Reading Festival by Richard Ounsworth

After a night of drinking, excitement and meeting the new neighbours, everyone woke up on a sunny Friday morning at Reading not so bright eyed and bushy tailed, but first band of the day Norfolk’s newest stars Deaf Havana would put an end to that straight away! Having been on the touring circuit for seven years it must have been amazing for them to finally get the recognition they deserve.

Would they live up to everyone’s expectations? Of course they would! With singles like ‘Little White Lies’ and ‘Leeches’ they had the whole crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Lead singer James stopped before playing ‘The Past Six Years’ to call the song ‘ironic’ because it was about all of his friends playing Reading and Leeds but not them.

If Deaf Havana were a meal you’d want to start every day with a bowl of them. Oh, and they broke a record for biggest crowd ever for an opening band… well done lads.

Up next were the Canadian superstars Cancer Bats. Greeted by massive cheers, the instruments were amazing, and the crowd interaction too, but the singing sounded like a man being electronically shocked in the testicles with no breaks. Still the crowd enjoyed it and you could see the band did too.

Over to the Alternative Tent briefly to catch Late Night Gimp Fight, despite the name it wasn’t people donned in leather in a squeaky battle to the death (shame) but a sketch group bringing the tent to its last breath laughing, consisting of sketches that included Scooby-Doo being a mastermind villain. It really showed that at Reading Festival you can see anything!

Random Hand at Reading 2012Meanwhile on the Lock Up stage Bradford favourites Random Hand(right) were tearing the boundaries of Ska and Punk fusion apart with the help of an eager crowd. Songs like ‘Play Some Ska’ and ‘Devil’s Little Guinea Pig’ really hit home with the audience. The Bradford accent makes you think they’re hard men until lead singer Robin dedicates one song to his mum for her birthday…ahhh. They finish the set with fan favourite single ‘Anger Management’.

The Hives come out to a massive crowd suited and booted in the NME tent, and in a split second everyone is reminded why they were ‘Your new favourite band’. They play the classics ‘Main Offender’ and ‘Walk Idiot, Walk’, the Swedish act look like they can’t quite believe the crowd they’ve pulled in and lead singer, Pelle Almqvist has them hanging on his every word. They exit the arena with the crowd begging for more. Welcome back The Hives! We’ve missed you!

Nathon Caton in the Alternative tent now, and the his brand of black humour had the whole tent in stitches, laughs coming from every single corner. Most of his comedy was based on his family, consisting of a Grandma who says exactly what is on her mind and his brother who talks like a ‘bad man’ even though he isn’t. Definitely one to look out for!

Back to the NME Tent (thank god all the stages are close to each other) to see Welsh heroes The Blackout, their brand of scream and hard rock was equally matched by the banter they create between themselves on stage, Sean and Gavin the two lead singers always playfully at each other’s throats. A set list consisting of ‘I’m A Riot, You’re A F*cking Riot’ and ‘This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ was just what the doctor.

You Me At Six fresh from Download Festival earlier this summer are making their second appearance on the Reading Festival main stage, an impressive feat for a band all under twenty four years old.

Josh Francheschi announces with a smile that their last show on this tour would be at Wembley Arena, an accomplishment he describes as ‘beyond our wildest dreams’. Closing their set with ‘Bite My Tongue’ they show the world that they’re not going anywhere just yet!

ParamoreHowever Paramore, aka Hayley Williams (right) give a less than amazing performance, Hayley looks like she’s trying to win a beauty contest and proceeds to lie down on the floor for a lot of the set. Still with winning songs like ‘Ignorance’ and ‘That’s What You Get’ they draw in a big crowd. Hayley tells a short story of a girl she met earlier who she thought ‘should be in a band’ so she brings out a terrified looking girl to sing ‘Misery Business’ with her, the girl hardly moves from her spot and barely sings, maybe she shouldn’t be in a band?

As night began to settle in the younger festival goers exited to other stages or back to their tents and the older generation of fans began to show their faces, Cure T-Shirts could be seen everywhere and there was a smell of excitement in the air, or maybe it was something else? It’s easy to see why Robert Smith is such an inspiration.

