Sober Festivalling: Surviving The Messy Twats In Bucket Hats

Man! It’s been a LONG time since I’ve found a spare minute to do some writing. Let me tell you a bit about what I’ve been up to:

  • Trying to buy a house. Been trying since Xmas. Still trying. Fuck estate agents, and absolutely FUCK solicitors. All of them. In their buttholes. Forever and ever. Amen.
  • Working. Always. On projects at work, and projects at home. Until eventually I will die and then (maybe) I can stop working.
  • Running and climbing. I’ve climbed 2 or 3 times per week since I first discovered it about 4 years ago, and I’ll probably always climb because I fucking love that shit, but RUNNING I totally fell out with last year after doing a few half marathons and then getting dismayed with the amount of training needed to increase my fitness – so I quit, got fat, got upset about being fat, and now I’m BACK baby. And actually, I’ve really missed it – not just the fitness aspect, but also it’s nice to get 30 minutes alone with your thoughts whilst you pound the pavements. I use this time to ponder the important questions in life, like WHY DID I CALL MY TEACHER ‘MUM’ THAT TIME WHEN I WAS TWELVE AND THE WHOLE CLASS HEARD ME GAHHHH.
  • Eating. Hence the return to running.
  • Telly. Watching and re-watching the holy quaternity of comedy programmes:
  • Gigs. Not got to as many gigs as I usually do, but HOLY GLITTERY SHITBALLS we saw Rammstein at our local arena a few months back and the German bastards blew my cock and balls RIGHT OFF and also singed my pubes too with their massive flamethrowers. There’s just a burned, bloody stump there now.
  • Weddings. It’s been awesome to see a couple of old mates get hitched, and I managed to survive both weddings completely sober. BOOM.
  • Waiting. For the British ice hockey season to start again. I am so excite. So, so excite.

So, y’know, things have been pretty hectic, but it’s cool – I prefer it that way.

Another thing I’ve done a little bit of this year is FESTIVALLING. A couple of months back we went up north to my homelands to meet a couple of mates, and attend Slam Dunk Festival in Leeds – with some cool bands such as Cancer Bats and The Bronx (and a bizarre secret performance by sugar flavoured pop-punk wankers Busted). It was a cool festival; a very standard affair with stages and bands and lager and burger vans, but it was only a one-dayer so there was no camping, therefore no messy zombies staggering around after drinking meths and sleeping in mud for 3 days straight. We showed up, we danced, we ate pizza, we drank a cup of really weak tea that cost a fiver, and we left. Easy.

But then a further festival was looming, and this one brought with it a certain degree of trepidation, apprehension and awe: Boomtown 2019, with 65,000 attendees – and my band Petrol Bastard (yes it’s as shit as it sounds) had been booked to headline one of the smaller stages on the Saturday night, sharing the festival lineup with such legends as The Streets, Napalm Death, Killing Joke, Chase & Status, Atari Teenage Riot, UB40, Prophets Of Rage, and Lauryn Hill. Oh fuck.

Were we really gunna survive this sober?


And doing this whole thing sober was definitely the right choice because, if I’m honest, my history of festival experiences has been somewhat marred by my previous penchant for getting twatted and acting like a nob…

  • Reading Festival 1997 – Got drunk and spilled a full bottle of poppers in my mates tent, which gave him pulsating headaches whenever he spent more than a couple of minutes inside (e.g. every night when trying to sleep)
  • Donington Monsters Of Rock 1998 – Got so stoned (wtf I don’t even touch weed!) that I was absolutely convinced one of the DJs was playing a Fear Factory live album – which later turned out to actually be Fear Factory playing live on stage – much to my annoyance since I was looking forwards to seeing them bastards…
  • Groezrock Punk Festival Belgium 2013 – Staggered back to my tent with a pint of horrible, sticky Monster and Jagermeister (3 shots baby), tried to slowly lower my bum backwards into my tent to sit down, slipped and launched the entire pint into my bag and all over my clean clothes. Also smashed my glasses, and then my spare glasses. Also managed to drunkenly remove my underpants without removing my trousers, in front of a whole crowd of unimpressed people (still a pretty fuckin proud moment in my book, but whatevs).

