We were incredibly tired this (Saturday) morning, and so we slept in a bit. I then wanted to fill the car up with petrol, so by the time we were on site, we had missed the start of the music. I wasn’t too fussed about the first band, but I do think that we missed a treat by only arriving for the last two minutes of Editors. The crowd was immense for such an early-billed act, and those two minutes that we heard sounded like something special. I shall have to do some sort of penance.
The Longcuts were just wanky wanky wanky teenagers in their dads garage making any old rock music. Each song went on for hours, and didn’t have a point that I could discern. But hey, that’s what the afternoons are there for. Whether you recognise their names from the NME or not, you know there’s going to be shedloads of shite.
We then went on a little wander and caught tail ends of sets by All American Rejects on the main stage and Clor on the “third” stage. I wouldn’t buy the All American Rejects album, as I remember buying the Blink 182 album and being really disappointed, and All American Rejects strike me as very similar. An expert in pop-punk-rock would probably have lots of nice things to say about them, and they had superb crowd control. Clor, on the other hand, I can enthuse about on a personal level. Their sound is unattributable to any one influence, and I’m hoping that they will be my “discovery” of the festival. Bouncy songs with good basslines – I’m going to look into this further.
At this point I discovered that I had lost my pen sometime after the Longcuts’ set. We wandered round the site looking for a stall that was selling souvenir Reading pens, but it was futile. I was bailed out by a guy running a designer clothing stall – I told him my predicament, that I was a writer who had lost his pen, and this was about the worst thing that could happen to me, and he said he would let me have one of his spare pens in return for a plug. Fair deal, I thought. So he gives me his card, and I bring it home, and I find that his website is a “coming soon”. Still, I’ll plug it anyway, because without that pen, you wouldn’t be reading this.
Once we had a pen we could return to watching music. Biffy Clyro were on the main stage next, playing that kind of sincere rock that I can fully appreciate the appeal in, but wouldn’t buy it for personal consumption. Kinda like how I wouldn’t hang Guernica on my wall. That said, we were focussing mainly on the picnic at this stage, so I wasn’t giving it my full attention. Karen was telling me about how she’d like to walk around with a bunch of small flowers, sticking them into any exposed female buttcracks that she finds.
We’re not huge on hip hop either, so we gave Roots Manuva a couple of songs before wandering off to see what all the fuss is about Juliette and The Licks. Well, obviously we all know what the fuss is (if you don’t, read this wiki page) but we wanted to know what they actually sound like. Juliette herself is a saucy little minx, underdressed and oversexed, or at least that’s the act she puts on. The music struck me as a bit common, but maybe under different circumstances I’d be able to pick up different nuances. They play with furious energy, and clearly enjoy what they are doing, to which I can not object. There was also an enormous cheer towards the end of the last song. I suspected that she had whopped her baps out, but Karen moved into a position where she could see a bit better, and reported that Juliette was still clothed. So she either flashed them briefly, or the cheer was in aid of a crowdsurf or some such.
Dinosaur Jnr were hairy and noisy, and fitted into the Reading mould just fine. I don’t think I’ve heard any of their stuff before, so if I can be brutally honest, it just sounded like a tuneless racket to me. Sorry, but I had to say it. Meanwhile Karen administered her numerous garments. “I’ll be nice and warm later.” she said, as she juggled two t-shirts, a vest top, a thick jumper, a shawl and an anorak. If I may flash forward briefly, it didn’t end up being as cold this evening as it was yesterday, and she didn’t end up needing all of this apparel. Hahahaha.
I’ve listened to the album by The Kills, and their live performance reflected it, both in good and bad. They seem to write songs in a very random fashion, as they are highly inconsistent, and some of their songs just don’t work in the slightest. But when they are good, they can be really good, so they are not to be dismissed straight off. Despite my criticisms, I have to admit that I enjoyed their show, and as a brother/sister duet they had that kind of electric interplay that is characteristic of such acts. Their performance consisted of one (sometimes two) guitars played live, with two (sometimes one) vocals, and everything else on a sequencer. I mention this because honourable mention goes to the person who managed to throw a glow stick directly at the sequencer, hit it, and turn it off during one of the songs.
The Kills were followed by Hot Hot Heat, who you may have heard of. They play bouncy, catchy pop which probably gets described as “infectious” a lot, which means that if you’ve heard the album a couple of times then you go along to their gig and find yourself singing along to the fabulous choruses and punching the air again, and wanting to shout “Yeah!” because it’s really fucking well written. At the end of the night, it’s one of their songs still whistling around in my head. I shall be listening to their album again once this festival is over. Good relations with the audience – the band seemed to like the Reading crowd, and we all got on well. Karen and I felt that we had to leave halfway through, as we were quite anticipatious of Razorlight.
