Bands Share Their Maddest Festival Memories

In honour of this week’s festival preview issue of the mag, we quiz musicians on their standout festival memories

Richard Hawley
I remember when Pulp headlined in ’98. I’d never played to an audience that big before and when I walked out in front of the crowd I’m pretty sure a bit of wee came out. I didn’t actually wet myself, but if ever there was a time to do it, that would have been it. Luckily, all my bodily functions seemed to restrain themselves and it went really well. That was Glastonbury – we played it last year with Duane Eddy as well and the stage was so fucking hot that when we came off only one half of our faces were red where we’d been in the sun and the other half was normal. We looked really weird, but it was an ace experience. We didn’t give a shit.

Ed Macfarlane, Friendly Fires
I’d say maybe playing at Benicassim after the Strokes at 3amlast year was pretty memorable. It was the first time we’d played on a main stage at night; it felt quite tribal. It wasn’t like any other festival gig we’d done – it was weirdly intimate even though we were playing to about 50,000 people. It’s dark and and as far as the eye can see it’s just a sea of heads, it was a bit surreal unlike in the middle of the day when you can see people at the back buying burgers or ten pound falafel wraps.

Lee Spielman, Trash Talk
Playing Reading 2010 when I ended up convincing the whole crowd to jump over the barrier and get on stage. The security couldn’t hold them back so the crowd just started hopping over and climbing on top of each other. I looked over and our bass player Spencer was on top of the scaffolding in the Lock Up stage. The whole tent was swaying and the security looked like they saw a ghost and were about to have a heart attack, but I liked it. It just ended up with random kids standing around our drummer holding sticks and hitting shit. It was fucking tight. I remember being on top of people on top of the stage, like the whole crowd had moved onstage and I was on top of that. Our bass player threw his bass off the top of the stage scaffolding in the end.

Get any injuries from that…?

Nah, we know how to do this. We always try to go at it as hard as we can. If you’re touring and traveling around for hours to play a thirty minute set it should be an enjoyable and exciting thirty minutes.

Justin Hawkins, The Darkness
I used to go to Reading every year in the 90s and Ed and I used to run the ‘Fun Centre’. It was just two tents close to one another really where we used to run power drinking events with White Lightning cider. It was quite popular though, not just because it was full of fun but because there was obviously free booze. It was all full of strangers but for that weekend they came together. That was quite a way back; we started doing it in ‘96 so at that point I would have been… twelve. We ran it every festival we went to before we started playing them ourselves, but the Fun Centre still has a place in all of our hearts.

Frank Turner
It’s a boring answer but I’m gonna have to say playing Reading on the main stage last year. The first time I went to a festival was at Reading and I saw Beck playing the same slot on the same stage that I was on last year, so being there was like a completion. Reading’s great. I used to go there year on year when I was growing up and I’ve played the last gazillion years in a row.

What is it about Reading that tops the other festivals for you?

Reading doesn’t have the corporate sheen, and I like Glastonbury but that’s about the whole experience. Reading is a festival for music fans – you go to see bands and that’s what you do, it doesn’t have all the other stuff with it. It’s almost militantly about seeing bands and I’m a music nut so that’s what I like.

Liam Fray, The Courteeners
I don’t know if you know anything about The Courteeners, but we are super dull. My favourite festival memory was when we went to Leeds in 2003 because we spent the whole weekend eating strawberries and cream and drinking gin and tonics.

It must have got more rock’n’roll since then…

Yeah, the strawberries and cream don’t happen that much anymore. It’s different to get them on a rider in October in Hull.

And your most memorable festival experience with the band?

Probably the funniest was when we played with REM in Spain. Our manager is really bald so with sunglasses on he looks just like Michael Stipe. Towards the end, just before we played ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, I said “We’d like to introduce a new friend – Mr Michael Stipe”. He came on and waved to the crowd but when he realised he might have to sing or say something he got scared. We thought it was funny though.

Charles Cave, White Lies
We played this festival in Bucharest in Romania and there was a monsoon about twenty minutes before we went on stage. It was like something out of Jumanji. The top of the stage had this canvas awning which was collecting water and these big Romanian guys turned up with essentially a big broom to get some of the water off and after a few pokes the awning split; it was like a tidal wave falling down. It covered everyone’s equipment and we were two inches in water and there was thunder and lightning going on too; it was like the apocalypse. Then someone came over and was like “Right, so it’s time to play!”. I think we lasted about half the set…


And once at Bestival I saw Ed from Friendly Fires get into a physical fight with the bouncers because they wouldn’t let him into the dressing room area because The Killers were requesting a private convoy on their journey from the dressing room to the stage. He didn’t like it so he tried to punch a bouncer in the face. That backfired.

Pick up a copy of this week’s NME for a full 2012 festival season guide. Subscribe to NME here, or get this week’s digital issue for your iPad, laptop or home computer.