Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Review: Reading Festival 2011

The Reading festival has just concluded and it was a pretty good festival. This is all the bands, comedians and only some of the mud. It would really be impossible to include all the mud; there was a lot of it.


After a Wetherspoons breakfast, we set off from Fratton and headed to Reading via Southampton. The journey was painless until getting to Reading, when my trolley decided to crap out. It was still useable but it was also an asshole, tipping over all the time. Arriving at the gates, someone remarked they couldn’t believe I was at Reading (in all fairness, I was wearing a Wacken Open Air shirt). At this point, the feeling was pretty much mutual. Getting into the festival itself was fairly easy and pretty well organised (Rob, having been to the festival before, said it was a vast improvement on the times he had been before). It was quite a step from the main gate to Brown Camp, where we eventually camped but the camping spot was pretty good and quite close to the arena. We walked to Reading town centre, along the Thames, to get some beer. Quite helpfully, Sainsbury’s ran a free bus back to the festival if you bought something there. After getting back to the tent, we sat and drank beer until the rain came. It was very slight at first and we hoped that it wouldn’t get that bad.


Holy shit! The rain was really bad overnight. The ground in the campsite was a swamp. As a result, the boots I was wearing and trousers were covered in mud. This day also marked the first visit to the long drops. They were bad but it could have been much worse. Anyway, the first band of the day was the first band of the festival.


Really good set from this all-girl band. Some of their stuff was really catchy. Seemed to be a damn fine mix of pop-infused rock with a healthy dose of sleazy rock and roll in there as well. Cherri Bomb is a very enjoyable band.

We headed over to the NME Stage at this point to see the next band. Upon entering, we discovered a serious fail on the part of whoever set the tent up. Part of it had given way and was leaking water. Considering the recent events at Pukkelpop and that US State Fair where the stage collapsed, couldn’t help but be concerned.



Pretty good set by this band. Really full of energy which was matched by the crowd response.


Despite some initial sound trouble, DIOYY delivered a fantastic set and the atmosphere was superb. When they announced they were from Reading, the audience damn near exploded. Really enjoyed this set and loved “We Are Rockstars”.


First band on main stage for me this weekend and they were pretty good. I enjoyed their pop-punk filled set and actually knew a lot more of their stuff than I thought I did. The nostalgia box was ticked with their last song “My Friends Over You”. They also did a pretty great cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” as well, which was the first of quite a few awesome covers over the weekend.

We headed over to the Alternative Stage for the first bit of comedy for the weekend. We only intended to see one comedian but got there slightly early. The compere came on stage and said a legend of comedy was coming on stage. That made me quite excited about Stephen Williams set. However, the compere announced someone different.


Well that was unexpected! He was very funny. He had some fantastic interaction with the crowd and tended to pick on someone slow from Nottingham. Really glad I turned up early now.

Very funny set from this guy. Completely different from the one-liner comedy style from Milton Jones. He had some fantastic festival-related material. It was awesome.


Genius set from Rise Against. Really enjoyed them. Set highlights for me include “Prayer Of The Refugee” and their cover of The Clash’s “White Riot”.


Considering I just went into the tent to make sure I got a spot for Rollins, and didn’t expect anything, this was a nice surprise. He is sickeningly talented when it comes to making all sorts of noises from his mouth, crazy.


Rollins is always superb whenever I see him. He covered his trip to Pyongyang and some stories from his days in Black Flag. His story about meeting Metallica was pretty awesome. I might have to go see him in London next year.


From a nostalgia sense, they were pretty good. However, they looked disinterested and were just going through the motions. They didn’t have any stage show which is pretty poor for a band 3rd from top. Anyway, the songs seemed a bit flat aside from their absolute classics. A real shame.


Considering I just checked out this band to avoid seeing all of 30 Seconds To Mars, they were fantastic. I knew some of their material before going in, which was all superb and apparently I knew more than I thought I did. The atmosphere was superb the entire time and they were great.