Sadly, we were disappointed. It seems that following good performances at Glastonbury and Live 8, Johnny Borrell now thinks that he is God. Early on in the set, the band went into one of those quiet bits where they clearly expect the crowd to clap in time while the vocals continue acappella. But the crowd weren’t feeling sufficiently thrilled yet, nor were they aware that they were supposed to be clapping, so it all kinda crumbled, and JB’s face on the huge screens was a little bit “You fucking dullards.” We stayed for a few songs, endured some poor guitar playing and mediocre drumming (To The Sea was notably shite) and so forth. We kept an eye on the watch of the guy next to us (we didn’t have one ourselves, remember?) so that we could walk off with time to spare to get to the second stage for The Arcade Fire.
This was the second truly fabulous performance of the festival so far, in this reviewer’s opinion. It started off good, and by the end had gone absolutely euphoric. I should start by telling you a little bit about this band, and then perhaps you’ll realise why they are so good. There are (I think) seven of them, and they are all highly talented on multiple instruments, constantly switching between guitars, bass, drums, percussion, keyboards, accordion, violins and vocals. Their verbal communication with the crowd is minimal, but intimate, but non-verbally they draw you right in and make you feel like an essential part of the experience. They all play with their entire bodies, thrashing around and propelling the music forwards, beating up the instruments and sometimes each other (in a playful way, of course). I laughed out loud when one of the guys on percussion was hammering a cymbal so hard that it fell off stage. He dived down after it and continued playing. What a guy. Two songs from the end, I had been completely submerged by the music, and was under their spell. The bodies that separated me from the stage just disappeared, and I was up there with them, though I don’t know what use they’d have for a sycophantic putty. And I haven’t even mentioned the quality of the songs that they write. I’m not sure that I even have to. You should just go out and buy their album. You really owe it to yourself.
We were exhausted at this point and needed food, so we decided that we had no choice but to miss the start of Kings Of Leon. Which is a bit of shame really, because they truly were superb. They rocked pretty damn hard. Their stage set was minimalist, with no potted plants or standard lamps like Razorlight. They did, however, have a large projection screen behind them, which didn’t seem to be being used. However, it came into play during one song (towards the end, I think) where they used spot lamps in front of the performers’ feet to project huge shadows onto this screen, which was very effective. The music filled the stage, and the arena, with the utmost of professionalism, and showed that they clearly deserved to be this high on the bill. Incredibly crisp and “tight”, as the critics like to say. Not too much pampering the audience with inter-song banter, but they were civil and displays of appreciation were mutual. And did I mention that they rocked pretty damn hard?
But not half as hard as the Foo Fighters. I may need to stare at this blinking cursor for a few more minutes, because I just don’t know where to begin. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the Foo Fighters again ever since their gig at the Birmingham Academy in 2000, which has gone down in history as best gig ever, in this writer’s opinion.
Okay, let’s begin with Dave Grohl, or, as he wants us to refer to him, Uncle Dave. It’s not very often you look at a tattooed rock frontman and think “he’d make a great dad.” He feels a great responsibility for the people in the crowd – he doesn’t want anyone to be injured in the moshpit under his watch, so he paces the set and intersperses slow songs at suitable intervals to give everyone a chance to get their breath back. Sometimes, he’ll scream at the microphone a bit, and then emit a little laugh, which makes you want to run up to him and demand a hug. He gives a five minute speech on how much he likes the Reading festival, while the band play “Up In Arms” quietly in the background. He tells us about how when they are writing songs, he’ll consciously think “Yeah, that one will sound great at Reading.” He is universally agreed to be the nicest man in rock.
That’s just Dave Grohl, the guy at the front. The entire band were made for this headline slot at Reading. They are phenomenally good performers, they clearly know these songs inside out and look to be very comfortable when playing them. The gig rises and falls in a smooth rhythm, though during the acousticy version of Everlong, the crowd seemed eager to get back to a loud one again. Uncle Dave was having none of it, of course – this was the essential moshpit cool-off time.
There was a good mix of songs from all of the albums, so we all had a good old singalong. Some songs, like “Learn To Fly”, were sounding a little dated, but “Monkey Wrench” and “This Is A Call” sound as fresh and punchy as the day that they were born.
Within the long encore, drummer Taylor Hawkins takes the front of stage to sing “Cold Day In The Sun”, with Uncle Dave taking his place on the drums. They frequently play drum duels at gigs, though the configuration at Reading makes this impractical, meaning that this was the first time Uncle Dave had played drums at Reading since Nirvana.
Who, incidentally, are dead.
For completeness’ sake, the full set list was In Your Honour, All My Life, Times Like These, My Hero, Best Of You, Up In Arms, Learn To Fly, The One, Stacked Actors, Tired Of You, Everlong, This Is A Call, Breakout, Cold Day In The Sun, DOA, For All The Cows, Enough Space, Monkey Wrench.