Reading Festival

During the 1990’s I looked on in awe at the lineups that the Reading Festival had. It was just like all my favourite bands being in the one place at the one time. Only problem was I wasn’t there!

I never thought for a moment that I would ever get the chance to experience this type of festival. At the time cheap air travel didn’t exist and I recently found out that anybody from Ireland would have made the trip over and you would have done it by boat and coach journeys. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and there are times I wish I had been a wee bit forward planning on going to these gigs.

The closest I would get to experience the festival was catching the late night highlights on ITV for The Beat programme. You didn’t get full sets but you would have got maybe 20 or 30 minutes footage of some of the bands playing.

I also taped a few shows from Radio 1. Nirvana’s legendary 1992 set I still have on tape as well as owning the official release. Came across another tape of highlights of Rage Against The Machine in 1993. That was the year I got to see the band play Belfast before they headed over to Reading.

For a lot of us on this side of the Irish Sea we would have been relying on bands on tour to make a stop over to either Belfast or Dublin. An example of this was Reading 1995 which had both Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins playing. Both bands played Dublin beforehand. Unlucky not to get tickets for Smashing Pumpkins, I got to see Soundgarden instead.

By 1999 I lost my festival virginity at Glastonbury. That was the start and I wanted to go to another one and that came in the year 2000 when I went over to London to see my friends David and Mark who had moved over to work there. We got tents and hired a car and it was about an hour and a half drive down the M25.

We got there on the Thursday evening and set up tent. By Friday morning we would make our way to the site and there queues were huge. Not knowing what the set up was we ending up bunking the queue to the annoyance of others (understandably) but hey, we’re here for the first time and don’t know what the drill was.

First important thing to do for the weekend was to grab a festival t-shirt (always a sucker for these) and the all important programme so you can plan out on what bands you want to see and who you don’t want to see. The beauty of bands clashing gives you that option to move onto another stage.

For 2000, there were about five different stages – the Main Stage, Radio 1 Evening Session Stage which was a big tent along with three other smaller stages for dance, up and coming bands and the comedy stage.

We spent most of our time at the Main Stage and the Radio 1 stage. When we got into the main arena our first port of call was the main stage where we caught the end of Asian Dub Foundation’s set. Happy enough with the spot we got we stayed there pretty much for the rest of the day taking in Limp Bizkit who were awful. After that the line up was pretty decent so we got closer to the front for The Bluetones, Foo Fighters and Primal Scream. All three bands performed great sets.

Oasis were headlining and by this stage I had gone off them so it was going to be a case of splitting up and going to the tent. David and Mark decided to stay for Oasis. I stayed for one song and they bolted to the tent to see Muse. At this point the tent was completely rammed with punters trying to get in to see them. Reminded me of hearing about Foo Fighter’s Reading debut which was in a tent in 1995 and now they were on the main stage. No regrets about going to see Muse as they were brilliant.

For day two we more or less knew the layout of the land and of course after having some late breakfast we were heading back to the arena from our tents and we go straight to the Radio 1 stage to catch Dublin’s JJ72. Great to see an Irish band at a festival. After them was And You Will Know Us By Trail of Dead. David and Mark moved on to the beer tent and I caught up with them afterwards.

The booze was really flowing for those two and with me being teetotal I was more interested in going to see bands! I kept pestering them to get down to the front for Idlewild and then meet up for Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) in the tent. I saw Idlewild on my own, headed over to the tent for QOSTA and now I had lost both of them. The rest of the day I spent on my own down at the front and I can’t say I was disappointed as I caught some fantastic sets by Deftones, Elastica, Super Furry Animals, Gomez and Beck. I am trying to remember if I finished at the main stage for Pulp or made it over to the tent for Embrace. Totally can’t remember and I wasn’t even drinking! By the end of the night I trooped back to the tent to find David and Mark there. They fell into the river (not a nice experience considering what was going into it!) and had been back at the tent for a while. I guess they missed most of Saturday.

So those two got sobered up for day 3 and the final day. The plan was to take the tent down and take all our belongings to the car. We then spent the whole day at the main stage witnessing the hilarious performance of Daphne and Celeste coming on stage to a torrent of abuse and being pelted by bottles. Apparently that was a Reading tradiation.

