The cold drizzle didn't put me off, and nor did the fact that Transport For London's Routeplanner had crashed and couldn't tell me how to get there. Get to Hackney and follow the crowds! I thought, and it worked.
The trick with parapluies on wet days is to notice when the rain stops and put your umbrella down, otherwise you look like a prat.
The first band on the big stage was awful- total tossers. 'They're telling us to get off the stage', said the singer at the end of their set ,'but we've got more songs to play so we're not going to. Do you want us to stay?'.
Wow! Anarchy in the UK! Selfish indie band wants audience to applaud their stage-hogging!
It's not about you, you arrogant band, it's about every performer sharing the stage to show they support anti-racism!
I went and stood in the middle between the two stages to recover. From there I heard a great voice and there was Adelaide Mackenzie on the small stage, just singing her heart out to a small crowd; no self-promotion there, just songs and bonhomie, the perfect cure for the perils of the awful indie band.
Afterwards, Stylo G took to the little stage and was the first of many to have the idea that the guy with the mike shouts "Love music' and the audience shouts back 'Hate racism'. They were OK actually, him and Little Rascal (I think that was the other one's name).
I wandered back to the big stage where a man was telling a moving story about his late father, a survivor of the concentration camps; there was a minute's silence, which everyone observed, and then another rapper took to the stage.
God it was awful- he started off with the marching bit of 'We Will Rock You' and then started hectoring us to raise one arm in the air, then got everyone yelling call and response stuff- honestly the similarity to one of Hitler's speeches was completely unnerving. the man on the stage with his arm up shouting, and the crowd, each person with one arm up, shouting as one in response. Totally, totally weird. And then he got the film crew to film the crowd. 'This is gonna be on Youtube' he said.
Yet another act had totally missed the point of what they were supposed to be there for. Yes, he had done the 'Love Music Hate Racism' bit, but the egotism was astonishing. I don't know who he was, and I don't want to know. It was just so weird- of course
he was not a fascist, It was just that the way 'the group' and 'the leader' were interacting with each other was exactly the same as the way political dictators wind up the mob. And there is a bit of that in the way that all pop stars control their audiences.
So I went back over to the small stage where I just caught Jocelyn Brown singing a song- she has a fabulous voice and was giving it all she had. I would have liked to have heard more, but I think it was one song each. She left the stage and her keyboard player said '... and she has a New Single Out Next Week!!!!'. But by that point it was great to see a real old fashioned band with a trumpet and sax, playing really well.
After that, a guy with a flute and beats got up- I think he was Nathan 'Flutebox' Lee. His boo-boo was fantastic, and I really felt for the guy.
'LOVE RACISM!!' he shouted excitedly, and then realised what he'd done. Oh dear. Of course nobody took it seriously but I bet he has a sleepless night tonight!
Over to the main stage again, where Tony Benn made a respectful and dignified and mercifully short and non-self-promoting speech. 'Young people understand the world better than me', he said. 'This is the first generation that could wipe out the human race, and the first that has the ability to save it. Learn not to hate each other'. He didn't shout or sloganeer, which made a pleasant change.
Then the lead singer from Hard Fi started singing. He was good, and they are good, but I'd really had enough of Alpha Males by then, and I could swear I heard a backing track of crowd screams in between numbers, the same one I think they play at other festivals.
The funny things is, after all this moaning, it was actually quite good. There was a nice atmosphere in spite of the rain; lots of people had dressed up, and I'm going to upload a picture of the tooting girls with their green plastic trumpets, who were hilarious. There were two older guys in paisley shirts showing off like nobody's business, some great t-shirts, some great hairstyles, and everyone there from Asian grannies and their grandchildren to Rastafarians- and of course, the Middle Class.
But it did make you realise- RAR totally changed for the better the way British people thought.
This is only half of it; I missed Jerry Dammers and Poly Styrene and The Good the Band and the Queen.
I'm sure they were all good and equally sure they were sensible enough to leave their ambition at home with their cats and the remains of their Sunday dinners!