This summer has been awash with a variation of festivals. It seems all people have been talking about is The Arctic Monkey’s headlining any bill possible, the near demise of Benicassim and Beyonce being booed at V, but in theory, the last true great rock festival has been left wedged nicely to top the season off. Reading Festival 2013 has had its naysayers and doubters so Harley Cassidy went to see if any of this was really necessary.
Friday – It seems Friday morning has got people craving the recently popular formula of lank locks, skinny jeans and shoegazing credentials as The Festival Republic Stage has drawn in a virtuous crowd for Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs. Bridging the groan of distorted guitars and psychedelic tunes style Velvet Underground stance, the band are nice and heady. But that’s the problem. Sometimes “nice” just isn’t enough and with lack of crowd rapport and shining charisma to back up tunes that are being done better by other bands, Charlie and co. flopped.
However on the BBC Introducing Stage one band were clearly doing something right; JAWS can be described as nothing other than blissed out magnets for a simply feral crowd. Drawing in the biggest horde of the weekend for the stage they adorned, Jaws’ set was littered with the songs that have set them up to be a fey breakthrough act. It’s funny because Jaws’ music comes across as dilatory yet soothing, like lazing in a bath of synths, but the crowd were quite the contrary. After being kicked in the face for the fifth time, retreating to the hem of the crowd was possibly the wisest decision I made of the weekend.
Friday was clearly the day of the B-Town lads as Kettering neighbours Temples glam rocked their way through a mesmerising set before the knights in shining armour of the scene took to the NME stage. Oh Peace. Brummie boys done gooood. Dripping in an unexplainable charisma, Harrison Koisser is the perfect frontman for the band. He drawls into his microphone and collates a dozen fangirls and lads who want to be him wearing the ankle bearing jean / white sock / brogue combo as he does so. The tunes are fresh as fock. Follow Baby’s riff is still one of my favourites from Winter last year whilst California Daze instigates longing moans and involuntary swaying. It’s hard not to see Peace keeping steady and going forth with their current Indie symbolic status just like Foals before them.
A world away from this swirling melancholy, the Main Stage is being torn apart by Deftones followed subsequently by a barbarous set from System of A Down. Whether it’s just machismo that urges the crowd to beat each other (or themselves) up or simply down to “feeling the music”, System gave the crowd a taste of visceral energy for tonight’s headliners – Green Day. Now don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate Green Day. However I’ve never been one to get attached to the pop punk label so forgive me if my general review of them is somewhat biased. Billie Joe took to stage, jumped around and gave it all it was worth, they played the hits, they produced mass singalongs. And then out of nowhere, Dookie was suddenly played in full. That’s right. THE WHOLE OF IT. Reading festival could’ve been the perfect place to strut Dookie in full or it could’ve fallen flat on its arse and left people looking at their watches wondering when American Idiot was going to be played. Of course, the first option was always more popular. Whilst Green Day were enjoyable I found it hard to connect with the band and the whole set seemed to drag for longer than what it was worth. What’s a girl to do.
Saturday – The Dance Stage wasn’t one that I frequented much this weekend mainly because the acts that peppered it were simply who you’d assume to habitat it. Jagwar Ma were teetering on a fine line of either being completely misunderstood or absolutely adored on said stage. For me, I was having the time of my life. Tiny little Gabriel Winterfield in his Reni-sized bucket hat gave a sterling vocal performance over washes of groovy, baggy synths. Opening with What Love? and closing with The Throw, Jagwar’s set was a mirage of tunes that their strongest supporters would’ve loved. Splashh meanwhile were faring slightly better with their audience. All I Wanna Do and Vacation were glorious highlights, teasing the crowd into an adulating frenzy. It’s clear that Splashh have more to give and a little more to them than the characterless Indie bands that try to kick through the mould. Undoubtedly though I’ve saw Splashh play better but to a much smaller crowd. One thing this band shouldn’t lack is confidence.
Generating quite the buzz over at the NME stage was one Johnny Marr. Bringing in fans of The Cribs, The Smiths and every other side project Mr Marr has been involved in, Indie music’s messiah guitarist proved that age is almost certainly on his side. He covered The Clash, he orchestrated huge anthemic sing-alongs to There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and plucked on my heartstrings considering I was brought up on a sturdy Smiths back catalogue which left me chewing on the question: Morrissey who?
Just when you think things can’t get any better it was time for a superbly hyped set from Perth’s finest. Tame fookin’ Impala. There hasn’t been a single person I haven’t spoken to pre-Reading who haven’t been eagerly anticipating this bands set. Hell, even Swim Deep were somewhere in the audience dancing like loonies to Feels Like We Only Go Backwards. They barely speak because let’s face it they don’t have to – the music speaks volumes. Be Above It is literally something else, a kaleidoscope of bouncing drumbeats, warped strings and unsurpassable chanting. Elephant is greeted raucously – it chugs along on everything that is good about music at the moment and there isn’t a face in the vicinity that isn’t smiling. Magical.
