Monthly Archives: June 2010

FOR ALL THE COWS – Festival Festivities

Leeds festival has been somewhat of a tradition. For five years on the trot, i have seen some amazing bands,drank a lot of warm beer and had countless campsite memories.After a three-year absence it’s time to head back and as i am leaving for Germany in September it’s only fitting the Summer is ended the way it should be. Having fun,seeing bands and creating absolute carnage. Here are a few of my most memorable moments:-

Aberdeen has arrived

The first year is a complete blur now. And for good reason. We were 18 and 10 of us rocked up all completely unprepared for what was a head of us but all perfectly equiped to make each others life a misery. I had accosted a tent straight from a world war 1 exhibition and took down pretty much nothing. With the pack mentality our friends had devoloped it was only a matter of time untill carnage arrived. Before the first night my one man,damp,and shite coloured tent was kicked to the ground and drowned with beer . ‘Fatboy’ had been scribbled in suntan lotion. I still slept there that night before sleeping rough in a scousers doorway the rest of the weekend. Wilson reminded me lately on how much of a mess i was. But i wasn’t alone. Everyone was on a mission to drink as much,smoke as much and be as loud as possible. Andy tore down all the lights,James wrestled and challenged people and i shan torches in peoples faces determined they were vampires. The rest? No idea….

Linkin Park and the Nu – Metal Era.

What does stand out from the first year was the bands.Blink,System Of  A Down,Metallica,Sum – 41,Less Than Jake,Alkaline Trio,Funeral For A Friend. I religiously loved the bands i listened too. I would go to gigs three/four times a week and this was at the height of  ‘the scene’ days.

Linkin park headlined the main stage and i was riddled with excitement. Hybrid Theory still to this day is one of my favourite albums. A bottle fight began before hand and it was pitch dark. We we’re fairly far back. When they finally came on stage the place went mad. I decided to crowd surf from the back straight to the front to get in amongst the action. I was floating in the crowd for a good few minutes. I felt like i was on top of the world as was thrown closer to the stage. I had a perfect view of the band. I had planned to slip in three to four rows back but that didn’t work out. I got dropped straight off into the mosh pit and got slammed. As i gathered my own space another crowd surfer got dropped straight onto my head.My neck had taken a fair knock and i was suffering.As soon as i got in,i needed to get out. The quickest way i imagined was going over the barrier but this didn’t look like an option at the time. I held my eye as if i got busted open and made my way back through the crowd.Everyone parted to let me through and i was back to where i started. In a sea of thousands of people i was surprised with how easy i navigated it. Amazing.

In a similar scenario that year Hell Is For Heroes played the Radio 1 stage  at the height of their popularity. The tent was crammed and absolutely electric. I remember climbing a light tower and throwing myself off in hope of the crowd catching me. As i was a fat bastard the crowd moved in fear of their lives,leaving me to slam myself straight to the floor. Ouch.

Riots

One year the festival decided to recruit a security firm from Glasgow who we’re actually glorified door staff. Over the years the security have been good value however that year was an accident waiting to happen.

Fires we’re put out without warning,tents we’re raided for drugs and generally the security threw their weight around in a place that could easily escalate into anarchy. There was a buzz going around the festival that everyone was to meet at ‘the hill’ on the last night and rebel. Soon fires had started,buildings had been smashed up and the Carling vans (filled with beer) looted, with crates being  handed out to the masses. I remember thinking it was about to get ugly.A burger van generator exploded in a steel bin,sending people to the floor.I felt the heat on my face from a couple of hundred yards.The people around must of been hurt.This seemed to be the cue for the shit to hit the fan. The security armoured up in full riot gear and formed formations. Soon a stand-off began and everything from rocks,bottles and fireworks were thrown. I remember a small group of security being blocked into a corner with torn down fences and pelted.It went on through the night and i sat on the hill working my way through a  crate of Carling with Joe. Suddenly the security charged and the crowd scampered. Anyone within striking distance was batted and shielded. We ran up the hill and got back to camp,hiding any beer we had. That morning i bumped into a guy who had lost his girlfriend during the mayhem. They we’re actually just trying to pass through and he told me he got dragged into a room and beaten up. He had a black eye and a bloody nose. He couldn’t find his girlfriend. It was a bitter end to a festival with an already bitter taste,however one i will certainly never forget.

