Reading Festival 2012
Reading resident Paul Stephens spent last weekend mainly at the his home town’s famous festival & by the sounds of the review below he had a great time there, even if he did miss The Cure.
It’s Friday morning. There are a few menacing clouds and a feeling of inevitability that it’ll rain. Primark is overrun and there’s extra security on at Tesco. Everyone at work has been moaning that the roads have been gridlocked for two days.
And I’m grinning with excitement because Reading Festival’s back.
There are loads of good and bad points about Reading. It’s flaming expensive, the lineup is increasingly criticized year on year, and First Great Western seem to be building some sort of warehouse alongside the site. But as a local, I love it. Its world famous, gives the town an identity, it’s rich in history”Â¦ And perhaps a nice two fingers to the middle class snobs who avoid the town for 5 days.
It’s difficult for one person to review a festival ”â it really becomes a blog about the bands I’ve managed to see while bumbling around drinking cider”Â¦ So, as a warning at this point, I didn’t see The Cure … I don’t dislike them, but don’t really connect with them either. Don’t hate me for that, it’s a game of opinions, right?
After deliberating whether to down, bin or smuggle in our remaining cans of complimentary Skol, we’re into the site for Spector”Â¦ who have divided opinion thanks to a frontman who likes to court controversy ”â but you’ve got to have the tunes to back it up. They’ve got one or two, but the attention of the crowd seems to wane at times. Mind you, they appear to be a bigger draw than The Hives. They’re a strange one to call really ”â in Pelle Almqvist they have a funny and charismatic frontman, and what’s not to love about their look? They’ve always been quite a safe bet live, essentially because they’re a good at what they do”Â¦ But naturally the biggest cheers come for the likes of ”ËMain Offender’ and ”ËHate To Say”Â¦’
My mate likes to tell me how brilliant Passion Pit are ”â and whilst I’m not there yet, I’m beginning to understand his point of view”Â¦ It’s probably fair to say that frontman Michael Angelakos’ voice is an acquired taste, but their brand of pop seems to work. The crowd’s relatively small, and the huge tent seems to magnify that ”â but look around and those that are here are HAVING IT.
Graham Coxon can do no wrong. He’s the coolest member of that other band by a mile, and his solo work is great. Jesus, the guy is fast becoming a national institution and everyone here knows it, although he doesn’t seem to, and that just endears him to us even more.
I reckon The Courteeners need to pull it out of the bag on the next record to be as big outside of Manchester as they are inside. Because I think maybe they should be – they’ve got some tunes ”â ”ËNot Nineteen Forever’ is undeniable, isn’t it? And new ones like ”ËLose Control’ stand up well, so here’s hoping. Really not sure about that Joey Barton haircut though.
Foster The People played in the Festival Republic Tent last year, in the early afternoon, and they were so brilliant I rushed out to buy the album as soon as I could. Today they remind everyone that there’s more to them than ”ËPumped Up Kicks’ ”â and the likes of ”ËHelena Beat’ and ”ËCall It What You Want’ do make for some welly busting moves.
Okay, so I caught a tiny, tiny bit of The Cure. But not enough to speak of, so I can’t tell you how good or bad they were. General consensus over the weekend though seemed to range right across the scale. Whatever, hats off for playing a set that I hear was well over two hours. Meanwhile, The Maccabees have come a long way since singing about lego and bikes – not that there’s anything wrong with that but, for me, ”ËGiven To The Wild’ is a leap forward and an album of the year, and tonight its songs create an atmosphere, provoking an emotional response from the crowd. ”ËChild’ is tremendous, ”ËFeel To Follow’ is soulful. It seems like they’re maturing into something a bit special, and they seem to go down a storm. My grin of excitement from the start of the day is still going strong by the end. Mesmerising.
Okay, so first things first. I missed Green Day”Â¦ We knew they were playing ”â who didn’t? This is the age of the internet, and even an old fashioned git like me can get nme.com seemingly anywhere. And anyway, everyone was talking about it. Only the rumours we’d seen and heard suggested a gig about half 12 ”â so when they pitch up at 11am, what can you do? Christ, even if I was anywhere near the site in good time, it takes half an hour to get from Richfield Avenue into the arena”Â¦
You’ll already know that their ”Ësurprise’ gig stopped the festival dead in its tracks, and that they went down a storm. Those I bumped into were still dreamy eyed about the whole thing hours later. Demand was so great that apparently the main stage screens showed the gig to huge crowds hundreds of yards away. Fair play to Los Campesinos!, who I’m told were unlucky enough to be the first band on the main stage, interrupting the Green Day transmission and suffering an initially icy reception as a result”Â¦
Still, I learnt a long time ago that you just can’t see everything at festivals. I arrive under the odd shower of rain – a sign of things to come ”â in time for Frank Carter‘s Pure Love who show potential and do more for me than Gallows. Mystery Jets tread a fairly safe indie path, although there are high points, as they showcase the likes of ”ËGreatest Hits’ from album ”ËRadlands’, while ”ËTwo Doors Down’ is a hit with the crowd.
