Not a particular fan of any of the bands, but went because all me mates were, like, and it was more than likely going to be one of those ‘I was there’ events. The clamour for tickets had been immense, and I seem to remember them announcing that they were 20 times over-subscribed.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had stayed up the whole night before, at a party, so I was not on top form, it has to be said. We nabbed ourselves a good position high up the hill, sat down, and proceeded to drink large amounts of warm lager. A word about the bar – this was my first experience of the ‘token’ system, and it has to be said, it worked like a charm. It was an exceedingly efficient (if fairly expensive) system that permitted a near constant flow of beer in our little circle, with the minimum of queuing.
The Bootleg Beatles opened up, on a glorious August afternoon, and they were (at least from where I was sat) indistinguishable from the real thing. They were dressed in the Sgt. Pepper garb, but did songs from 1962 right up to 1970. I then had a little lie down in the sun, and before I knew it, had slept through Kulashaker, The Charlatans and Ocean Colour Scene. I was mildly miffed that nobody had thought to wake me for The Charlatans, but really glad I didn’t have to endure Ocean Colour Scene, so it was probably for the best. Next cab off the rank, The Manic Street Preachers. I knew quite a lot of Manics songs, as I listened to Virgin Radio pretty much exclusively in those days, but I really disliked them, solely because of the tool Ritchie Manic and his attention seeking (carving ‘4Real’ into his arm with a razor and then flouncing off a cliff). Well, he was. This was post-Ritchie Manics though (duh) and they fucking rocked. I recognized loads of songs, and I was forced to make a begrudging and somewhat humiliating U-turn in my opinion of them. They were definitely the surprise of the day – I’m glad I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and also glad that I had that little snooze.
By now, it was dusk, and we had edged ourselves much closer to the front in anticipation of The Prodigy and Oasis. I had all of The Prodigy’s records at this stage, and although I always yearned for the early, purely rave days, at least their output by 1996 was a bit more complex, and a lot more suitable for playing in front of a couple of hundred thousand indie kids (175,000 to be precise). So, on came Braintree’s finest, and boy, had they got better since I last saw them, in 1991. Keith Flint and Maxim Reality were jaw-droppingly good front men. They just owned the stage, they were in complete control, prowling, sneering and posturing like they were performing in front of the mirror. To this day, I have not seen a more electrifying and commanding performance by a front man/men. I can’t remember much about the music. It was all about the stage presence, man. That is how you work an audience.
So, to the headline act. I can really take it or leave it when it comes to Oasis. Some of their stuff is genius, but I really can’t stand the attitude that comes with it. After what I had just seen, they were going to have to be pretty special to come out on top. We had got as close as we (comfortably) could, but were still miles away, and the sound was pretty piss poor. They were great though – played everything I wanted to hear and pretty much everything I didn’t want to hear (Liam’s vocals on ‘I Am The Walrus’ make my teeth curl, for instance). They wheeled out a string quartet for ‘Wonderwall’ and the whole thing was very, very polished. They also wheeled out John Squire for one of the encores (Champagne Supernova?), which was a real bonus. Liam will always be a prize bell-end though. I slept all the way back to Woking. Hurrah!
P.s. I was there.