Rock festivals present a unique set of challenges to best-selling author and much-decorated SAS veteran Andy McNab. Having served behind enemy lines in Iraq, Afghanistan and other global war zones, McNab is no stranger to harsh conditions. He is also a huge fan of both heavy rock and opera, having recently notched up live shows by ZZ Top, Linkin Park, System Of A Down and Bruce Springsteen. So how would he apply his military training to a festival like Ramblin’ Man Fair? Here the creator of Bravo Two Zero and State Of Emergency gives Classic Rock 10 handy tips about surviving on the festival frontline, from weapons-grade wet-wipes to shitting in plastic bags.
1. Festivals are like military operations: forward plan.
“In any campaign, before you do anything, you’ve got to consider the seven Ps: Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. The three things you need always to avoid is being wet, cold and hungry. So if you can counter those three things you stand a better chance of succeeding.”
2. You arrive late at the festival. It’s cold and dark but you need to pitch your tent. Best course?
“Just crack on, because nine out of ten times, if there’s a group there’s always more chiefs than Indians. So the first thing is get the tent up, get your head down and go to sleep. When you wake in the morning and find you’re next to the toilets, just get up and move!”
3. The rowdy party monsters in the tent next door are keeping you awake. Do you ignore them, try diplomacy or use force?
“You do it in a staged way. First you try to put up with it, put some earplugs in. If that doesn’t work you just let their tent down.”
4. It’s raining heavily but you want to see the Scorpions. How do you avoid getting soaked?
“To counter being wet, you only need two sets of gear. The dry set you keep dry all the time, and the wet set… well if it’s wet, it’s wet. Obviously take a set of Gore-Tex and just stand there all righteous.”
5. Correct festival dress code: leather and denim, or camouflage gear and body armour?
“I’m in shorts and flip-flops. I try not to wear shoes. I fucking hate shoes. And I have a set of Gore-Tex to just shove on over a top.”
6. Festivals are full of shiny happy people, but a few bad apples too. Do you stay alert and vigilant, or get hammered and risk being robbed?
“In military terms, festivals are Target-Rich Environments for nicking stuff. Because everybody’s pissed, everybody’s happy, everybody’s waking up with each other. I’m pretty pedestrian, I’ve never taken drugs and I don’t drink. I’m just going there to have fun. But if you’re leaving stuff in the tent you’ve got to expect it to be missing. So if you lose it, it’s no big deal.”
7. You’re walking around the festival when a crazed, bearded guy lunges at you. He could be Seasick Steve, or he could be a terrorist. What is your split-second decision?
“Just get out of the way, then have a look at it, then you can make your mind up. You don’t have to be aggressive, just get out of the problem and then make a decision. It could be an terrorist, it could be a musician, it could just be a drunk who loves you – it doesn’t matter, just move out of the way. If it’s a drunk who loves you, give them a cuddle and walk away.”
8. You need nourishment. Do you bring your own military rations, or risk the Pulled Pork Emporium?
“It’s too much hassle taking your own food. But I would avoid meat at all costs. I’d be going for the noodles and the baked stuff. And if you are buying shit in a tray, the best invention on the planet are Wet Wipes, right up there with squeezy Marmite and wheelie suitcases. The last thing you want is to start getting the shits.”
9. The toilet queues are huge, but you’ve got a bad case of festival belly. What’s the solution?
“Immodium is brilliant. It doesn’t get rid of the problem, but it does bung you up. We do a thing on operations called Hard Routine where you are pissing in bottles and shitting in plastic bags. Because you’ve got to take it with you; you can’t leave anything where you’ve been. It’s not a big deal just to squat, have a shit in a plastic bag then just wrap it up.”
10. The nightmare scenario: you capture a terrorist on the festival site. You hold him prisoner in Marillion’s dressing room. What music do you blast at him as sonic torture?
“Oh, very easy: Marillion! They are in there anyway! That’s punishment enough! Ha!”