Wednesday, 5 January 2011

191 THE 1991 READING FESTIVAL


SHERIFF'S DIARY - DAY 1, FRIDAY 23 AUGUST 1991

My first time at a 3 day Festival; after resisting for so long, the boys have finally persuaded me around to going! However I approached it with serious trepidation, given my legendary aversion to camping, and also given that it was raining when we got off the train and set off for the Festival site! So we got to the campsite at midday and set up tents in the pissing rain; it's getting even worse! Still, at least we had a good spot in the field directly behind the main arena. We were unfortunately surrounded by 50,000 mad students on acid!

The weather cleared up for early afternoon, in time for the start of the music, so we ventured into the main arena, having sorted out our fetchingly pink weekend wristbands. First up, THE HONEYTHIEVES, were a horrible imitation of mid-west rawk'n'roll, who sounded ham-fisted and poor, so I ignored them whilst tucking into my first Reading hog roast! BABES IN TOYLAND, next up, had their moments, but unfortunately too few and far between. 3 girls who like to make a noise, their harpy screaming and screeching occasionally got grating. Kat, their vocalist, dearly wishes she was Kristen Hersh of Throwing Muses, but falls way short.

SILVERFISH sounded loud and crap; Ady liked them but I adjourned to the tent for RAIN, who played a good old fashioned guitar rock set. Unspectacular but cool, with "Inside Out", their closing number, a highlight. I then decided to stay in the tent as an afterthought, thereby missing the mainstage Nirvana set in favour of THE BELLTOWER. However this was my first Festival highlight; their hard-rocking yet thoughtful and considered punk set reminded me of The Parachute Men, no less. A massive compliment, but an excellent set!

Out for CHAPTERHOUSE's poor sound-blighted mainstage set, just the thing their Pale Saints/ Lush like ethereal shoegaze set didn't need. "Pearl" was however, a pearl, as the sound improved. I then went walkies during DINOSAUR JR., who played an unbearably noisy set, but which was better than the subsequent POP WILL EAT ITSELF debacle. The sun came out for PWEI; God knows why as they were total bollocks! I hated their prancing, tape-machine powered brand of samey and ultimately extremely irritating electro crap rap, and left halfway through to queue up in the Comedy Tent as evening fell, meeting up with Veronica (camping with her mates). We were kept waiting until 8.30 for the arrival of FRANK SIDEBOTTOM, but it was worth it as he was, well, totally bobbins! Bad jokes and keyboard cover versions of Kylie, Queen and Beatles records performed by a man with an AC Milan footy kit, a papier mache head, a clothes peg on his nose and a cardboard puppet with a sado-masochistic streak. Crazy? You bet, but a shitload of fun with it! Stayed there to see DENIS LEARY's subsequent stand-up set. A foul-mouthed and acerbic American comedian/ social commentator who attacked such subjects as the Gulf war, non-smokers, do-gooders (Sting getting a real slating here) and the French, with vitriol and vengeance. My sides ached!

As night fell, I saw a few minutes of GUY CLARKE AND TOWNES VAN ZANDT's retro acoustic hippy-sounding set, then enough of IGGY POP on the mainstage to realise he's a clich├ęd rock caricature of... himself, actually! By this time I was also totally knackered, so it was off to bed. Or at least, to bag!

SHERIFF'S DIARY - DAY 2, SATURDAY 24 AUGUST 1991

A bad night. My tentmate Rich's snoring and the lumpy ground we've camped on do not add up to pleasant dreams. Still, at least the rain held off and the toilet facilities aren't as primitive as I'd been led to believe; just massive queues for them! When we eventually got going, we had a game of footy by the river with Ady's mates from Southampton, resulting in a 12-10 victory for Swindon!

Into the main arena at midday for MERCURY REV's sinister rumble of a set, which was nevertheless a good opener. KINGMAKER were next up; they were ace, cool as fuck and enjoying themselves as well. Bassist Miles' t-shirt, "I'm In A Fooking Band, Me!" says volumes about their fresh and positive attitude. Following on, the self-proclaimed most uncool band at Reading Festival took the stage, although I could think of many uncooler bands than THE FAT LADY SINGS, who touched us with their harmony and emotion, rocked out with smiles and joyful tunes, and entertained with vocalist Nick Kelly's self-deprecating attitude. "Arclight" was fabulous live, and TFLS were the first serious contender for best band of the weekend.

Took a wander out of the arena, missing Flowered Up, but popped back in for TEENAGE FANCLUB and their patchy, far from, "perfect, Norman, perfect," set of lazy guitar noise, with single of the year contender "Star Sign" an excellent, and notable, exception. Into the tent then for THE SOUTHERNAIRES none too good mid-west AOR set, and THOUSAND YARD STARE's subsequent bouncy, mature set of shit-kicking pop music which, after the Southernaires' boredom, really set the tent alight. Good stuff, and more followed, as THE DYLANS transported us to Planet Love with their baggy, but hazy slightly-delic pop, very 60's influenced but which also had traces of their forefathers, the excellent 1000 Violins.

Early evening now; THE FALL, on the main stage, were their usual abrasive selves, with Mark E Smith in top form and "Hi-Tension Line" and "Edinburgh Man" notable highlights. Back in the tent for POWER OF DREAMS' powerful and dynamic, yet heartstring-tugging set of fast-paced rock which fair took my breath away. Brilliant stuff! Out again for 20 minutes of CARTER THE UNSTOPPABLE SEX MACHINE, which as you'd expect was a set of beatbox battle-hymns played largely on remote control.

