That's Entertainment - Reading and Leeds Festival Part 2: Survival Guide & Highlights

After presenting this year's Reading and Leeds Festival last week, in today's That's Entertainment we are going to deal with an even more important subject: the survival guide for a big festival like  Reading. Having experienced this exciting adventure five times in the past ('92,'94,'96,'99 and 2006) I am able to offer you some practical advice on several issues like where to stay and how to get there, and I am also taking this opportunity to present some of my personal highlights from the festival.

Starting with the practical issues, the most important one is where to stay. Almost all major festivals offer the opportunity to camp in a specially designated area for the duration of the event. This way you can get 100% of the festival experience: a weekend away from "civilization", only with music, beer and everything else that can happen living in this unique, all-inclusive rock community that forms for a few days each year. Furthermore, when the music stops at some point in the night, the party can go on.

Although camping is the prefered accommodation for the hardcore festival goer, I am a child of the city and I have never spent a single day of my life camping. If you prefer, like me, sleeping in a soft bed and don't want to leave behind the modern comforts (like clean toilets, shower with soap and water instead of mudbaths etc.), the alternative solution exists for Reading Festival (a solution that does't apply to a festival like Glastonbury which is in the middle of nowhere). The venue of the festival is about half an hour walk from the town's train station and Reading station is about half an hour by train from London Paddington. Therefore, the alternative is to look for a hotel either in Reading or in London, near Paddington. The drawbacks are higher costs and more time to reach the festival, the advantage is hotel comforts and the fact that staying in London you can easily find some good gigs to attend prior to the festival as several bands will be playing warm up shows.

Now that we have covered accommodation and transportation, the final hot issues that we are going to address are time planning and the weather. The British weather is famous for its instability, so even if the sun is shining and the birds are chirping in the morning, you must always be prepared for rain, wind, cold and mud. The locals are accustomed to these conditions, but we definitely need some training in this area.

As for planning what to see and when, my advice is relax! Accept the fact that it's not humanly possible to be in two (or maybe three) places at once and enjoy what you have time to see. It's not a good idea to try sprinting your way from one stage to the next - on the morning of the first day, with the enthusiasm of the novice, it may seem possible, but as the day proceeds you will probably find out that you need  a wheelchair to return to your tend or hotel room - it happenned to me at my first festival in '92 (when of course we also missed the train back on the first night) but after that I learned: always check the train timetable and don't overestimate your endurance!
And finally, here's a list of some of my favorite performances that I had the pleasure of attending at the Reading Festival. The top of this list is rightfully occupied by Nirvana, headliners on 30/8/1992, the day of the grunge invasion to the festival. A day that also had Mudhoney (with fans rolling around in the mud - the craziest moshpit I have ever seen), L7 (with the famous tampon tossing incident from Donita Sparks!), Screaming Trees, Pavement, Teenage Fanclub (playing an amazing set as the heavy rain came down) and Nick Cave - and also the biggest river of mud that I have ever seen! Nirvana's performance (their last one in England) has been released on DVD before and there is also an official version with many extras coming soon - a must for all the fans of the group.

Reading Festival Top 30
  • Nirvana (1992)
  • PJ Harvey (1992)
  • Teenage Fanclub (1992)
  • Smashing Pumpkins (1992)
  • Mudhoney (1992)
  • L7 (1992)
  • Pavement (1992, ' 94 &'99)
  • Afghan Whigs (1994)
  • Hole (1994)
  • Rollins Band (1992,'94)  
  • Scarce (1994)
  • Lotion (1994)
  • Lemonheads (1994)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (1994)
  • Elastica (1994 &'99)
  • Rocket From The Crypt (1996)
  • Girls Against Boys (1996 &'99)
  • Sonic Youth (1996)
  • Social Distortion (1996)
  • Julian Cope (1996)
  • Sebadoh (1996 &'99) 
  • The Fall (1999 & 2006) 
  • Guided By Voices (1999)
  • Sleater-Kinney (1999)
  • Flaming Lips (1999)
  • TV On The Radio (2006)
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2006)
  • Raconteurs (2006)
  • Arctic Monkeys (2006)
  • Franz Ferdinand (2006)

Song of the week: Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit from Reading 1992.

Photos : Julian Cope ('96), Raconteurs ('06), Rollins Band ('94), TV On The Radio ('06), Guided By Voices the Zia of Dandy Warhols ('99), The Fall ('06 ).
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