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.

Sunstroke Festival returns after 25 year hiatus

This evening I have just been stunned to hear the news that Ireland’s Sunstroke festival is back after a 25 year absence.

I saw posts on Facebook over the last day or so that Faith No More were teasing a new tour. My mate Paul asked me was it definitely on after finding out about the fakes news of Rage Against The Machine coming to Dublin next summer.

So you can imagine my surprise and indeed joy when I saw the line up. This time a 2 day festival like the old Witnness/Oxegen festivals at Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare.

When I saw the poster it was like Christmas came early. Dare I say quite more appealing than Download Festival especially when this one is on your doorstep.

So I said to Paul and we are definitely up for it. Whether we do both days or just one is going to depend on who plays under the headliners. Faith No More headline Saturday whilst Deftones headline on Sunday.

Anyway we both have a history of going to the previous one day festivals. The first one was in 1993 at Dalymount Park. The headliners were meant to be Red Hot Chili Peppers but they withdrew due to personnel problems in the band and were replaced by Faith No More.

This was definitely one of the best gigs I have been to. Faith No More unleashed a crazy and wild performance which had the place bouncing. It was unreal.

The rest of the bill was great too. Also playing were Sonic Youth, Sugar, Belly and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

1994 same venue and the one I missed due to not being able to get time off work. The gig was on a Thursday. Really regretted missing this one as it was a great line up.

Red Hot Chili Peppers returned to Ireland that year with support from Frank Black, Helmet, Ice Cube (they replaced Soundgarden who dropped out), Terrorvision alongside local acts Therapy? and My Little Funhouse.

A year later it was back again, this time it had moved to the RDS due to complaints of noise from the residents who lived alongside Dalymount Park.

Looking back on this one this was definite a scheduling nightmare. The day before Smashing Pumpkins we’re playing at the Olympia and had added a second date at same venue which clashed with Sunstroke which was headlined by Soundgarden.

The venue was also strange as it was almost like Dublin’s version of the King’s Hall. Even stranger this was an indoor gig rather than an outdoor one. Support came from Mudhoney, White Zombie, Pennywise, Tad and Sponge. Wasn’t my favourite as the sound was awful.

It is great that Sunstroke is back and I am definitely looking forward to going down to it. A long overdue festival to these shores.

Tickets are on sale Tuesday 3 December with options of weekend passes, weekend with camping or day tickets. Time to join the queue.

2005 – festivals

The 2005 Oxegen festival would be my last ever Irish festival.  After this one I vowed never to return to it.

For me the whole festival was becoming more of an event to be at rather than enjoy the bands that were playing during the weekend.  It was almost like Slane that everybody just wanted to be at just to say they were there.

Anyway, onto to the festival.  I went down to it with a bunch of friends.  A group of them came over from London and they decided to camp.  Me and my friend Paddy decided to stay in a hostel in Dublin and got the shuttle bus up.  Seemed to be the wise decision as the camp site just descended into madness.  Tents were getting set on fire and people were pissing on tents which is not a nice experience.  To make matters worst my friends from London were having a really bad time, one of them ending up with a black eye.

This is not what going to festivals is about.  Sure you can have a drink and have a good time but getting completely hammered, wrecking tents and starting fights is definitely not a good why to enjoy a music festival.

So Oxegen was getting bigger.  We had the main stage, the second stage (known as The Ticket stage), the dance tent and the new bands stage.

The festival took place over the weekend of 9 and 10 July and also coincided with T in the Park in Scotland so most of the bands would cross over between the two countries over the weekend.

Saturday was spent going between the mains stage and the second stage.  We didn’t check out any bands on the new bands stage and the dance tent wasn’t visited at all.

On the main stage we got to see The Saw Doctors, Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight, Queens of the Stone Age, The Frames and Green Day.  While Green Day were the headliners, ABBA tribute group Bjorn Again actually closed the festival.

Green Day did the usual stuff like asking audience members if they could play guitar, etc and of course everybody puts their hand in the air and says yes.  So we got three members of the audience plucked from the crowd to play drums, bass and guitar during Knowledge by Operation Ivy.

Inbetween sets on the main stage the only bands on the second stage that we got to see were Kerbdog and Nine Black Alps.   The Prodigy headlined that stage but clashed with Green Day.

