Unless you’re a fan of standing uncomfortably in wellies for almost nine hours straight, Reading is not for you
YOU KNOW what they say- you never truly appreciate music until you hear it live. Or, if they don’t say it, they should, because it’s true. Once again, Reading Festival has shown just why it attracts almost 100,000 people every year, with three days of total and complete anarchy. Let me start by saying that if you’re not a fan of standing uncomfortably in wellies for almost nine hours straight, Reading is not for you. Bands start performing at twelve and don’t stop all day until past midnight. The atmosphere, though, is unlike anything you’ve experienced- you’ll make friends with your neighbours within the first five minutes of pitching, and meet pretty interesting characters on your travels around the town-sized field. Being constantly surrounded by people who are there for the same reasons as you is a pretty incredible feeling too. Not a lot of individuals can say they’ve danced absolutely soaked to the skin to Florence and the Machine with 90,000 other people (well, except the 90,000 other people).
Friday saw the arrival of Deaf Havana’s opening of the festival. Without even being a fan, their performance was so engaging and everyone was so hyped on adrenaline that they didn’t care how much of an idiot they made themselves look, everyone danced along like they were by themselves, to songs they didn’t know the lyrics to. After a fifteen minute interlude, which started the ongoing “Fenton!” jokes that ended up being shouted all weekend, came Cancer Bats, who stormed the stage with performances of their biggest hits, “Lucifer’s Rocking Chair” and “Hail Destroyer”, which, within the first opening bars, sent the audience sprawling into insanity, screaming the lyrics back and creating huge mosh pits too scary to approach, let alone get involved in. Angels and Airwaves then gave a stellar performance, mixing electronica with alt rock and cocky showmanship from front man Tom DeLonge, carrying the show with his mix of brash egotism and distinct vocal talents. I then skipped over to the Alternative tent to watch Scroobius Pip’s set, which he opened with “Introdiction” (and a mosh pit), and ended on “Let ‘Em Come” (to another mosh pit and a stage dive. Security was not impressed.) Hands down, this was the performance of the day; the energy in the tent practically palpable. Every single person in the tent left with bruises.
The final two bands of the night were Paramore and The Cure- a strange and unworthy opening band for such a well-known main act, but that was the choice of the Reading organizers. Once you get past Hayley William’s awful make-up and constant reassurance that, yes, “this is Paramore!” it wasn’t actually half a bad performance. [pullthis id="1"]As much as she’s dislikeable as a person, she sure can sing[/pullthis]. You couldn’t help but chant along as they went all the way back to the start of their career with “Pressure”, followed by “Decode”, and, of course, “Misery Business”, the song everyone knows all the words to. [pullshow id="1"]After a quick break, The Cure came to remind everyone why they were the headlining act. A two hour set (an hour and fifteen minutes longer than anyone else’s) in which Robert Smith was able to captivate the attendees with his distinct voice and hairstyle; the 90,000 strong audience repeating the lyrics to “Just Like Heaven” and “The Love Cats” until the opening chords of “Friday, I’m In Love”, to which everyone went mental. The show itself was elaborately coloured and psychedelic, strobe lights changing colour to each song. Afterwards, all you could hear was the chorus of their closing song, “Boys Don’t Cry” quietly hummed around the arena.
Day two was a relatively slow day, due to aching feet and a lack of interest in most of the bands playing. Odd Future were the first band we saw perform, their infective energy conceiving three separate mosh pits and getting them sent off stage early because of their rowdy involvement with the audience. Even with their being sent off, they gave an energetic and enjoyable performance, the audience audibly booing when their microphones got shut off. However, the entrance of Enter Shikari soon made them forget about OFWFKTA’s premature ending, giving a performance in the vein of Odd Future- gung-ho with mosh pits and crowd surfing. Combining electronica and post-hardcore, they had every audience member headbanging and clapping in time to “Juggernauts” and “Sorry You’re Not A Winner”. Just after Enter SHikari, over in the NME tent were punk rockers Billy Talent, who stormed through their biggest hits “Rusted from the Rain”, “Red Flag”, and “Try Honesty” among others from their entire discography. Another amazing performance from a band who are not as appreciated as they should be.
Opening for Kasabian were Florence and the Machine- vocally the best performance, but in terms of stage presence, Florence Welch is a very strange woman. Thanking the audience for attending, she worked her way through most of the “Ceremonials” album in between lapses of running offstage and throwing her shoes to the audience. Occasionally she’d sit in front of the drum kit and tap her hand to the beat of her own song; unfortunately this got tiring after a while, meaning a great vocal performance was ruined by her inability to make the audience like her at all. Kasabian, however, were incredible. Starting a bit earlier than The Cure, it’s easy to see why they describe themselves as “built to headline festivals”. It’s impossible not to sing along to the classic “Clubfoot”, and dance at midnight to the beats of “Fire” and “Empire”. Less influential than the other two headliners, true, but just as good.
[pullshow id="3"]The final day was a highlight in itself. Opening with the charming Of Monsters and Men in the NME tent, their jaunty Icelandic folk set the tone for the day and the entire tent sang along to nearly all the songs; an impressive feat for a band marking their Reading debut. Next came The Gaslight Anthem on the main stage; soulful punk-rock and Bruce Springsteen inspired greaser tunes gearing the audience up. Opening with the instantly recognizable “Great Expectations”, front man Brian Fallon coarsely made his way through their newest album, “Handwritten”, a love letter to the 1950’s and one of the best live sets of the entire three days. The surprisingly cocky All Time Low performed soon after, their pop-punk songs not enough to validate their egotistical attitude towards the female attendees of the day. [pullthis id="3"]It was less about the music and more about getting girls to take their tops off, and it was not pretty. How they managed a spot on the main stage is beyond me.[/pullthis]
Soon after came The Black Keys and headliners, the Foo Fighters. I hadn’t heard any Black Keys songs before attending their set, so I was excited to see what they sounded like. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed by their lacklustre bluesy rock- no song interesting or catchy enough to make me want to listen to them. Fortunately, their performance didn’t hinder the Foo Fighters- who were clearly the band everyone in attendance was there to see. And with good reason too; they were hands down the performance of the festival. Running just short of two and a half hours, they ended the entire event on a huge high- running through their back catalogue of songs, and ending on the famous “Everlong” and an explosion of confetti and fake money. Even if you’re not a Foo Fighters fan, it doesn’t matter. Dave Grohl is the best front man of recent years- mentioning everyone from security, to his daughter, to his mother, and to the audience. His charismatic presence made the entire festival, and singing to “Best of You” with 90,000 people reminded you just as to why you were there in the first place. In that moment, it was worth it.