Clinging onto the side of a gazebo as it makes a break for freedom in wind I’m hit with a sense of deja-vu. The rain, mud and the smell of burning plastic in the air is back! Yes..it’s that time of year again already..it’s Reading.
Having survived the first two nights, sat through the mother of all thunder storms, fallen over twice in what I’m still hoping, almost garrotted myself on a low flying rope and eaten enough meals made out of potatoes to last a lifetime….FRIDAY is finally upon us.
I’d love to say I was up and at ’em as soon as the first band came on..but an introduction to tequila jelly the night before made things a little hazy, and by the time I’ve crawled out of the sauna like tent , the DROPKICK MURPHY’s are doing what they do best on the main stage.. Consistently entertaining with the american-irish banter and bagpipes, the mosh pit goes into overdrive. ‘Amazing Grace’ punk style is awesome, here’s a band that’ll bring a smile on most faces. GRAHAM COXON is next on, sliding unassumingly onto the stage. Cited by some as the best thing about Blur, Coxon’s solo project has gone from strength to strength. Today’s set is tight, Coxon taking centre stage as he wraps himself around his guitar producing awe-inspiring sounds. Impressive.
Next it’s a dash over to the NME Radio 1 stage to check out widely hyped THE SUBWAYS. Despite their youth, the trio from Welwyn Garden City really impress with a set that literally fizzles with intensity and excitement. Frontman Billy Lunn and bassist Charlotte Cooper curl themselves around each other, the tension tangible – ‘Rock n Roll Queen’ was the first track Lunn ever wrote about Cooper, and ends the set on a high. They’ll be higher up the set list next year for sure.
ELBOW and THE CORAL aren’t particularly awe-inspiring…and memories of their sets are pushed to the back of your mind with QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE. Father-to-be Josh Homme commands your attention, ever for non QTSA-fans (that’d be me) it’s a great performance, picking and choosing the right mix of tracks to keep your attention on them. They’re doing great things and don’t seem to be missing Nick Oliveri much.
One thing bothers me about THE KILLERS… and that’s how damn clean Brandon Flowers looks in his pristine white blazer. The set is slick, producing the first real singalongs of the day with ‘Somebody Told Me’ and ‘Mr Brightside’, it gets people dancing in the twilight, after the rain and mud it’s the perfect atmosphere rolling off the stage to lift you up. It’s good to see a band make such a big deal out of a festival slot, and their enthusiasm creates a really chilled out vibe in the crowd. Shortly afterwards we’re joined by THE PIXIES. As with their V slot last year, the set is solid, no drama or histrionics, good, dependable and honest. Despite the fact they remind me of my parents, the give another vintage performance, with all the crowd favourite thrown into the mix, and good humoured banter between them, the first night headliners end Friday with a solid performance..but unlike The Darkness last year..no damn fireworks. Pfft.
Saturday dawns slighty soggy, but warmer, and the rain finally gives us a break. FROM AUTUMN TO ASHES scream out good morning from the main stage, just what you need to shift your hangover. Their frontman screeches out lyrics, crouching down and hurling out tracks upon track with vitriol. The set is angry and aggressive, the tone moody, so the next band on THE ALL AMERICAN REJECTS juxtaposed next to the misery guts FATA have never seemed perkier! The Rejects bounce through their set, grinning and strutting, their saccharine sweet punk-pop actually a really tonic for anyone feeling a little jaded. Frontman Tyler Whitter appears to have gone from being a little kooky to clinically insane, but its with relief that I notice guitarist Nick has finally got rid of his mullet. ‘Swing Swing’ is the first mass singalong of the day and as the band bounce off stage, they leave smiles behind.
This is the first year for a while that Concrete Jungle hasn’t visited Reading, and instead we get the Radio One Lock Up Stage, which is mostly ska punk/hardcore and the works. Personally I hope they bring back the Concrete Jungle, with the indie/pop punk/emo.
DINOSAUR JUNIOR are one band you have to see live. They made be old, and grey haired ( and even bald in some cases) but their slot is a must-see. Some complained it was a little self indulgent, with long winded waaa-waaa guitar solos, and the set list did admittedly seem a little all over the shop…but these guys are the real deal.
THE ARCADE FIRE are one of the most anticipated slots of the weekend, with an eclectic group of band members swapping instruments, they quite literally light up the tent with their brand of folk-edged punk pop indie melodies, it’s engaging, exciting and more importantly different to the same same brand of hardcore that’s being thrown around in Lock Up stage. Beautifully layer melodies and stunning instrumentals make this one of the highlights.
