It was bound to be a great day, you could just sniff it in the air. The beer, the sweat, the sun, the music, and that was just on the bus ride. The guy behind us slurped and burped his way through another bottle, chanting “T in the Park! T in the Park! T in the Park!”. Another one cheerfully ‘sang’ the entire catalogue of Nokia ring tones as he blew smoke in his girlfriend’s face.
Halfway the bus stopped and a dozen people stumbled outside for relief, dropping pants or lifting kilts or squatting in the heather.
After 90 minutes queuing under a cloudless sky, we were in. We wandered around the various tents and stages, watching a few bands that we were clueless about.
Soon we were at the top of the hill overlooking the Main Stage, eating ice creams and giggling at The Proclaimers. The familiar dorky haircuts and dorky glasses were accompanied by radioactive red faces from the afternoon sun. It was bit breezy and everyone was complaining about the poor sound, but it was still fantastic hearing thousands of drunken Scots belting out 500 Miles in those accents.
We shuffled down the hill to snooze through The Cardigans, pondering our next move. By the end of their set we were quite close to the front of the stage, and the crowd was building behind us. It was time to make the big decision — do we move and get to the Super Furries and The Datsuns and so forth, or do we settle in for the night? It was over three hours until REM were on, I wasn’t sure if my notoriously thimble-sized bladder would hold out that long. But being from Australia, I reasoned this could be my only chance to see REM ever, let alone so bloody close-up. As I said to Rhi, “REM could die tomorrow. We must stay!”
Moments later Idlewild were on. I admit I know nothing about them, and didn’t hear a note, because the crazy crowd sang every word, loudly and drunkenly. It was fantastic. And violent and insane. I felt so very old, everyone around me surely needed a note from their mum to attend. With sprays of acne on their chins and beer on their breath, they jumped and jumped and jumped, so I jumped and jumped and jumped too, having the time of my life, but all the while waiting to be plucked out of the crowd and carted back to the nursing home.
Next up was The Flaming Lips. A last minute call-up to the Main Stage after Jack White broke his finger last week, they instantly charmed the crowd. The usual array of dancing furry animals were clad in red and white garb a la The White Stripes. Then in swooped Wayne Coyne in a red cape, launching into a nice and dirty cover of Seven Nation Army, growling into a megaphone with giant balloons and confetti flying all over the shop. It was an hilarious start to an unforgettable set. There were yetis and nun puppets and fake blood and Peter Buck and robots and a song called Thank You Jack White For The Fibre-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me.
By now it was 8.30 PM, another two-and-a-half hours until it would all be over. We were pushed even further forward, so tight you had to stand on tiptoes to get a gulp of the breeze. But we decided it would be better to dehydrate rather than to drink up and be forced to give up this spot for a trip to a skanky Port-a-loo. Onward brave little bladders!
I naively thought that the REM crowd would be more sedate than Idlewild, but as soon as Michael Stipe skipped onto the stage, the shoving and kicking and mad crush started.
Oh he was amazing, charisma dripping from every pore, it was impossible to take your eyes from him. I don’t know how it sounded way up the back, but down there it was wild and beautiful. My shoelaces got shredded, a bottle of Fanta exploded over my hair, a topless woman almost fell on Rhi’s head.
During The One I Love Stipey jumped off the stage to press the flesh and of course there was another frenzied surge forward. I turned into a pathetic squealy fan-girly mess and came yay-close to touching his hand, but instead grabbed the pointy ear of the guy in the front row wearing a Batman suit.
“Hey! Doooon’t touch the earrrrrs!” he shouted back.
REM played a delicious 100 minute blend of old and new tunes. The long arm of the TV camera swept over us periodically, everyone jumped and flung their hands with even more vigour. On the screen it just looked like one big swirl of deliriously happy faces, no hint at all of the insane stomping and vomiting and groping and passing-out going on below the surface.
The day ended at 2AM with a frenzied dash for the bathrooms when we finally got home. And then, sleep, followed by counting of bruises. Bloody brilliant 🙂