The Cure play a 31 song set list with favourites including ‘Lovecats’, ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Lullaby’. The young ones in the crowd know ‘Friday I’m in Love’ but that’s about it. The Cure bring the opening night of Reading to a close in a spectacular way and makes everyone beg the question ‘Will Kasabian top that?’ but it wasn’t Kasabian that stole the show on Saturday, any guesses?

In 2007 Kaiser Chiefs played a secret set under the name ‘Hooks for Hands’ and in 2009 Them Crooked Vultures played to a packed out NME tent, this year the legendary Green Day played at 11 o’clock in the morning before any other bands were on, the set was so amazing that it was put on the Main Stage screens and speakers to get the sound and word travelling fast!

Watching people run to see the pop punk heroes was a sight to behold. “This is the worst kept secret in England right now”, Billie Joe says to pretty much the whole of Reading. Playing classics from their massive back catalogue, every single song is met with an amazing reception, even their new song gets everyone in the mosh pit, crowd surfing and wall of death mood.

Green-Day Reading 2012

Doing the usual Green Day thing of soaking the crowd with a water gun and shooting a toilet paper dispenser, Billie Joe was having the time of his life – after all this time he’s never lost that childish innocence. Ending with ‘She’ and ‘Minority’, Green Day playing Reading festival in secret is a show that will go down in history. Sorry Leeds.

As the excitement from Green Day fades the rest of the day can start, beginning with The Knux on the Festival Republic stage, a hip hop duo from New Orleans. Their brand of hip-hop rock really hits a nerve with the Reading Crowd who danced to every single one of their songs, simplistic melodies and catchy lyrics made it easy for people who hadn’t even heard of them before to perform their own dances and sing the chorus back to them. ‘Cappucino’ and ‘Bang! Bang!’ were definitely songs that made impressions and are perfect festival fodder.

Over on the Alternative stage Gary Delaney was up, a one liner comedian who drew in a huge crowd, his simple yet observational jokes had everyone in stiches of laughter, aside from this he demonstrated certain controversies in jokes by mentioning cancer and the taboo subject of Madeline McCann but he got a great reception.

Doc Brown comes bouncing out next with his variety of comedy and rap, he stuns the crowd as he reveals his rap skills and pulls in a massive crowd, probably from his appearance on Russell Howard’s Good News. Still, his hilarious raps about how to make a ‘proppa’ cup of tea and how the world is ‘racist’ got the whole tent laughing.

Rock raver/dubstep/hardcore (I lose track) heroes Enter Shikari on the main stage now,as a massive fan I’d love to say that they were amazing, but something fell short today. Beginning with ‘System’ into ‘Meltdown’ the crowd were absolutely loving it, creating the circle pits but something in the way they played just didn’t seem familiar. Maybe it was the set list consisting of mostly stuff from their new album, sprinkled with radio favourites like ‘Juggernauts’ and ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ they end with ‘Zzzonked’ and exit the stage. New intimate shows have been announced, so let’s hope there are better things to come.

Canadian favourites Billy Talent in the NME tent now, performing new material from forthcoming album ‘Dead Silence’ the crowd are going insane. ‘Red Flag’, ‘Fallen Leaves’, ‘Try Honesty’ they’ve been gone a long time, but they’re back and better than ever. The crowd chant ‘F*ck the Kings of Leon’, a joke that’s followed Billy Talent at Reading Festival for three years. ‘We thought you forgot about that’ lead singer Ben Kowalewicz laughs.

Florence & the Machine at Reading 2012Florence and the Machine have earned their right to sub-headline this prestigious festival, after a spectacular opening Florence Welch is welcomed to the main stage with open arms. Every time she talks it sounds like she’s on some sort of lucid drug but it’s likely she’s just high on life. Her voice is indescribable, every note is perfect, she isn’t afraid of the rain that is now pelting the festival floor, instead she embraces it, taking off her high heels and kicking the rain off the stage, she steps into it eyes closed and takes it all in for one shining moment.

want to make an impression, their banner rising slowly as the Jaws opening music plays, like the shark in the film Kasabian have rose from the depths and took on the world, the question is would they ‘need a bigger boat’ to take on the Reading crowd?

The Leicester heroes come out with ‘Days Are Forgotten’ and play songs from their now substantial career, with ‘Empire’ and ‘Club Foot’ probably get the best response. The lead singer Tom for some reason is looking like Noel Gallagher and dedicates a cover of Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ to his new born daughter.

