(This blog was originally written on Myspace)
So, yeah, I went to Reading Festival. Only for the day, mind. I didn’t do any of that camping business. I went on the sunday, and if you know your Reading main stage line ups, you’ll know the reason why I (and my friend, Nick) chose to go on that day, but I’ll get to that later. Our planning for the festival had been poor, to say the least. Of the bands that were to play that day, we had heard of hardly any, and those we had heard of didn’t exactly fill us with excitement. But, anyway…
I actually traveled down the day before, to London, to meet up with my pal, Nicholas, who was joining me on my Reading adventure. London was to be our base for the weekend. I got in at half five-ish, and we spent the rest of the day wandering the village, and, in-between, we managed a ride on the London Eye. It went up high and around, which was some what enjoyable. We called it a day at midnight, went back to the flat of Nicholarse’s brother where we were staying, and bedded down for the night ready for the festival frivolities on the morrow.
We arrived at Reading train station on a glorious sunny day, and followed the crowds to the site. We found the entrance, but Nicholas spotted the security confiscating drinks. This bothered him as he had four cans in his bag. So, in a show of his almost legendary tightness, we stood outside while he drunk three of the four cans. He’d decided to try to sneak the fourth by hiding it under the coat in his bag. The security found instantly. Finally, though, we were at the festival.
We got the main stage half way through Taking Back Sunday’s set. They were entirely forgettable, by which I mean I can’t remember a single significant thing aboot them. We stayed the main stage for Less Than Jake, another of these awful kiddie punk bands the youth of today seem to delight in. Their appeal is lost on me, but then what do I know? After that performance, we got up and took a look around. The Nokia Q&A stage had Boy Kill Boy doing an acoustic version of that song they do. I assume they were on stage, I couldn’t see over the people’s heads in front, and could only see them on the big screen. We wandered over to the Carling stage/tent, but nobody was on. They did play a track by Sleater-Kinney (Light Rail Coyote, I think) which was nice. We strolled on, with me thinking how young everybody looked. They were kids! No fooling kids! I felt so old. That said, the sight of all the gorgeous girlies cheered me up. We somehow ended up at the main stage for Bullet For My Valentine. Another band which my mind decided was not worthy of my memory space, save for when i wondered aloud if the lead singer was Welsh. He sounded it.
For the next act, we moved in closer. You had to, really. Yes, it was time for the mighty Slayer! They were big loud fun, and never anything less than entertaining. There were no pretensions, you knew what you were going to get, they came out on stage, played hard, played fast, and played well. And when the lead singer said “This next song is called Post Mortem!” and launched in a roar, I had the biggest smile on my face.
After Slayer, we thought it best to move back from the stage as it was time for My Chemical Romance. I’ve despised this band since the very moment I saw them on MTV2, and seemingly, so did large parts of the crowd who booed them on their arrival on stage and bottled the relentlessly. The lead singer didn’t help matters by claiming they were used to that kind of abuse, being ‘outsiders’ and all. At some point later in the set, he tried to start a chant against the Daily Mail (which is a good idea, in principle) for calling the band a suicide cult. It’s a fair statement, though. I felt suicidal after sitting through their rubbish. When they finished the their set, lead singer guy thanked the audience for being great and said he was glad he won us over(!)
Next up on the main stage was Placebo. They played, like, three songs before they had to leave because of a broken amp or some such. While they were gone, the camera folk trained their electric eyes on the lovely ladies of the crowd, all of whom felt obliged to flash their breasticles. This went on for an age, so Nick and I wandered over to the NME/Radio 1 stage just in time to catch the end of The Kooks performance. The tent was PACKED, and there was a sizeable crowd in front of the big screen we were watching. We took a gander at the comedy tent, but I could see (or hear) who was on. I’d been told earlier in the day that Russell Brand had to cancel because of a case of laryngitis. And once again we arrived back at the main stage to hear Nancy Boy and see Placebo leave the stage.
All that went before, though, was ponce-frippery. This is what I had been waiting all those many, many years for. My friends, it was time for PEARL JAM.
The band came out to rapturous applause, but before they struck up their instruments Eddie asked the crowd to take care of each other, make sure everybody was safe, and if anything were to happen let the security know and the band would stop in an instant. It made me lumpy throated as the Leeds/Reading performances were their first festival performances since Roskilde six years ago, so, obviously, it was big on their minds.
With that said, they launched in to the set, starting with Corduroy. I don’t know if it was the excitement of seeing one of my fave bands, or mindblock or something, for a minute or so I just couldn’t place the song. Stupid brain. I now know why I couldn’t place the track straight away, it was because they started off with Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive, before leading into Corduroy. I’m not stupid after all! Then we got to rock out to Do The Evolution, with Animal coming after that. World Wide Suicide was next. This was the song the BBC chose to put on the Leeds/Reading highlights, though other songs in the set would have been far better, in my opinion. It was from those highlights that I spotted Stone wearing a Sleater-Kinney t-shirt.
Severed Hand was prolly the weakest song of the night, but was still damn fine. Then there was Dissident and Even Flow. Even Flow was AMAZING. Nicholas leaned over to me and said he couldn’t hear Mike’s guitar. I said he should wait a minute, and McCready went in to fantastic lengthy solo which itself led in to a Matty Cameron drum solo (no, it’s not what you think! It was GOOD) All the guys left the stage, the lights went down leaving it black with just a spotlight trained on Matt. He did his thing, came to the close on his solo and led straight back into the song, simultaneously the lights went up, and with the band back on stage, launched into the chorus. AMAZING.