As I headed back to the main stage, I saw in the dance tent there was a band that seemed to have a really flashy back drop. All sorts of different lights in the logo of the band I’m guessing. If that can be achieved in one of the smaller tents, The Offspring have no fucking excuse. Lazy asses...Anyway!


I had to see the last ¾ of their songs and to be perfectly honest, it was dull. I heard the end of the one song of theirs I don’t mind and it didn’t sound great. Jared Leto then started talking about his faith and I blocked out the rest of what he said. The rest of the material seemed preachy and dreary. Jared Leto dragged loads of people on stage, put on someone’s bear suit and then announced the band was going on hiatus. From what I saw, it looks like they need a break.


They were really good and had an impressive stage set-up. The band was on top form but the sound seemed a bit on the quiet side from where we were. They were particularly enjoyable and played a good set. However the conclusion to the set was something special. Brian May coming out to join in with a cover of “We Will Rock You” and stayed on stage for the powerful set closing “Welcome To The Black Parade”. A very enjoyable set from MCR.

A headache sort of ended the day’s proceedings. Having finished Friday, it seems almost appropriate to then move on to Saturday.


The weather seemed alright today but the ground around the arena was still really sloppy. Another trip to the long drops was a touch worse but the smell was bearable (although it stayed with me for a while afterwards). I was thinking I might get away with not smelling them at their worst. The day started in the Alternative Stage for what I thought would be some stand-up.


This was more spoken word than comedy but was still funny. Mark Thomas spoke about the walk he went on. He walked the route of the wall which will surround the West Bank and the Palestine people in Israel. It was a superb set which was very serious and insightful while being devastatingly funny at the same time. He has detailed the walk in his book “Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel's Separation Barrier. For Fun”. He was selling them at the festival and signing them as well. I would have bought one there but didn’t really want to carry it round all day. Definitely buying the book though.


The compere of the day came out and announced there would be more comedy and bought out Daniel Sloss. I’ve seen some of his stuff on TV and thought he was pretty funny. He was just awesome in the short time he was on stage. He seemed genuinely impressed about the reaction some of the jokes he was telling got considering it was 1pm and he was telling jokes about masturbating while his girlfriend slept. Hilarious guy and not even 21 yet, a very bright future I reckon.


A very enjoyable set which had me amazed at the instruments he had made himself. These included a 2x4 with string and a guitar which had a broomstick as a neck. He had a special guest for the set in John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin who played all but one song with him. Really awesome to see JPJ again, especially for more than just one song.


Pretty fun set by Street Dogs. A good mix of punk and ska. They served as a suitable warm up for the next band I was planning to see.


Absolutely stunning and so much fun. Starting with One Step Beyond, the entire hour of Madness was just a party. The atmosphere was superb around where we were. People just dancing and having a great time. Madness are still awesome live and I am really glad to have got to see them. The set finished with a sheer onslaught of classics – House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House, It Must Be Love, Madness and Night Boat To Cairo. They were just superb.


Jimmy Eat World were very good but seemed a touch flat. As much as I like the material from them, it was hard for me to enjoy their set anywhere near as much as Madness. They had some technical issues which the lead singer joked about, saying “Jimmy Eat World are a professional band, folks!” IT didn’t hold them back much and the set closed on my 3 favourite songs of theirs, which was nice.


Much like Street Dogs, they delivered a very enjoyable set. They were much more of a ska band than Street Dogs though so that is where the comparisons end. They got a good reaction from the crowd which helped. I liked what I heard and was glad to have seen them. Granted, I’d have been glad to have seen anything other than The National, but it helped Capdown were really good.

It was then time to head back to main stage for a band I’ve wanted to see since they announced they were doing summer gigs. It seemed like every time I had the chance, something clashed. This time though, nothing would stop me from seeing Pulp.

