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Reading Festival 25th August 2001

Yaay! It's the Trail Of Deading Festival, the sun is sparkling in the sky spanking down heat as we queue impatiently, waiting for the gates to open. Gods own sprinkler system kicks in briefly to refresh us as a man cheerily welcomes us over the p.a. 'Hello, how is everyone this morning?' To which a reply comes from the back, 'Let us in you wanker!' How we laugh.

Storming the gates, vodka bottle concealed, we are greeted by a vista of green as yet unsullied by piles of discarded noodles and heaps of pasty bodies reddening in the sun. Spotting a lone Neil Busch roaming loose without his fellow Trailies, we pounce and engage in idle chit-chat. TOD have just rolled in from Holland where they played the Lowlands Festival, but Neil is obviously well acquainted with British custom as he discusses the weather. He's on his way to see The Zephyrs who aren't actually on for another hour or so. We get ourselves a fantastic cheesy 'meet the fans' photo and Neil manages to escape, off to plunder Mogwai's rider. cred destroying mineral water pose

Cheered by this encounter, we cringe from a distance as Terris brave the main stage opening slot only to immediately disintegrate into non-functioning-equipment-hell. We leave them and a paltry smattering of onlookers to it and collapse in the Evening session tent whilst Goldrush do their vaguely pleasant country-tinged thing. They're followed by The Zephyrs who weave soporificaly lovely velvety sounds. It's Mogwai and Gorky's meeting Galaxie 500 for a waltz around a dusty cello shop. In Edinburgh.

Soft Parade start with long jammin' stoner rock sounds, complete with 'exciting' flashing lights. One song is a Gilbert O'Sullivan piano plod. The last song is 'I am The Resurrection' tangled up in 'Middle Of The Road' by Denim. The smell of draw wafting by adds to the dazed & confused seventies vibe. Why is this rock dirge getting the music press all hot under the collar?

sploosh....glug We go for a wander, waiting for OPM (who?) to finish so we can take our places at the main stage for Trail Of Dead. This involves rolling up trouser legs to avoid their hems soaking up the rivulets of water trickling underfoot at the front. It also involves spotting and ducking the flying cups of water so thoughtfully hurled out by security geezers to keep us all cool. Really, I'm not that hot, no really, SPLOOSH…glug…etc. It's like enduring over enthusiastic Chinese water torture and makes watching the band a feat of great concentration.
Incessant soakings aside, these aren't the ideal conditions in which to watch Trail Of Dead. As they start with 'Mistakes and Regrets', the sun blazes down. Really TOD should only come out at night. Then, there's the gulf between audience and stage which is bigger than some venues I've been in (Brixton Academy, Wembley Arena etc). TOD are a very interactive band, they need to feel our love, they need to jump on our heads and throw things at us. The best the audience can do is shout stuff, their voices blown away across front of stage no man's land long before the sound reaches the band. Next to me are two well scrubbed young girls screaming 'Jassooon!' I hadn't realised TOD were a boy band, but it's nice to know they have such cross-over potential. Occasionally, the girls switch to 'Conraaad!' so me and a girl beside me decide to chip in with 'Neilll!' and 'Keviiinn!' so nobody feels left out.
Conraaaad!
Neil wishes he'd worn deodorant
It ends with Neil and Conrad lying teetering on the very lip of the stage, guitars hanging over the edge threatening to drag them off the precipice. Jason jumps down and rushes to embrace his public, but is stopped by the security blokes. Conrad follows suit and executes a little 'victory lap' along the front of the crowd. We drag ourselves out of the melee, dripping.
Jassooon!
Lying in the sun attempting to dry out, we watch Frank Black playing some Pixies songs whilst to one side that Vernon bloke from T4 (er, probably) records links for a Channel 4 programme which, when we watch it, turns out not to have TOD on, or our sniggering faces in the background. Boo.
Back in the Evening Session tent we bounce about to Gorkys Zygotic Mynci, 'Wooh Poodle Rockin'' etc. They are of course lovely. We scamper over to the Carling tent to catch the end of Lift To Experience, but it's too packed to get in so we lean against a tent pole to listen. Then back to the Evening Sesh tent to sit around listening to Elbow. We spot Neil in front of us hanging with some delightful lovelies in non-indie/skate/metal-kid ensembles of tasteful skirts and off the shoulder ladieswear. The Underexposed photographer (who Kitten likes to bring along to gigs to capture those 'special moments') comes over all paparazzi and takes a 'candid' (ie blurred) shot of Neil. Unfortunately he looks straight at the camera, obviously spotting us. Oh the embarrassment. As he leaves he gives us a wave, cleverly disguising his fear that we are crazed stalkers.
We will, we will, stalk you

Okay, now there are no bands we really want to see until Mogwai, so afternoon becomes evening in a haze of cider, wandering, searching for a noodle-free spot to sit as Supergrass gurgle away and mourning the demise of the Melody Maker karaoke stage which was always good for a laugh in idle moments between bands.

Back in the Eve Sesh tent again, we have out cockles warmed by Teenage Fanclub, getting overexcited and jumping up and down as they end with 'Everything Flows'. Kitten is whisked back to days of yore at the Camden Falcon giggling in the sweaty back room as The Fannies staggered drunkenly through their set.

Somehow, it's dark outside as Mogwai soothe our frazzled brains. They are magnificent, it's impossible to tear ourselves away to catch a few Manics songs as had been the plan. Somebody blows bubbles, mesmerising us as they drift about in the light. We spot Conrad Keely standing rapt, clutching his camera. Sigh. Emerging from the tent, still swaying happily, we don't even encounter the usual choking fog of carcinogenic fumes emitted by a thousand plastic-cup camp fires. We race for the train home breathing easy.

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