• Philip Bryer

We Must Be In Heaven

Updated: Apr 22


It's festival season, so here's something from the archive that was first broadcast about 5 years ago:

I can’t deny that I laugh up my sleeve at descriptions of the facilities enjoyed by modern festival-goers. A VIP area that’s available to those who are prepared to pay extra, including VIP toilets. All sorts of food stalls: pies containing actual meat, and proper curries, and Chinese and vegetarian stalls who sell peanut butter you could artex a ceiling with – you’d certainly be ill-advised to introduce it into your digestive system. I suppose you might compress it into missiles to chuck at a deserving artiste (and there seem to be quite a number of those about).

I hear tell of jugglers and clowns and all sorts of different stages and tents. All in the name of entertainment. Well, not in my day. If some addle-headed promoter had seen fit to try pitching a comedy tent at Reading Festival in its darkest days the likely outcome would have been a thousand people gaining swift possession of tattered canvas flags which would soon be daubed with hip slogans like: John Peel’s a See-You-Next-Tuesday, and the festival site would be bordered by poles bearing the bloodied heads of comedians.

Because, let me tell you, concert-going in those days was no laughing matter. To take you indoors for a moment, I went to see Camel performing their epic take on The Snow Goose at Reading Town Hall on a bitter December night, a night when the janitor clearly thought that having any form of heating on might release the stink of five hundred hippies into his auditorium and that wasn’t a risk he was prepared to take. It’s not as if I cared much for Camel and their Snow Goose, more that I was keen on Maria who was keen on Camel and I thought that by showing an interest... Deluded teenage boys, eh? It was far too cold for any of that nonsense.

Going to a concert often involved the seeking out of small comforts, a heater at Reading bus station, or seeking warmth by huddling around a cigarette lighter. A dry patch of grass at a festival, scoring some food that was free of botulism, not getting beaten up at a Milton Keynes mudbath-cum-bloodbath, or perhaps somewhere comfortable to sit. I referred to a Thin Lizzy concert at a small venue in a broadcast a couple of weeks ago. We stood close to the stage, and to one side, just behind a row of cables and some gear, there was a single, wooden chair. One of our group, Matt, stepped over this obstruction and, while giving a cheery wave in our direction, sat down and made himself comfortable. The smug look on his face remained in place right up until the moment one of Lizzy’s road crew appeared and enquired politely as to what the **** he thought he was doing. Of course we disowned him as quick as you could say Scott Gorham.

At indoor events nowadays you can’t smoke or drink, and if you don’t choose your seat carefully at a large venue you might well end up with vertigo, oh, and everything smells of chips. But outdoors, it’s fun and luxury all the way, I hear. All farmers markets and street fairs with added Kasabian. So perhaps not all good. Whereas back then, we festival goers were corralled into an enclosure and pretty much left to our own devices. I’ll leave the penultimate word to Woodstock MC, Wavy Gravy:

(FX) We must be in heaven man!

Oh, shut up, you fool. Those aren’t the sentiments of the bloke half-a-mile from the stage whose got someone sitting on his feet.

#Glastonbury #ReadingFestival #MiltonKeynes #Camel #SnowGoose #ThinLizzy #Woodstock

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