Radio 1's Big Weekend, The Laughing Life

The Big Weekend: a view from the crowd

It was a shaky start. Finishing work at 5pm and trying to run in a pencil skirt because, of course, for the first time I’ve ever witnessed, there were severe delays on the Central Line, was not ideal. Neither was jumping onto my coach as the engine started, sweating in a black blazer, huge rucksack in tow, or being warmly greeted by an unexpected friend, and realising just how much I must have smelled right then. It got worse when the iPhone decided to die at 40% two hours into the journey (during which the coach had apparently circled round and round London because WE WERE STILL STUCK HERE). And of course, the organised person I am, I didn’t know the address of the friend I was staying with in Norwich…

An old-school payphone call, a misleading chat with a Polish taxi driver and a helpful kebab-buyer later and FINALLY I was at the right place, two hours later than intended. With a headache.

But you know what they say, what’s the view from the top of the mountain without the horrific, delayed, uncomfortable journey up? The next morning, scrambled eggs, toast, tea and Bulmers felt like finding an Oreo cake on the doorstep in comparison. The life.

The Big Weekend, view from the crowd, Laughing Life

Who says it has to be the afternoon before you can start drinking…?

Drunken summer walks are always a great shout, but this one involved cookies, stealing flowers to tuck into my curls and tipsy plans for a cutting edge detective series, Ford and McCoy, accompanied by the launch of a new brand of peanut butter and jam flavoured crisps.

The word we’re looking for here is: anyway…

The sun was shining and the crowds were marching and the atmosphere was lively before we even got to the festival. After a middle-aged security guard threw half of my handbag away (FYI lady, chewing gum isn’t food, you owe me a packet of Wrigley’s Extra), we walked straight into the BBC Introducing tent, home of rising stars such a  Catfish and the Bottlemen, witnessing the fine frolics of new up and coming rock gods, Kill It Kid. Lead singer Chris Turpin had one of the best live voices I had ever heard and hands down the sexiest tones of the day. The keyboard player and fellow lead singer, Stephanie Ward, had some impressive moves too (I have no idea how she bent over backwards and still hit all the right notes-  but I was loving it). Kill It Kid, you are already the key component of my new Spotify playlist. Bravo.

The Big Weekend, a view from the crowd, The Laughing Life

Kill It Kid killing it on the BBC Introducing stage.

A couple of drinks and a few selfies later and we were ready to put up with Charlie XCX for the sake of Ben Howard and Fall Out Boy. But ‘put up’ was a huge underestimation on our part – this girl can sing, to the extent  that for a good minute, I thought she was lip-syncing in a dubbed performance. She hit the notes with her unusual, sultry voice, all whilst running around the stage in her zebra prints, catching confetti and even whacking out an inflatable guitar (yeah that part was weird…) Turns out, I even know way more of her songs than I realised. I hate to admit it, but the girl was ace.

The Big Weekend, a view from the crowd, The Laughing Life

Gotta hand it to her, the girl puts on one hell of a show.

A toilet break later (there wasn’t even pee on the floor, Norwich festivals are so civilised!) and Ben Howard was bent over his guitar, looking fine with his facial hair and, apparently, ‘pretty hands’ (I have unusual friends).

Now I had been looking forward to hearing a bit of dear Ben. He’s an acoustic legend, always a key player in any chill Spotify playlist, with some great upbeat tracks too. So why the hell he chose to drone the most choice depressing tunes at the stage floor, I will never understand. A still crowd watched on, chatting, fidgeting, distracted. Keep your head up didn’t feature and he barely spared us a hello. He walked on and off as if none of us were even there and we all felt the mood drop pretty much immediately. The word that comes to mind? Buzzkill. Beware, party hosts: don’t invite Ben Howard to your shindigs.

And now we get to the good stuff. FALL OUT BOY HERE WE COME AHHHHH. Imagine your teenage heroes just ten or so rows away. Imagine singing along to every word of your fave old school hits, which merge into the fab new album tracks of present day, childhood meets adult life, all in a crowd of fellow keenos. Imagine Patrick calling for you to jump, clap, raise your hands and eagerly complying. Telling you that you’re irresistible, that together, we’ll all go down in history. AH it was amaze balls. Going nuts in the sun, cider in hand, losing your mind with the people you love and the idols you adore, the Big Deal of your teenage years, you just couldn’t ask for anything more. So Fall Out Boy? Thanks for the Memories. They were SO great.

The Big Weekend, Fall Out Boy, The Laughing Life

Nailed it! A band that knows how to light ’em up – they’re on FIRE!

Obviously, as soon as Fall Out Boy were off the stage (and I’d stopped screaming) it was time to calm the hell down. A cheese burger later and I was still shaking. We failed to make it into the In New Music We Trust tent for a spot of Hozier (but who gives a flying duck, I just saw Fall Out Boy suckersssss) so after another toilet break, some more boozing and a spot of sitting on the hill, we joined the David Guetta hype, dancing like no one was watching and catching confetti as the sun started to set. And my word, weren’t people rather affected by various substances and chemicals by this point. I’m telling you, people-watching at festivals is the shiz. We cringed at an awkward couple as a clueless girlfriend tried to dance and smile her boyfriend out of his funk. A large woman swung ropes with cups tied to the ends like a circus performer. A man in a bear onesie shimmied his little ass off. This place was wonderful.

I was  all happied out but it was only 8pm and Lord, there was more. And not just any old more, no run-of-the-mill extra pizza toppings or Oliver Twist gruel. It was the one and only Florence and the Machine. A broken foot had no effect whatsoever on those stunning vocals. Dressed all in white with a timid, frail apology for her torn metatarsal, the stage transformed under a hornets nest of a belted Sweet Nothing, after a beautiful softly sung start, a harp, a chorus of background singers. A tricky gig to dance, we settled for swaying and singing along with closed eyes and dramatic clenched fists, soaking up skill at its best.

And the peak of her performance – Dog Days was electrifying. The whole crowd were jumping, as if this was the last song we would ever hear and we had to do it justice. And then she  left us, Florence-less, too soon.

The Big Weekend, Florence and the Machine, The Laughing Life

Honey, you gave us way more than such sweet nothing. Stellar.

What else could possibly come next? Well, we hit a grimy cocktail stand and ran from some terrifying Norwich locals who took Baby Got Back and made an awful and ill-advised flirting move out of it. Having fled the scene, we started our own party in the middle of the grass – we just couldn’t leave when Bob Marley was followed by Cindy Lauper, the playlist was just too good – so we got silly and lost our minds to our limbs. We weren’t expecting to be joined by various randomers equally unable to control themselves and enjoyed the best mini rave.

Then came our final visit to the main stage for a bit of Muse to wind down (please note, winding down with Muse is not recommended as a rule…) I haven’t been a Muse fan since I was fourteen, and only stuck around for that famous Supermassive Black Hole, but the man has an epic control of his flawless pitches, keys and can hold a note longer than a banker at Wall Street. The light display was enough to induce epilepsy in the healthiest of watchers. It was an impressive performance and we ended on a high, exhausted and still wired by an all round outstanding day.

The Big Weekend, Muse, The Laughing Life

Such a good light display, in fact, that it was impossible to take a decent photo…

I was  excited for Big Weekend, for the bands, I love a good live performance and it was something a bit different to do at the weekend. But I didn’t expect to have a hundred new memories, half a new philosophy and a new catalogue of artists to research on Spotify. It was a bonding session of laughs, move-busting fun and hella excited screaming and confetti’d hair that I hope I never forget.


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