Staying at the main stage all day Sunday we watched My Vitriol, Cay, Supersuckers and A. Biggest disappointment of the day was Blink 182. Some catchy songs but they were terrible and more interested in cracking smutty jokes. Nevermind! Rage Against the Machine were on next and I totally forgot all about Blink 182. Now how the organisers thought that Rage should be on before Slipknot was a real mystery. Rage were awesome. Great to see them again. Slipknot were a bit amusing. Couldn’t get over their fans all dressing up on a really warm day in jumpsuits and gas masks.

So it was then back down to the front to see Placebo and then main headliners Stereophonics who surprisingly enough more or less phoned their performance in. Tom Jones also made an appearance onstage for their duet of Mamma Told Me Not To Come. As the band were finishing their encore we beat a hastily retreat back to the car to avoid the crowds and hit the M25 back to London. My first Reading and I wanted to go back again.

Missed 2001 as I had been to quite few festivals that summer. Reading 2002 was a stag weekend of sorts as my friend Paddy was getting married and was coming back to Belfast. Instead of doing the 3 day weekend we settled for a two day pass for Friday and Saturday only.

A decent line up overall. I wish we stayed for Sunday but sure what can you do. So for Friday we started off at the main stage with The Soundtrack of our Lives, Mercury Rev, The Dandy Warhols and The White Stripes on the main stage.

We took a trip over to the Radio 1 tent to see the much hyped The Vines which was almost like a second coming of Nirvana. After that it was back to the main stage and we caught the tail end of Weezer’s set.

After that it rained! Rest of the guys bolted for cover for during the rain Jane’s Addiction were on and I wasn’t missing that. Result was I lost everybody and spent the rest of the night down at the front for Pulp and The Strokes. It was only after that when I met everybody again.

So Saturday was the last day which was spent switching between the main stage and the Radio 1 stage. In the tent we got to see Rival Schools and The Cooper Temple Clause. Over on the main stage we saw A and The Hives. Ash were quite high up the bill this year and I caused a mosh pit by charging into the crowd. One of my more madder moments resulting in me getting dragged into the moshpit I created! Mark end up crowd surfing! We chucked him over the crowd and he didn’t get down until reaching the stage. Glad it wasn’t me as I would have flattening everybody.

The final two acts of the evening were Muse and Foo Fighters. The Reading Festival can be compared to a football league table as you can see how bands move up and down of over the years. So for 2002 Foo Fighters headlined for the first time and Muse were on the main stage for the first time after headlining the Radio 1 tent in 2000.

My final Reading was 2004 and I think the weakest line up. Looking back at 2004 not much stands out. Of course some of my favourite bands would be there, Ash again on main stage not to be missed. They have played this festival ten times since 1996 and I have seen them twice. There wasn’t a great deal of organising what bands to go to see so for the Friday it was The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Modest Mouse and Super Furry Animals in the tent. Back to main stage for The Distillers, The Hives, The Offspring and The Darkness (the one band I wanted to avoid!)

Saturday we spent most of the day at the main stage for Thursday, Razorlight and New York Dolls. The only time we headed to the tent was to see 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster who were absolutely mental. Great performance! Back over to the main stage to conclude the evening with Franz Ferdinard, The Libertines, Morrrissey and The White Stripes.

Sunday was a disaster day as the main stage descended into chaos. I don’t think we got to see a lot of bands that day. The Rasmus was bottled off after two songs resulting in the stage times changing. We stayed at the main stage for Dropkick Murphys, The Streets, Lostprophets and Placebo. 50 Cent was on next and nobody was interested so it was off to the tent again catching British Sea Power and The Von Bondies.

What we didn’t know was 50 Cent withdrew from the main stage as he was pelted with bottles and that meant Green Day’s set came forward. But we never knew and stayed in the tent for Supergrass. When they finished their set, you could still hear Green Day from the distance but by then fatigue had set in and everybody just wanted to get back to London.

Record Store Day 2020

The annual Record Store Day was amongst many events cancelled due to the pandemic.  Originally scheduled for April this year, it couldn’t go ahead due to concerns for social distancing.  It would have been very challenging to try being two metres apart in a shop looking for these must have records that you were looking forward to buying.

They were going to try again for June but with restrictions not quite eased at the time a solution to this was to spread out Record Store Day over three months, with drop dates in August (29th), September (26th) and October (24th).

I stopped buying records around 1990 before making the switch to CD.  Have more CDs than records but I got back into buying records again thanks to Record Store Day.

The first one I went to was in 2011.  Head had just opened up in the new Victoria Square shopping complex in Belfast and it was one of my favourite shops for buying CDs.  When I heard about Record Store Day I was intrigued by the idea and looked at the list of records that were being released for this very special day.

