The Perfect . . . Festival

The Observer Sunday July 2, 2000

Alex James

Anticipation is key. You can only see your favourite band for the first time once - and that's what the perfect festival should be all about. For me, it was seeing New Order at Reading in 1998 because they had always been my favourite band- 'Blue Monday' opened my heart to poetry. It was so honest and naked - but I'd never seen them live. For some reason, security wouldn't let me watch them from the side of the stage, even though Blur were going to headline the gig next year. So I had to go out front to watch, but it turned out to be the best thing - I was totally moved to tears. I cried and jumped up and down - there is nothing like knowing all the songs and being at a gig that you've waited and waited for. The more excited you get about it, the more you endow the festival with meaning.

Being with 50,000 people who all feel the same way is very emotional. When I went to see the Pixies at Reading in 1989, there were all sorts of people wearing the same clothes as me and they all knew the words to the songs, like I did. There were people lighting bonfires, people letting rip - some fucker jumped on my tent and pissed all over the guy ropes. Letting it all hang out is essential though - just getting excited about hearing the songs and being off your head. Lacking sleep and being slightly drunk is the best way to appreciate music. Any perturbed state of mind is good - whether it's down to adolescence, being in love or whatever. Music is louder for the tired and unhappy.

Go with a girl you fancy if you can get her to go, but it's better to go with a group of lads because it's just like football. The festival is only as good as the bands who play - there's nothing exciting about mud and tents.