Get Loaded In The Park 2005

"Do I think the Mondays will go down in musical history? I couldn't give a fuck," so said Shaun Ryder, reportedly, and much else besides. Whether they do or not they have been the famous face, the up-there-doing-it-for-the-fans distillation of the hedonistic attitude of a generation.

So I'm going to throw journalistic objectivity out the window and the advice about never starting on a quote and let it be known that I love the Mondays and went to Clapham Common in a fog of nostalgia (amongst other things) and hoping for the best.

So there I was with 20,000 other happy-to-be-there people on a sun drenched Clapham Common waiting to be musically re-united with the heroes of my teenage years.

This was the first big event I'd covered as a fully accredited backstage-free-beer consuming journalist. As I stared around the backstage area, still hardly believing I was there, I heard a shout: "Fucking 'ell Paul how ya doing!"
It was my old friend from primary school days, Andy McCann and spending the weekend with him, I was soon to learn, was hard house maestro, sound engineer par excellence and Happy Mondays' keyboard player since last August, Dave Parkinson aka Primemover.

After enthusiastic hugs and "how-ya-doings?" I learnt that Dave, although cucumber-cool as a Mondays member should appear on the outside was a bag of butterflies on the in. Dave said: "I always get nervous before we play, I only got a couple of hours kip last night too, I just can't get used to sleeping on those tour buses.

"Bez isn't here yet either, he went out and got on it in Glasgow last night and didn't get on the coach, must be trying to get on a flight down from Scotland," Dave must have noticed a look of what-no-Bez concern flash across my face and said: "Oh we're not worried about that, he does it every time near enough, rocks up just before we're about to go on and it's: 'hey up lads let's fookin' do it!'"

The Farm had now taken the stage and Dave was full of enthusiasm about the production work he'd been doing on their new album. He was trying to point out the nuances of the house beats that drive the new material, but the sound backstage was distorted by being too close to the drum monitors so I wanted to get out front and check them out for myself. As I parted my old mate Andy and my new one Dave promised they'd try to get me a one-on-one interview with Bez if it were going to be at all possible.

This was all too much. Me, a cub reporter just finished University; the Mondays, one of my all time favourite bands; Bez's profile still huge after Big Brother. I was walking on air as I arrived at the front of the stage for The Farm's finale.

The lads from Liverpool took me higher still, it was a one of those truly beautiful moments that summer memories are made of, 15000 or so people hands in the air singing along to All Together Now at the tops of their voices. It was worth losing my voice on Tuesday for, and I probably made a friend for life in the random mad-for-it travel agent who ad'it large next to me.

Get Loaded won awards and the right to accommodate an extra 10000 punters for its organisation and friendly vibe last year. An arresting sight was Paul Oakenfold exclaiming "Fucking hell Tony Wilson!" before grabbing someone (not in a suit so was it really him?) in a bear hug. All this happened outside of the backstage area so they obviously felt safe enough to cruise around and even shout out who they were amongst the punters.
A romantic side of me likes to think maybe Oakenfold always goes for a wonder after his set to check out the vibe he's just delivered. But would he feel comfortable enough at other festivals? Or maybe he was just on his way home for a cup of cocoa - he must be getting on now after all. Or maybe he had inside-info that the free beer was about to run out backstage - my only gripe against a really professionally run day (I know what you're thinking: wanker, but guess what? Fuck you, I worked hard to get where I am today). Hats off to all you Get Loaded crew, you done good, especially for an event only in its second year.

One of my fears about the Mondays is that they might turn in to a kind of Status Quo for the rave generation if their reformations were to go badly so I took along a sixteen-year-old companion for objectivity. No, Sinaed's blond hair and Amazon figure had nothing to do with it - stop sniggering at the back.

But I needn't have worried she loved it, the lads rocked it, the lasers were wicked and the nitrus oxide stall put us on turbo boost just in time to make the most of the younger new members of the band blending with the originals to make an unmistakably danceable and 100% Happy Mondays sound. Even the two new tunes didn't drop the intensity level a bit.

It was a truly Happy Sunday and I didn't even have a plastic face carn't smile white out the next day…No way: we went to carnival and danced on. Thank heaven for Happy Mondays. Thank you Sinaed. I feel young again. In fact I feel like rockin' all over the world, how about a tour lads?
By the way, the refrain in the Quo's new tune goes: "The party ain't over yet!"

At the very end of a great day Bez tried to make one of his little speeches, but poor old Bez, his mike was turned off. So in the end I never got so much as a squeak from the legendary freaky dancer; did it matter? Not one bit…there's always next year and if this is your kind of music: you'd be a fool to miss it.

Paul Francis

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