RAZORLIGHT take the sunset slot on the main stage and Johnny Borrell exudes confidence, strutting around the stage Jagger-stylee, lapping up the attention from the crowd. ‘Somewhere Else’ is sublime, as the sets over Reading, it’s a goose bumps moment. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, with their mass-appeal indie, but they’re good live, tracks like ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Vice’ are crowd pleasers, and so Razorlight do a good job, and are not, as some suggested, ‘Razorlight.. pile of shite.’
I miss the hairy Kings of Leon as they clash with the discovery of the vodka jelly stands, but we’re back for FOO FIGHTERS who are without doubt the highlight, personally, of the weekend. Dave Grohl just slides onto the stage, calm and laid back, nonchalantly chewing gum as he greets the festival. What’s so clear is that he’s bloody happy to be here. The set is perfect – every track’s a singalong in the crowd, from Learning to Fly, Stacked Actors, The Best of You, Everlight – and Grohl even takes a turn on the drums, having last played drums at Reading in 1992 with Nirvana. An awe-inspiring green lazer light show is just the icing on the cake for a truly memorable show from a band who are arguably one of the greatest rock bands of our generation.
Having paid £4 for a cold shower in some car park, I get back to the main arena just in time for THE CRIMEA. Fresh from their US tour with Billy Corgan, The Crimea play a criminally short set jam packed with some great tracks from their forthcoming album’ Tragedy Rocks’ – Ex Crocketts frontman Davey has a soaring, captivating voice, especially in ‘Lottery Winners on Acid’ which has people dancing with its swaying, meandering melody. The tracks are catchy, full and intriguing with melodic keyboards and harmonica seduce your ears, as they filter through into another beautifully written hook. ‘Somebody’s Dying’ is a bit overkill for a last song, with its angsty screams, but all in all, it’s a great showcase for them.
Ex One Line Drawing frontman Jonah introduces his newest band ‘GRATITUDE’. It’s honed American, emo/screamo rock on offer, Jonah is immediately leaning over the barriers to be with ‘his people’..alarm bells start sounding in my head, and he ruins a good set with his preachiness, and his ant-war lecture. Yes we get it – he hates George Bush..but enough already.
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND have leapt up the Reading set lists from an afternoon slot on a smaller stage two years ago, to headlining the Radio One stage last year, and now they’re onto the main stage in the late afternoon. With a second album out they’ve gained waves of new fans, and it’s an impressive crowd out front to support them. They don’t overwhelm us with new tracks, and it’s a comfort blanket of crowd favourites that makes their set great. They always seem to raise their game at Reading, and this year is no exception.
One quick snooze later and we’re back in time for MARILYN MANSON’s full anticipated slot. Rumour has it this will be his last show ever (but then rumour also has is at this year Reading that Robbie Williams has, again, died). They start the set in the daylight, which seems to take away from Manson’s brilliant freak show, they do seem a little subdued at first, maybe all a little half hearted? Whilst the hardcore fans lap it up, it doesn’t seem the kind of set to engage the wider audience. Classics like MobScene, Tainted Love and The Beautiful People are almost carried by the crowd, and when they leave the stage without so much as a ‘good night Reading’ we’re left feeling a bit..unfulfilled?
Ah IRON MAIDEN. What better way to end a weekend of mayhem than Bruce Dickinson et al? Fresh from the egg throwing Ozzfest Incident, the veteran rockers seem yolk-free as they charge headlong into their set with “Murders In The Rue Morgu”‘, and follow it with all the old school favourites. Bruce Dickinson seems to be happy just chatting to the audience and reminiscing, but once he actually gets down to it, it’s quite a show. It’s 23 years since Maiden last played Reading, and the crowd is a mix of curious indie kids, and old rockers, lapping up ‘Run to the Hills’ and ‘Number of the Beast’.
Over on NME stage BLOC PARTY are the polar opposite of Maiden, but just like the current Maiden line-up was cemented at Reading eons ago, it was here at Reading that Kele Orekeke and guitarist Russell Lissack first met back in 1999, and here, just 6 years later, they’re headlining their own stage. Not bad going for the critically acclaimed Londoners, this is a set that rinses through their album, blasting waves of sound out at the audience, layering up guitars to create an electrically charged atmosphere in the overspilling tent. I’m struck by how great it is to have such amazing diversity from two great British bands closing the last night at Reading.
And so it’s over for another year, what else is there to say but..roll on 2006, it’ll take until then to recover I reckon…