Being a Downloader for so long I thought I’d give Reading a try this year, but my first experience of the festival didn’t exactly go according to plan, which will be explained later on in the blog.
Waiting for Shane to arrive on a hot Friday morning, and checking the weather it’s going to be a very hot weekend, and I’m no good in the sun, so I better not forget the sunscreen. I’ve had too many bad experiences in the sun, and I don’t want another one. Download 2018 comes to mind.
Shane arrives, late, in the festival wagon. The past couple of months he’s had problems with his car, so I’m worried that it might explode on the way there.
I load the car with the booze while he sets the sat nav and I hear a high pitch scream coming for the driver’s seat “105 fucking miles, ah!”. Shane didn’t think it was going to be that far, and neither did I. If it’s going to be this hot all the way there his car might actually explode.
But, we hit the road anyway, and when we get onto the M1, the sat nav tells us it’s 60-miles long, so this is going to be one boring journey, and I’m already sweating buckets.
Luckily we see some interesting things while on the road, a man in an old pick up truck holding a shotgun, a lorry pulling a tank, and a helicopter randomly landing in someone’s field. To me, it looks like a war is going to break out on the road at some point, so I’m hoping Shane will put his foot down, so we don’t get caught in the middle of it.
After a long journey and Shane taking a wrong turn because of a shitty sat nav, we finally make it to the festival. We unload the car, grab the booze, and just look around. We have no idea where we have to go, so we ask the steward and tells us to walk by the river, and you catch the boat. And what is about to happen is the longest walk I’ve ever had at a festival, and considering the heat, it’s the worse walk I’ve ever had to go through at an event like this, so far at least.
We walk along the canal and get in line, Interesting experience getting a boat to the entrance of a festival, but I’m going to make the most of it. Maybe I’ll skydive into Download next year.
While in line, Shane tells me he has to look for something, and we need to wait a second. So we get out of line, he looks through his bags, he’s forgotten his ticket. Luckily it’s in the car, so we get out of line, and I stand at the side with all the bags while Shane makes a sprint to his car.
Standing back looking at the canal, watching all the boats going by, all the festival-goers going by, the only problem Is, the weather, it’s getting hotter and hotter by the hour, and at some point, I’ll need to get the sunscreen out.
After 10 minutes of waiting Shane finally appears, pushing his way through. He’s covered in sweat, he’s out of breath, and looking like he’s going to faint at any moment, but he’s got his ticket, and finally, we can stand in line and get on the boat.
Arriving at the entrance, the fun’s not ended. Our tickets get scanned, and we don’t get searched, we just get asked if we have any glass bottles, which we don’t, and we get let through, and we start our long trek to find a spot.
The heat is starting to become unbearable. We don’t have idea water, just beer, which is getting heavier and heavier by the step.
There’s nowhere to put the tent up, everywhere is full, and everyone’s shit faced. We ask a steward to help, who tells us to go straight ahead, go over the bridge and into white camp, that’s the only one which will have any space left over.
I’m changing the bag into different hands every second and stopping to rest every ten or so steps. Sweat is dripping down my face and into my eyes, and we haven’t even reached the bridge. It looks like I’m the only one here wearing jeans and a black Metallica t-shirt. We make it over the bridge, which looked a lot smaller from a distance. It’s at this point we take another break and open up the crates, the heat has become too much.
I look through my bags for the sunscreen, and I can’t find it, I’ve forgotten it. Luckily the Co-Op on site will have some, but that will have to wait till later.
Noticing a steward pointing a group of teenagers to carry on going straight, we decide to follow along.
After, what feels like hours, we finally find somewhere, right on the edge of the path. At this point I don’t care where it is, I’ve had enough of walking, and the heat is killing me, and my fingers are starting to blister.
We get the tent set up, grab another drink, and decide to head to the arena. It’s a long walk between here and main stage, but we don’t have any heavy bags to carry.
Walking over the bridge, I look out over the ocean of tents. It’s one of those great sites to see at any festival, all colours and sizes, scattered about in no particular order, and all spaces covered with drunken and drugged up lunatics in full swing.
Finally, we make it to the arena, and we grab a burger and a beer and head towards the main stage. You Me At Six are on, I’ve not had the chance to see these before, but they put on a great show.
