Reading Festival – Tips and Friday Preview

Next weekend (Friday to Sunday) sees the Reading and Leeds music festivals, probably the biggest regular pure music events in the world. By “pure” we mean that unlike other festivals, there are no jugglers, storytelling for the kids, performances by drama groups, science communicators or learned lectures. Just some 300 bands over seven stages – plus a comedy tent. Today, a few tips plus a look at the Friday line up for Reading (which is the Sunday line-up at Leeds).

The demographic for these events is heavily 16 – 22 year olds. Many of them aren’t really great music fans, to be honest, but the events are a rite of passage for kids post GCSE and A level results. That means the audience for any one act is based strongly on the number of YouTube views their most popular song got. So one huge song – even if it was not a “chart hit” - will get you a decent crowd. The scariest moments are when the entire teen cohort all flock to the huge NME tent – we’ve seen that for bands as different as Bastille, the Mumfords, Disclosure, Bombay Bicycle Club, Pendulum and others, and this year we predict mayhem for Catfish and the Bottlemen and perhaps Rebel Sound – in the latter case because they are playing at the same time as Metallica, who most 17 year olds don’t care about.

We commute daily rather than camping so I can’t advise on tents and showers. But a few recommendations:

  1. There are some great bands playing early in the day – do get there around lunchtime and make the most of the day.
  2. Sit down when you can, even if it just for a few minutes, and consider taking a small stool or folding chair. After dark or if it rains in particular you will be glad of it.
  3. Large black bin bags are useful for a number of reasons (to sit on, wrap wet stuff in, etc). Also consider a small torch, emergency rations, one small unopened bottle of water (you can top it up at water points in the arena), sun crème, tissues and of course something waterproof to wear. Remember it gets surprisingly cold once the sun goes down. Think layers ...
  4. Comfortable footwear is essential, whether wellies, trainers (only if the forecast is for dry weather) or walking shoes / boots. Something that can stand up to a certain amount of mud / unidentified pools of liquid in the toilet area...
  5. Print off a Clashfinder and invest a few hours working out in advance who you want to see. Some stages are close together – you can do Festival Republic, Lock-up and Main Stage very easily. The NME stage is a fair distance from those three though, but nothing like Glastonbury distances. I jog between the stages to maximise viewing time (which has been known to elicit cries of “run, granddad, run” from the teenagers ...)

And on that note, here is our preview of FRIDAY (Reading).

The best day for us! We won’t go though the well known bands here, but you have the Mumfords, Alt-JJ and Bastille on the main stage. But there are a whole string of bands on the Festival Republic stage / tent who sound good, with a general vibe of tuneful indie pop with a touch of folk even. There’s also a surfeit of strong sounding Bears on that stage; Hunter and the Bear (Scottish nu-folk), Eliza and the Bear (tuneful indie pop) and Bear’s Den, who are on the edge of a breakthrough with their Mumfords meets Coldplay emotional and anthemic grown up nu-folk. On the same stage, Joywave sound interesting with their grungy electro-pop and charismatic lead singer.

On other stages early in the day don’t miss The Bots – young US blues rock duo – and Skinny Lister – an “English Pogues” – both on the Lock-Up early afternoon. The latter should see a real party atmosphere if they can pull in a decent crowd. And before them, at 12.40, The Districts are in the NME Tent. This young US indie rock band released their debut album earlier this year, and it is right up there in my album of the year list at the moment.

Also in the NME tent we have US “intelligent post punk” from Parquet Courts , then UK indie favourites Swim Deep and Peace. They should attract good crowds although Peace clash with Bastille on the Main Stage which is a shame. I’m not sure Alt-J can cut it on a huge stage, although I love their albums, so the fall back at that time is the talented singer-songwriter Saint Raymond in the Festival Republic tent – he may well be the next George Ezra / Hozier with his engaging indie pop style.

Finally, if the Mumfords are not your thing (and their latest album was disappointing for me), you’ve got Simple Plan and New Found Glory as metal alternatives in the Lock-Up; or the surf-pop dance of Django Django, which I think will work brilliantly in the small Festival Republic tent after dark.

More tomorrow when we will look at Saturday and Sunday!

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Voices (3)

  1. Alphabet Bands:

    All We Are – Dance Tent – 12:40. DO. NOT. MISS.
    That is all.

    1. Peter Smith:

      Mr Bands (or can I call you Alphabet),
      They sound good BUT a big clash with The Districts! I’ll see if I can do a few mins at least. Are you attending?

      1. Alphabet Bands:

        Sadly not but I saw All We Are at Latitude and they were outstanding.
        I went in as a fan (featured them a few times on the site) but was blown away by the energy and quality. Just fantastic.

        And you can call me AB 🙂

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