The one record that I wanted to get was the reissue of Nirvana’s Australian EP Hormoaning.  I remember not wanting to fork out a lot of money for it on CD when it was first released.  Think it was about £30 for an import back in 1991.

Not knowing how many copies they were going to get as it was a very limited run I decided to get up early and join the queue assuming there was going to be demand.  Got up early about 6am and made my down to the store.

When I got there was two people in the queue.  Quite surprised by this I thought maybe this doesn’t have much interest.  So I got into a conversation with Sam and his daughter Laura talking about what music we liked and what records we were looking for.

Sam was a big Springsteen and Bowie fan and Laura liked Green Day, so I asked about the Nirvana EP as I could only see it from the shop window and it looked like there was only one copy of it.

My heart sank when he said Laura was hoping to get the EP but to my relief he said there was two copies of it!  I was overjoyed and felt it was worthwhile getting up early.  So when the doors opened both myself and Laura went immediately for the Nirvana EP and we both got copies.  Happy days!

Other purchases I made that day were Medium Rare by Foo Fighters, Whore’s Moaning 12″ single by Sonic Youth and a Bruce Springsteen 10″ single Gotta Get The Feeling.

By the time I left the store the queue eventually got bigger and I was quite pleased with my purchases.  The next stage would be to buy a new turntable to listen to them.

I was looking forward to the next one in 2012 but sadly Head’s lease at Victoria Square ended and they were looking for new premises which weren’t ready in time for RDS2012.  There was bound to been other places to go to but I didn’t research it enough to go and look for other stores.

However Head reopened in Ann Street for their new store in time for 2013.  Again I got up early and joined the queue.  This time it got a bit bigger when I got down and of course Sam and Laura were in the queue again too so it was good to see familiar faces.

Purchases made that day were Soundgarden King Animal demos 10″, REM Live in Greensboro CD EP, Anthrax Anthems EP, Placebo E3 EP, At The Drive In Relationship of Command LP and one of the special releases that year, Mad Season Above (Expanded vinyl edition) which was the one I was really after that day.


Again the day proved to be a great success for the shop and also it was good craic meeting other fellow music fans and comparing lists.

In 2014 a new record shop opened up in North Street called Sick Records.  It was a great shop and was probably more of a niche market catering for those who collect records beyond the mainstream.  So that left me in a dilemma which shop do I go to first!

I got to know Kenny the owner and he was a great guy very passionate about music and he went through my list of wants and there was going to be some on it that he wasn’t getting.  The main one I was looking for was the REM MTV Unplugged boxset and the Soundgarden 10″ singles boxset.  I can’t remember if they were going to  be getting it but I made the choice to go to Head, who had now relocated to Castle Court.IMG_6490

As previous years the queue was starting to get a bit bigger now.  Some had been in the queue since midnight on Friday and it was a bitterly cold night that year.  Sam again was in the queue.  The decision to get up early paid off as they only had one copy of the REM boxset and I got it.

That meant that I had to miss out on the Soundgarden boxset which was dearer in Head but Kenny got a copy of it in Sick Records and I was able to get it there at a reasonable price.Superknown singles

Purchases that day included singles by Lemonheads If Only You Were Dead, Nirvana‘s unreleased last single from In Utreo in 1994 got reissued for RSD, Pennyroyal Tea  7″, Bruce Springsteen American Beauty 12″, Mudhoney On Top! LP. The Pogues with Joe Strummer Live in London LP, Husker Du Candy Apple Grey LP, Pixies Indy Cindy LP and the big REM box set of their two MTV unplugged shows.

In 2015 it was again the choice of which shop to go to first and it was naturally going to be Head as they got more variety and stock.

The staff at Head records have always been great and very helpful on the day by pointing you in the right direction of where the records were.  I bought quite a few records that day.  I am sure the bank manager wasn’t too pleased!

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Couple of ones stood out as they were really limited like Jesus and Mary Chain Psychocandy Live Barrowlands LP.  I can’t remember if the shop got the coloured vinvly but my copy was black so I wasn’t complaining.  Also I bought my first U2 LP on vinyl since Rattle and HumSongs of Innocence made its way to my iPhone which was the first time I never bought anything by the band but for RSD they released it on vinyl limited to 5000 copies.  Mine was no.0663.

