Reading festival this year was as eclectic as ever. Sure most of the 87,000 strong crowd that visited the site over the weekend were ticking off ‘glamping’ in their ‘great book of cool things students with a blog do’, and at times it did feel more like a GCSE party rather than a rock concert but at least One Direction weren’t on the line up.
It takes a while for enough people to enter the main arena on Friday, and get away from the free bacon sandwich queue, to get an atmosphere. Coheed and Cambria are the first band on the main stage to make an impression, with their high pitch vocals and epic guitar solos (with an unleashing of one of rock’s most epic manes of hair for their last song).
Hadouken’s popularity comes out of nowhere as the NME tent is packed by 1PM. Their techno rock gets applauded like they’ve just played Stairway to Heaven, I guess the promoters didn’t know they were this popular either as their position on the line-up is completely out of place.
The Hives win most pretentious yet memorable opening as mid-afternoon they arrive to classical music in the NME tent in top hats and tails. That tents singalong is a lot more suited to Reading than Tom Delonge’s theories on aliens as ‘Angels and Airwaves‘ play the main stage.
You Me At Six (below) in the grand scheme of festival bands are babies, and this shows as frontman Josh is far too timid and polite to reach the back of the crowd, regardless the bra showing front row of girls seem to enjoy their mischievous set.
Bombay Bicycle Club are giving Florence’s machine a run for their money with their musician heavy stage (accompanied by Lucy Rose) and are welcomed back like old friends. Their music brings nothing new or exciting to the weekend but they are pleasant. Paramore start off wobbly as it takes a good few songs for frontwoman Hayley Williams (and those TOWIE worthy painted eyebrows) to calm the screeching and make the vocals more audible. The new line up don’t play any new songs but the clever set makes sure the sing-a-longs are plenty and it’s a nice punchy warm up for the headliners.
The Cure return after 33 years to play a whopping 31 songs in an atmospherically dark set. The sad thing is except for the front rows there’s not much interest, much like Pulp the year before if they aren’t playing a classic the sound of chatter overbears the music. Smith and Co are a great band and sound faultless, but (in my opinion) their underwhelming atmospheric music isn’t made for such a large arena. If this set had been an hour less it might have been less dreary.
Saturdays starts with a quick rush from the tents as the worst kept secret of 2012 is revealed. Green Day open up the NME tent at an hour early at 11AM by playing a career spanning 75 minute set where they debuted ‘Stay The Night’ as well as bringing back the fan favourites. Not many frontmen can have a hungover sleep-lacking crowd eating out the palm of their hand in less than four minutes.
Ex- Gallow Frank Carter’s new band Pure Love is met with a nearly full tent as curiosity hits Reading before completely filling out for Scots Twin Atlantic. Pure Love are a mix of awful language, great stage diving and mediocre songs while Twin Atlantic’s songs are big but their presence isn’t. Both seem to think themselves more as Carter throws a hissy fit to his tech because his mic cable is too short while Twin Atlantic’s Sam throws his guitar across the stage like he’s Keith Richards.
Odd Future are joined on the mainstage by Trash Talk and have an eventful set which leads to them mocking the security team by making sex gestures behind them. Santagold (who yes is the same as Santigold) is joined on stage by two backing dancers which makes her mix of reggae and old school dance a lot more entertaining and interactive, the highlight of her show is when she pulls a collection of people from the crowd to dance and we watch a teenage boy spend a whole song making finger gestures.
Billy Talent tear through a hit filled set in the tent which is met with a surprisingly subtle (and small mosh pit) audience reaction unlike The Vaccines who’s mainstream indie could get even a cynic’s toe tapping. Despite the heavy grey clouds that appear in the wind swept sky a naked man still managed to get his bits featured on the big screen.
He might have regretted that nakedness because during Florence and the machine the rain throws itself down. She embraces the rain in the ethereal way only she could in a muddy Berkshire field. The beauty of their music is lost in the crowd who just want a big choruses and dance anthems. While the set list features too many ballads and comes across as a waste of talent Florence herself comes across as charmingly bonkers.
