Foolish Festival Follies
Everyone's an idiot at festivals – it's partly what they're about. Sure, a lot of your favourite bands are playing in the same place at the same kind of time, but the problem with that is that a lot of your favourite bands are playing in the same place at the same kind of time, meaning you have to make a plan if you actually want to see any of them. You know what's better than planning? Drinking. And taking drugs, if you're into that kind of thing. Here are some stories about people doing just that at festivals and missing out on everything they'd come for.
SEXY SHADOW PLAY
One year at Leeds I got really into doing loads of MDMA then jumping straight onto the steroid-blasted, suped-up teacups ride. Because, weirdly, being hurled around at what feels like 50mph – while also independently spinning in a teacup and inside your own brain – after doing a huge bump of crystallised love makes you come up quicker than instantly and rush like someone hooked you up to a Boeing engine enema.
One night, my friends rushed off to see Shitdisco – or some other band NME said were going to take over the world in 2006 – and left me to carry on my evening of spinning as much serotonin as I could into my brain. Because they'd gone, I needed someone else's hand to squeeze and face to scream at while I was riding the cups, so hopped into one with two cute guys who looked like they had similar ideas as me.
We rode the cups I don't know how many times, but by the end of it I think I'd hugged the two guys more than I've hugged all three of my siblings combined in the 25 years I've known them. More MDMA led to more booze, which led to the three of us going back to my tent, smoking some weed and doing some more MDMA. All of a sudden, I had a dick in one hand and a face under my vagina. As you might expect, that turned into quite an extended (both their dicks took a bit of time to come to life), noisy threesome.
I heard whoops and cheers, but assumed they were for some idiot who'd made a drum circle out of some rubbish bins, or something. But when the second guy finished – very audibly – it sounded like we were headliners on the main stage, just wrapping up our career-defining set. I poked my head through the zip at the front of the tent to find no less than 150 people applauding me. It was then that I realised I'd left my camper light on, illuminating my very thin bargain tent and giving half the campsite a real-life, pornographic shadow play.
I was at Glastonbury one year and did what you do at Glastonbury, which is take so many drugs you can't really remember what you did until you look at the photos. Then immediately regret looking at the photos and do a load of drugs again to forget about the new lows of idiocy you'd sunk to the night before. Anyway, idiocy obviously works for me, because – despite the Hacienda sized mound of MDMA I'd inhaled – I ended up hooking up with a girl who looked a bit like Rita Ora, had she grown up in a Totnes commune rather than a west London flat, which, believe me, is punching far above my weight.
That was great – a flitting moment of passion in a landscape of love and music and drugs and other hippie bullshit. Or that's what I thought, anyway. The next evening, I'd somehow managed to convince a girl to kiss me on the mouth in my tent again, which was all going very well. Then I heard a war cry; a guttural scream calling for my head on a stake and my blood in a vial that could be poured into the festival sewage to rot with the rest of humanity's discharge.
"Where the fuck is Will?" I heard the distant voice shout. (My name is Will, by the way.) "Where is he? Which one's that little fucker's tent?" The shouts were drawing closer. The girl I was with looked worried. She had no reason to know that the angry girl was looking for me, but I figured my face had given it away. Of course, I couldn't see it, but I could feel it twist into an arrangement of despair that I didn't think possible in the nose, mouth, cheeks and set of eyes I was born with.
I poked my head out of the tent and peered around the site. I couldn't spot the source of the noise anywhere. Turning round to go back to the half-naked girl inside, I felt a hard thwack smash into the back of my skull. Startled, I swung my head around again to find a towering Hulk Hogan of a woman standing over me, arm cocked, heavy-duty Maglite torch in hand. Before I could say anything, she screamed, "You can't treat my friends like that and get away with it, you little prick!" and swung the Maglite at my face with the full force of her tree trunk arms.
I felt something in my cheek crack – something I hoped was a tooth rather than an eye-socket – jumped out my tent, dick and balls flapping around over the boxers that were halfway down my legs, and made a run for it. The problem with campsites, however, is that there are lots of tent ropes everywhere, which quickly translated into me being pinned down in the mud with a Maglite poised tentatively over my naked arse hole. As I wailed for mercy, the girl laughed, lifted herself off me, spat on my back and sauntered off back into the night. I went back to my tent and had sex with the somewhat confused girl who'd just watched me almost be sexually abused with a light source. Win-win, I guess.
I'd been to Reading Festival a few years in a row and always had a blast on the last night – riot night, as it was called before organisers decided to spoil the party because they didn't want to be responsible for anyone becoming irreversibly maimed on their property. Total buzz kills. Anyway, the last and final time I went to the festival, I decided to go all out on riot night and finish off all the drugs I had left by mixing them together in a baggy and walking round with a straw up my nose.
The drugs I had to play with mainly consisted of ketamine and speed, so an hour in, I'd reached a point where I was full of nervous energy and mostly aware of what I was doing, but with the added kicker of not really being able to feel any of my body whatsoever. Now, if you ever went to Reading or Leeds before the killjoys dampened the final night vibes, you'll remember the wrestling cages people used to build out of those tall wire fences you see at building sites.