The Public Enemy track ”ËHarder Than You Think’ – recently championed on louderthanwar.com by Simon Price ”â is powerful, hard-hitting”Â¦ inspirational even. And with it in mind I realise how underwhelming OFWGKTA are by comparison. Nothing wrong with a bit of controversy, but these guys don’t cut it for me. Bloody hell, maybe I’m just TOO OLD. We persevere for a while but bail to the Festival Republic Stage for Don Broco, whose brand of rock might not particularly be my cup of tea, but their passion and energy is stirring, and they sure know how to deliver a rabble-rousing chorus.
There’s usually a few surprises, and Miike Snow are one of these. Their blend of melodic dance and pop is”Â¦ good. And maybe it’s the cider talking but I’m drawn in. It’s a world away though to the less subtle impact of The Vaccines ”â you know what you’re going to get and you know whether you’re gonna like it or not. Personally, I’m a fan of their no-nonsense, blistering tracks like ”ËWreckin’ Bar’ and ”ËIf You Wanna’. They open with ”ËNo Hope’ and include a number of tracks from the forthcoming album, not least the catchy ”ËTeenage Icon’ and their set does more than enough to satisfy the crowd. Oh and there’s a Horrors based family link up, which is nice.
At one point during Florence + The Machine, I’m certain the rain is going sideways. As usual the spirit prevails, but it does seem like blooming years since the last rain-free weekend. Even Flo is at one point splashing around in an on-stage puddle, in her own unique way of doing things, before declaring something about us all doing things we might regret”Â¦ She’s a curious one, but she can belt out a song alright. Her high point is ”ËShake It Out’ which gets the crowd bouncing, and ”ËNo Light No Light’ ends things on a high.
The most triumphant performance of the night is Kasabian’s. By a mile. Wrongly labelled in the past as just a ladrock band, there’s more to them, and they prove worthy headliners. Kicking off with ”ËDays Are Forgotten’ and delivering a varied setlist, the crowd lap up the pulse-racing tunes like a Stooges tinged ”ËClub Foot’, and ”ËL.S.F.’. The whole thing is epic. Who peppers their set with the likes of Fatboy Slim and the theme from E.T. for goodness sake? Flares are lit, the crowd is moving and I can’t even tell whether it’s raining. I don’t care. After ”ËFire’ should complete matters, Tom Meighan hangs around for a rousing singalong of ”ËShe Loves You’”Â¦ It’s a bit of a moment. So we missed Green Day. Meh.
I arrive late on the Sunday, feeling a bit weary, to some exciting talk of Two Door Cinema Club’s brief acoustic set on the BBC Introducing Stage (which is in a peculiar place, as you can hear about three other stages from there). They showcased tracks from new album Beacon as a precursor to their performance proper, due for later this evening.
My 32-year old bones are beginning to ache by the time Bullet For My Valentine are on the main stage. It’ll be the same before long for the kids down the front where an enormous and rather menacing looking mosh pit forms. I wouldn’t play this lot on my car stereo, but the reception from a young crowd is rapturous, and it’s great to see that passion and energy, both on stage and off.
The next thing I know, Chris Moyles appears on stage to introduce the Kaiser Chiefs, who walk on to the sound of Dire Straits – now there’s a trio of shite. Money For Nothing indeed. The Kaisers seem so overrated to me, a by product of the early to mid noughties, but glance around and everyone’s singing along to their indie pop – at least for the big hits that Radio 1 play.
Thankfully, The Black Keys follow them, and show why they’ve exploded. Everyone loves them and suddenly their tours include Alexandra Palace and the 02 Arena. Celebrity fans Simon Pegg and Nick Grimshaw are shown on screen side of stage. It’s brilliant throughout, and arguably they save the best for last with ”ËI Got Mine’.
The Foo Fighters are due on stage at 2030, but they still seem to catch everyone by surprise when Dave Grohl thrashes his guitar and runs on stage ”â we hear him before we see him. Reading is clearly dear to his heart, for obvious reasons, and between songs he tells tales years gone by, with both NirvanaÃÂ© and the Foos. He wears his Nicest Man In RockÃ¢âÂ¢ badge proudly and everyone is in love with him, from gushing love ins with Taylor Hawkins, to the sheer idolisation from the crowd.
They must’ve played for over two hours cramming in 27 songs (I think) including favourites like ”ËMonkey Wrench’ and the brilliant ”ËAll My Life’, the odd tracks that don’t get many outings like ”ËExhausted’ and even a cover of Pink Floyd’s ”ËIn The Flesh’, delivered well. The gig flows nicely and ”ËBest of You’ and ”ËEverlong’ are particularly poignant, almost emotional moments.
And suddenly it’s over for another year. I start wondering who’ll headline next year and hope it’s an opportunity for the Stone Roses to right a wrong, although a subsequent interview with Melvin Benn seems to have dashed that (still, they’ll probably be at Glastonbury anyway). Reading can at times be hit and miss, but then when I think off the top of my head of the bands I missed ”â The Cribs, The Horrors, At The Drive-In amongst others”Â¦ What a festival to have in your home town. I raise my overpriced cider to the next one, whatever’s in store.
All words Paul Stephens. More Louder Than War articles by Paul can be found here.