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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Into the Valley at the Leeds Festival 2011

As mentioned previously I had agreed to chaperone Daughter of  DocCortex and one of her buddies to the Saturday of the 2011 Leeds Festival. Thankfully I have survived the day and can now present a survival guide to all those with a similar 'Into the Valley...' mindset who have to attend this, or any festival in the future.

1. Wear Wellies
You've got to wear wellies for any festival. I went for the hiking boot option, but with hindsight I'd now purchase a pair of those fishing waders, as the Leeds Festival basically involved hiking for mile after mile through mud. Not just any mud either, the festival organisers had helpfully scattered straw and bark chippings onto the existing mud and by the end of another rainy day this got well and truly mashed into the mud to produce something of the consistency of medieval wattle and daub. Imagine walking through treacle, porridge oats and PVA glue and you're half way there.

2. Do some cardio training
You're going to have to train for a festival as if you were running a half marathon. My last festival experience was the 1987 Reading festival which was like attending Barter Town in Mad Max 3, but with music from The Mission. However things have moved on significantly in the world of Festivals. The Leeds festival was like some grim, vast, sprawling refugee camp that is best described as a cross between the camps featured in Children of Men and District 9, but inhabited entirely by students. It was the size of Milton Keynes, and this brings us back to the training regime. The shear size of the complex means lots and lots of traipsing through shanty towns on lanes made of wattle and daub (see above). If you are not fit enough to run a half marathon don't bother because once you fall in the mud you're as good as dead. You'll be trampled, suffocated and then dragged off and eaten by the students.

3. Go Veggie
By the side of the muddy lanes are various vendors offering all manner of delicious goodies. These are direct descendants of the Barter Town shop keepers and I'm sure they are salt of the earth, but with so much fresh meat lying around in the wattle and daub, who can blame them for a bit a recycling? I went for a tofu burger which was essentially tasteless but wholesome and hot. As Ray Mears always says keep your spirits up with warm food and a regular brew.

4. Take your Walkman
You would expect that after all this effort that the music on offer would be half decent, but nothing could be further from the truth. Special mention has to go to the Architects who were spectacularly bad, Bring me the Horizon who were a complete shambles and 30 Seconds to Mars who were the worst of a bad bunch. I actually had to put my earphones in and listen to Kate Bush half way through their set just to keep my sanity. There were scant positives from an 'Into the Valley...' perspective. Rise Against at least tried hard, 'My Chem' had lovely lights, but surprisingly The Offspring stole the day with some middle aged pop punk stormers that at least packed the arena and got the crowd going a bit. Bizarrely they played Gogol Bordello on the tannoy at one point as well.

5. Do not use Public Transport
When you attend an event like this everyone and their aunt is keen to tell you not to drive as the queues will be massive, your car will be broken into, it will cost a fortune etc. They will attempt to make an already tortuous day worse by making you take some public transport option. Don't listen to them. Take your car, drive straight into the well managed free car park with no queuing, then drive straight out again with no hassle at all. It's a tough enough experience as it is without getting on a bus.

I hope that helps. On the whole a mentally and physically exhausting day but survivable. The event was extremely well managed, everyone was really friendly with no anti-social behaviour on show and the girls enjoyed it big time. There were lots of other grumpy, slightly embarrassed parents hanging about at the back as well which was reassuring, but if you're over thirty and haven't got teenage kids I'd avoid it like the plague. 

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