Justice For All Rocks Up At Reading

Following on from the debut appearance of the Justice For All Road Show at the V Festival (for those of you wondering what I’m talking about, check out last week’s blog), we hit the big leagues over the bank holiday weekend when we rocked up at Reading. The Reading Festival is my favourite three days of the year, and while this was the thirteenth time I’ve attended, it had extra resonance this year as it was my first time there as a published author. The t-shirts, featuring the JFA cover on the rear, once again went down a storm, drumming up lots of interest in the book, and while there are countless stories to tell, I’ll regale you with just a couple.

Firstly, the tale of when I met a be-suited young guy who was a picture of sartorial elegance (you get the lot at Reading, ranging from the height of outsider fashion to virtual nakedness – the biggest example of the latter was a man wearing wellie boots and a lacy thong – not a sight I ever wish to see again). On spotting the cluster of JFA t-shirts by the speaker stack, my well-dressed friend hurried over waving a tatty looking JFA business card in their air. After getting more drunk than he’d ever been the day before, he’d woken up that morning with nothing but the card in his pocket, and with no recollection of how he’d got it. Once I’d filled in the gaps in his memory, we posed for a couple of pictures together, then he promised to buy the book before bidding a fond farewell. Good work fella!

And secondly, the group of friends who were stood in front of us near the set of relay speakers on the right. They couldn’t believe it when they clocked the t-shirts, as one of them had just bought Justice For All and had been reading it back at the campsite. Come to a rock festival and meet the author – I think I’ve started a new trend! It was great to talk to you guys, and thanks for your support.

And now for my Reading Festival highlights, in no particular order:

Biffy Clyro – are a band that I’ve kind of watched grow up. I first saw them third on the bill at the Norwich Arts Centre a few years ago (they went on to play the venue three times in six months, leading me to think they were a local act – it wasn’t until I spoke to the drummer that I realised they were from Scotland!). Their performance at Reading 2007 was one of the best I’d ever seen, so I was really looking forward to catching them on the main stage this time around, and while they were never going to recapture the magnificence of twelve months earlier, they rocked the Fest nevertheless. Highlight of the set? The incredible ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’.

Manic Street Preachers – a tough call for me to attend this one, as they clashed with The Killers (another firm favourite of mine), but I opted for the Manics on the basis of their superior back catalogue, and the fact that they were headlining the second stage (which has far better acoustics than the main stage). For an hour it was one classic after another, including some oldies like ‘Faster’ and ‘Motown Junk’, not to mention a great cover of Nirvana’s ‘Pennyroyal Tea’. The band was in fine form and so was the crowd, and all in all it was the perfect way to end a Saturday night.

Tenacious D – Less of a rock band, more of a ‘Gods of Rock’ show, Hollywood film star Jack Black’s outfit drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. An absolute riot from start to finish, they had half of us moshing and the other half dying with laughter – the shock of Kyle quitting the band live on stage, the outpouring of joy following his return, the fear induced by the cyborg known only as Metal, the wizard’s cape, the lizard costume – all as nuts as it sounds, this was entertainment on a grand scale, with their best song, ‘Tribute’ going down a storm.

The Music – no, not the music in general (although that did indeed rock) but the Leeds band that are simply called ‘The Music’. Coming over like a dance Led Zeppelin (in a good way) they had me grooving like a loon on Sunday, which was no small feat given the injuries I’d sustained the day before (more on that later). Best song – ‘Welcome to the North’.

We Are Scientists – Main stage glory beckoned for these American alt-pop rockers and they grabbed their chance with both hands. With two great albums under their belt they had the set-list to back up their winning stage personas and this was probably the best I’ve ever seen them, which given that they’ve never been anything less than great was some achievement.

The Last Shadow Puppets – just how outrageously talented is Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys fame)? This side project, which he fronts along with Miles Kane of The Rascals, was one of my undisputed highlights of this, or any other, Reading. Backed by a 12-piece orchestra, their set was breathtaking, featuring most of the tracks from their recent debut album, ‘The Age of the Understatement’ (which sounds like a compilation of the best Bond themes never released). Were it not for the final act I’m going to mention, they’d have been my Band Of The Festival (2007 winners – Biffy Clyro), but for 2008 that prestigious award goes to…

Rage Against The Machine – who were absolutely magnificent! One of the all time greatest gigs of my life, they blew the entire field away with their unique blend of angry, politicised funk-rock. Having come on stage wearing matching boiler suits and bags over their heads in protest of Guantanamo Bay, they launched straight into ‘Bombtrack’, and from that point on, I knew I was in for a treat. Tracks like ‘Know Your Enemy’, ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’, and the immense ‘Killing In The Name Of’ caused a near riot (in a good way – trust me, you had to be there), and I loved every damn second of it!

So finally, what of those injuries that your esteemed author suffered on the first day of the Festival? Well, in honour of the achievements of our British Olympic Team, I thought I’d pay my own little tribute. It was well into Friday evening, the sun had gone down, my beer cup was empty, and the way to the bar was blocked with thousands of tightly knit festival-goers. I headed off at what I like to think of as a brisk walk (but what was probably closer to a sprint), ducking through the minute gaps in the crowd like a nimble footed running back (I say nimble footed, but clod-hopping would probably be closer to the truth), until my forward progress was brought to a rude halt by someone’s sodding camping chair that I failed to see in the darkness (and in my somewhat drunken state, it has to be said, and by the way, who brings a camping chair to a rock festival? It’s not bloody Ascot…). For a moment, I sailed gracefully heavenwards, but then gravity kicked in and I returned to earth in a hurry to land full on my head. Judging by the number of people who flocked around to see if I was OK, it must have looked pretty spectacular, so I waited five minutes until the shock had subsided, then went ten yards further forward to go straight over another chair! It was like a drunken steeplechase! I’m now off to check to see if I’ve made it on to You Tube…

Cheers (or should that be Chairs?),

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