Spending the rest of the day walking around the arena, checking out the other tents, the toilets, and getting more beer and food we know it’s time to make our way to the front of the stage.
The sun is starting to go down, the heat is wearing off; I’m starting to get a headache as well. I don’t know whether that’s due to the heat or the booze and I’m dehydrated, or it’s something else.
At the front we stand in line and wait for the gates to open, it’s a strange and challenging experience, it’s like we are waiting to enter a holding pen for livestock.
They open and we charge for the middle of it and get ready for Royal Blood, a band I’ve wanted to see for a while. And when they come on, the smash it, they did everything I expected them to do, put on a show. I’m sweaty, still, and now I’m bruised from a mosh pit, I never intended to get in in the first place.
Shane suggests we stay here for the 1975 because we won’t get down this close again if we leave.
I’ve been interested in seeing the band for a while, and I want to see what all the fuss is about. The come and put on an interesting gig. I’m not into all the political stuff, at some points I got a little bored of it, but it was a good show that was worth the effort to stand and see.
After what seems like a long day, and settling down at the tent, headache getting more difficult by the minute and too exhausted to carry on the party, I fall asleep. The noise and commotion around the tent that you would expect from a festival doesn’t disturb me, and I just drift away to sleep like a baby.
In the morning, the tent has become an oven. The heat is so unbearable I just get up and evacuate. The headache is still there, and only it’s got worse, and for some reason, it feels like I’ve developt the flu overnight. I’m coughing and sneezing, my mouths dry, sore throat, and I’m developing cold chills.
I open a warm beer just so I can drink something, Shane suggests to get dressed and go to the Co-Op quick, so we get some water and me some sunscreen. We get up, and we leave, taking my beer with me.
For 15 minutes, we go on the search for the Co-Op, and we have no look in finding it, we ask a steward who points in the direction of the Orange Camp. Upon arriving, the line for the shop is huge, a good 20 minutes wait by the looks of it, but we wait anyway. It wouldn’t have been worth the risk to leave it and come back later, we need water now and lots of it.
We get in, and Shane decides to do a monthly shop, water, coke, toothpaste, toilet paper and crisps. I just get my water, and I’m done.
On the walk back, Shane tells me to use the sunscreen as soon as possible, and that’s when I realise, I’ve forgotten it. I’m not getting in the long line again, I just want to get back to the tent, down some water and change my shirt and then we can get to the arena.
And that’s what we do, I pour that water down my throat, change a wet t-shirt, grab another beer and start that long walk to the arena.
It’s Twenty One Pilots tonight, I’m not a massive fan, but I’ll give them a go, but I’m not interested in Malone. But first things first, it’s Billie Eilish, and we decide it’s best to hang back because it’s not worth fighting through the huge crowd that’s formed.
It’s the best decision we made, halfway during a pretty good set, I look down and find £20 under my feet and the way I feel that’s pretty good luck.
With it, I buy us a round of cold beers in, who ever dropped it, thanks for the round.
And that’s when things take a nasty turn; I start to feel dizzy. Shane suggests we grab food and hang back before pilots go on, so we do, I get more water and sit down for an hour, but I still feel the same, and my throat is only getting worse.
That’s when I don’t remember anything until I’m being walked through the doors of the medical tents and throwing up over a girl sitting down with a bruised eye, her friend calls me a cunt, and I look around, and It looks like the end of the world. There are people with plasters, bloody noses, people throwing up all over the place, and teenagers crying the corner. This is what I imagine it to be like before the outbreak of a nuclear war.
A nurse pulls me into the back and lays me on a bed and goes through all the medical procedures. She asks me the typical questions; you took any drugs? Have you drunk too much? And every answer is no.
A Doctor comes up and takes my temperature and looks at my throat, in my eyes and ears and tells me it’s sunstroke. He tells me and Shane the only option right now is to go home, it’s not worth the risk staying, so we make our way back to the tent. We pack up and go.
On the way out, rushing through the crowd of oncoming Post Malone fans.
On the boat back to the car I understand it’s not the experience I wanted, and while the boatman plays S Club 7 at high volume to a silent crowd of bored people, I realise I would happily come here again, this time with sunscreen, buckets of water and a portable air conditioner.