Reading Festival Friday – our review with Paramore, QOTSA, Vampire Weekend and others…

Reading 14Reading Festival got off to a largely dry and cool (in weather terms anyway) start yesterday. Doesn't it look pristine in this picture taken before noon yesterday - before the half-eaten pizza and noodles start getting embedded in the grass? And all those 90,000 people start getting in the way?

Some of the early acts shone - Gerard Way ex frontman of My Chemical Romance played his new solo material for the first time. With a straight ahead rock band behind him, the new songs sounded good if somewhat conventional – one or two could almost have been Springsteen numbers, but none the worse for that.

The Northern Irish brother and sister blues-rock band Southern were also early risers, with great vocals (he really can sing), their excellent harmonies softening some beefy riffs and playing. Big things should be in store for them.

But who new Hudson Taylor were already so popular? Not me. But the biggest crowd of the day in the packed Festival Republic tent showed the importance of Radio One even in this digital age. The station has championed the band, who make Mumfords-like, unchallenging but rousing folk rock with more great harmonies and sing-a-long choruses. In the absence of a new Mumfords album, I’d suggest they get moving and release their won – there is clearly a demand out there!

Other acts who saw who were enjoyable without maybe moving their careers on a notch included Darlia, The Districts, Temples, Mallory Knox, Twin Atlantic (clearly bound for main stage and a top slot in the next couple of years), and King Charles. Deaf Havana stepped up a level with their main stage set, and are another band leaping into the big league. And Catfish and the Bottlemen look set for bigger stages next year (if their imminent first album lives up to expectation) after a raucous and well attended set yesterday.

The pleasant surprises for me were Bipolar Sunshine and Broken Hands. Bipolar Sunshine’s emotionally engaging pop-soul was just perfect for the dusk into darkness set in the Festival Republic tent, and created a lovely warm, party atmosphere. Broken Hands on the Introducing stage featured crunching Zep style heavy blues-rock, and a vocalist who could certainly make a career as a Robert Plant tribute act - what an amazing voice! Note to sound mixers – you could turn the echo and reverb down a touch every now and again though.

Really, there were three headliners last night. I wasn’t sure whether Reading was the right crowd for Vampire Weekend, (third on the bill but big enough arguably to have been number one), but it was – a huge and young crowd really got into the mix of old stuff and tracks from the brilliant Modern Vampires of the City. “Step” was a highlight and showed you don’t have to stick to big, upbeat songs to get 50,000 people engaged.

Then Hayley Williams of Paramore became a hero. The sound failed, totally, for some 15 minutes, the first time I can remember that happening at Reading. So did Hayley storm off, have a rock star hissy fit or swear at the technicians? No, she first tried to lead an audience Mexican Wave, then ,when she got one working microphone, she sang an acappella version of The Only Exception with the audience helping, and lots of phones and lighters illuminating the arena. It was a beautiful and touching moment, and lots of kids at the front will remember for a long time. The power came back, and the set was strong, but respect to Ms Williams for handling it so well. And she can really sing, as her solo performance proved.

I confess, we left half way through Queens of the Stone Age, not because they weren’t good but for logistical reasons. Josh Homme wore a rather nice overcoat initially, sensibly given the temperature was falling quickly, they did No One Knows early in the set, and we had the expected beefy riffs, huge bass, some quirkiness in the lyrics... they’re an excellent band, and the lasers were good. Didn’t quite achieve lift off for me, but it had been a long day by that point...

More tomorrow!

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