A Leeds Festival diary

Website - 1 September 2005

This was my first time at the 50,000 capacity festival and I was looking forward to four days drowned in beer, spliffs and decibels. I was not disappointed and the level of enjoyment surpassed even my optimism. The festival lineup was, admittedly, not entirely to my taste (I hadn't heard of many bands that were on the main stage - and a lot seemed of the samey indie sort, Razorlight, Kings of Leon etc etc) but I could hardly have expected a perfect lineup. Like all weekenders, I got there on Thursday. I was camping with Lianny, Hayley, Adam, Jake, Rowan, Gaby, Freer, Ashley, Kairo, Umi and Stacey. I brought my own beer, but my money was soaked up by burgers and the arena shops. We didn't meet anyone new this night, which ended around 3am. THE BANDS-- Friday in the arena was fantastic - I was looking forward to Marilyn Manson, but found myself liking the My Chemical Romance and Incubus performances which seemed to weigh up the quality of the rather dire Alkaline Trio and Turbonegro. I managed to make it quite far forward for Manson avec Jake, Rowan and Lianny - and the end result made me thirsty for headliners Iron Maiden. Now, I'm not a big Iron Maiden fan; I only really know two songs: 'Run to the Hills' amd 'Number of the Beast'. But as I watched the set with Rowan - I certainly grew to love them. The singer was marvellous - it was made clear that the band hadn't toured for 25 years, but it certainly didn't show. The pyrotechnics were incredible - including the definitive 'Maiden Monster' which was awesome theatre as well as a fantastic musical performance. In comparison with the songs I've heard on CD, his voice was even better live, 25 years on. That is some achievement and the show left me buzzing until about 5am. 666! Saturday had a slightly different feel. Goldie Lookin Chain (GLC) opened at midday and had most of the crowd in fits. Afterwards we all went back to the campsite for b urgers and beer, before myself and Freer, Adam and Kairo drove to Tesco for more beer and cleaner toilets. I inadvertantly missed Graham Coxon. I got back for QOTSA though, who stole Saturday for me with dire competition from The Killers, The Coral and even headliners Pixies. I only caught a glimpse of Pixies before we headed for the Kasabian tent; annoyingly we could only watch (hear) them from outside as it was nigh impossible to squeeze through the slippery bodies that comprised the crowd. Even so, some were catching crowd surfs as if they were public transport. I woke on Sunday (from two hours' sleep) with little recollection of the night before. The day in the arena was fun. My 'The Who' band t shirt drew the attention of one or two drunk sycophants, and I sat and watched Roots Manuva and Dinosaur Jnr with Lianny. I stood with everyone else watching Razorlight and Kings of Leon, who both played well. Immediately following the supporting KOL, I dived into the crowd for the headlining Foo Fighters. In between songs, I noticed Dave Grohl embodies plenty of Jack Black traits. He's a funny guy, and he played with such energy. The quality and the visual effects almost levelled with Iron Maiden, but not quite. They were awesome though, and got everyone singing and jumping. THE BURGER GYPSIES-- We were pitched right next to a burger van, which served for obvious advantages. One day, they took down a wooden wall that shielded their supplies van. Adam and Ashley invaded the van and sounded the horn. This happened, unfortunately, as a worker was returning to the van. He threatened to unpeg our tents, even though he didn't know which tent neither Adam nor Ashley were stopping in. Late on Sunday, the workers, who owned the burger vans on our campsite, were thrown out for allegedly selling ecstacy. The didn't leave quietly though. Before they were forced to leave, they discovered we had been 'borrowing' their ketchup for our own burgers. They washed our tents (and Jake) in the stuff. THE RIOTS-- Rumours began circulating that on the last day of the festival, people burnt tents and looted the shops. Some denied this had ever happened, but as we made our way back to our tents after FF, we found ourselves in Vietnam. I was a little afraid - would they burn our tents? It got worse. Gas cannister explosions were occuring almost as fast as you could blink. The place was freckled with fire. People tore down the campsite lights. We gave up guarding our tents at around 1am, and headed for the crossroads (just down the hill) where there was a huge fire and many other people watching. There was a small crowd of about 100 that surrounded the fire. They were feeding the fire, whilst trying to topple a pole that supported the lights, which were out. After about 20 cannister explosions, followed by rapturious cheers by about 1,000 observers, I noticed a formation of red glow sticks. They each belonged to a riot policeman. No one had really noticed them, but then there was a huge explosion that seemed to rock the whole festival. Except it wasn't Iron Maiden. It inspired the riot police to act. They chased the rioters, amidst 1,000 boos. The fireman also came and destroyed the fire. It was then relit. Over the next hour, the riot police were fairly brutal (I'd never seen this happen before) - I heard someone mutter that the police refused to touch the festival, so the campsite's own police were employed. No rules, just shields and batons. The fire was relit many times and it always grew to its former level. People were still trying to topple the pole. Tents were being thrown on. People were banging on the bins in the fire, and the tribal sound added to the madness. A red flag of Che Guevara was defiantly being held aloft, and the atmosphere certainly resembled a supressed revolution. Then, the riot police began to turn on the viewing crowd. I ran for my life, over people's tents, down hills.. I made it to the other side, and then I went back again. Someone had broken into the nearby Carling tent, and there was widespread looting of the overpriced beer. A million things were happening at once, it was a tremendous scene.