The rain dies out for Kasabian who manage to keep the crowd The Cure couldn’t. With Tom strutting around that stage like Liam Gallagher and Mick Jagger’s love child and Serge done up like a Mighty Boosh character they manage to make this rock and roll anthem thing easy.
Every song they fire of is a hit from the classic rock ‘Shoot The Run’ to the indie ‘Club Foot’ as well as slipping in lyrics from The Stooges, The Prodigy and ET before singing a full version of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’. This is definitely a band who writes songs that are meant to be sang by this many people.
The sun has made an appearance for rock n roll Sunday where thanks to the Foo Fighters the age of the attendees has gone up.
Pulled Apart By Horses and Band Of Skull’s bluesy rock blend together in a sort of tribute to Jack White. Eagles Of Death Metal lighten up the mood of the hungover, smelly, worn out crowd with their ZZ Top esque light-hearted rock n roll but it’s Gaslight Anthem who really switch it up a notch. The New Jersey Americana rockers prove they are one of the greatest modern live bands are definitely one of the best songwriters of this generation. All Time Low as cheerful as they are, are not that.
The teen favourites are harmless and fun, there’s innuendos and ‘I slept with your brother’ jokes and an almost ironic cover of Blink 182’s ‘Dammit’ as their whole set seems to be a tribute to the trio’s pop punk.
Frank Turner drops the acoustic guitar and returns to his new roots with Mongol Horde in this frantic half an hour set. Alongside their thrashy original songs they throw in covers of The Streets and Nirvana. Two Door Cinema Club (above) preview their NME sub-headline slot on the BBC Introducing Stage with an acoustic set. Also toning things down was The Futureheads who’s acapella and acoustic versions get lost as Foo Fighters take over the stage next door.
Everyone seems to turn up for the Kaiser Chiefs. Every song is a hit and gains a huge singalong. Even their cover of ‘Pinball Wizard’ get the crowd jumping. Ricky Wilson makes the crowd do whatever the hell he likes as he point commands into a nearby camera. After this it’s hard to imagine songs like ‘I Predict a Riot’ not song by 60.000 plus, it’s even harder to understand why they’re only third from the top of the line-up.
The Black Keys aren’t as well known but their cult fanbase is enough to fill up the arena. Their blues tinged rock is a nice easy going end to a hectic weekend. Despite being thoroughly enjoyable you can’t help but wonder why a band with only one song the crowd can sing is above the mighty Kaiser Chiefs. Aside from ‘Lonely Boy’, ‘Little Black Submarines’ stands out as it builds up from a soft delicate ballad to a loud and atmospheric piece.
Foo Fighters (below) return to Reading twenty years after Dave Grohl first set foot in the muddy field with Nirvana. They give you two and a half hours of every emotion. First you sing and jump to the likes of ‘Monkey Wrench’ and ‘All My Life‘ (you can’t help but admire a band that can get BBC to broadcast a song about oral sex pre 9PM) then you get goosebumps as he dedicates ‘These Day’s’ to Kurt and Krist before awwwing as Dave brings out his daughter to whom he dedicates ‘Walk’ to (as she sits there completely uninterested like every other pre teen would as their dad sings). They space out the classics leaving ‘Everlong’, ‘Best of You’ and a semi acoustic ‘Time like These’ to the end of the so the not so hardcore fans can have something to anticipate.
He tells too many antidotes because Sunday at Reading doesn’t really care about the first time Grohl heard about Reading nor do they want to sing happy birthday to his mother, but when it’s Dave Grohl I will allow him to indulge in as many stories as he likes… See you next year.
All photos from the official Reading Festival
Foo Fighters & All Time Low by Alex de Mora
Florence And The Machine & Kasabian (top) by Marc Sethi
Two Door Cinema Club by Mike Malfait