.~8:00 p.m.: We wander the site, buy some more shirts and hippie trinkets. The toilets are devastated (ick!). The crowd all appear to be high, crashed...or some strange in-between state where they wait for balance. The site is carpeted with empty food containers, empty water bottles and crushed lager cups. We buy some food and hunker down near the Radio One tent and listen to Hot Hot Heat, who seem to me to be largely undeserving of their hype. Yet another retro-early-80s electro-rock band, and somehow, I don't think the sound mixer gets the blame for this one. No rating from Pixie.

8:00 p.m.~9:00 p.m.: We shove our way into the Radio One tent for Grandaddy's set. The lead singer is a cross between Mike Love and Wayne Coyne. The songs are decent, though still the bass pummels my already-worn eardrums. At one point, he remarks "We're from the *good* part of California" I turn to Pixie and say "There *is* no good part of California." She says "Tell him that." and gives me a Harvey Keitel "har-dee-fuckin'-har" look. She's a big Grandaddy fan. (Before I get angry e-mails from any Cali readers, I was only kidding around, I like Cali. Really.) They use a lot of loud/soft dynamics, and their stuff has a pastoral feel to it--very nice. I go away glad that I saw them. Pixie's rating: 10 out of 5

9:30 p.m.: Back at the hotel...we decided that we'd catch British Sea Power (who're closing in the Carling tent) another time..we're far too knackered to stick around for the bitter end. Plus, here's the closing line-up for the Main Stage: System Of A Down followed by Metallica. Sounds intriguing, no? You're right, no. The Radio One tent has the Yeah Yeah Yeahs followed by The Music..not bad, but not enough to overcome my fatigue. So we shower and put the toob on for some BBC..then off to dreamland.

Monday 25 August ~ 9:00 a.m.: Wake up. Breakfast. Pack belongings...check out of the hotel...back on the road to Oxford.