Into the tent again - frantic stuff, this! Inoutinoutinout... - for the evening set from FIVE THIRTY. And this was a real winner; their white-hot white-light set, culled mostly from album "Bed" but so much better "live", was dynamic and colourful, rocking and dancey at the same time, and culminated in a majestic version of "13th Disciple". Utterly brilliant, and a set which ultimately garnered them Best Band of the Weekend honours by a nose. Finally, the now very popular JAMES headlined in the main arena. Tim Booth is now very much the audience mass communicator, but despite old favourites "Hymn From A Village", "Johnny Yen" and "What For", I was disappointed by their set, especially the new songs which veer far too much towards stadium rock blandness, one of which sounding exactly like Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me" (the turning point for that band into bland megastardom), right down to the "la, la la la la"'s. I adjourned to bed after that, but in retrospect I wish I'd stayed for Edwyn Collins' tent set; apparently he was told to cut his set short and ended up scrapping with the stewards!

SHERIFF'S DIARY - DAY 3, SUNDAY 25 AUGUST 1991

A better night's sleep last night, despite some raucous drunkenness from the boys late into the night. I think my Reading Festival goals (to see loads of bands) and theirs (to get pissed up) are becoming increasingly incompatible... Still, another rousing game of football by the river sorted us out, as the Swindon and So'ton posses combined to give a footballing lesson to the Marquee "Smith" tent, 10 huge bruisers from Manchester. It finished 8-5 and I got a first half hat-trick, which was good really as I spent the second half either falling down or sunbathing!

Into the arena at midday again for openers THE FAMILY CAT, who played a surprisingly very good set of thrashy guitar surf-jam pop mizzik with "Remember What It Is" a highlight. SCREAMING TARGET, late replacements for Bongwater (shame, I wanted to check them out...) then played a turgid set of "brothahs and sistah's" rabble-rousing yo-funk which didn't impress me. I then met up with Veronica and had a lay down by the river during SWERVEDRIVER's loud and crap set, which we could still hear from where we were! We made our way back at 2.30 and basked in the arena sun during KITCHENS OF DISTINCTION's dreamy atmospheric pop set, which was ideal for closing your eyes and drifting off to; so I did, apart from the excellent "The 3rd Time We Opened The Capsule" which got me on my feet.

THE SENSELESS THINGS, next up, were a bit of a mega-pop blast row, unfortunately. Not one of the highlights (which compere John Peel said they were last year, apparently...). Got some tea during NITZER EBB's boring industrial lumpen funk set, amusing ourselves laughing at the lead singer's prominent packet! Wandered into the tent afterwards for THE POOH STICKS, but wandered out again after 2 numbers of their embarrassingly bad 6th form college punk rock with shit lyrics. It was apparently their last "live" performance. Good riddance!

Enjoyed the early evening sun just outside the tent with the boys and various other Swindonians, listening to THE CATHERINE WHEEL, whose heavy guitar dance thrash wah wah feedback driven guitar set was quite impressive. Next up, DR. PHIBES AND THE HOUSE OF WAX EQUATIONS were as bad as their name, loud and distorted and sounding like a very poor man's Killing Joke. Utter rubbish. FATIMA MANSIONS then gave Dr. Phibes a lesson in controlled anger and aggression during their loud, intense set, led by vocalist Cathal Couglan, a man who puts some real passion into his vocals. "Blues For Ceaucescu" was simply stunning.

Came into the main arena again for part of NEDS ATOMIC DUSTBIN's set, which struck me as samey, turgid and boring, and much better on vinyl actually, but really another band whose popularity eludes me. Decided to return to the tent for the last half hour of THE CROPDUSTERS' fiddly diddly raggle taggle good time had by all set, which was actually much more fun than the Neds! Then finally, Veronica's highlight THE NEW FAST AUTOMATIC DAFFODILS played a blinder and turned the tent into a small club with their electric taut dance music going down a storm. The set seemed to fly by; no doubt about it, I'm becoming converted to the New FADs! Another festival highlight, especially "Big".

That was it for us, as we had no interest in the headliners. So Veronica and I got on a train and went home, having survived it with bowels, ears and sanity (relatively) intact. Next year, however, I'll either go Bed And Breakfast - or commute!


THE SHERIFF 1991 READING FESTIVAL AWARDS

Friday Best: 1. THE BELLTOWER, 2. DENIS LEARY, 3. FRANK SIDEBOTTOM (of 12)
Saturday Best: 1. FIVE THIRTY, 2. THE FAT LADY SINGS, 3. POWER OF DREAMS (of 12)
Sunday Best: 1. NEW FAST AUTOMATIC DAFFODILS , 2. KITCHENS OF DISTINCTION, 3. FATIMA MANSIONS (of 13)

OVERALL - 1. FIVE THIRTY, 2. THE FAT LADY SINGS, 3. NEW FAST AUTOMATIC DAFFODILS , 4. POWER OF DREAMS, 5. THE BELLTOWER (of 37)

Best New Band: 1. THE BELLTOWER
Crap! 1. POP WILL EAT ITSELF, by a million miles!
Sorry I Missed: REVOLVER, AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB, THE CANDYSKINS, EDWYN COLLINS (!)
Stars Of The Show: 1. Tara Milton of FIVE THIRTY, 2. Nick Kelly of THE FAT LADY SINGS , 3. ME (Hat Trick Hero!)

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