Groezrock 2013. Me in the blue. Always the drunkest.

We decided that for Boomtown, since we were there as MOTHERFLIPPING ROCKSTARS rather than little sad normos, we’d get an Airbnb and just travel to the site each day, and that worked pretty damn fine for us. When the weather went crazy one morning and closed half of the festival stages, we were sat in our apartment eating pies. And when people were sleeping on the piss-soaked ground next to the urinals, unable to summon the strength to move to a less pissy cradle due to the immense amounts of drugs and booze in their systems, we were snuggled up under our fluffy pink duvets.

Boomtown was different to other festivals that I’d attended, and I’m not sure if this was because I’m just out of touch with how festivals work these days, or if it genuinely is a festival with it’s own style, rules, ethos and punters.

Different HOW though, uncle Jonathan?

Well that’s a good question little, er, Barbara. And the answer is DRUGS.


On our first night at Boom we discovered this whole amazing ‘enchanted forest’ set-up, with huge green lazers shooting into the skies, and giant clouds of smoke bellowing through the crowds of swaying trees and jumping ravers. We were there to see oldskool rave DJs Altern-8 spinning a set of bangers, and spin the bangers they did, but to be honest my attention was focused elsewhere – on the blatant and panicked insufflation of yellowy-white powders that was taking place around me, and by the hilarious rubber-faced antics of the young whippersnapper right in front of me whose jaw was clenched worryingly tight, only opening very slightly every few minutes so he could mouth the words I’M TOTALLY FUCKED M8 to his equally battered cohort. And oh my god the sweat. It was a cold night, but this fucker was sweating like a beaver in a puffa jacket under a heatlamp.


Need some gum, mate? Or maybe just a hug.

It’s worth pointing out that I’m not a prude, nor a disapprover, when it comes to drugs. I’ve had my fun in my younger years, and my mind has thustly been expanded, so I do understand the appeal. But this is a booze blog, not a drugs blog, so we’re not going to get into that (plus my mum reads my blog (hi mum)).

Over the course of our four day adventure at Boomtown the drug use became normalised, and it was WAY more prominent than the drinking. Truth be told, it made the entire experience feel a million times safer than the usual beer-fuelled fezzies. We’ve all seen the yobs at Leeds Fest smashing up police cars and setting fire to portaloos, and I guarantee you those pricks were largely the drinkers, not the druggies. All the drugs guys want to do is chat and hug, and that’s fine by me. Although I’d try and avoid hugging by day 3 – the smell of unwashed bodies (and sometimes piss depending on their sleeping situation) gets overpowering.

There were some epic stories emerging across the campsites of Boomtown; of brave young soldiers riding shopping trollies down steep hills, and of young ladies dancing naked atop stacks of crushed cars (there was an area called Scrapyard, bordered by piles of dead cars, that played nothing but SICK wubz), however no tale, for me, managed to encapsulate the ethos of this mad festival more than this one:

A young man was utterly fucked on drugs when he decided to venture off to one of the info stands, to hand in this mobile phone he’d found in the grass. Two days later the same guy, possibly starting to come down to earth, took himself off to the exact same info point after realising his phone had gone missing, and to ask if they’d found it – only to be handed back the very same one he’d handed in two days earlier. What a fucking dude. Maybe drugs aren’t bad after all, just hilarious…?

My other amazing Boomtown experiences included:

  • Meeting the Pope (who is actually a young lad from Glasgow called Gaz)
  • Stumbling on a nightclub that was set up as a Job Centre xmas party, complete with DJs dressed as employees (sat behind the glass serving windows and providing the epic banging remixes of all the big xmas hits), ugly 80’s decorations pinned to the ceiling, shit Xmas trees, and arseholed couples in outdated business attire snogging beneath the mistletoe
  • Meeting my favorite Welsh rap group Goldie Lookin Chain
  • Watching a man, too far-gone to work out how to close a toilet door, having a shit

On top of all this, of course, we also got the chance to play our first gig in two years, and it was to an awesome crowd of proper mad bastards – bouncing off the walls and singing along to our crap lyrics. It felt good to be back on stage, and even better to be doing it sober. I remembered all of my lyrics, and my groinal-thrusting was perfectly in time.