On Sunday the main draw for me was Foo Fighters and Audioslave.  For a lot of people this was the closest they were going to get to see at least a third of Rage Against The Machine before the they reformed.  Rage Against The Machine would come back to Ireland in 2008 and headlined the 2008 festival.  Audioslave were great and surprisingly they did do some Rage numbers which I thought probably wasn’t right as Chris Cornell is no Zack de la Rocha and Killing In The Name didn’t quite suit his vocal range but having thousands singing back “f**k you I won’t do what you tell me!” is probably going to be he highlight of the weekend for a lot of people.  They did a few Soundgarden songs as well.

Other bands we got to see on the main stage were The Beautiful South and Feeder. The only other band were saw was Jimmy Eat World on the second stage.

The Killers drew the biggest crowd of the weekend and they were not great.  The sound was awful and you could hardly hear them at all.  People near the sound stage were trying to get the attention of the sound engineers to turn the sound up to no avail.  However behind us the crowds were loving every minute of it and thought it was great.  Had me wondering if we were nearer the front and could hardly hear the band how come all those behind us though it was brilliant.  Once The Killers finished the crowd disappeared and then it was time for the really awful Keane.

Instead of going to see Doves, we stayed at the main stage because Foo Fighters were on after Keane.  Keane were truly dreadful but it was just a case of relaxing while they were on stage waiting for Dave Grohl and the boys.

Foo Fighters played a great set and are real entertainers on stage.  They even had some audience members coming on to play with them as well before Dave Grohl told them “to get the f**k off my stage!”

Once the music was over it was time to go home.  The whole place was like a giant landfill site with rubbish everywhere and people just leaving their tents behind, good ones as well as those that were destroyed.  It was just like everything was disposable and it was very much a throw away weekend.

Between Witnness and Oxegen, I think Witnness was definitely the best of the festivals.  Oxegen just got bigger and bigger and suffered as a result of its own green.  The two day festival finally ended up a three day event.

Sadly Oxegen 2005 was my last Irish festival.  Even my friends showed lack of interest for later events and even though lots of my favourite bands would go on to play them even I didn’t want to go down on my own closing the chapter on the festival experience.






2004 – festivals

The festival season for 2004 took a bit of a twist as I spent the two summer festivals over in Scotland and England instead of at home.

Witnness was no more, now rebranded Oxegen it also for the first time moved from the traditional August bank holiday weekend to the same weekend as T in the Park (10-11 July).

This meant that there would be a cross over of bands between Ireland and Scotland but there were a few differences in both line ups as both festivals didn’t necessarily get the same bands.  One difference was that Oxegen had The Cure and T in the Park had Pixies.T IN THE PARK

I made my way over to Scotland on the Saturday to meet up with my friend Colin who lived in Glasgow.  The weekend had a slight spanner in the works as Colin wouldn’t be able to make it too much later on over the weekend, so I had to try and meet up with his sister and her friends.  The journey up was a bit of a nightmare as there were traffic jams along the way.

I eventually got in and got my wrist band for the weekend.  Now it was time to see some bands.

There wasn’t too many bands I wanted to see on the main stage.  Think the first band I saw was The Beta Band.  After that it was a trip over to the NME stage to see The Zutons, followed up British Sea Power and then Funeral for a Friend.

A quick visit over to King Tut’s Tent to see Ash was a must for me.  Never one to miss an Ash gig.   The tent was a the perfect venue for them.

David Bowie was meant to headline the main stage but he pulled out due to illness and the headline slot was going to The Darkness.  I went over to see The Charalatans before they came on.  I had no intention of watching The Darkness, so it was back to the NME stage to see Muse close the Saturday evening there.

Sunday was a busy day now that I was already on site.  Plenty of bands to see between the stages.

On the main stage I got to see Franz Ferndinard, The Thrills and PJ Harvey.  Can’t remember seeing Kings of Leon.  I went over to the NME stage and The Killers were making their UK festival debut.  Brandon Flowers seemed to have had a few technical difficulties with his keyboard but he managed to overcome it.

I only made one visit to King Tut’s tent and it was bedlam trying to get in.  The reason: Snow Patrol were playing.  There was quite a lot of disgruntled people in the queue wanting to know who thought it was a good idea to put them in the tent when they were starting to get popular.  However I managed to just about squeeze into the tent but it was definitely a great show by them.  The tent suited them then but soon after it was onto bigger things.

Managed to get out of the tent and it was back to the main stage.  Think Kings of Leon had just finished their set which I missed but I was not going to miss Pixies.  Fantastic to get to see them on their reunion.  I didn’t enjoy seeing them support Red Hot Chili Peppers earlier in the summer in Dublin but this was unmissable and the atmosphere was fantastic.  The weekend finally came to a close then The Strokes headlined the main stage.

That was to be my last ever visit to T in the Park and I have enjoyed it the three times that I had been over.

