To start off, this was my first time at Reading Festival and probably a festival I personally didn’t think I’d ever be going to. That said, I was swayed by the line-up early this year and snatched a ticket as soon as I saw the line-up on the Mainstage and the Lock-Up stage. So, without further ado, this is my review of who I managed to see at the festival…
Friday I had managed to see all the bands I intended to see. Firstly, I saw most of O’Brother‘s set at the Festival Republic Stage, and being pretty new to the band I had no idea what to expect – however, I was impressed. Just very loud, hypnotic and at times completely crushing, really creating an intense spacey atmosphere and set up the day nicely. Next I saw Cancer Bats over at the Mainstage – which might put doubts in just how well a band that’s known for more intimate, chaotic sets could handle such a large stage so far from the crowd… needless to say, they managed it. They were tight and the sound was pretty good, and vocalist Liam Cormier just encouraged moshpits that got bigger and bigger as the band played. Coheed And Cambria followed next and had a good reception as well. Although not as raucous as their predecessors, there was plenty of natural crowd chants and sing-a-longs as they pumped out as many songs as they could during their 40-minute set.
Then I proceeded to the Lock-Up stage to see Ceremony, cementing my position at the front barrier ready for the punk onslaught… although that never came. The band strided onto the stage, kicking into one of their tracks from the latest release Zoo and as anyone knows, Ross Farrar’s change in vocals brings out a different taste to what a fan might expect from their first time witnessing Ceremony this year. Instead of all out aggression, there was a lot of lethargic despite, an almost cynical jest between Ross and the crowd and in its own way made up for the lack of pure angst. There really wasn’t anything to complain about, the set was just a lot of fun!
After that, I headed back over to the Mainstage to witness the electro-duo Crystal Castles. Considering the nature of the music and the number of members, anyone might not expect much of a stage presence, however Alice Glass’s constant crowd involvement couldn’t help make any passers-by think they were watching a punk band that misplaced their guitars for keys and synths. The only negative point was the pretty abrupt ending – Not In Love felt like really anti-climatic as a set finisher. Later, after several hours of lounging around and resting, I made my way to see Every Time I Die at the Lock-Up and soon got sucked into the party-vibe that the band always end up bringing to the live shows – even the circle/mosh pit just a drunken friendly attitude swirling in it. That aside, they were ridiculously heavy and accurate, sonically brutal… pretty flawless.
To finish off the Friday, we went to watch the Mainstage headliner The Cure and in all honesty: it was a slight disappointment. Although classics like Friday I’m In Love, Just Like Heaven, The Lovecats there was also a lot of filler that could have been replaced with not “hits” but favourites. The overall performance was fairly bland and un-engaging too, however the sound was pretty good and the band were pretty tight.
Saturday was a less busy day for me and my first band to see was Pure Love at 1.15pm in the NME tent. It was only out of curiosity to see Frank Carter’s new band that drove me to check out the Pure Love set, even though from what I heard so far hadn’t attracted me at all… and I’m still not interested. Although the band are entertaining and put a lot of effort to excite a crowd that had no idea of the lyrics to sing along to (no official releases from the band as of yet), the music is still very bland woo-ing teen anthems. That said, they performed really well and gripped everyone’s attention.
Then I headed over to the Dance tent to watch Grimes, who was also pretty entertaining even though not by herself, having a scary shirtless, long blonde-haired man trancing on the stage for the majority of the set and another man throwing free t-shirts into the crowd; which was a great idea despite wrestling matches amongst fans. Afterwards, Santigold played on the NME stage and despite being unfamiliar with her, her performance was pretty enticing – strangely dressed band/dancers, a horse costume and even inviting members of the audience onto the stage for a song or two. Soon after, I saw Max Raptor on the unsigned or up-and-coming BBC Introducing stage, and even to a small crowd in comparison to other stages, totally engaged with the audience and treated it like it was their own headlining spot.
Billy Talent hit the NME stage later, and although they managed to get devoted response from the crowd the whole time, I just didn’t really feel swayed, considering I’m not a fan of their music. Then Mastodon entered the stage and pretty much conquered it, although the only complaint would be that they could have played a wider variety of songs from their catalogue instead of concentrating on The Hunter material so much. Otherwise, they were great! To finish the day, At The Drive-In finished the NME stage with a bang and were pretty much the only stage headliner that I thoroughly enjoyed: good performance, good setlist and a good atmosphere.
Finally we reached Sunday, and first one the list was the folk-punk band Crowns at the Lock-Up; an unknown band to me that definitely left an impression with by just being simply fun, really worth checking out if you like your punk with folk/acoustic influences. After Crowns, we went to watch Pulled Apart By Horses on the mainstage, which to anyone who knows the band is a weird concept to grasp. However, PABH remained entertaining and the gap between the audience and stage felt a whole lot smaller than it really was.
Just over an hour later, the Eagles Of Death Metal strided onto the stage and even though Jesse’s injections of praise for the UK, downing drinks and general talk provided some laughs the actual performance felt nothing more than just seeing your local pub’s favourite band. The Gaslight Anthem also suffered from the same, but with less talking, really feeling like a really forgettable 45-minutes. Then we managed to catch the last two or three songs of the Polar Bear Club‘s set and having never heard any material beforehand, I felt a fool for it. The passion in both the band and the audience was infectious and flowing, and was just mesmerising for someone so new to the band.
Then I saw Good Riddance and it just felt like an awkward punk show, despite the excitable bassist Chuck Platt, and it was fairly difficult to distinguish songs from each other. However, the chaotic Trash Talk followed and gave perhaps the best performance of the weekend. Crowdsurfers, thrown water barrels and Lee crowdsurfing to the disabled platform at the back of the tent – the whole set was a riot, the band whipped the audience into an intense fury. The band also gave a big middle-finger to the signing tent and proceeded to hang outside the Lock-Up tent to sell their own merch and meet fans freely. Then calm after the storm came in the form of Turbonegro, calm being out of comparison with Trash Talk. Opening with their anthem All My Friends Are Dead and closing with I Got Erection, the set was just full of drunken cheer.
Next was Welsh electronic artist Ifan Dafydd on the BBC Introducing stage, who played a good set, and as most electronic artists go these days it’s hard to judge on a performance standard, but the set seemed to be enjoyed by all. Lastly, to finish the weekend on the mainstage, the Foo Fighters played a gigantic 3-hour set; consisting mainly of their greatest hits and fan favourites. Dave Grohl also kept up humorous interludes throughout the set, giving the audience plenty of laughs between every three or four songs of mass union sing-a-longs. The three hours did feel lengthy and patience-wearing and would have probably been better with 30-45 minutes shaved off the top, but after ending with the sensational Everlong, that detail can be forgiven.