Eddie introduced the next song with “For anybody who knows our records, this would be one of the Lost Dogs”. It was Sad from the Lost Dog b-side/rarities album, funnily enough. The MOR I Am Mine followed, ending with another ace McCready solo. Then it was Jeremy, which was the only time I saw Nicholas smile all night, as it was one of the few songs of Pearl Jam’s he knew and wanted to hear. Next was Grievance from Binaural. It’s not one of my fave albums, but if they had to play a song from that album, I’d want it to be Grievance, if just for the fantastic line “You don’t give blood and take it back again”.
Magical festival experience time – Boom Gasper on organ and Eddie singing a beautiful Wasted Reprise, which moved seamlessly into Better Man, where the crowd sang the chorus on their own. It made me goosebumpy.
It was full on rock mode from then on, starting with the punky Save You. The kid behind me went absolutely crazy upon hearing it, saying he couldn’t believe they were playing his favourite song. After that was the roar-tastic Blood to which i pogoed like a mofo. Next was Riewviewmirror, which they stretched out with a brilliant improv section in the middle before crashing back in to the song. This is what they finished with, taking leave of the stage. But, of course, all of us in the Jamily knew that wasn’t the end. Far from it…
After a few minutes, Eddie returned to the stage with his ukulele. He played the riff to Black Sabbath’s Iron Man to a massive response. He tried to play the next song, but the cheering had continued. He seemed genuinely taken aback at the response the band had received, appearing teary-eyed on the big screen. He spoke, his voice sounding really torn up, and said something like “You know, our band doesn’t come to England enough to deserve this kind of response, so I’m feeling guilty on behalf of the whole band.” He got another huge cheer and played Soon Forget on the uke. He fucked up the first verse, smiled and laughed, getting yet another pop from the crowd. Ed finished up and the band went straight in to Given To Fly. I must admit that i had grown a lil’ tired of this track popping up on my Pod, but hearing it (and feeling it) live gave it a new leash of life. So powerful and so uplifting. They followed that with Once, prolly my favourite song aboot a serial killer. Or is that Dirty Frank?
Ed introduced the next song by saying “this one pre-dates the band, actually.” It was Crown Of Thorns from the Mother Love Bone days. It got me all lumpy throated, thinking of Jeff, Stone, and Andrew Wood and what may have been.
Comatose is one of my fave choons from the new album, live it’s even better and I was once again leaping around like a rather silly billy. Then came the AWESOME Alive. Wow. The crowd were so into it. During another of Mike’s awe-inspiring solos, Eddie came over to our side of the stage, out on to the rigging/scaffolding surrounding the stage, and gave us a good look and a wave. We all thought he was going to climb up, but no. That was SO fifteen years ago. They finished up, said their goodbyes, gave us their thanks and left the stage.
Nicholas leaned over and said “That’s it. They won’t come out again, will they?” I just shrugged with the biggest smile on my face. The chants of ‘one more song!’ began and the clapping. The lights went up and out came the band AGAIN. They went straight in to Why Go, which was apt. I mean, “why go home”, Pearl Jam? Can’t you please stay and just play all night? The moment Ed started speaking of the British bands that had been an influence on him (The Beatles, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin) I knew what song was coming next. It was The Who’s Baba O’Riley, which he dedicated to all The Who’s family, who i think joined the band at the back of stage. Just how do you describe hearing one of your fave bands play one of your fave tracks by another of your fave bands right in front of you, something you never ever thought you’d see? (Like that, I ‘spose)
It was time for me get all lumpy throated and emotional again. Yes, as soon as i heard the beautiful riff from McCready’s guitar, I knew they were finishing with Yellow Ledbetter. That made me stupidly happy as I love that song so very, very much. As it came to a close, Eddie took out a pair of binoculars and started surveying the crowd, and Mike played the riff from Led Zeppelin’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine in his solo. The guys came to the front of the stage, and gave us a bow. Matt hooked his arm around Ed and almost had to drag him from the stage. It really was time for them to leave.
Okay, so the festival as a whole was kinda wasted on me. I should have done a lot more, seen more bands, and been altogether more adventurous. Next time I will be, and let me assure you, there WILL be a next time.
I have to admit when sitting through the dirge of the earlier sets that I did wonder what all the fuss over fests was aboot (but i think anyone would faced with that line-up, wouldn’t they?) Pearl Jam changed all that, though. There was such warmth and affection for the band. I was worried that they’d have a mixed reception after the response to them being announced as one of the headliners, but the crowd were brilliant and the guys definitely fed off of it on stage. They gave me that special festival experience that people talk of, and I’d like to feel it again.
Pearl Jam were amazing. Not only were they as good as I hoped, they far exceeded my every expectation. After an underwhelming new album, this was the reaffirmation of my Pearl Jam faith that i needed, and not just that, my cup it runneth over. I feel I should go forth and spread the word of Pearl Jam.
Eddie said it best on Jools Holland when he said he saw Pearl Jam as a continuation of those classic seventies rock bands. That’s what I feel. They are the closest our generation has to those legendary live acts like The Who and Zeppelin and I’m just so glad i finally got to see them.
This prolly sounds like the demented rantings of a deluded fanboy, but i don’t care! PEARL JAM ARE THE GREATEST!!!
See you all at Glasto…