As a sober punter, I don’t think I could ever return to the booze-soaked and lager-sponsored fields of Leeds Fest or any other similarly mainstream festival, because the drinking is too prominent, with little else to keep your thoughts occupied. Boomtown, however (and also – from what I hear – Beat-Herder Festival), appears to be part of a newer, less mainstream, more colourful and creative festival movement. One which provides towns and forests to get lost in, actors and story lines to keep you engaged, caterers offering everything from sweet teas to vegan burgers and absolutely fucking banging macaroni cheese, and people that embrace the idea of inclusivity and openness over consumerism and drinking to oblivion. A place where you can always get a fist-bump for being sober, rather than it getting you beaten up for ‘bein a fuckin puff’.

So why the blog, uncle Jonathan?

Another great question, thank you Barbara.

As a sober person that used to drink A LOT, the idea of festivals can be positively terrifying. Gone is the crutch of booze, upon which you relied so heavily to lock away those inhibitions and embrace the crowd of wreck-heads around you in a chatty, dancey whirlwind of colour and hugs. Gone, also, is the elixir which could magically put you to sleep at 4am despite the never ending bass-thump from the nearby dance tent, and the thousands of drunkards screaming and shouting and puking outside of your tent.

But don’t give up on festivals. Not just yet.

I’m here to tell you that you CAN still enjoy this shit sober – and it’s all down to making a few little changes to your festival plans…

My recommendations are thus:

  • Choose a festival that’s known for being more than just a booze and music frenzy; something with areas to explore, movie showings, comedians, and activities to get involved in. Initial thoughts are Boomtown (obvz), Beat-Herder, Latitude, and maybe Glasto…? (never been, but I’ve heard amazing things)
  • Boomtown had special quiet camping areas, and also family camping areas – a wise choice if you’ve swapped boozing for sleep (best decision EVER)
  • Or why not go full posho and just drive to the festival everyday? You’re not drinking afterall. This means you could stay in a local B&B, so that you get a shower and a hot breakfast erryday. Or even stay in a local Hilton if you’re a proper rich wanker.
  • Festivals are, at the end of the day, about the music – and there’s something to be said for seeing one of your favourite bands live on a festival stage, and being able to retain that memory rather than losing it to a drunken blackout. So make sure you pick a festival where you LOVE the music.
  • Dance sober. It took me a while to reach this point, but my wife pointed out that “everyone else here is too fucked to notice you, let alone your terrible dancing”… so let loose. Throw dem shapes, you funky mother.

Hope this has been some use to somebody somewhere. It be a shocking shame to give up on the stuff that you love due to getting sober, and with a little thought and a few tweaks then I reckon it’s possible to shape your plans around the activities you always associated more with being a drunk bastard. Same goes for attending birthday parties and weddings, and for surviving holidays and xmases. Strip out the bits that need booze, replace with sleep and good food, BOOM.

Quick summary for you:

  • Drugs are bad
  • Booze is badder
  • I watched a man have a poo

Jonathan xox

PS – I’m four years sober this week. FOUR FUCKING YEARS! Never, in a million years, did I ever think that I’d manage such a thing. Cheers you guys for all the support! And if it’s something you’d like to achieve too, then I know a cool little group that can help you —> HERE.



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4 thoughts on “Sober Festivalling: Surviving The Messy Twats In Bucket Hats

  1. Jim Simmonds says:

    Yeh congrats on 4 years. I’m on 4 days so a little catching up to do. Love the fact that you keep emphasizing the positives in your sober life. I went to a gig recently with some drunk dancing and crashing into everyone. It was a real opener- is that what I used to be like. He just looked a sad mess.

    Liked by 2 people

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