Thursday, 7 July 2011

Just "Resting My Eyes"

The last two times I went to music festivals were a tad disastrous. The penultimate occasion was after a seriously hedonistic two and a half week sight-seeing holiday in Italy. Despite having pretty heavy drinking sessions every night, we packed in the sights by day, forcing ourselves to vacate the bed. Returning home, we both felt exhausted and in need of another holiday - certainly not a festival. That year at Reading, I felt like I'd aged dramatically and recall craving sleep the majority of the time in a constantly bleary state, forever tainting a festival that had previously been a favourite

More recently I made a doomed return to the V Festival - a festival that I'd found to be seriously disappointing in 1999 in its lack of atmosphere. On this occasion, The Boy had heard about two last-minute tickets for sale and I'd been blinded by the line-up, forgetting how commercially soulless V is. On top of this, I'd managed to foolishly and quite undeservedly dis The Boy to quite a few of our friends when I wrongly assumed he'd decided against the festival but had in fact been waiting to surprise me. We went along with this undercurrent of resentment and guilt, camping alone in a tent, big enough to just about fit a large toddler inside.

It is with these experiences in mind that I nervously approached Hope Farm 2011 - a festival I ended up booking tickets for to substitute a failed attempt to organise a Secret Garden Partygroup. A festival with a bizarre mixture of acts and conveniently close to my parents house with its Paddock Wood location:

As the festival drew nearer, all the evidence suggested it would be another let-down. The Boy decided not to come, leaving only three of us to potentially join another friend's friendship group; the booking fee turned out to be £15 per ticket and another day was added to the line-up at an additional cost of £40 on top of the £160 (£130 for the two days and £30 for weekend camping) we were already due to pay.

I discovered a few outlets selling tickets without booking fees so rung up to ensure there were tickets and went down to the Pigalle in Piccadilly Circus. After handing over £480, I was told I'd have to come back next week to collect the tickets and given a scrappy receipt. Returning the week after, my tickets were still not there and I was asked to come back again but after protests, arranged for a courier to deliver the tickets to work. I spent a few nerve-filled days, eventually feeling considerable relief when the tickets arrived.

The morning of the festival, plans ran equally unsmoothly with little sis running characteristically late and flip-flops breaking. Unable to reach my friend, we resigned ourselves to camping alone and went to pitch the tents but discovered all the poles and pegs missing from one tent bag and the pegs from the other. Throwing the pop-up tent onto the ground, we decided to weigh it down with our bags but were soon taken pity on by an Irish couple opposite with spare pegs.

Naturally minutes after unpacking my friend rung and we were soon once again hauling the tent and our bags across the camp site. However old you are, it seems festivals are a lot more fun in a group of people and despite three of us sharing a two-man tent, the Hop Farm was certainly no repeat of V or Reading. An older more relaxed crowd meant I didn't feel aged and there was a fantastically chilled vibe all weekend.

I couldn't help but notice a change in my approach to festivals. Having been to so many over the years and two every year for much of this time, I've clearly become more complacent, failing to do basic things like check camping equipment. While my trusty festival hair-washing and drinks-cooling bucket is still going strong, my fighting spirit isn't. All of us watched many of the bands from the back or sides of the stage not bothering to force our way through the crowds to get front-row spots. There was a lot less sitting around the campsite, no tape-deck with pre-recorded festival mixes and campfires were banned - good old health and safety!

I may have aged and been forced to recognise this but I can clearly still have festival fun and continued to smuggle my own drinks into the arena, managing to avoid forking out for inflated drinks prices all day. Sure I'm no longer jumping around at the front but I'm actually able to stay awake for the entire day after the festival, rather than returning home to a much-needed shower and bed. But I did have to "rest my eyes" between bands and suffered the consequences...

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