Reading Festival review, day 3 – Biffy, Twenty One Pilots, Family Rain, City of Lights, Dog is Dead

The last day at Reading and the best weather by far, a lovely day for sitting on the grass (or what is left of it) and chilling out. That does have one unfortunate effect – some bands played to really tiny crowds, the Festival Republic stage being particularly badly hit, as the fans chose to lounge outside rather than in a steamy, dark tent. Not surprising really, but good sets from Merchandise, The Family Rain, Frankie and the Heartstrings, China Rats and In The Valley Below would all have been better with a bigger and more immediately engaged audience.

But one band that did draw a crowd on that stage and proved one of the absolute festival highlights were Twenty One Pilots. A duo, but it’s hard to know how to describe them. One minute, a ukulele led, sweet song about taking care of your Mum, the next, a full-on rock thrash and the drummer doing a back-flip off the keyboard. The lead singer raps like Eminem as well as having an excellent, powerful voice, their songs have strong hooks, and I’m sure everyone there would jump at the chance to see them again. They over-ran, and I suspect even the stage manager was happy to see an extra few minutes of a truly excellent set.  Future super-stars without a doubt. (This isn't a Reading video but you get the idea).

On the main stage, Biffy Clyro justified their headline billing, with lots of pyrotechnic effects (loved the flames) and great set design, as well as showing how many really good songs they’ve got in their back catalogue now. Fall Out Boy pulled a huge and enthusiastic crowd, even bigger than Hadouken who caused their usual teenage madness and moshing, but the Lumineers seemed a bit of an odd choice for Reading with their laid back country vibe.

The BBC Introducing Stage proved its worth this year. Wretch 32 did the secret set and explained that appearing on that stage 4 years ago was a key part of his breakthrough. His new single was rather lovely done acoustically too, even for a non-rap fan.

And Dog is Dead, who could have been playing on a much bigger stage, rounded off the day with an all-too short set that highlighted their song writing and musical ability, and that they have a real fan base. I’m tipping them to be the next indie type band to break through to the next Maccabees / Bombay Bicycle Club level. “Teenage Daughter” was another festival highlight for me.

Two excellent young bands on the Introducing Stage are worth looking out for. City of Lights sounded like they’d been playing big venues for years with their big, U2-style chiming guitars, anthemic tunes and charismatic front man. But when we spoke to him afterwards briefly, he said that they weren’t playing “down south” on their next tour because they can’t afford to come far from their Leeds homelands as they’re unsigned and very much a DIY band. Amazing given their confident performance here.

Peasant’s King (drop the apostrophe, guys, I suggest) used four pretty girls very effectively as backing vocalists to support their Kings of Leon type rock – I doubt they can afford to take 10 people around the country as a young band, which is a shame because it really added something to an already impressive sound.

I have real issues with Haim’s vocals – stop mumbling, woman, I want to shout. Sorry, but I think there’s an emperor’s new clothes thing going on here – they have had some rave reviews, but the lead vocals are not up to the required standard for a major set on the huge NME stage, although it is better when they get into the harmonies. Love their songs, and on their cover of Peter Green’s Oh Well, they showed that they can really play.

Talking of covers and the NME stage, I was just thinking how like Neil Young City and Colour sounded (the Americana band formed by ex Alexisonfire frontman Dallas Green), when blow me down, they went into a note perfect version of Young’s Like a Hurricane. Also on that stage, Tribes went down well, focusing on their debut album rather than the less well received follow up, and  Villagers played a powerful set to a sparse but enthusiastic early afternoon audience. If you like their music, it’s well worth tracking them down for their excellent live performances.

So, probably my favourite day, with those BBC Introducing highlights, Twenty One Pilot, Villagers, Family Rain, Biffy and others. And we’ll have a more analytical look at what Reading 2013 tells us about musical, social and economic trends next weekend. Yes, seriously...

And a small number of advance tickets for 2014 go on sale tomorrow!

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First Voice

  1. Matt:

    City of Lights have some shows coming up in London…
    26th March 2014 @ Jazz café
    5th April 2014 @ The Water Rats
    12th April 2014 @ The Borderline

    Thanks for the write up.

    Kind Regards

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