Reading Festival Friday Review – Faim, Rae Morris, Maggie Rogers, Beach Riot and Wolf Alice Stand Out

After the long hot summer, a cool, cloudy, showery weekend was forecast for Reading Festival, and worried parents across the South-East of England were telling their 16-year-old festival virgins to “pack an extra sweater” and “don’t light a fire inside your tent”.

So yesterday was indeed pretty cool, not to say chilly, with a heavy hour or so of rain as the sun went down. It would be a cliché to say “but the music warmed us up” but actually, I prefer the vibe at Reading when it is not boiling hot. People move around more to see different acts, rather than lying around in the sun outside the tents, getting in the way of people like me who rush from stage to stage. I saw 28 different acts yesterday in 11 hours, working on a two-song minimum threshold …

So let’s start with the five acts than were my personal highlights, in no particular order.

Rae Morris – got an “arms in the air” moment going (see picture above) at 2pm which isn’t bad. She is one of the best young pop songwriters in the UK, an excellent singer and musician, and while her performing is maybe not quite at the level of her writing, she bounced around and generally provided a joyful and very good set.

Faim – this is what Reading is about, finding artists new to us that we will go back to and explore and follow for the future. Australia band, moderately “heavy” but very tuneful, powerful rock with big choruses and a really energy-packed performance.

Maggie Rogers – she’s the young woman who shot to YouTube fame when Pharrell Williams was knocked out by her track when he visited her music college. But she looks like she won’t be a one-meme wonder. I only saw three songs but her voice is great, there are some folk influences amongst the pop and dance, interesting songs and she had a really tight band with her. This is probably the danciest of her songs – not my favourite to be honest, just what is available to show.

Wolf Alice who headlined the Radio 1 stage is another band I love. Ellie Rowsell has added confidence to her charisma, and is now one of the best lead singers around in rock music. They got a young woman up on stage who proposed to her female partner – who said “yes” thankfully! But there were many fewer people for them than for Nothing but Thieves who played their capable rock before them in the tent. Maybe Wolf Alice is not quite hitting the famous Reading demographic (post GCSE and A level kids)? Or sometimes it is just who you are up against on other stages.

Beach Riot was perhaps my favourite new act on the BBC Introducing stage. The Himalayas who I chatted to during a gig at the Water Rats in Kings Cross 2 years back, did really well and got a really big crowd for their set, but Beach Riot although not particularly riotous have powerful rock songs, and made effective use of the boy/girl vocal options - and always good to see a young woman as a vocalist and guitar hero.


An example of that clash issue was Maggie Rogers actually, who had a very small crowd, being up against US rapper Post Malone who drew the biggest mob of the day by some way, I reckon - after all, he is the highest Spotify  “ranked” artist (13th most listened to in the world) to be performing at Reading this year.  Personally, it’s not for me but although only fifth on the bill on the main stage he got a far bigger crowd than Fall Out Boy, the formal headliners (who were fine, nice fireworks, but not convincing really as a huge festival headliner IMO).

Other highlights - Royal Republic are mad blues rockers – only saw a couple of tracks but imagine ZZ Top reinvented as four handsome Swedes dressed in gold lame suits and jumping around the stage .... unforgettable. I also enjoyed The Xcerts, Dream Wife, Fickle Friends (who get better and better), the Regrettes, the Kooks of course, The Night Café, Stereo Honey, Bad Sounds (our tip for the top), Hudson Taylor and more.

So off again in a couple of hours – we don’t camp, we commute, I should stress. Weather forecast good today, before the deluge currently forecast for tomorrow…




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