Music festivals have been a part of my life since I was 15 years old and ever since that first feel of being let loose at a festival, I have never looked back. I confess that when it came to music I was a late starter. 1997 was the year I started on my musical journey, my mother was a big Brian Adams fan so the April of 97 we saw him live at Wembley Arena. May followed with a band called Reef playing live at the Reading Rivermead. This was the day of my end of school party was held, fuelled by Tequila and beer, I wasn’t too chipper at the start of the show but got better. July I saw the pop legend Michael Jackson at Wembley Stadium, I thought he was alright at the time and I’m not sure if I was caught up in the action, either way if you enjoy it while you are there then that’s what its all about . What really tipped the musical scales for me happened in the August of 97.
My first festival outing was to the V Festival in Chelmsford and although I can say that I’m not much of a fan of this festival anymore back then the festival had a different feel and an amazing line up. If the 97 line up was playing again I’d go in a heart beat but based on 2016 line up I can’t really see that happening. Anyway due to knowing a guy who knew a promo guy who worked for Virgin Cola, a free ticket was offered and so with one of my family friends we hot footed it to the Festival.
We parked the car in an out of town car park and got the free shuttle bus to the festival, I remember it was a bight sunny day and people were out in force with sunglasses on their heads and cans of beer in their hands. Everyone was having a good time and getting ready to enjoy the weekend festival.
We queued at the gates and were soon let into the festival, we had a day pass and were ready to make the most of it. Now this is where things really came together, I mean I had been to Wembley Stadium with another 80,000 people but this place was like a community with its own heart beat, its own rhythm. People were wearing new and interesting clothing, there was the smell of fresh cooking food, the music in the background, the chattering of many people as they wondered in groups throughout the festival, this was a community brought together for the love of music, the great British summer time and for some alcohol.
It has to be said the first port of call for most festival goers is the beer tent, we were no exception, at 15 I was over 6 foot tall and although a relatively young looking face had little issues with being served. The guy I was with was a good friend and in his 30’s which meant I was sorted for the festival. Cider in hand we started to check the place out. I was like a kid in a candy shop, there was so much to see, hear and smell, the place was a real assault on the senses.
We ventured around the market area stopping at weird and wonderful shops that sold everything from funky clothing, jewellery, gifts and much more. Stopping at the odd food stall to refuel we carried on until I found a top that was to ever change the way I would dress. The item in question was a black and yellow top, I guess at first nothing special to look at but it was something different and something completely away from what I was used to dressing in, so none of those normal boring high street trends. it had a great feel to it and it was exactly what I was looking for.
I have included a picture below, this was taken about 15 years after the purchase and by this point it was starting to fall apart, however this was my first and most faithful hippy top and it took me a few more years before I finally gave in and threw it away. RIP hippy top, you served me well for over 15 years.
Armed with my new threads we took another trip towards the cider stall and stayed very close by for a few hours, no point in wondering too far from the beer tent. We had a good position to see and hear the smaller stage and so with drink in hand and my new top we chilled out. It turned out that my first big stint on cider wasn’t so great, I had drunk alcohol before but cider was one of these things that you either love or hate and it turns out I’m not much of a fan, I lay on the floor for a few hours and with no shame I can say I threw up (not over myself which in my opinion is always a bonus) but recovered quite quickly and was ready to carry on enjoying the festival after a slice of pizza and a beer.
James Brown played this year (well at least I think he did, if it wasn’t him it was someone very much like him) which was somewhat of a surprise along with so many great acts, of which I will name a few, please bear in mind though although I saw many of them I don’t remember seeing them all; Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, Beck, Reef, Placebo, Kula Shaker, Dodgy, Stereophonics, Ash, The Bluetones, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Dreadzone, Propellerheads and many more. What a line up, you’ll never get a line up that again, its all pop trash and music that all sounds the same, hence the reason I no longer rate this festival.
At this point in my life I was really starting to get into beats and so we spent the evening at the Dance tent and more than anything, I remember when The Chemical Brothers made their entrance onto the stage. Wow what a set, this was when they were at the top of their career. When their music charged out of the speakers and hit the crowd the impact was instant, the sound was amazing, the crowd went crazy and I was loving every second of it, I felt alive as the beats took hold of me and I danced to the rhythm of the music, well I say danced, if anyone has ever had the pleasure of watching me dance they’ll have taken note that although I have rhythm I have no idea what to do with it..
Anyway, I was happy and realised this is what I had been missing, this complete feeling of escaping into the music with thousands of like minded people. The freedom the festival offered me was something I had never experienced before, there was music, food, alcohol, thousands of people to watch, talk to and dance with. The clothing inspired me and I could see myself living the festival life quite easily. This really was the turning point in my life and for better of worse I started to investigate what kind of a person I was, music festivals were not just a place to go and have fun for a weekend they were a way of life and I was happy to embrace them with arms wide open.
I will always remember this festival as it really opened my eyes to the world of festival life. Everyone who’s ever been to a music festival will have memories (some a little fuzzier than others) of their first festival experience. Those memories will live with them for the rest of their lives.
If you have never been to a festival then now is a great time to hop on board. The UK has a massive and sometimes feels like over subscribed summer festival season. With so many festivals to chose from ranging from local village festivals right up to major events like Glastonbury we are sure there is a festival to get your juices flowing. Peace and love.