"How can I not like playing Reading?"

NME Festival Guide 2005

Says Dave Grohl - and he should know. This year will be his fifth time and, he reckons, the best yet. Flying piss notwithstanding...

Foo Fighters are the first band of the modern Carling Weekend: Reading And Leeds Festivals era to headline the event on two separate occasions. Actually, you could even say they've headlined the joint on three different years, what with the band choosing this place for their first ever festival performance, headlining in the second stage tent back in 1995.
  And if you factor in how Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl also headlined this field in 1992 when he was the drummer with Nirvana - as well as appearing on the bill with that band the previous year - then clearly he is to the Reading and Leeds what Elvis Presley used to be to the Las Vegas Strip.
  "How can I not like playing Reading?" is the singer's rhetorical answer to the obvious question.
  "The place has so much history in general - and so many memories for me in particular - that it is a really special place to play. And Leeds is also fantastic, they have some really crazy people over there. I remember when we headlined the two nights (in 2002) and just looking out over all the people, and wondering, 'My God, are they all here to see us?' I just could not believe it, that all those thousands of people were watching us, with us as headliners. It felt great, it felt like, you know, we'd arrived..."

This summer you're playing Reading and Leeds and also T In The Park. What can people expect from the Foo Fighters this time round?
Dave: "People can expect volume. A big. loud, bright fucking rock'n'roll singalong. And we're going to do things a little differently this time. Last time out, we opened with All My Life', which was such a fucking no-brainer, because it worked every single night. We had the Jaws music (intro tape) going and it was just ideal. This time people can expect a lot of new material and an opening song that makes 'All My Life' sound like The Carpenters. And that is a promise."

What other artists are you looking forward to seeing at Reading and Leeds?
Dave: "Well, all these bands tend to do the festival run through Europe, so we tend to see each other all over the continent I know Queens Of The Stone Age are playing, so it'll be great to hook up with them. I'm looking forward to seeing the Kaiser Chiefs. But, see, thing is it all depends on what time slot you get as to what bands you get to see, because being in a band on the bill is not the same as being in the crowd. So why don't I be diplomatic and say I'm looking forward to having a beer with each and every artist who's playing?"
Taylor: "I call Dave the Ambassador Of Rock because he will have a drink with absolutely anyone backstage. The worst band in the world? No problem, Dave will have a drink with them."

What was the first festival you appeared at?
Dave: "That would have been the Pink Pop festival in Belgium. Nirvana played it, at about 11 o'clock in the morning. We were on just before Ride, and on the day we played the Ramones were headlining. I remember being in the photographers' pit watching the Ramones play their whole set Frank Black was also on the bill, playing these huge festivals with just him and an acoustic guitar.
  "Now, at the catering tent, each table was allocated to a particular artist, and they had name cards on the table for each of the bands. So the Ramones' table was about 12 chairs, and Frank Black's table only had a couple of seats on it because there weren't many people with him. So what we did was swap the name cards round. I remember going in to the catering tent later that day and seeing Frank on this huge table and then seeing the Ramones squished up in the comer, with half of them having to stand up. It was pretty funny."

What's the best way of avoiding a bottle of piss?
Taylor Hawkins: "Keep your fucking eyes open, man. Oh, and don't be the lead singer."
Dave: "To generate a bottle of piss you have to pull your cock out and piss at the same time as being crammed up against 40,000 other men. That does not sound like my idea of fun.
  "However, as a band playing here's how you avoid the bottle of piss. You have to play so well that the audience rushes to the front - I said rushes, kids, not crushes - so that the only person who's going to have the spatial availability to fill up a bottle with pee is 700 yards away. And no matter how good a shot that person happens to be, there is no way he's going to hit us from 700 yards."

What's your most striking festival memory?
Dave: "This isn't quite the happy answer that you might be looking for, but the thing I always take with me is standing at the edge of the stage and seeing a sea of 50,000 people, and at the front of that sea you have the security guys pulling limp bodies over the barriers That's something you tend not to forget. It is so horrible. You're so excited about playing, and then you look down and see that and it throws everything into confusion.
  "If things get out of control, you have to stop. And you have to keep your eyes on the security people because they will give you the (hand across the throat) signal if things are getting out of control. And then you fucking have to stop. It's as simple as that..."

As festival veterans, would you care to share any embarrassing stories you may have with our readers?
Dave: "Oh, OK then. The time when we played the: V Festival in 1997 is my most embarrassing story. I used to chew gum onstage and I had just put a fresh piece of gum in my mouth. After a few songs the fucking sticky sugary stuff from my chewing gum was all over my microphone, and it was a hot summer day.
"Now, there was this bee that was flying around my head and landing on the microphone, and it kept landing in the sugary stuff. Every time I'd go to sing I'd have to try and swat it away and the thing wouldn't leave the mic. I just could not get rid of this fucking bee. I'm serious, the thing was really persistent. And it actually got to the point where I had to stop and tell the audience, 'Look, I'm really sorry but there's a bee on my microphone."

How did they greet this news?
"To be honest, I don't think they really cared. They kind of cheered in a really half-hearted fashion. It was totally embarrassing."

Words: Ian Winwood

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