PULP (10)

Absolutely superb, both in performance and in stage show. The show consisted of quite a lot of screens flashing different colours and patterns between songs complimented by a complex lighting show. The band themselves were on top form, with Jarvis Cocker sounding particularly good. Opening with the great “Do You Remember The First Time”, they came out on fire which continued throughout the set, made of the very best of Pulp. Predictably, it was the bigger songs such as Disco 2000 and Common People that got the biggest crowd responses, but the rest of the set was really well received and created a great atmosphere. They were everything I hoped they would be, and it was spectacular.

The plan was to then go and see Jane’s Addiction. Dave Navarro came out on stage and said the band couldn’t play as Perry Farrell was unwell and was receiving medical treatment. The crowd booed which Dave acknowledged saying that no-one was more bummed than them they couldn’t play. It was a shame that happened but what can you do? If Perry falls sick and can’t sing, they can’t play. I was disappointed sure, but getting angry was a waste of time. People leaving the tent were livid they couldn’t play. If you’d gone to the festival just to see them, then I could understand being livid. However people were cussing the band for cancelling which I didn’t get. What can they do? Shit happens. Anyway, could have seen The Strokes but decided that as I only know 3 songs or so not to bother. Headed back to the campsite to beat the rush.


The day started off with a very brief trip to the long drops. I say brief as they were fucking grim. The smell was so awful. 3 days of use plus the heat equals horrific-ness. Long drops really are vile. Sonisphere have portaloo and Wacken has toilets you have to pay for but are well kept all weekend. Figure it out Reading! Anyway, got into the arena early enough to be able to get right near the front for the first band. Not that I overly like them, but hell why not get down the front if you can.


A great way to open the day. We Are The Ocean are a really good hardcore band. One thing which I thought was odd was the seemingly main vocalist only handled the screaming vocals, while the rhythm guitarist handled main singing duties. In my experience, it is usually someone with an instrument in hand who does backing vocals. Oh well, they were still bloody good. The screaming vocalist went out into the crowd to sing the last one, which was cool. It seemed like security told him to come back at one point, so he jumped further in and got crowd surfed back, nice touch.


“We are Taking Back Sunday, and we are the greatest band in the world!” – Nothing wrong with a bit of cockiness (in fact I would say it is important when you are the front man of a band). To march on the same stage that so many great bands have played already this weekend, and Muse would be playing later on and declaring you are the best band is bold. I would even say the singer acted like a bit of an arrogant prick here. It was a tag they did not live up to either. I enjoyed their set but there was nothing which really made them stand out from the pack.


This was a very good set from Frank Turner and his band here. His first time on the main stage was a success for what I saw (I didn’t see the whole set). His music sounds like perfect background music to a good drinking session. Really good stuff from Frank Turner here.

We left the set early to head to the alternative tent to see Tim Minchin. However there were some other comedians first. It was a right Down Under moment.


Very funny bloke who seemed a touch out of place as a heavy metal fan at Reading. I could relate to that somewhat. He told jokes about drugs, festivals and how gay straight people are. Hilarious stuff here.


Some more hilarious comedy from a man who I’ve seen in small doses at Sonisphere as an MC. He was very funny, telling stories from bad gigs and bemoaning the fashion world not making 37 inch waist trousers. It led to a story about a dry roasted peanut ending in his arse. Amazing stuff here.


Tim Minchin is such a showman. He was outstanding. He played songs from all of his shows, including one from the orchestra tour (Cont) which was hilarious. Other songs played included Rock and Roll Nerd, Prejudice and The Pope Song. The tent was absolutely rammed when he was on but that lead to a superb atmosphere. There was one moment where he addressed the crowd and someone called him a cunt. That led to some fantastic banter in which the yeller got destroyed. Apparently he was fucked out of his face, which I hope was true. No-one can honestly call Tim Minchin, a man who nearly sold out the o2 Arena, a cunt and mean it. Awesome stuff again and a true festival highlight.

At this stage, I got food and something to eat and headed over to the Lock Up Stage to see Bedouin Soundclash. They, however, were fairly dull so a decision was made to go see whoever was on the NME Stage, citing that we’d be there for the following two bands anyway.