Also making it a last ever festival visit for me was Reading.  This would be my last visit to the venue and I have mixed feelings about the last one.  I don’t think it was the best one that I been too in terms of the quality of the bands that played.

Reading 2004

I was over again visit friends in London and we made the trip down to Reading.  Most of the Friday was spent on the main stage.  Got to see Taking Back Sunday, Hundred Reasons, The Distillers, The Hives, Ash and the Offspring.  Again The Darkness were headlining and I was avoiding them like a plague.  Thankfully the alternative was to see Super Furry Animals on the Radio 1 stage.  The only other band I got to see in the tent was The International Noise Conspiracy.

On Saturday again nearly the whole day was at the main stage.  We got to see Thursday, Razorlight, New York Dolls, Franz Ferdinard, The Libertines, Morrisey and The White Stripes.

Sunday was by far the worst of the three days.  We were a bit late getting on site and by the time we got in, The Rasmus had already been bottled off stage which resulted in the bands being moved forward.  We stuck round for Dropkick Murphys, The Streets, Lostprophets and Placebo.

There was no interest in seeing 50 Cent so it was off to the Radio 1 stage and we got to see The Von Bondies and then Supergrass.  Little did we know that when we came out of the tent after Supergrass finished that Green Day had already gone onstage early.

Turned out that 50 Cent was getting some abuse from the crowd and rumour had it that somebody chucked a deckchair towards the stage and he chucked it back into the crowed.  Needless to say he walked off stage and that meant the stage times were going forward again.

There were some bands I liked that were playing in the smaller tents but by this stage we had all had enough and it was time to go home.  And that was my last ever visit to Reading.
















2003 – festivals

The summer of 2003 was the one where I done a festival all by myself.  Nobody was about or interested in going down to the very last Witnness festival.  It moved from Fairyhouse racecourse to Punchestown racecourse in County Kildare.

So I didn’t wait about and bought tickets for the weekend.  I definitely wasn’t going to go camping so I booked a hostel to stay in Dublin city centre.  To get to the venue buses left Dublin to go to the venue so that was also sorted.

Only dilemma about going to a huge festival on your own was do I say hello to anybody?  I didn’t see anybody that I knew from previous gigs at it and was a bit on the shy side so I kind of kept to myself moving from stage to stage to see all the bands I wanted to see.

Couple of positives about being on your own for the festival.

You got to see all the bands you wanted to see.

There was no waiting around at beer tents meaning lots of time to see bands.

No dilemmas about who to see if bands clash at same time you just make a decision and stick with it.

I travelled down on the Friday night and got to the hostel I was staying in.  On Saturday I woke up and got ready to head for the bus to get to Kildare.  It was a pretty straightforward service as there was loads of buses heading out to it.

Once I got to the site it was into the queue to get the weekend wristband and to get the all important timetable to plan who to see.

There were three stages of interest for me – the main stage, the upstage and the onstage.  The onstage was a tent and the upstage was a second outdoor one.  There was plenty of gaps between the stages so it was just a matter of walking from one to the other.  There wasn’t much sound clashes.

By the time I got there the first band I saw was Downpatrick’s The Answer.  They opened at the upstage.  I also headed over to the main stage for a while and saw the Revs.  The only other band I caught on the main stage were Supergrass.  Coldplay were the headliners but I had no interest in seeing them.

So I headed over to the onstage and caught The Raveonettes instead of Coldplay.  Earlier on the same stage I saw OK Go and Turn.

When it was all over Coldplay were still playing away on the main stage but I headed back to the bus to get on the road to Dublin and a good nights sleep.  Something you don’t get when you are camping!

Sunday was actually the busier of the two days.  I was up bright and early making my way to the bus stop and got there in time for the opening bands.

First band I saw was Snow Patrol.  Pre Final Straw Snow Patrol.  2004 would be their year and they would go on to be future headliners. This was probably the last time I would get to see them play their older stuff.

The rest of the day was spent going back and forth around the three stages.  I took a chance to see Kings of Leon on the onstage.  They had just released their debut album and they had a raw edge about them which is something I think the band lacks now.

Other bands I got to see on the upstage were The Music and The Polyphonic Spree (band of the weekend!).

The main stage was pretty busy too and I took in sets from Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club, The Walls ,The Cardigans, Super Furry Animals and The Frames.  I don’t remember seeing The Flaming Lips.  They probably clashed with The Polyphonic Spree.

David Gray was the headliner on the main stage but I definitely wasn’t interested in him.  The Manic Street Preachers closed the upstage and I went over to see them instead.

