My first Reading Festival, and it was one of stand out performances, laughs, random chants and diva tantrums. This is the first part of the review of the Reading Festival I experienced, the main bands I saw, what made it great and what went wrong!
Despite a 3 hour drive, queuing in the rain and mud for another 2 hours and setting up camp in a puddle, Thursday was the perfect start to the festival! Our evening consisted of sitting in TGI Friday’s for dinner wearing just socks on our feet, then braving the rain yet again to go to Q Club in the town centre where Ian Watkins was doing a pre-festival DJ set. As a lostprophets fan I was highly intrigued to see what his DJing skills were like, and have to say I was not disappointed! As one half of L’amour La Morgue he has increasingly been touring independently of the band, and his surprising enthusiasm for dance music was infectious.
Friday was made by one band; Young Guns. Watching them open the main stage with confidence and modesty was amazing. Only 4 months ago I saw them perform a crowd of just over 200 in a small club in Cardiff, and here they were in front of 1000s, proving just how much hard work and talent pay off. On top of that at the signing tent they were gracious and polite, and their following Radio 1 Live Lounge showed their ability to strip back as well as rock out. Lostprophets gave a polished performance as always but unfortunately, the sound let them down, with the bass and drums drowning Ian’s vocals in parts. We also struggled with the fact that halfway through the set there was such a crush in the crowd that even breathing was difficult, and you have to wonder why nothing was done to alleviate this, as it was during Libertines and Blink 182!
Later came Mumford & Sons, a band I love but missed at Glastonbury, and am so happy I got to see them at Reading. They have a reputation for putting on a great live show, and in no way did they disappoint! Even outside the tent the crowd was huge, and as well as having fantastic energy it was good to see that they still can’t quite believe so many people love what they are doing and sing along with gusto! Unfortunately we then proceeded to make the mistake of going to see Guns ‘N’ Roses. After an hour standing in the cold we turned to leave the arena just as they finally appeared on stage. Standing at the back we saw the first song and realised they were definately not worth an hour’s wait, sounded awful, and the idiot who made the mistake of trying to be Slash should have stayed at home! And to top it off Axl Rose has the cheek to go Twitter and ask everyone else to apologise, with no apology from the band itself! Disgusting behaviour from a band who should have known when to give up.
The first half of Saturday was spent at The Alternative Stage. Originally we went in anticipation of seeing Kevin Bridges who, due to flight delays never actually turned up. Instead we were treated to a funny compere in the form of Andrew O’Neill introducing the worst so called comedian I have ever had the displeasure of seeing! Perhaps in America Neil Hamburger counts as funny, but at Reading he was heckled and booed offstage for being unfunny and callous to the point of offence. Mercifully, he was taken off in favour of the compere. And the whole tent was appeased by Jason Byrne, who spent nearly the entire gig improvising and bouncing off the audience, showing that he really is a naturally gifted comedian.
Saturday’s music was also impressive. Kids In Glass Houses showed just what a headline tour can do for a band, with a much more self-assured performance than when they supported Lostprophets in Cardiff at the beginning of May. Aled Phillips oozed confidence making for a huge improvement in the show. Over on the mainstage Dizzee Rascal demonstrated why he is the only rapper who can be accepted by Reading with his mixture of singalongs, dance-alongs and unique version of Smells Like Teen Spirit; and with that he has to be the only artist with the ability to get a moshpit started. On a completely diferent note, while sitting eating dinner outside the Radio 1/NME tent we watched Crystal Castles on the big screens, and if anyone can tell me the necessity for the singer I’d be greatly appreciative! Just did not get it I’m afraid.
On the other hand the two acts that followed provided the energy that Saturday nights were made for! Enter Shikari and Pendulum are two more bands famed for their live shows and it is easy to see why. Enter Shikari are by no means to everyone’s taste but their ability to cross genres is comendable, with everything from dubstep to metal making an appearance in their music with an ease that makes the combination sound natural. And their energy onstage amkes them the perfect warm up act for Pendulum. Having seen them I know understand why so many say their recorded music will never live up to the promise of a live performance, because live they a force to be reckoned with, and the atmosphere they create is almost one of Euphoria.
Following the joy that was carrying everything back to the car, Sunday’s music began with All Time Low who, despite Alex Gaskarth’s Pink Sunglasses, managed to bring the rain with them. They performed with an infectious cheer, but knowing they started as Blink 182 covers band and having seen the real deal perform that night, you have to question how much it was a show in the hope of being the next big thing. You Me At Six are another band who seemed to be trying too hard to be something they’re not. Don’t get me wrong musically, they provided an accomplished set, but the crowd interaction left a lot to be desired as the lead singer tried to force the audience into circle pits during songs where jumping was only just appropriate. Perhaps they need to accept they are a band for singing along to, more than one for moshing to. Although, credit where it is due, bringing Hayley Williams onstage during Stay With Me was a massive coup, and a fantastic surprise for the whole audience. In spite of this, they were unfortunately overshadowed by Limp Bizkit who followed. With natural circle pits, huge crowd moments, and a seemingly humbled Fred Durst, as someone who is not usually a fan, I was both impressed and taken in. They ended with an unpredictable but phenomenal cover of George Michael’s Faith that truly woke up a Festival-weary audience.
Sitting watching Weezer on the big screens, for me they rarely strayed beyond the realms of being average, but on the few occassions when they did they were outstanding, mainly due to the crowd singalongs they inspired. Beverley Hills and Teenage Dirtbag were among the biggest crowd involvements of the weekend. Ending the festival came Paramore and Blink 182. Again, we stood watching on the big screens, but even from there it was easy to see why Paramore are one of the biggest bands on the planet right now. The way Hayley Williams commands the stage with strength and spirit, belies her age of 22, and her voice has to be one of the best in music at the moment. As a band they provide accesible rock music and, hopefully, their reputations will not be blighted by that, and their rise will continue to reflect their talent. In terms of Blink 182, I was slightly disappointed. The sound where we were stood wasn’t great, but even considering that I think I expected more. The band, undeniably have a great chemistry, but with the amount of anticipation there was for the appearance, unfortunately the band’s banter overtook the music. Even during songs such as Miss You and, to a slightly lesser extent, Rock Show there was a muted atmosphere, perhaps in part due to a large number of teengers in the audience who, judging by some of the conversations around the site over the weekend, only knew All The Small Things courtesy of Jedward; a very sad state of affairs.