Hearing the jeers and shouts of the baying crowd, I wondered over and started to watch. Then, being in the state I was, I figured why not tag myself in? It's not every day you get the opportunity to be repeatedly punched in the head by a stranger while a load of people shout abuse at you. I remember knocking one guy out, sending a torrent of blood and spit out of his mouth while he fell, which I was embarrassingly proud of. The next thing I remember was waking up in a pile next to a bunch of stalls that were just about to close down. Not ready to stop partying, I grabbed what I think were some herbal ecstasy pills from a table and ran off.
My friends found me later that night when the nurse from the medical tent called one of them from my phone, complaining she'd had to strap me to a gurney to stop me from trying to jump as high as I could to smash the light bulbs in the ceiling (the stars in the sky) and viciously scratching at my face every time I didn't manage it. I woke up the next morning covered in scabs, piss and blood.
"DON'T TEMPT ME, BOY"
My friend and I were at this weird little boutique festival one year that I don't think had ever happened before and apparently disappeared with the notion that wearing cargo pants was a good idea. I'm imagining it disappeared because it was shit, which was also the reason why – on the second night of being audibly tormented by terrible acoustic cover bands – the two of us left the campsite in search of a drum and bass rave we'd heard was happening a two mile walk from the festival site.
A lot of drugs and booze deep, we started to hear a distant thud, making the fact that our legs were getting torn to pieces by the undergrowth completely irrelevant. As we took what we thought would be our final steps before we had the rave in sight, a bright light startled us, before we heard the creeping footsteps of a man edging his way towards us and spotted the barrel of a shotgun aimed straight at us.
I raised my hands to protest. "Don't tempt me, boy," I heard the gravel-voiced farmer respond. "Look, we're just trying to find our way out of these fields," I told him. "Calm down and we'll be on our way." "I don't think so," he said. "You're trespassing and your pupils are bigger than the moon. I'm calling the police."
The farmer lowered the torch as he reached into his pocket for his phone. Either bravely or beyond stupidly, my friend spotted his opportunity to smack the torch out of the guy's hand, before grabbing me by the arm and screaming at me to leg it. Which is what I did. Laughing as we ran, we started shouting back at the farmer, which – of course – was highly obnoxious and most probably what prompted him to start wildly firing towards us with his shotgun. We both hit the deck and listened as the guy reloaded his gun, before firing off another shot and shouting, "Just fuck off, the both of you."
We never found the rave – it had that quality that some raves do, where they're completely fucking impossible to locate – but we did keep our lives, which was a plus.
THE SATURDAY SPECIAL
Three years on the trot at Download, I found myself in various situations that affectionately became dubbed the "Saturday Special". They were all unintentional, which I suppose is what made them so special. The first year, while my friend and I were watching bands, the rest of our group decided to eat all of the mushrooms we'd brought along with us. Because that wasn't very fair, we took a bottle of whiskey each from the communal stash, popped each into a plastic bottle and tried to hide it away in one of the many pockets of our leather trench coats.
Of course, the guards found them, which obviously left us with no other option but to down the entirety of each bottle. That good decision resulted in me waking up in the medical area, stumbling over to the legal highs tent to buy some herbal pills in an attempt to pick myself back up and spending the rest of the day crying the whole way through Slayer's set, then apologising to everyone around me,
The next year, I somehow found myself with hayfever for the first and only ever time in my life, ran out of antihistamines and decided the best course of action was to drink a similar amount of whiskey as I had the previous year. Again, I woke up in the medical tent, only this time there was a security guard staring down on me with an expression that can only be described as worried anger – like when you were playing with the kitchen knives as a kid and your mum caught you just after you'd accidentally cut yourself.
I couldn't remember what had happened, but judging by his face I figured I'd done something wrong, so I jumped up and started screaming, "It was him! He fucking did this to me!" Then, mid-scream, it all came flooding back to me: I'd been pissing on a barrier, splashed a bit of wee on a girl by mistake, been gently asked to move by the guard, started on the guard, then been smacked very hard in the face by the guard. The huge, gaping hole in my lip immediately confirmed my hazy memory. Spending the remainder of the festival with a lip that was rapidly turning septic was not something I wanted to repeat.
So the next year, instead of drinking a bunch of whiskey again, I stuck to beer and – as far as I can remember – remained as civilised as you can be at a metal festival. Still, somehow, I woke up the next morning to a perfectly-formed Mr Whippy of a shit in the corner of my tent. Wrapping it up in the foam padding I'd been sleeping on, I threw it into a neighbouring tent circle and forgot about it. That night, I brought a girl back to my tent – the smell had dissipated by this point – had sex with her and, as I was showing her out, a friend grabbed the foam and threw it at the pair of us, screaming, "Haha! Now you're covered in your own shit!" The girl threw up on the spot and ran away crying. Which, funnily enough, isn't actually the worst sexual encounter I've ever had.