A Genuine Freakshow

Reading Festival 2011

The prospect of playing your home-town festival is an exciting one for any band, but especially so when you’re a relative musical minnow making your debut on the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading Festival. So it’s no surprise I had more than a little trouble sleeping last night and consequently feel slightly rough as a result. However, it proves to be nothing that a scalding-hot shower and a plate full of Hatty Taylor’s scrambled eggs can’t cure.

The van pulls up outside Tim’s house at 10:00 am and we load up for the weekend. The rain doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere so in go the wellies and the acceptance that we’re going to have to do this the muddy way.

It’s only a short drive across town to the site and the roads are relatively quiet, so we’re sat in the car park by 10:30. The BBC Introducing stage is a fair distance from where we’re parked right now and just to dispel any ideas of thinking that we’d “hit the big time” we’re told we’ll have to carry all our gear across site, in the rain, to get to our stage – quite a task for a 7-piece band. So our manager, Erik, adorns himself with a waterproof and disappears into the downpour to try and flag down one of the 4x4s that are galloping around site. We wait in the van looking enviously at the luxury tour buses that pull up beside us. Is it too early for a slug on Marianne’s bottle of vodka? Probably not.

Erik returns victorious and with great relief we load up the Landy. The rest of us hit the press box, get wristbanded and sludge our way over to the Introducing Stage which we soon find has a backstage bar – winner. A pint of Tuborg for Elevenses should help calm the jitters I reckon.

Our local BBC Introducing legend Linda Serck wanders into the tent and we give her a massive thank you for our nomination before we head over to the main stage guest area to see what we can get for our meal tickets. The result is a mega burger with blue cheese and another free pint of Tuborg. As nice as the food is, I struggle to eat it all. We’re on stage in less than an hour and a combination of excitement and nerves means I don’t have much appetite left. It would be rude not to take the beer with me though…

By the time we get back to our stage, there’s not long left until we’re on but we discover that the power supply for Mel’s electric cello was left in the van on the other side of the site. We avert disaster by sending Erik out on a Supermarket Sweep-esque mission to find some AA batteries and after a lightning-quick 15-minute changeover, we’re on!

The lack of a soundcheck at festivals is never a good thing for us, and the sound on stage is pretty difficult when we get going. I’m very conscious of the alien video camera that’s writhing around next to me but, as always, any jitters we have disappear not long into the first song. The crowd is bigger than any of us anticipated it would ever be and the reaction they give us is incredibly heart-warming. We don’t kid ourselves into thinking it’s the best we’ve ever played, but as we leave the stage to a rapturous applause and new song Claw and Grasp still ringing out the speakers, we certainly feel triumphant.

Tim, Marianne and I are then whisked off to do some interviews and walk past the security guards still half expecting to be stopped and told that we’re not allowed in the guest area. We stumble through the questions with the local press but overrun slightly and end up missing The Antlers on the Festival Republic Stage. No bother, we can catch them tomorrow at Leeds!

Old friends Arthur Rigby & The Baskervylles arrive back stage early evening in time for their slot on the Introducing Stage tomorrow morning. We decide that it would be fun to relive our misguided youth and go watch The Offspring on the Main Stage. It wasn’t. But as I’m midway through asking Wikipedia how old Noodles is (he’s 49 by the way) Tim slams his phone in my face which has a text message on it, which reads “You’re on BBC3 right now!” I do a little dance, text my mum and manage to get BBC3 on my iPhone just in time to see Fearne and Reggie sat on the sofa talking about A Genuine Freakshow. Result.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a beer-soaked blur, but with a 5-hour drive tomorrow morning, we don’t stay on site too late. We walk across town back to Tim’s house, order a takeaway and hit the BBC red button to watch the Reading & Leeds highlights from the day. My head is already a bit wobbly, but when another of our songs from today’s set comes on TV the cups of tea start flying everywhere. I squirm into my seat while watching myself on the tellybox and decide that I’ve had quite enough excitement for one day. Time for bed so we can do it all again tomorrow.

Simon