Other purchases that day were Manic Street Preachers The Holy Bible picture disc, Biffy Clyro Puzzle LP, Clutch From Beale Street to Obilivion LP, Foo Fighters Songs from the Laundry Room 10″, Lemonheads Bored on the 4th July 12″, The Replacements Alex Chilton 10″, Ride OX4 red vinyl LP and Simple Minds Celebrate Live from SSE Hydro Glasgow LP.

2016 at Head was another successful RSD and the wallet was hit hard that day.  I got down early as usual to get my spot in the queue and managed to get most of my wishlist that day.

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Amongst the haul that day were Buzzcocks More Product In A Different Compilation 2LP orange vinyl, Raw Power, A Tribute to Iggy Pop and the Stooges LP featuring Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Duff McKagan (Guns N’Roses), Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees) and Mark Arm (Mudhoney), Cheap Trick At the Budokan, Simple Minds Big Music Tour 2015 red vinyl, Judgement Night OST LP, NME C86 double album, Nirvana Live on KAOS 1987 (which was a bit disappointing) and Superchunk Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)

I also got a Live Metallica CD from Paris that was recorded at Le Bataclan and 7″ singles by Husker Du In A Free Land and The Undertones My Perfect Cousin and a 12″ gold fold edition of Manic Street Preachers A Design for Life. Plus two EPs by That Petrol Emotion – In the Beginning EP and Manic Pop Thrill.  That was a serious day of record shopping!

The 2017 event at Head would be their last one.  By the end of the year the store had closed much to my disappointment.  Sick Records had also closed and I found out that there was a new one opening in Bangor, Bending Sound which I would go to in 2018.

I managed to get into the queue early enough to make sure that I was going to get what I was after.  It is always great to chat to the other punters waiting in the queue to compare lists.

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So 2017’s haul was quite good picking up some really great LPs from Sugar Copper Blue, Evan Dando Baby I’m, Bored, Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression at the Royal Albert Hall (3LPs), Bruce Springsteen Hammersmith Odeon London ’75 LP on vinyl for first time. Along with some 7″ singles by Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, and 12″ Manic Street Preachers single You Love Alone Is Not Enough.

Each year just seemed to be getting more expensive so it was a bit of a relief that the 2018 released schedule didn’t have too much on my wants list.  Went down to Bangor for their first one and it was busy.  A much smaller shop which meant you had to queue and just wait your turn.

It was a beautiful sunny day too so waiting in the queue was ok but would I get what I was after.  The records I really wanted to get were releases by Soundgarden, Rage Against The Machine, and Living Colour.RDS2018 2ND IMAGE

Out of that four I was only successful in getting the Live Democratic National Convention 2000 LP by Rage Against The Machine.  The Soundgarden A Sides LP was sold out and the Living Colour live LP wasn’t on order.  I managed to get them online.  Other purchases in Bending Sound that day were The National Boxer Live in Brussels LP and Belly Feel 10″.

Last years RDS took me down to Armagh as I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get what I wanted.  Armagh Music I had been shopping from since the departure of Head in Belfast and  John the owner was very good at getting CDs ordered for me.  At that stage I took the huff with HMV and vowed never to go back after they went into administration and I had £100 worth of vouchers from Christmas.

The plan was go to Armagh and get in the queue with my list.  I also gave my friend Frank a list too to pick up some stuff in Bangor if I was unsuccessful in Armagh.  To my surprise it was really well organised.  There wasn’t too many there and you gave your list to the staff.  They let you know if it was in stock and when you got into the shop it was bagged or boxed and ready to pay for.

I got everything on my list apart from Green Day Woodstock 1994 which Frank picked up for me in Bangor.  The rest of my wish list I got two albums by Frank Black, self titled and Teenager of the Year, Weezer Dusty Gems and Rare Nuggets LP, Green River Olympia, Tropicana 1984 LP, The Crow OST, Teenage Fanclub The King, Pearl Jam Live at East Street LP and U2 The Europa EP.

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With RSD2020 just around the corner now after the delay from April I will be looking forward to trying to get Bob Mould Circle of Friends LP and Refused Not Fit For Broadcasting (Live at the BBC) and Dinosaur Jr. Swedish Fist (Live in Stockholm) LP in September.  Hopefully not a wallet busting experience like the previous ones.

You can find the list of all releases for RSD2020 at their website.

Record Shops in Northern Ireland taking part this year will be at the following:

Armagh Music, Armagh, Fairhill Records, Ballymena, Bending Sound, Bangor, Sable Starr Records ( Strange Victory Records), Belfast and Cool Discs, Derry.

Wherever you end up going, make sure you plan your list and budget and most importantly enjoy the day and records that you buy.