Slow start today. The number of bands playing today about whom we were enthusiastic in advance was less than previous days, probably mainly due to the silly heavy rock bands taking over the main stage.
We decided to start the day at the third stage, and the first band we saw were called Gratitude. The music wasn’t particularly remarkable, but the frontman was sensational. He was very talkative and inviting, spending a lot of time off the stage and stood on the fence before the front row, and he drew a very healthy sized crowd. This enabled him to crowd surf, which he did multiple times. At the end of the set he then climbed down into the crowd with a box of the band’s CDs, to shake hands, say hello, and sell some discs. The crowd followed him like a swarm of flies. I was most impressed. I’d speculate that this guy has a certain star quality. Which, as we know, counts for a lot in this world.
So after he had led the crowd away, there weren’t many people left to watch Every Move A Picture, who were a group from San Francisco who had clearly been paying a lot of attention to Franz Ferdinand. They produce the same brand of disco pop rock, the lead guitarist is the spitting image of Nick McCarthy, and the lead singer dressed a lot like Alex Kapranos. Not a bad band, and some of their songs were remarkably good, but they didn’t charm the pants off like Gratitude did.
We caught the last song and a half of Funeral For a Friend on the main stage. This probably represented about 15% of their set, so I’ll give you 15% of a review. This band were qu
Next up were NoFX. I hope I got the capitalisation right. Their songs didn’t sound quite as samey and indiscernible as most pop-punk-rock bands’ normally do. Very funny guys though. Their inter-song banter was very chuckleworthy. Cute.
We relocated to the second stage where Hal were already playing. They were enjoyable to watch – the music was not entirely un-Beatlesy, with emphasis on piano/organ and good vocal harmonies. The songs developed nicely over the course of each of their four minute allocations, which suggests an accomplished songwriter. The crowd was quite small, which was a shame because I think they deserve to be seen by many. Another band to look into in future.
Thousands of people then streamed into the tent in preparation for the fabulous Maximo Park. This band have “it”, and they have it in spades. I foresee big things in their future. On stage, your eyes are drawn towards the incredibly sprightly Paul Smith, who dances and thrusts and jumps and kicks and grimaces underneath a floppy side parting. The last time somebody did this with such pzazz, they were Jarvis Cocker.
The songs are phenomenally catchy staccato pop, and for the last three weeks I’ve had three or four of them taking turns on earworm duty. Which basically means that I can’t get them out of my head. Get the album, listen to it twice, and see if you feel the same way.
I’ve heard much worse than The Duke Spirit, but I’ve also heard much better. At this stage, I’m not in a position to classify them as being good, nor am I in a position to dismiss them altogether. Sometimes, one gig just isn’t long enough to begin to decide how you feel about a band. Apologies, but I’m useless to you on this one.
British Sea Power were the huge disappointment of the day. I have really enjoyed listening to their album Open Season, and I got the impression that they were a relatively classy act, not the sort to lose their sophistication and make a big tuneless racket on stage. Well, I was wrong. They also didn’t seem to be addressing the Reading audience either – they seemed to be playing to their regular fans. I’m not trying to suggest that a band shouldn’t be close to their most dedicated fans, but I didn’t feel included. It seemed to be a big in-joke, and I was struggling to laugh at the right times. Apparently foliage is often used to decorate the stage at a BSP gig, so the in-the-know fans each brought a branch in for the show today. At first it was quite cute, but when it came to the elaborate riotous finale, with lots of guitar wrecking and rucking and a big brown bear, anyone more than five rows from the front would have probably been unable to see what was going on. I mean, I’m happy that the guys at the front had a good time, but I personally feel a bit let down.
Marilyn Manson actually made a refreshing change – compared to BSP, it was much more melodic and much less unnecessarily noisy. I’m probably not in a position to analyse a Marilyn Manson gig, as it’s not really my scene, but I found the show entertaining. He’s a good showman, and it’s always fun to ogle the deviants.
We then watched the first few songs of the Iron Maiden slot. I was moderately amused, but only because it reminded me of Spinal Tap. We were more concerned with the last-night devastation which is typical of Reading, as people threw everything they could find onto bonfires. When the fumes from burning plastic chairs got too thick, we did a runner back to the second stage.
The final band of our weekend were Bloc Party and it was a nice way to finish, as it turns out that I like Bloc Party much more than I thought I did. As a relatively young band, they don’t have a huge repertoire, so their set list for tonight basically consisted of the contents of their album, Silent Alarm, played in a different order (plus one new song). Something about their performance was so intense and heartfelt and urgent, and the songs took on a new life. I hadn’t realised that they were so popular either – the tent was absolutely crammed with a highly enthusiastic crowd.
An entertaining moment occurred early on in the set, when someone climbed part way up one of the six pillars that supports the tent. The band were about to start a song, but stopped, and Kele told us that they couldn’t continue until this person came down. Choruses of boos and “wanker”s commenced, and our acrobat was now afraid of being lynched if they did come down, so an impasse was reached. Eventually they started to climb down, we all shouted “yay”, no hard feelings, music resumed.
They ruined it slightly though. It would have been a totally kick-ass gig, but for the fact that they came back for a one-song encore, and performed an old song. After having just rocked our world with the fantastic songs that we know and can holler along to, to leave us with an obscure little ditty is like shitting on a tiramisu.
Ahem. This concludes our coverage of the festival. We hope you found it informative.
As a final question, Willy Mason, though previously scheduled to appear, wasn’t on the final programme, and I can’t find any information on the web about why he pulled out.
Right, I think I’m done. And I’m looking forward to going to sleep before 1am tomorrow. You guys are so demanding.