Tomorrow marks the start of the Reading Festival. This is a genuine, Woodstock-style music festival that runs for three days during this national holiday weekend. This year is the 20th anniversary of the festival and they expect 80,000 to attend, coming from all over the UK and Europe. I thought about volunteering as a "festival steward", then thought again and didn’t. Tickets were all sold out long ago.
Most attendees camp out in their own tents in vast meadows along both sides of the Thames River and there are substantial vendor areas, lots of toilets, serious medical facilities, and five stages. Some 200 bands are scheduled to perform. I have to admit I looked through the "50 Biggest Band" names and recognized only Metallica and Rage Against the Machine – what a geezer I’m getting to be!
Performers you will recognize who have performed here over the years include Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, 50 Cent, and Coldplay, so we are talking about a serious musical draw.
Like everything these days, I noticed that this event offers the equivalent of VIP Sky Boxes. These are temporary, hard-walled, locking, furnished, and air-conditioned shacks, very desirably located, for those who wouldn’t even consider sleeping in a tent but who do have a platinum credit card.
Reading has a population of 143,000 so adding 80,000 more souls is quite something. Apparently the festival-goers are allowed to leave the festival site and run into town for supplies and then re-enter. The merchants love it and stock up but others have told me that "it’s insane". All the roads around town have special signage up and special parking is in effect with shuttle buses. Last year the local pubs served up 2 million pints during the festival!
You know how a tidal wave sucks all the water back from the beach before it comes crashing in? I think I detected the calm before the storm today, fewer people around the town and mall than usual.
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing squadrons of dread-locked, Wellington boot-wearing, tattooed lads and lasses swarming through town. It will definitely remind me of my old Woodstock days. A steady stream of backpack and sleeping pad-laden kids was coming by my office by this evening.
Here’s the festival’s web site. See how many bands you recognize.
Oh yes, the forecast is for a bit of rain during the weekend. Mud anyone? More later…