As we walked to the main entrance to the site, I discovered that my watch, our only timepiece, had stopped earlier in the morning. What a start. However, the timing of our arrival was impeccable – we arrived in the main arena at exactly the same time as Do Me Bad Things, the first band of the day, were taking to the main stage. They had a slightly shaky start, as a technical problem caused the sound to cut out after a few seconds of their first song, but they disappeared off stage for a few minutes and when they came back all was better. The lead singer made a lame deja vu joke, but nerves can do that to you, I suppose. I personally would have gone for the “Sorry, children, due to a technical hitch we’ve had to cancel Reading. Go home.” gag.
The aforementioned lead singer was pretty cool – his style seemed to be aiming for somewhere between Brandon Flowers and Robbie Williams. There was also a second lead singer, with a rawk beard, who would sing rawk songs in a gruff voice while the first lead singer did his costume changes. By alternating these old-school heavy rawk songs with the contemporary style rock songs, this system worked out nicely. They presented themselves nicely, and the crowd was on their side.
After the band, I got a beer and Karen and I sat down on our new folding stools. We finally decided to purchase the programme, mainly for the handy neck-hanging lineup guide.
I’d heard good things about Yourcodenameis:Milo so we sauntered over in that direction. However, we couldn’t get into it. After realising that we were just reading the programme and not listening to the music at all, we made steps back towards the main stage, where Goldie Lookin Chain were nearing the end of their set. Karen dislikes them, but then she dislikes all welsh people, and she dislikes rappers, and she dislikes chavs, so a dozen welsh chav rappers are pretty much anathema to her. Personally, I find them abso-fucking-lutely hilarious. Karen is lovely and sweet and clever and not at all prejudiced.
There was a mass exodus away from the stage after GLC finished, leaving The Wedding Present playing to four men, a daschund, Karen, and me. They were pretty good, but I got the feeling that their set would go down much better with an audience who know their songs already. I was just left dangling with no catchy tunes or hooks of any sort to which I could attach myself. Consequently, when Karen got peckish and decided that it was time for a cornish pasty, my unhooked self just drifted away from the band like a bottle on the ocean waves, and they were gone.
Weather update: we had encountered a couple of showers, but nothing heavy enough to make the ground soft. The wind, however, was making a nuisance of itself.
Dropkick Murphys were like a Gaellic Offspring. So they had bagpipes and a whistle, but to me these felt like gimmicks that failed to disguise their unoriginality and sameoldousness. After sneering at them for fifteen minutes, they played Amazing Grace (imagine how it would sound if performed by Me First and The Gimme Gimmes) and I felt that my sneering was justified. I sneered all the way to the end of the set. I was clearly in the minority though – Karen was entertained by them, and the size of their moshpit suggests a large and devoted following.
Graham Coxon – first half of the set, I was thinking, this is pretty good. Good songs, good guitarist, a smile would be nice, but so be it. As the set progresses, I’m like, for fuck’s sake, kill me now, this is turning into a big noisy rawkout and it’s self-indulgent and he’s wanking his guitar and it’s all crap. Then I realised that I could just walk away. So I did. And sat outside the NME Radio 1 Stage Tent Marquee (hereafter referred to as “Second Stage”) where The Subways were playing. Now, I had been quite looking forwards to seeing them, as there’s been a lot of hype surrounding them, and I’m pleased to say that they live up to it. From what I could tell (and remember that I’m outside the tent here, so go easy on me), they were superb. Energetic, melodic and noisy at the same time, they draw an enthusiastic crowd. Considering that this band consist of just three young kids, they sure do make a hell of a lot of noise, and they ooze confidence. But then, they’ve earned the right to, really.
Back to the main stage for Elbow. If you don’t know of Elbow, they’re in the vein of Doves or Coldplay (though I am reluctant to tarnish them with the same brush as Coldplay, because they are quite good). As a result, some of the songs are, unsurprisingly, a tad sedate for the Reading atmosphere, but the overall effect is of people who care about good music and a good performance. The crowd reward this by showing their appreciation by the medium of applause, and also by indulging the band in a mexican wave for the forthcoming video. I think that their performance of “Newborn” was the first song that I had recognised all day so far.
At this point, in my notepad, I wrote a few asides about the cuisine and the toilets. Remind me to tell you about them sometime.
Next up on the main stage were The Coral. My hands by now were cold and I was finding it hard to write. The Coral were superb, and represented a turn upwards in the quality of the music for the day. Melodies came first, and making a big noise wasn’t a priority. The songs demand the listener’s attention, so the crowd would stand politely during the song and then applaud enthusiastically, yet with some decorum, after each one. Once we’ve finally passed through the clouds of bands who want to be The Strokes, I think that The Coral will be very significant in forming a definition of contemporary pop.
Not all of their songs hit the mark, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is my own fault for not hearing their latest album. I’ll be looking into rectifying this at the next available opportunity.
Another turning point of the day – Queens Of The Stone Age. We see the first big crowd of the festival forming, as everyone descends upon the main stage to see this band play. And rightly so, because they make a fucking huge noise (hey, that’s what Reading’s about) while sounding tuneful at the same time. And swearing a lot. And I mean a lot. They play the songs well, and the crowd know the words, so we all join in. And we fucking love it.
At this point, it got too cold for me to continue writing my notes, so I have to hope that I don’t miss anything important.
The Killers are the band that Karen and I had been getting most excited about in the entire Friday lineup. Hot diggity, they did not disappoint. One album to date, and it’s crammed to the edges with stonking anthems. Each song they play, I turn to Karen and say “Ooh, I like this one.” And 2/3 of the way through each song, as it reaches its climax, I metaphorically punch the air and think “THIS is my Reading moment!” I am concerned that The Killers have sold their souls to the devil, because I don’t see how it’s possible to pull off something like this. Their performance doesn’t disappoint either – whenever I’ve seen a broadcast of one of their live performances, I’ve found Brandon Flowers’ voice hard to stomach, but it didn’t bother me tonight. Either he’s been practicing, or it’s one of those things that you just don’t notice when you’re there in the thick of it all.
They finished up with All These Things That I’ve Done – I now firmly believe that you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed them playing this song live. As the song passed through the middle refrain (the entire world chants as one: “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier”) I witnessed what at first seemed to be a cloud of cigarette lighters held aloft in front of me, but upon closer inspection they were the screens of mobile phones, as everyone caught the moment for fear that someone would steal it away from them.
I used to always regret that I wasn’t at Glastonbury in 1995 when Pulp filled in for the Stone Roses and changed the world. I know that The Killers’ set tonight couldn’t be construed to be world-changing in anywhere near the same way, but it felt good to me, and I think I’ll find it easier to deal with the Pulp thing in future.
We dropped in on Lemon Jelly briefly, but not for long enough that I could offer a useful review. We could have stayed for longer, actually, but we weren’t sure if Kasabian had started yet. Ah, Kasabian. They filled the second stage tent to bursting. In fact, I think they could have filled it twice.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not really the moshpit sort. I like to be moderately comfortable, and ideally not jostled continuously. The problem with the tents is that if you’re not inside, you don’t get anywhere near the benefit. However, being inside (or even near) the tent during Kasabian’s set tonight would result in perpetual jostling. So jostled we were. Karen was unable to see over the heads of the people in front at all, so for all she knows, the band weren’t actually there at all.
So yeah, I was so busy dealing with the jostling that I didn’t really pay much attention to the band. I think they were quite good. But their songs are a bit samey – I think that they played one of them four times. But I could be wrong.
Their fans like them though.
Right, time for bed. More of this tomorrow.