Dear fucking god, they were awful. Performance wise they may have been solid but the music coming from them was not good. Imagine Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, played over and over again – but much more dull. I didn’t know that was possible until I saw Warpaint. I almost wanted a refund after seeing them. Copying the style of Metal Hammer for this one, Warpaint fucking suck.


Granted, I could have seen anything after Warpaint and probably enjoyed it but Panic were really good. I didn’t think I knew much by them at all but apparently I do. They were a lot of fun and a damn good live band as well. The atmosphere in the tent was pretty epic as well. As I said to Rob, I am not a fan of Panic, but I am a fan of the genre. It would be impossible to deny that this set was great. As a side note, some strange stuff was happening in the crowd during this set near us. Mostly, it was because of someone who was drunk and/or on drugs. He hi-fived me 6 times for having a beard, so I am leaning towards on drugs. Entertaining, but weird all the same.


The crowd for Panic emptied out but a new (smaller) crowd arrived for DFA1979 and it was still a good atmosphere. However the set was awesome. It is amazing that two guys were able to make such a glorious racket as they did. I really enjoyed the set. There were a group of guys dressed as monkeys going round, finding random people and dancing round them. This was quite humorous.


The special guests slot on the Lock-Up Stage was Frank Turner (world’s worst secret) and he was much better in the smaller, more intimate surroundings. The set was packed with more of the music I sampled earlier with a fantastic cover of Queen’s Somebody To Love. I am glad to have seen most of this set as I had to leave the earlier one for the comedy, and Frank Turner now has a fan in me. Then, this happened on main stage

While there were some good bands this weekend and a lot of good times, there were none that were on my bucket list of bands that I had to see. There is only one band that were on my bucket list before the festival started, and that was Muse. I was really excited to see Muse anyway but then they announced they would be playing all of Origin of Symmetry, and that would be awesome.

MUSE (10)

Sometimes, a band’s live presence is hyped up so much, that it can never match it and winds up being disappointing. Muse matched it, and then some. Performance wise they are flawless. The three of them have amazing stage presence and are very faithful to their songs when replicating them live. As for the stage show, it was just mind blowing. I thought Pulp’s was one of the best I have seen but Muse’s completely outshone it. The setlist following Origin of Symmetry as well was awesome. I would have liked to have heard Sing for Absolution but you can’t win them all. An awesome setlist + a stunning performance + a mind-blowing stage show = Muse at Reading 2011. They were the best band of the festival, without doubt.

Following Muse’s set, my faith in humanity was tested a number of times. A massive crowd moving slowly out of Reading’s utterly retarded way of letting people out the arena (hey 60k people all leaving at once, here’s 3 tiny exits all next to each other. That makes sense!) Seems like the perfect time for people to decide to change direction without warning, or to stop to kiss. Here’s a thing, when there is a lot of people behind you who just want to get out of the crowd, don’t stop unless it’s fucking important! Anyway, we got back to the campsite and....that was it. I’ve heard many bad things about Reading on the last night and experienced it a little in 2008, but there was nothing in Brown Camp. A good end to the festival.


We woke early to avoid the masses when leaving. We left the festival no later than half 8 and walked along the Thames. The weather was nice and my trolley wasn’t being a cunt, which helped matters. We arrived at the station which was surprisingly quiet (considering a major festival just finished) and left Reading. The train was also pretty quiet which made for a pleasant journey home. The festival was a good one, capped off in amazing style by Muse. Will I go to Reading again? Absolutely with the right company (the right company this year helped make a good festival). Will I bring wellies? Definitely!

– Muse
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Madness, Noah And The Whale, Tim Minchin, Does It Offend You, Yeah? Henry Rollins.

I blogged quite a lot, saying how excited I am about my summer plans and I am sad they have concluded. I will blog soon with a list of the best things from this summer. Until then

No comments: