2 day tickets to the Leeds Carling Festival: £134 (including £14 booking fee!)
Petrol: £27.67
Sandwiches: £3.09 (we had the good pepperoni)
Breaking down 10 minutes after leaving: a right pain in the arse!

The smarter of you readers will have realised that my festival outing did not go quite as intended. My girlfriend told me it was fate. I just hoped that she was right.

The story of the day went as follows. 10 minutes after leaving my hometown of Sunderland for the two-hour journey to Leeds my car died a horrible and quite tragic death. Not all was lost I hoped. Being a sensible person I happen to be part of the R.A.C. They came. And then proceeded to tell me in what might very well have been Russian that the thingy-ma-jig-had broken and the what-do-ya-ma-call-it could be broken. My car knowledge is not vast, but I knew this was bad! So towed we were, back to Sunderland, where my not so trusty Ford Fiesta still lies. We checked it in to the garage and tried to think of alternatives. After all we had bought the tickets and we had to go. It turned out there was a car rental company just round the corner from the garage. So off we went to hire a car. All okay again. We entered once again feeling positive.

“Do you have any cars to hire?” I enquired. “No” was the response. I looked to the heavens, “Come on God, please.” Okay no cars, “Do you have anything with wheels? A van?” I was demonstrating my full motoring knowledge here. “Yes we do. You can hire a small van.” Great stuff, all on track again. We went through the hiring process, driving license, check. Passport for I.D. check. Credit card, check. The good lord was once again smiling down on me, and I gave a quick thank you. “Right sir, that’s all good, now, do you have any endorsements on your license?” Ah. Problem. “Yes sorry I do” I bashfully admitted. “Oh, how many?” the nice man enquired. “Eeerrrm nine, is that bad?” It was.Six was the limit. I looked to the Heavens again, “Are you that busy ?”

So back home we went. As I went to the toilet to cry, my ever resourceful and clever girlfriend started to go through the phone book. I came back to find her booking something with my credit card. It was a small but effective hire car. We were going, but there was a problem. We were now 2 hours later than scheduled. This was a big problem, as we so desperately wanted to see two of the first three bands on the main stage. Matters and our sanity were not helped by the running commentary of the festival on Radio 1, telling us exactly what we were missing. This was cruel, very cruel. We arrived just in time to get into the car park, just as the third band on, Alkaline Trio, were playing. This was good. Maybe we’d get a chance to see most of their show. Well had it not been for the several mile long maze, that we seemed to go through to actually get to the actual stages. We got there in time to see the band's final three and a half songs. This I suppose was better than nothing.

The three songs ranged from the band's last three albums. They sounded great. I imagine that this would have reflected well the whole of the band's set. This was a good thing, as they had obviously not just used their slot on the festival as a tool to shamelessly promote their recent album, 'Crimson'. It is hard to decide from hearing them if they would have won any new fans over. The Alkaline Trio have the kind of fan base that are totally devoted and love the band from the moment they hear them. I am one such fan. And there were plenty others there also , judging by the amount of Alkaline Trio t-shirts, stickers, badges etc. Not to mention the large wooden sign showing the band's heart logo. (Now you don’t find those in Tesco’s... I checked) They are a much loved group, who deserve their devoted following after putting out some great punk albums laden with dark imagery and dark lyrics but who are yet utterly uplifting and tuneful. They are definitely worth checking out and judging by what little I saw were a fantastic band to watch.

Next up were Welsh grpup Funeral For a Friend. They have been on the road constantly since the release of their second album 'Hours' in June. Funeral For a Friend are another band with an extremely loyal set of fans and are quite clearly loved by many. Countless people were singing along to every single word of singer Matt Davis' vocals. Their set included not just new songs, but all the fan-favourites from their superb 2002 debut album, 'Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation' such as 'Escape Artists Never Die' and the fantastic 'You Drove Me to Day Time Television'.

They opened with the song that really broke them 'Juneau' much to the pleasure of the crowd and they sounded good until there was a slight gust of wind, which made it sound like somebody was running away with the sounds you were hearing. Welcome to the Great British festival. Matt Davis sang as well as ever, and the band played well, but they just seemed to be tired and run down, which is fair enough after an intense few mon ths. They were by no stretch of the imagination bad. They just weren’t as good as normal, which was a little disappointing. But this is only the case because, having seen them before, I can say that they are a superb live act. It felt more like they came on. They played their songs and left without making much of an impact on the festivalgoers. Whereas normally the band seem to rock you out till you feel you have nothing left, then just when your ears can take no more they pound you once more for good measure, making sure you’ll not be able to rock out again for a good while, while at the same time leaving you craving more. Unfortunately they just didn’t seem to be at the top of their game on this particular day because of their extensive touring schedule. Nevertheless they were still enjoyable.

Next up were Californian punkers, NOFX. Again the sound quality seemed poor at times due to the weather and the band did not seem to get off to the best of starts. Instead of running on and playing with a bang, they seemed to meander on the stage one by one during the sound check, as singer/bassist Fat Mike tuned his own bass on stage while sipping on what looked like a terribly un-rock ‘n roll cup of tea.

To people that weren’t familiar with NOFX, they may well have come across as sarcastic and like they would rather have been somewhere else, with Fat Mike admitting that he was ill and not able to give his normal 100%…or at least 60%. This was a shame, as again, anybody who has had the opportunity to see NOFX play live will know that they are incredibly entertaining, not least because of the on stage banter between guitarist El Hefe and Fat Mike. They are always hilarious, and this was no exception, but today they just didn’t seem to play the music well enough to back up just being funny.

They opened with old favourite 'Linoleum' and played a range of songs from their 15+ year history, including newer songs like 'Franco un-American' and 'She’s Nubs' alongside classics such as punk anthem 'Don’t Call Me White'. They entertained the crowd, but not even half as well as I’ve seen them do in the past.

Many of the people who didn’t seem like they knew much about the band seemed to be laughing along with the band, but I can’t help but think that they were missing out and didn’t see the band at their very best, which is a great shame. They finished with the hilarious anti-Bush song sing-along 'Idiot Son of an Asshole'. Subtlety they do not do in vast amounts and quite honestly they don’t need to. Ah what could be better than a politico-sing along making fun of one of the world’s most powerful men. Although the band's performance didn’t stand out a great deal their backdrop did. While other bands used band art work, album covers and so on to cover the whole back of the stage, the NOFX boys had a backdrop that appeared to be no bigger than an A4 sheet of paper which raised a good laugh when it was unveiled. This was funny, but in a way it felt like it summed up the band's performance, for while it was funny and entertained they are capable of so much more.

Next up were punk legends Iggy and the Stooges. For a band who are now all in their late 50’s at least, they played with a lot of energy, and all their old classics louder and harder than they sound on record. Iggy Pop was on top form darting around the stage and into the front of the crowd numerous times. What a show ! They played songs from all three of their studio albums, 'The Stooges', 'Raw Power' and 'Fun House' and classics such as '1969'and 'No Fun' It has to be said that I know little of the Stooges, and I’m not proud of that, but after seeing them live it definitely made me want to hear more of them. The Stooges, much like James Dean, Samuel L.Jackson and the Fonz, are just plain cool, and they seem to oozethe qualities so many younger bands try to pass off as their own

Up until now apart from the Stooges being my experience of Leeds had not been great. And I can't help but feel like one would after telling their new friends about an old friend, who was just great, only to have their friend turn up late to a party drunk, and have them proceed to piss on the carpet, drink all the good alcohol then laugh at pictures of the host's mother, and leave you standing there with the words “Normally they’re so great…” Up till then my day had quite frankly been disappointing. Sometimes I feel you have to ask yourself whether what you’re doing, is really worth what you went through to get there. So far my car had broken down and died, I’d be turned away from a car rental place and I’d later heard to fix my car would cost in excess of £500, not to mention the £130 it cost to hire a car just to actually get there. Not a great day so far you can see. Was this fate? Was I not meant to go. Was some higher power out there trying to warn me away from Leeds that day? Well it was tough shit if it was because I was there. And with all that had gone on so far, there was only band on the planet that could make my day enjoyable. Luckily for me they were up next, and they came in the form of Incubus. I was slightly paranoid after the day's events so far, that in some cruel twist of fate they wouldn’t be able to make and in some sick joke they were going to send Daphne and Celeste as a replacement just to push me over the edge. Luckily they didn’t.

The band haven’t played together live for quite a while but you could not tell. They sounded incredible. Note perfect and loud. Loud enough to cut through anything that dastardly Morthern wind cared to throw at it. They didn’t disappoint. I found a good spot, not too close to the stage that I’d have to worry about anything but enjoying the show, but close enough to get a good view, which is quite hard with my small stature. Good heels for such an occasion are just so hard to come by!

They opened with 'Pistola' from their 2004 album 'A Crow Left of the Murder' and right from the word go it was clear that they were going to be great. They said very little in the way of introductions opting instead to just let the music did the talking. And this worked well. It was clear that they were having fun after being away for so long and they had a quiet air of confidence about them.

The set list was a brave one. Instead of choosing all the well known songs they played mostly album tracks like 'Under my Umbrella' from 2001’s 'Morning View' and 'Priceless' from 'A Crow Left…' The only really well known songs the band played were 'Megalomaniac' and 'Wish You Were Here' leaving behind some of their most famous songs like “Pardon Me', 'Drive' and 'Are U In?' This was brave considering it was a festival performance, but it worked perfectly. The epic 'Sick, Sad, Little World' was superb, giving the band a chance to really show of their musical prowess with spine-tingle-inducing guitar solo’s from Mike Einziger and soaring vocals from Brandon Boyd. And of course the band finished of the set as any other self-respecting rock band would…with a Prince cover? Yes seriously. They ripped into 'Let's Get Crazy' getting most people bobbing they’re heads, tapping they’re feet and some even dancing. Brilliant stuff.

After the sun drenched tunes of Incubus it was now time for something a little different. Cue Marilyn Manson. The band arrived in typical style with smoke and ridiculous costumes and they went on to play a fantastic set. Manson sung on stilts for some of the songs. I assume it was so he could see some of the people at the back. It was certainly a spectacle. No matter what you think of the band, they are great to watch and this was to be no exception. They played all their well-known songs and it’s surprising just how many of these there are. The crowd who were obviously not that familiar with the band already seemed to be at first a little bemused by the stage and the costumes, but after a while many people were nodding along looking happily surprised at how many songs they knew and how many had good catchy tunes. Overall they were a perfect warm up for the headliners Iron Maiden. It was now dark and who better to set the soundtrack to the fall of darkness.

Iron Maiden were fresh from their stint in the U.S. headlining the Ozzfest. Not knowing as much as I maybe should about Iron Maiden I was excited to see them, as I’ve heard many great things about them, and am a big fan of the songs I do know by them. They did not disappoint with a superb show, complete with fireworks, a huge ramp on the stage and a huge back drop, all the makings of a classic Iron Maiden gig apparently. For a band into their late 40’s, they, like the Stooges, sure have a hell of a lot of energy and really show all the younger bands just how much effort you should be putting in when playing live. They played a range of their classic songs including 'Trooper', 'Number of the Beast' and 'Run to the Hills' to name just a few. I can’t help though but think to really enjoy them to their full extent you would have to know them well. After all many of their songs include big guitar solos and most are around the 5 to 6 minute length, so it's not the easiest music to just listen along too if your not familiar with it. Nevertheless theywere exciting to watch and obviously were putting so much effort in and holding nothing back, and for that you have to love them.

So that was it. While all the lucky folk who were there for the weekend sauntered back to their campsites to drink the night away I had to head home. It had been a long eventful day, often bad, certainly expensive but with plenty of good wholesome entertainment also , and for that I cannot complain. For what it’s worth I do have some advice I feel I should pass on. If attending a festival, go the day before then you won’t miss any of it. Stay there so you don’t have to worry about anything but being there. Get in early and check out all the other tents because you never know what you might find. And finally for the love of God get a credit card ‘cos hey:

Hiring a car to go see some of your favourite bands play when you should be at work: Priceless!

The photographs that accompany this article all originally appeared on www.virtual-festivals.com

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