Now of course you’d expect me to be a bit of a fan of Saltyrockz tees, but I have to admit to a particular fondness for the ‘Festival Veteran’ design just now. That’s natural enough, of course. It sums up how I feel as a long-standing festival-goer, like I’ve been there in the trenches, have fought the rock wars and have been lucky to make it out alive!
My first ever festival was the 1981 Castle Donington Monsters of Rock event, where I somehow managed to wangle a backstage pass in the guise of Editor of Phoenix Heavy Metal Fanzine, the home-spun mag I put together and sold as a teenager in my home town of Manchester.
I had no idea how to turn up prepared for an English festival. A good idea to opt for a homemade satin tour jacket? Well, that was clearly an idiotic thing to do, not only sartorially, but practically as well. Donington, as I was to discover over the next God-knows how many years, is synonymous with pissing rain and raining piss. Remember that charming habit of filling up the plastic cider bottles that you were allowed to take on site with your own piss, then lobbing them across the sea of fellow festival-goers with the top only half-screwed on? Better to wear a plastic mac than a satin tour jacket, methinks…
Yet despite the weather and despite the urine, I always found myself back at Donington the following year, like some kind of hopeless festival junkie, addicted to the thrill of sharing a communal musical experience with other like-minded souls, most of whom were also capable of laughing in the face of weather-oriented festival misery. I remember particularly enjoying watching Skid Row in a fairly monumental downpour at the 1992 Donington next to legendary promoter Andy Copping. Without an umbrella to hand Coppo – now a big cheese at promoter Livenation and one of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet – had concocted some Arab-looking headgear by winding (I seem to remember) a long-sleeved T-shirt around his head. Looking quite the fool, Coppo was nonetheless pleased as punch and nicknamed himself ‘Madman Insane’ in a warped tribute to the deceased leader of Iraq.
Best festival memories besides? Sitting watching AC/DC from up in the lighting rig at the side of the stage in ’81. How the hell did I blag myself up there? I haven’t the faintest recollection. Enjoying the various fairground rides at the Phoenix Festival in 1993 having indulged in some stuff that I’d best not go into? Dancing for every single minute of every single song at Reading ’92 when my mates The Wonderstuff headlined – on my birthday! Seeing Judas Priest and Iron Maiden on the same bill back in ’83 at an indoor festival in Germany whose name escapes me. Has any stage ever groaned under the weight of so much leather?! Getting invited to drink at the Bon Jovi onstage bar at Wembley Stadium, which is possible not strictly a festival if the truth be told, but damn, it sure felt like one! And performing lived on stage with a French band called Les Vermines in front of 5,000 people at a festival in Rouen when I was doing my year abroad as a student. Cover versions? ‘Breaking The Law’ by Priest, ‘Brand New Cadillac’ by The Clash, ‘Warhead’ by The UK Subs. I wore a fake black and white leopard print jacket to ‘wow’ the crowd, for which I blame Hanoi Rocks!
But that’s the great thing about festivals. They allow you to behave like a total fool and yet still feel that it’s all completely normal and acceptable, thereby giving you tales you can dine out on for years to come. Who cares if the sound is always rank and the toilets look like something that would have been rejected as unhygienic in the middle ages. You’re a festival veteran – and you’re rightly proud of it!
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HoJo rocked as a top journalist on legendary UK metal magazine
Kerrang! and now runs a way-cool rock T-shirt site at www.saltyrockz.com.