Chase & Status deliver the goods just before we see the man who’s possibly been condemned the most for this weekend. Mr Marshall Mathers. By the end of his set however if you ever doubted him beforehand you’re making sure you keep that snippet of information to yourself. Ok so he made some piss poor decisions with Love The Way You Lie and Airplanes which could’ve been replaced with something as delightfully crude as Fack or Shake That or even Just Lose It would’ve been nice.
Eminem knew how to work that crowd though. Crowd reaction was on point and when he declared he was “going to take it back to when he was fucked up” before delivering a montage of his early LP’s finest including My Name Is, The Real Slim Shady and Without Me, the crowd went seriously mental. Nothing could’ve blown the crowd, Reading, the UK or just anywhere in general away more though when out of nowhere Dido was suddenly thrown on stage. Yeah, Dido. She’s that much of a recluse nowadays that she was greeted like a local legend as the rain soaked intro of Stan kicked in. Rounding off a brilliant encore with Lose Yourself, Eminem did what he did to Papa Doc in 8 Mile to any pessimists of the night.
Early Sunday morn, Wavves are bringing in a steady crowd. It’s a chilled start to the last day of Reading and whilst there are many there to hear some gems off Life Sux, Afraid Of Heights is the real eye opener for what Wavves can put out there.
Sunday is certainly a farrago of genres and styles, Azealia Banks is somewhere spitting bars and getting people impossibly drunk as they play the game “have a drink every time Azealia Banks swears” whilst the NME Stage is playing host to Tribes. Johnny Lloyd’s voice is up there with the well-honed. It’s refreshing to hear a band that have a frontman who can actually sing and sing fucking well at that. Johnny holds no prisoners when it comes to making sure the audience are fully engaged in their set, thrusting his leather clad self onto the screaming front row. Meandering through Baby and Wish To Scream, the Camden lads closed their set off with their most uplifting, Oasis tinged anthem they own – How The Other Half Live. Surprisingly enjoyable.
None of this can even come close to how Haim are received though. Oh Haim, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 1. These girls are sisters. Like legit, DNA sharing sisters. How can they all be so impossibly talented and segue through instruments like there’s no tomorrow? You don’t have to answer that question because we’re still working on it ourselves. 2. GIRL POWER. We know Haim have been given unfair if not subconscious judgement on the fact they all possess vagina’s but can melt all the other male bands out there with one bass face but it’s wondrous to see all three sisters act so hardcore on stage. 3. The tunes. Forever is meant to be cutesy but Danielle’s Jacko like gestures and snarls shun that right off. Falling is almost ethereal in the sense that the instruments are being used to their full potential over showers of the Haim Angel’s cry of “FALLING”. The Wire highlights all three girls varied vocal talents, proving that Este can more than master the bass and Alana is more than the pretty face that grinds seductively around her keyboard and possesses a mean drum hit.
After Haim, everything seems pretty bland in comparison. The Lumineers are trying desperately to push a quite nice discography into people’s faces whom it seems most were clearly there just for Ho Hey so it’s a good job Disclosure had something to do about it. Everyone and their Nan turned up for The Brothers Lawrence at the NME stage. Bringing on a snake hipped Ed Macfarlane for deep house track Defeated No More, Aluna Francis for White Noise and Sam Smith for Latch, Disclosure knew exactly how to master their audience and leave them not just standing staring at two guys over a synthesizer on stage. Like visual aesthetics even mattered though. Disclosure have battered down the bridge between commercial chart music and appreciated dance music (we don’t get a lot of that) and crafted some of the biggest dance numbers of the year. With that in mind, not one pair of feet were unmoving throughout the whole set and dare it be said that Disclosure were the real show closers of the night.
As far as headliners go, Biffy Clyro never would do it for me. They delivered a blistering set regardless but the Scots just don’t feel world domineering enough to take to a stage that a global superstar like Eminem took to the night before. Fans of Biffy clearly would enjoy it but as I found myself ambling aimlessly into the Festival Republic Stage I came across one Fred Macpherson, dressed in a white suit using that charm offensive to make the audience forget who the real headliners were. Boundless fun and energy, Spector weren’t who I intended to see and truth be told a band I never enjoyed listening to beforehand, but the beauty of festivals, live shows and Reading in particular is that it introduces you to and changes your perception of bands you’d never dream of listening to.
Reading, you had your pessimists (some for good reason) but mate, you pulled it out the bag and now I worship your grounds more than ever. It’s been fun, see you next year.