Joe

The campsite at Leeds always has its banter. It had been quite mellow and low-key one year so we recruited Joe for the following. The combination of Joe’s dry humour,a bottle of cider and a blonde wig created a weekend of laughs. I had seen a lot of Joe that Summer and we just seemed to bounce well off each other. Me and Wilson got a huge kick out of winding him up. Getting chased by a sunburnt Joe with a blonde wig,carrying the threat of “Crocker – if i catch you,im going to punch you right in the face” sticks out well in my mind. He never did catch me but if he did find me i would have been crippled on the floor somewhere in fits of laughter.

We had been up drinking all night and Joe passed out around the 7am mark. An hour or two of sleep later we volunteered to get water. I remember breaking into a verse of  “I want it that way” by The Backstreet Boys to the whole of the campsite. Everyone joined in on a clap and sing along and when I’d finished received a round of applause by everyone around. It was Joe’s turn to partake in fits of laughter. I’ll not only never forget that night with him.I’ll never forget that Summer.

Joe you are sorely missed. Wish we could have done it again sometime. Hand on heart – one of the best ( and ugliest cross dressers) ever. Legend – Joe Park.

Foo Fighters

Was and still are my favourite band. The anticipation of them playing was incredible. Although i had to stand through an hour of Kings Of Leon which was hellish it was all very worth it. Crowd surfing to Learn to Fly,singing every song word for word and feeling on top of the world.

Magic. Just can’t beat that feeling.

Summing it up

Leeds has brought to me 5 of the best weekends of my life,so it is of no surprise that i have high expectations of Reading this year. I have met some amazing people and seen some and done some extremely silly things. Although I’m a bit older and i won’t be doing anything as daft i am certainly looking forward to seeing live music again and creating new memories and stories. Since it’s my last weekend in the UK before i move to Germany – I intend on going out on a high.

Have a great Summer everyone. Take it easy.

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Leaving Home Part 2 – Beijing.

I was excited. China was where i wanted to go. I didn’t know why. I’m easily swayed, which in hand made the planning of my trip a dream for the woman at STA Travel.

“You know man,have you thought of  Baghdad?The weathers perfect this time of year and it’s a 24 hour party!”

‘Ermmm…..cash or card?’

But here i was,moments from the unknown and although a lot of emotions was streaming through my body I definitely knew i was ready.

The plane landed and i patiently waited in cabin traffic as everyone grabbed their bags. My belongings were ready hours ago. I stepped off the plane straight onto an airport shuttle bus,robbing me of a glimpse of Beijing. There was a group of young,English backpackers standing across from me but i was too stressed out to talk. I was soon filling out an arrival form after running around frantically trying to obtain a pen.Carefully i filled out each section with administrative style accuracy.Finally –  I was in Beijing.

I stormed outside with a spring in my step trying to disguise the fact i had never been before. I portrayed a man who had lived and worked there for years.I possibly may have looked like a man who hadn’t a clue and had ‘tourist’ written across his forehead, as i was soon accosted by rambling taxi drivers and hotel salesman.In fact I definitely looked more like the latter,sporting a t-shirt with a big pink bunny on the chest.

I found a guy from Norwich who looked just as ridiculous as me and poached a cigarette off him. As we both gathered our senses we decided to walk along a road with the intentions of flagging a taxi. I guess the feeling of self-control outweighed the logic of going to the rank. We swiftly received daggering stares from what looked like an army general as he put his rank through a series of drills. We had wondered onto private property and decided to head back.

On arrival at the rank  I tried to argue a price with a driver and swiftly walked away. I did so with a few others. I was warned of  getting ripped off and was overly cautious of this. Eventually it was a case of  “Fuck it – i want to get to the hostel”. A small man who spoke no English bundled my backpack into his car and i was off.A few miles down the road i was already aware I was paying well over double than what I should be. I didn’t really care. I tried to make idle chit chat. He didn’t. Every couple of minutes cleared his throat and spit out the car. He had one huge,black fingernail on his index finger. Would this same fingernail stab me in the neck? Surely not I hoped. It was gross. But a normality in China.