Overall I think I survived being on my own for a festival.  The following year 2004 the festival would share bands with T in the Park in Scotland.








2002 – festivals

That year was a busy one festival wise.  As well as doing the normal weekend festivals like Witnness in Ireland and back to the Reading Festival in England, 2002 saw the first arrival of Ozzfest in Ireland and for the first time Belfast getting it’s own festival with Tennent’s Vital.

So onto my first metal festival.  I had followed with interest over the years the Monsters of Rock festival at Donnington Park.  One for the bucket list I think, maybe one day if the Download line up is good enough to make it over for.  Ozzy Osbourne brought Ozzfest 2002 to Punchestown Racecourse with two different stages for the bands.

I went down to this one on my own.  My friend Eddie lived in Trim which wasn’t too far away so I was able to stay at his house for this one.  Ozzfest 2002

When I got to the gates everyone was hearing the news of Ozzy’s cancellation.  He had been unwell during his performance the night before at Donnington so on doctor’s orders he had to withdraw from the Irish leg of the tour.

We had the option of getting a full refund if disappointed and not go in or we could still use our tickets.  Well I wasn’t going to let my ticket got to waste as there were other bands on the bill I wanted to see and I wasn’t too peeved about Ozzy’s non-appearance.

So in I went and what a day I had.  On the main stage, Tool took over as headliners.  The metal Radiohead they have over been dubbed.  It was great to finally see them at last but they are not everybody’s cup of tea it would appear.  They filled the headline slot very well but throughout the entire performance, Mynard James Keenan had his back to the crowd the entire time and you could only see the shadow of him on the onstage backdrop.

Also on the main stage were System of a Down who were amazing.  They really got the crowd going.  Slayer were awesome as well.  I still get goosebumps listening to the intro to Raining Blood.  They played that during daylight but you could still feel it.  Local heroes Therapy? were also on the bill too so it was good to see an Irish band up there.  I also had a look at some of the smaller bands playing on the other stage – Skindive, Hell is for Heroes and Superskin.

Witnness 2002 took place in July instead of August that year which was now a permanent fixture change from here on in.

I was heading down to this one with my friends Kenny and Paul.  We got camping tickets but Paul wasn’t able to go and that left me and Kenny going with no tent!  All was not lost though as Kenny knew somebody down that part of the world and we were able to stay with them.  Sure beat camping as that weekend would go on to become a complete mudbath!Witness 2002.JPG

Getting to Fairyhouse Racecourse was mayhem.  It took ages to get to the site and with the weather getting really bad and the rain coming down quite heavy it sure wasn’t going to be  sunny weekend!  The queues were also bad for getting the tickets changed to wristbands which meant you were missing bands that had already taken to the stage.

By the time we got in it was nearly mid afternoon and missed quite a few bands.  Jimmy Eat World were on stage when we were finally getting through the gates.  All the timetables had sold out by this stage so it was nearly guest work trying to work out who was due on.  I think I managed to find a timetable from one of the papers that was lying around so that was good to work on.

With conditions so bad, one of the stages was starting to sink in the mud.  On the Saturday we ended up mainly on the main stage and the first band we got to see were the Hives who were doing their best to brighten up the proceedings.  The Frames got promoted to the main stage at last following their two indoor tent performances from the previous years.  Biggest regret was going to see Green Day which resulted in people rolling around in the muck and chucking muck into the crowd.  Kenny managed to get hit on the back of the head with some of it.  Looking back on it should have went to the Rising tent to see Sonic Youth, at least there would have been no muck flying around.

We also had a look at the dance tent for shelter but it was pretty busy.  Kosheen were playing but there was no way in.

The Prodigy were the main headliners but by this stage it was getting a bit too much in the rain and mud that we stuck it out for Foo Fighters before heading back to base.

Sunday was a better day as it had brightened up a bit and the rain stopped.  Straw was being put down to cover the mud which was doing the job.

The job to lift everybody’s spirits was bestowed to The Polyphonic Spree!  The white robed massive were becoming your favourite new cult band.  They definitely brought much needed sunshine to the weekend.

The second stage was useable on the Sunday and we took in quite a lot of bands on that stage.  We got to see Rival Schools, Copper Temple Clause, A, Less Than Jake, BRMC before heading over to the main stage to catch Primal Scream  the only band we saw on the main stage.

After that Oasis were headlining the main stage.  Neither of us had any interest in seeing them so the for last bands of the weekend we split up – Kenny headed over to the second stage to see Basement Jaxx and I headed over to the Rising tent to see Idlewild.  With the weekend now coming to a close we headed back to the car and it was bedlam trying to get out!  We finally made it out and Kenny drove us home leaving all the muck behind!

