Reading Festival review

If you're not a music fan, you may want to look away now...but before we get into the review, let me give a plug for Ticketmaster; far better than See Tickets, who finally delivered Reading tickets two days before the event!  And Viagogo, the authorised re-seller, has a somewhat complex process (to protect buyer and seller) but very effective website and it all worked fine when we had to sell a couple of tickets late in the day.

SO...we had mud, sun, torrential rain accompanied by close to gale force winds.  And freezing cold later in the evening.  But it was still great in onto the bands; I've 4 categories to report. I won't give the MySpace links to save time but this BBC page is an excellent way to check out all and any of the bands.

Highlights of the weekend

Mumford and Sons.  It seems crazy that a 'folk / bluegrass' band with mandolins, accordions and a stand up double bass could draw 20,000 people; packing the huge Radio 1 tent and every inch of the surrounding space.  Even more incredible that most of those were 16-21 years old and were singing along (even to album tracks), dancing and generally going wild.  All for 4 young men playing what I thought when I first saw them 2 years ago was entertaining but very much a minority musical style!  The band looked overwhelmed at times and it was a pretty amazing experience even as a spectator.

The Joy Formidable

Why this band from North Wales isn't huge and why Ritzy Bryan isn't as big a star as Hailey Williams from the over-rated Paramore I don't know. This is a wonderful band who make a huge, grungy, fuzzy noise (Dinosaur Jnr and Sonic Youth being the obvious influences) , overlaid with lovely melodies and Ritzy's delicate vocals.  (To me, this is pretty much what rock music should sound like).  But she's also a guitar hero, a great lead / rhythm player (it's a three-piece band)  and as a special for Reading she demolished her guitar a la Peter Townshend. Wow.

New (to me anyway) bands we enjoyed

  • Free Energy young US band with touches of the Stones, Tom Petty; unselfconsciously retro, catchy, rockin' and very entertaining.
  • Funeral Party indie / emo / rock (think Cribs, Libertines, Strokes) with a lead singer whose vocals tend to the tortured, but enough melody and energy to make it worthwhile.
  • Freelance Whales multi instrumentalists, lovely harmony vocals and interesting quite complex songs (at their best, comparable to Arcade Fire).  Their first album is a little twee in places but their second could well be a classic.
  • Egyptian Hip Hop much tipped UK indie / dance band.  Need to work on stronger songs perhaps but lots of promise.
  • Kassidy; Scottish, incredibly hairy young guys with Eagles feel and harmonies, country at times but also a blues / rock edge.  Could be UK-grown Kings of Leon?  Really good considering they were first band on in the small tent on Sunday -  went down very well.  Playing the Borderline in October so watch out for details of the Procurement Excellence night out....
  • Chief more hairy guys, this time from the US.  Quite similar to Kassidy, maybe more country and less blues (Band of Horses style).  But excellent again.  Great harmony vocals and playing.
  • Foxy Shazam mad glam rock throwback - fun!

Established bands who did well

  • Arcade Fire; just brilliant and the new songs stood up well to comparison with old classics.
  • Dizzie; the biggest crowd of the weekend! The man is a star.  Headlining next year? He could do it.
  • Weezer; a good performance with audience engagement and one of the better in terms of good sound quality.  'Buddy Holly' is still a classic!
  • Blink 182; better than I expected.  Good audience engagement and you forget how many hits they had.
  • Libertines; started slowly but got into it.  I'm not a huge fan but far better than I expected!
  • Maccabees, Mystery Jets, Lost Prophets, Biffy Clyro; all did pretty well considering they were playing the main stage earlier in the day which is difficult.
  • Yeasayer; apart from Mumfords, perhaps my favourite performance.  Their album is good but they are better live; clever, danceable, engaging....would see them again like a shot.
  • Band of Horses; a surprisingly large and enthusiastic crowd for their country tinged sadness and introspection (which I love).  "Funeral" was a classic moment with a huge singalong.
  • Two Door Cinema Club; 'dancier' than their indie pop album suggested and good live performance.  Kids loved them.
  • One Night Only; trying to move out of the teeny-bop category and did so very well. Their singer is a bona-fide star (and Emma Watson's boyfriend just good friends).

Established bands who did not do well

Guns and Roses.  What an idiot.

That was about it in terms of real disasters.  Phoenix were a little disappointing, and suffered in comparison to Yeasayer who were on before them and are somewhat similar in style.  Modest Mouse didn't really work somehow.  Wild Beasts were good but a little disappointing for me.  I love the album (still my favourite of 2009) so much and the live performance didn't add anything really for me.

I missed Foals, QOTSA, LCD Soundsystem and the Klaxons so can't comment; saw Pendulum from a distance for a few minutes and they appeared to be 'rocking the place' as we young people say...

Well, that's it for another year.  Tickets already purchased for 2011...

Share on Procurious

Voices (2)

  1. hugh jennings:

    how much would it cost to get a band to play at a festival like Reading and Leeds im doing it for my coursework since i went this year…

    1. admin:

      the honest answerr is ‘I have no idea!’.
      I’ll drop you an email separately though.

Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.