The city was HUGE. Way bigger than my imagination. It had massive and impressive structures. Not at all like i pictured it. It soon became clear why the driver kept clearing his throat. The city was shrouded in a cloud of smog. Next stop – bronchitis! Gather your organs on departure.As it turned out,I wasn’t departing anytime soon.We we’re lost. He had no idea where my hostel was and jumped out the car on a couple of occasions to ask hotel staff for directions. An hour-long taxi later I finally arrived.

The street was hectic but defiantly worthy of exploration. I couldn’t wait. I stepped out the car and paid the driver. I t was now triple what i should have paid. Again – i didn’t care. Out of nowhere some homeless looking man grabbed my bag and walked away with it. Rather forcefully i snatched it back. As it turns out he was wanting some cash for carrying my bags up the steps to the hostel. He picked the wrong time to find some cash from me,although i did find my manners and thanked him anyway.

In the hostel I tried to check in. The woman behind the counter was in no hurry. I was full of confidence despite the news of no record of my booking. Half an hour later.Still no clue. I wasn’t too bothered. I was too busy chatting to an English family who had also just checked in. I was grateful to talk to someone about the great adventure I had planned. Eventually after the receptionist made a few phone calls my booking was found. I didn’t doubt it was never there. I checked everything a thousand times before I left.

As soon as I opened the door to my room i threw my bag down and came over with excitement. I had made it. And I was proud finally be where I’d been talking about for so long. Travelling. I will never forget how I felt that day.

That night i couldn’t wait to see what Beijing was all about, albeit in one block. definitely a city best taken in baby steps.First stop was the supermarket. I always love food shopping in different countries.Simply –  I love food and find the whole experience exciting. There was no shortage of eye catchers in this store. A huge array of colours,packages,cartoons and just about everything you can vacuum pack in a bag. Elephant cock anyone? Just ask at the checkout. They probably have them stored next to the pickled alien finger and the steamed goblin scrotum.I grabbed a couple of bags of  “who the fuck knows” and played it safe with a pot noodle esq cup. A pack of fags and a few beers later I was ready to sleep off the jet lag. And that I did. A whole day and a half of it!

When i was finally up and running i began to think of the group i was going to meet the following day. I wondered who they we’re and I started to build mental pictures in my head of the fun we might have. It was all pretty exciting. I went down to the reception so I could query about getting to the zoo to take a few snaps of the pandas (also minimizing the risk of getting lost,kidnapped and sold for parts.The zoo was the safest place i could think of for a simpleton like me).I asked to get a sneaky glimpse of  tomorrows check in. As it was my groups names and nationalities were there in full few. Fabian from Germany,Jim from England, Adrian from Wales etc. The mental pictures i had before began to take a different shape.

The zoo was great. An oasis in a massively populated city which looks nothing like a zoo on the outside. I couldn’t quite believe it when the driver stopped. We had driven near an hour and it hadn’t even looked like we left my street yet. I was in awe of the sheer scale of this city. The zoo was just what I needed to break me in. I enjoyed my own company and enjoyed seeing pandas, which I grew up watching on countless wildlife videos I had as a kid. Amazing animals. The stoners of the natural world.

That night I had plans to make my own fun and see who the hostel had to offer for me. I necked a few beers and headed down to the Social room. I met a Canadian guy with his girlfriend and a Dutch guy. I remember sitting on the steps outside for hours talking to the Canadian guy,not really knowing that I would have these traveller style chats over and over again.

That morning i came down at 4am to watch the Celtic v Man Utd game on the big screen. The place was dead. The receptionist was draped over her desk,the security was slumped in his chair and the barman was passed out on a mattress. I gave the barman a budge and he leapt up. I offered him a bite to eat but he was too polite to accept. I stayed up and drank beer with him.

I got back to the room in the early hours. My body clock was still out of sync. I sat at the window and watched the world go by and worked through a pack of cheap cigarettes. I heard my room door open. Presuming it was the cleaner i took no notice. It wasn’t. I glanced over to the door as a man struggled with his things.It was Fabian from Germany,checking into my room.My group had begun to arrive.