Last big summer festival was a trip over to England for the Reading Festival. Reading-2002 posterWith most of my friends having moved over to London to work and live this was the perfect festival to go to.  Taking place over the August bank holiday weekend there was a lot of bands to see at Reading over two days only.  We only booked tickets for Friday and Saturday only missing out on Sunday.

Unlike the previous visit to Reading in 2000 we managed to get in without bunking the queue.

So Friday kicked off with the The Soundtrack of our Lives.  We decided to stay at the main stage for Mercury Rev, The Dandy Warhols and The White Stripes before heading over to the Radio 1 stage to see The Vines who were the buzz of the weekend.  Were we witnessing possibly the new Nirvana?  Not quite.  They were good but just not as good as Nirvana.  Back to the main stage and we caught the tail end of Weezer’s set.

After that a downpour started just before Jane’s Addiction came on.  I was the only one that wanted to brave the rain to see them while everyone buggered off to shelter.  After that I lost everyone and was down at the front on my own for both Pulp and The Strokes. I finally bumped in the rest of the guys after The Strokes.

Saturday we did make it to one of the smaller stages and saw The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and what a good band they were.  Very entertaining.  Back over at the main stage we saw Andrew WK, followed that it was A and then the Hives who were much better here than they were at Witnness.

Always a pleasure to catch an Irish band at a festival and it was great to see Ash.  Don’t often do this at gigs but I ran into the crowd and in a wake of that caused a massive moshpit which I was pulled into!  We lifted up Mark for a spot of crowd surfing and he ending up going all the away to the barrier!

Big decisions had to be made for the next two bands – Muse on the main stage or Jimmy Eat World on the Radio 1 stage.  It was a 50-50 split so I was away to see Muse while the others went to see Jimmy Eat World.

Closing the Reading festival on the Saturday was Foo Fighters who had finally got to the top slot.  From humbled beginnings in 1995 in the Radio 1 tent to the big stage.  Foo Fighters had definitely arrived.

Within two weeks it was time for a festival in Belfast.  Tennant’s Vital Primal Sceam Vital 02was created that year over the space of two days we had a dance day and a rock day at the Botanic Gardens.  This festival was not on the sheer scale of U2’s appearance in 1997 but a much smaller one to start off a first festival in Belfast with the gigs being inside a big tent.

I had no interest on day 1 so I went down for day 2 as it appealed to me more.  It had been raining the day before so it was a bit a muddy outside.  Inside the tent it was fine.  Local band Snow Patrol opened up the proceedings.  They would go on to be future headliners.

The rest of the bill also included Idlewild and Badly Drawn Boy.  Primal Scream were the headline band and what a set they performed.  It was absolutely amazing.  Very heavy on the strobe lights but it created a great atmosphere within the tent.  One of the best gigs I have been too.

It was great that Vital was a great success as it would lead the way for future two day events in the city.








2001 – festivals

The summer of 2001 saw me going to two festivals that year – T in the Park over in Scotland and the second Witnness festival in Ireland.

T in the Park took place over the weekend of 7-8 July. This was my first visit to a Scottish festival and it was really good.

Very much like Glastonbury but probably a bit more accessible. I met up with my Glasgow friend Colin and his sister and some of his friends.

There was about four stages overall, the main stage, second stage, King Tut’s stage and the dance tent.

Most of that weekend was spent jumping between stage 1 and stage 2 to catch the bands that you wanted to see.

By the time I got there I think I missed quite a few bands. On the Saturday, I got to see Dandy Warhols, Muse, James, Placebo and Catatonia.

On the Sunday the main highlights were Beck, Feeder, Weezer, JJ72 and Ash.

T in the Park was a fantastic event and it was quite evident that the Scottish fans loved their music. A very friendly bunch and I would definitely be going back again.

Closer to home, the weekend of 4-5 August brought me down to Punchestown Racecourse again for the second Wittness festival. The line up was quite similar to T in the Park but Witnness boasted a mass of Irish talent on stage.

This time I was down for both days and I went down with some guys from work who were big into music. We went down and pitched our tent on the Friday. Witnness had proved to be popular second time round which meant that camping was available.

Keeping up with the theme from the first one, there were four stages and the smaller café tent.

The Saturday was quite busy taking in loads of bands between all three stages.

On the main stage I got to see Throat, Wilt, Muse and The Charlatans.

The second stage named More I managed to see The Walls, Evan Dando, Starsailor and Embrace. Highlight of Saturday evening was at the Rising stage as The Frames closed the proceedings there. A fantastic performance by them.

