‘Heavyweights’ Close Festival Season

Who the heavyweights are in a BBC News headline that read “Rock Heavyweights Close Festival” wasn’t clear.

Was it was referring to Iron Maiden and Foo Fighters wrapping up this year’s Reading-Leeds Carling weekend? Or maybe it was the tabloid story that Pete Doherty head-butted Razorlight‘s Johnny Borrell backstage. Then there’s the ever-growing feeling that Denis Desmond and Michael Rapino’s Clear Channel Entertainment will finish this summer by dominating the U.K.’s outdoor market.

Apart from agreeing Doherty vs. Borrell isn’t heavyweight, Desmond said, “There’s no such thing as domination,” playing down the fact that his new role as Mean Fiddler chairman – a company he co-owns with Clear Channel – means he effectively has a major shout in a raft of U.K. festivals including Reading, Leeds, the V Festivals, Glasgow’s T-In-The-Park and various outdoors dotted around Ireland.

With Melvin Benn still very much in the Mean Fiddler festival fold, and the fact that his work on Glastonbury is much admired by event owner Michael Eavis, it could well be that Britain’s biggest and best-known outdoor is part of that list by 2007. That makes a potential audience of more than 750,000 and, this year, every one of them sold-out well in advance.

He says he has no plans to move either the Carling Weekend or the V Festivals, although they were within a week of each other this year.

“Demographically, the audiences aren’t the same. V is nearer to the Q magazine reader, where Reading and Leeds are more NME and Kerrang,” he explained, adding that they both sold out. “There’s no need to move anything. If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it – and it certainly isn’t broken.”

Benn told the media this year’s events had enjoyed “glorious sunshine and happy crowds,” although an August 30th report in The Sun said hundreds of rockers clashed with festival security during a riot at the Leeds site.

He added that a few fans did break into one of the festival sponsors’ Carling wagons that were left onsite overnight. Apparently taking the brewer’s slogan “Probably the Best Lager in the World” at its word, they made off with several hundred cans of it.

The story in The Sun, which was no more than five paragraphs and tucked away on an inside page, claimed “guards with batons and shields used tear gas to halt the fans,” which – if true – would probably have been worth a front page mention.

Police said crime at the Reading site, which was largely thefts from tents and drugs offences, was down 27 percent on 2004. Thames Valley Police attributed a rise in arrests from 63 to 83 on last year to “greater vigilance and presence.”

Among the other acts basking in the sunshine at Reading and Leeds (August 26-28), but probably missing out on the stolen beer, were Pixies, Marilyn Manson, Iggy & The Stooges, Kings Of Leon, Razorlight, Bloc Party, and Babyshambles.

Hollywood actress Juliette Lewis was also present, fronting Juliette & The Licks.

— John Gammon