Saturday was a great day for Reading. Kasabian however, were upstaged by Florence, who for me was in turn upstaged by Green Day.

Foo Fighters shirts are everywhere today! ‘I’d go gay for Grohl’ was definitely a favourite, but that is later,
up first are Mongol Horde on the Lock Up stage. Frank Turner has put down his acoustic guitar and turned to the world of hard rock music. Shirtless, his shouting isn’t up to much but the crowd seem to be having a great time. They play single ‘Casual Lives of the Weekend Hardmen’ and even cover The Streets ‘Don’t Mug Yaself’ which sounds pretty damn awesome! Maybe this new side project just needs a few more shows.

New Jersey rockers Gaslight Anthem on the main stage now, kicking off with ‘Great Expectations’ the band look truly honoured to be here, they get the crowd screaming just by mentioning ‘The mighty Foo Fighters’. Showing off their nerdish side they’ve donned the speakers with plastic figures from Lord of the Rings, He-man and Star Wars. ‘’59 Sound’ and ‘45’ are highlights.

All Time Low

All Time Low are the Blink 182 of this generation, catchy pop punky songs mixed with banter the guitarist asking for a “hand job from anyone, boy or girl”. A great set including ‘Weightless’, ‘Stella’ and a very impressive ‘Dammit’ cover which shrouds the stage with dust. They announce they’ll be back in the UK soon to play some shows.

Time to throw some metal into the day, Bullet for My Valentine! The metal heroes come out to an intro of ‘O Fortuna’ which sends shivers down the spine, before kicking into ‘Your Betrayal’ the metalheads are in the centre of the crowd and circle pits can be seen everywhere. Matt Tuck the lead singer says he wants the crowd ‘to be a battleground’ and then people really do begin to get hurt, not good. Even if you’re not a fan of metal music it was still an incredible sight to behold.

When Kaiser Chiefs covered ‘Pinball Wizard’ at the Olympics some people weren’t happy, but at Reading it gets people joining in and having fun. ‘Ruby’ got the whole crowd jumping up and down for the first time in unison and ‘The Angry Mob’ created a beautiful bit of solidarity singing in the crowd. Finishing off with probably their biggest song ‘Oh My God’ they leave the stage. Only one act until Foo Fighters…

The Black Keys
have been around a long time, but have only just managed to break through and to sub headline the Main Stage at Reading must have been such an amazing experience for the band. Their infectious tracks are met with cheers from the die-hard fans and from people who just came to check out ‘the new(ish) band everyone’s talking about’. ‘Lonely Boy’ is clearly the one that everyone enjoyed most. The Black Keys – definitely future headliners.


It seems like the whole of Reading Festival are waiting this next act, the only people not watching Foo Fighters are probably The View who are playing at the same time to what I can only imagine is an empty tent.

Dave Grohl and co don’t need a ridiculously long intro, the lights go down, Foo Fighters can be seen on a banner and before you know it they’re all there looking out at the massive crowd before them ready to rock. Bringing out all the hits like ‘All My Life’ ‘Pretender’ and ‘Breakout’ it’s clear to see why they’re so legendary. Dave says “We haven’t played this song in a long f*ckin’ time.” shortly before blasting ‘Learn to Fly’.

‘Best of You’ receives a stunning response as the whole crowd sing it back to Dave who smiles. Not forgetting this is The Foo Fighters, not just Dave Grohl, the drummer Taylor Hawkins sings his song ‘Cold Day in the Sun’. Dave tells the story of when he first heard about Reading and when he first played it, the crowd were silent as he described the first show he did in a tent. “I was sh*tting myself”, he said as he described playing with Nirvana on the main stage.

‘Exhausted’ was the penultimate song (which hasn’t been played live since 2003) and they end with ‘Everlong’ with fireworks and streamers erupting. An incredible way to close the main stage at Reading Festival. For those people who weren’t quite ready to face the realisation that the festival was over and real life would soon be creeping around again, then Less Than Jake were on the Lock up stage for one more piece of rock!

Reading Festival is over for another year but the memories won’t be forgotten, Deaf Havana breaking a crowd record, the mighty Foo Fighters playing long lost songs and Green Day playing a secret set the likes of which no one has ever seen. See you next year, Reading!

All pics Copyright respective photographers.