Sunday started off at the main stage as Snow Patrol opened early. Quite a contrast to now as they would go on to headline future events here. Following Snow Patrol were Downpatrick’s Relish and then it was Feeder, James and Placebo in quick succession. Another Downpatrick band, Ash closed the main stage that evening.

Inbetween main stage sets I got to see Teenage Fanclub and Elbow on the More stage and on the Rising Stage I got to see The White Stripes Irish debut, followed by And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead, David Kitt and Super Furry Animals.

The second Witnness was a great success and I enjoyed every minute of it. I would be back again the following summer. Guess I was making up loss time of missing out on Feile!

2000 – festivals

I finally caught the festival bug a bit late.  Took me to go to the first really big one, Glastonbury (see previous blog, 1999 – festivals) to really want to experience it again.

From 1990 to 1994 the annual Trip to Tipp (Feile) completely bypassed me.  This was a three day event at Semple Stadium in Thurles.  So I have never been to any of these but I do know some people out there who were present at Thurles.  If you are reading this and have good memories of the Trip to Tipp please share your experiences.

By 1995 it moved to Cork at Páirc Uí Chaoimh before moving north to Dublin in 1996 at the Point Theatre.  Was tempted to head down for that one but didn’t go.  Not sure if an indoor festival was the right setting.  It finally ended in 1997 as a one day event.

So after a two year break that all changed in the year 2000 with the arrival of Witnness. The 2000 festival was the first Witnness festival to be held. It took place on the 5 and 6 August 2000 in Fairyhouse Racecourse in County Meath.


I went down on the Sunday with friends for the second day.  The line up for the first day wasn’t very appealing.

We hired a car and made the journey down south.  There wasn’t even any camping at this one either.

Because we didn’t get down until the Sunday we missed out on the festival programme so it was hard to work out where we were meant to be to catch the bands that we wanted to see.

As well as the main stage, there were two other stages.  I think the bulk of our time was spent in the tents rather than the main stage as there was nobody on the main stage we wanted to see apart from Embrace and Beck.  Have vague recollections of Travis but nearly sure I wasn’t at the main stage for that.

On the other two stages we took in quite a lot of bands.  Got to see Wilt,, Snow Patrol, Idlewild, JJ72, Feeder, Therapy?, The Walls and The Frames.  Quite a lot of Irish talent there.

Overall I think I was quite impressed with the set up.  Was very easy to get to and no hassle getting home.  That’s a win for me.

So the next festival that summer was little under four weeks away when it was a trip over to England for the Reading Festival which was held on the bank holiday weekend of 25-27 August.

I went over to see my friends David and Mark who had moved to London.  We hired a car and the task was handed for me to drive to the site!

We headed down on the Thursday and made it to Reading in time to pitch our tent and get the layout of the land.  Unlike Glastonbury, Reading is very accessible with a railway to London and good access to the motorways.  The festival itself was right in the middle of the town which gave it a very suburban feeling.


This was the festival I had always wanted to do.  I used to set the video for the late night highlights that ITV used to show of it.  Many of my favourite bands have graced the stage over the years.  Definitely some you had to be there moments so hopefully I would get to experience some of them myself.

So on the Friday the first task of the day is to get the all important wrist band (see photo).

ReadingThe queues however were massive and somehow we managed to bunk the queue.  Not intentional now, honestly we kind of wandered into a queue and stayed put.  Think we got a few dirty looks for that but nobody told us to leave and join the queue properly.

Next important task was to get the all important timetable.  Yours truly spent the entire weekend with this round this next to be hurdled about all weekend with the “who’s on next, what time, what stage, etc, etc”.

Highlights of Reading:

Friday – We got our bearings and found out where we needed to be.  Most of Friday was spent on the main stage.  We caught the tail end of Asian Dub Foundations set.  Stuck around for Limp Bizkit.  After that we moved forward to the front a bit and saw The Bluetones and were in the perfect spot for my next two favourite bands, Foo Fighters and Primal Scream.  Even in 2000 Foo Fighters were quite low down on the bill.  Headliners were Oasis but I was haven’t none of it and after one song, I bolted to the other stage to see Muse who were headlining in the tent at the same time.  Remember I said earlier that I wanted to experience a festival moment?  Well this was it.  The tent was packed, everybody was crammed into every acre of space in the tent to catch a glimpse of them, even some people started to climb the support poles to be told to get down while the band stopped playing.  Even inbetween songs you could still hear Oasis in the background but in the tent everyone was shouting f**k off Oasis to the roar of approval inside.

