The Time I ‘Headlined’ Reading Festival

So, Franz Ferdinand kicked off the run of Shockwaves NME Awards shows in style on Tuesday night (January 20).

There was a lot of new material in the set, but the highlight for me was the storming, ‘extra drummers’ version of ‘Outsiders’ in the encore. The track has become a live favourite – but it has particular resonance for me because, when the band headlined Reading 2006, I was one of those extra drummers.

Me with Franz, Reading 2006
Me (in the middle) onstage with Franz, Reading 2006

It came about because many of the NME staff had seen Franz pull off the same trick at T In The Park earlier that summer, so a request was put in for a journalist to guest with them at Reading.

I knew nothing about this until the magazine’s then-Features Editor Krissi Murison informed me that afternoon that the band had agreed to this, and I was going to be that journo. Onstage. In front of 60,000 people.

I was excited, although it did cross my mind I had no sense of rhythm, thus there was a very strong chance I would be rubbish at it. But there was no way I was going to pass up the chance… so I had a few drinks to ease my nerves.

Like most amazing moments in my life, it’s all a bit hazy – what I do remember is getting some quick drumming lessons from Madness’ Woody, who was a fellow guest. That was pretty surreal in itself – his band were a big favourite of mine during my formative years.

Anyway, when the time came I had to share a kit with a ‘proper’ drummer. Screech from The Long Blondes. Thankfully, I didn’t mention that I had the rhythm of an arthritic monkey, and I actually began to enjoy myself, especially when i caught Franz singer Alex Kapranos’ eye – and he gave me a supportive wink and smile.

It was so unbelievable, I don’t mind admitting I felt a little cry afterwards. Put it this way, when I watched Nirvana headline that very stage at my first ever festival back in 1992, I would never in my wildest dreams have ever thought I’d be appearing there with a headliner myself. And I even got to throw my drumsticks into the crowd….

Does anyone have any similar experiences? Have you ever found yourself onstage, exhilarated yet scared out of your wits?