Saturday – when it all got messy.  Lots of bands to see but some like to have a beer or two.  Me?  I just want to see bands. We had only got into the arena and first port of call was the first visit to the other stage and we saw JJ72.  After that it was to the beer tent.

I was getting a bit impatient as the more beer being consumed I kept looking at the clock for the next band.  Idlewild were next on the main stage but Dave and Mark were too busy enjoying beer that I went off on my own and told them I would meet them back at the tent.  After Idlewild’s set I went back to the tent to find they were both gone.  I had no idea were they were and had no phone so there was no way of finding them.  In the end I spent the entire afternoon and evening on my own resulting in me getting to see Queens of the Stone Age in the other stage and I spent the rest of the day at the main stage taking in Super Furry Animals, Gomez, Beck and finally Pulp.

I made my way back to the tent and found both Dave and Mark there.  Turned out they wandering into the River Thames and were soaked to the bone.  Plus the fact that it was bogging too with everybody pissing it on or going for a dump.  Lovely!

Sunday – back to normal.  The dust settles from the previous days shenanigans and we have a plan.  Tent came down after we got up, the car got packed and ready for a quick getaway once the festival closed.  We weren’t going to stay overnight for this one and would be heading back to London.

We spent all day Sunday on the main stage.  There was no bands of interest on the other stages.  Sunday is traditionally rock day and most acts on this stage hit that target apart from Daphne and Celeste!  Who thought this was a good idea to put them on a rock stage! They came on stage to a barrage of missiles and bottles aimed at them!  Throwing stuff in the general direction of somebody you didn’t approve of on stage was another Reading tradition.  They stood their ground though and seemed to have taken it in good spirits until they get hauled off stage.  Hard luck girls you did give it a try and were brave enough to be on stage to a very hostile environment.

So back to the rock bands.  We took in Cay, Supersuckers, A, Blink 182, Rage Against The Machine, Slipknot, Placebo and finally headliners Stereophonics, who brought Tom Jones onstage with them later on.

Once they finished that was a wrap and we were heading towards London!

Overall, I enjoyed my first Reading festival.  I would go to another two after this.  Biggest disappointment of it was not taking the time to explore the other stages.  Some really good bands were there to be discovered.  Second disappointment was why were Rage Against The Machine so low down on the bill?  They headlined in 1993 and would do so again in 2008.

I was truly bitten by the festival bug now that I have survived 2 and a bit festivals!




Glastonbury 1999

If you were going to do one festival that year it was going to be this one….Glastonbury.

At the time one for the bucket list.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be at this festival.  Looking back now 20 years ago it seemed easier to get tickets.  A mere snip at £83 back then.   No need for photo id like you do now!

Glasto line up 99

The headline acts were announced well in advance so you would know who you were going to see.  Over the three days the main headliners were REM (Friday), Manic Street Preachers (Saturday) and Skunk Anansie (Sunday).

So tickets are purchased and flights booked.  Me and my friend David made our way to Glastonbury from London with his girlfriend at the time.  Felt like the spare wheel that weekend! We made our way down on the Thursday, checked in with tickets and got the all important gig timetable. Glastonbury 99 (2).JPG

The next step is the tricky bit.  Trying to find a decent spot to pitch your tent.  We actually did find a decent spot not that far from the Pyramid stage.  So we settled in for the night so far, so good.

Next morning it was time for the festival to start.  First port of call was the Pyramid stage. In fact most of the weekend was spent between that and the other stage.  The place was so huge it was nearly impossible to take in all the bands you wanted to see so we decided to stick to the two stages which were within a decent walking distant.

One thing that stuck me about Glastonbury was it wasn’t your average rock festival.  It seemed very family orientated and it had a very laid back vibe as well.

It all started at 11am.  First act on was ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again.  This was followed by sets by Ian Dury and then Bare Naked Ladies.

By the afternoon Blondie came on stage.  I actually made it all the way to the front for Bush.  When I came back to David and his girlfriend we had met up with a group from Glasgow who we hung about with for a while.  Whilst I don’t mind meeting up with people I don’t like missing any bands!  Got to hear Hole from the distance while we hung out with our Glasgow friends.

As REM were the headline act it was going to get busy so a quick trip to the other stage allowed me to get to see Pavement.  Took in a bit of Gomez before bolting back to the Pyramid stage.  By then it was getting really busy as REM were about to hit the stage.

An amazing performance, I think just as good as Slane a few years earlier.  Check out footage of REM live from Glastonbury.  It’s The End of The World As We Know It

Following this amazing performance we all stayed up for a while.  No idea what time to but was a good opportunity to wander around the site and take in everything.

So having survived day 1 it was now time for day 2.  A bit of controversary surrounding the Manics debut headline slot.  Nicky Wire once recalled in an interview that he wanted to bulldoze the place and build a by pass through it (1994) to the practical joke about having a private toilet.  Check out the article from the Guardian newspaper at the time Red rockers wage battle of portaloo

Billy Bragg was not impressed!

We saw Billy Bragg live for the first time and then the legend that is Joe Strummer.  I had just got into appreciating how good The Clash were and being too young at the time wouldn’t have got to see them.

I made my way down to the front again to see Ash.  It was pretty wild as everyone was bouncing around like crazy.  The atmosphere was great.  Nearly lost my hat at one stage.

Following that it was back round to the other stage to catch The Cardigans and Super Furry Animals.  The Furries were amazing.  After this it was round to the Pyramid stage to see the Manics.  By this stage the crowd was huge.  It was near impossible get anywhere near the front.

Six songs in and there was crowd trouble.  The band were playing Yes from The Holy Bible and nobody around me knew what song was.  I was bouncing around like mad and nearly got thumped as somebody objected to me having a good time!  David stood between me and the guy who seemed to be annoyed.  Anyway it became apparent that the crowd trouble at the front was due to the crowd surging forward.  The band stopped playing appealing for everyone to move back.

Survived day 2 only one more day to go!

Sunday started off with the London Community Gospel Choir followed by Christian rockers Delirious?  We got a bit of Al Green in the afternoon before switching over to the other stage to catch Feeder, then back to the main stage for a bit of Fun Lovin’ Criminals before nipping back to the other stage to see Mercury Rev.

By this stage the festival was coming to a climax or rather an anti-climax.  Which brings me to band that closed the main stage on the Sunday night…Skunk Anansie.  Didn’t think it would be a headline slot but hey Michael Eavis picks the headliners.  Were they the worst headliners? I don’t think they were the worst but considering what was out at the time why shouldn’t they have had a shot at it.

So that closed Glastonbury.  Only a matter of trying to get home after a sleepless last night.  Getting in was easy, getting out harder.  Every bus leaving was going everywhere but London.  By the time the London bus came it was like the fall of Saigon as every one threw their bags onto the bus trying to get onboard.  We finally hit the road but by the time we got to the airport we missed our flight to Dublin.  Ryanair managed to put us on the next available flight that night which meant we needed somewhere to stay in Dublin on Monday night before going home.

Funny enough on the second flight we shared the same plane as the President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann) Mary McAleese and her husband.  So even the President flew economy class back then!

Looking back on my first and only Glastonbury some great bands, great weather and a bit of drama getting home.  Think I will stick to watching it on BBC in future!
















1998 – festivals

I was never much of a festival goer missing all the Trips to Tipp in the 1990s.  Never made it to Reading until early 2000s and Glastonbury in 1999 was my first big festival.

I have no gig ticket for this one but my first festival experience was in Cornwall in England visiting friends in that part of the country.  The Bude Rock and Surf festival as it was called was quite a strange set up.  Basically it was a festival in a field with two stages right beside each other.

So when a band finished on one stage everyone just moved over to the next stage!  Trying to remember who all played but it was nobody big.  I think I saw Travis, Catatonia and Space.  Tried to Goggle the line up but no joy.

Had a trip to Galway on the Twelfth weekend for the Big Day Out at Castlegar Sports Ground.

Headlined up Pulp with support from Beastie Boys, Garbage, Ian Brown and Corner Shop.  This was a one day event.  Overall a mixed bag.  The crowd couldn’t get into Pulp who were playing mostly new stuff from This is Hardcore.  The crowd just wanted the hits from Different Class.

Equally disappointing were Garbage who I was most looking forward to seeing.  A very short set and I think it may have been something to do with them appearing at T in the Park in Scotland over that same weekend.  Ian Brown was awful.  Singing badly and dancing badly with good measure.  Just wasn’t the Stone Roses.

However the same can’t be said about the Beastie Boys.  They were amazing and made up for the other disappointments on the day.

Last festival of the year was at Slane Castle on 29/8/98.  Headliners were The Verve.

Support came from Finlay Quaye, Junkster, James, Robbie Williams (who  would return in 1999 to headline) and special guests Manic Street Preachers.

Nowhere near as good as REM in 1995, The Verve were quite poor on the day going through the motions.  The band broke up after that.  I enjoyed the Manics but they were in better form the following evening in Belfast.