Sunday, 13 September 2009

Reading Festival Review - Noize Makes Enemies

Reading Festival. An opportunity for music fans of all ages to drink a justifiable vast quantity over the bank holiday, a reason to step away from reality for a long weekend and a chance for a lot of teenagers to set fire to things in a pointlessly destructive way (something demonstrated by the 600 person riot that took place Sunday night).

With some of the best weather we’ve seen all Summer, Reading Festival 2009 may well have been one of the most chaotic, but it also showcased some of the most incredible talent the music industry has to offer.

Whilst inevitable annoying clashes between lots of our favourite bands unavoidably occurred and occasionally the testosterone-fuelled activities of fourteen-year olds setting fire to their farts made you wish you were at Glastonbury, in reality, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

It’s been a week since we all crammed as much of our lives as we could into rucksacks and hoped security didn’t notice our 100ml dry shampoo, yet it seems almost a lifetime ago now we’re all back in the rat race. So here’s a run down for those who missed it… or for those who want to nostalgically mourn its passing.

The weekend got started with crazy young things, Dananankroyd (no, we couldn’t pronounce it either). Flocks of people rushed to the NME/Radio 1 Stage, if only because it was the only tent to shield from a sudden downpour. Full of youthful energy and enthusiasm, the band started off with song that allows everyone in the crowd to learn what to call this chaotic band (Dana-nan-ana-KROYD). 2.30pm and with the skies clearing, an impressive set by The Virgins is followed by an immaculate hour of The Airborne Toxic Event. Lead singer, Mikel Jollett, effortlessly pours out charisma and the tent is soon full of long-standing fans and curious new ears with ‘Sometime Around Midnight’ spurring an eruption of applause. Anticlimactically, Little Boots, full of industry-formulated clich├ęs followed on the NME/Radio 1 Stage, with the rain causing the tent to look misleadingly full, amidst the same-sounding electro boredom.

Later, Jack Penate played to a rather unexpectedly packed crowd. With his set list showcasing his older pop tracks like ‘Spit at Stars’ with new singles like ‘Pull My Heart Away’, it seems Jack finally reached the level of credibility he has been striving for and deserves as oppose to being a guilty pleasure for many. Clashing Placebo and Florence and The Machine and Friendly Fires with Bombay Bicycle Club no doubt caused a lot of festival-goers distress but Florence characteristically stole the show. With the gig falling on her birthday, after climbing up the tent scaffolding, Welsh told the huge audience “I said I’d get higher than I did at Glastonbury, and I have!” Whether she meant due to narcotics or geographically, ending with her renowned ‘You’ve Got the Love’ cover, her astounding vocal ability was left in no dispute. Friendly Fires followed with an opportunity to show how far they are from just another electro band, with lead singer Ed Macfarlane keeping the audience captivated with his vocal prowess and metrosexual dancing shamelessness.

Fans of Jamie T later flocked to see their favourite chav scream out his trademark lyrics before leaving 10 minutes early to catch headliners, Kings of Leon on the Main Stage…and to be disappointed. With Caleb telling a sea of fans “I know some of you are sick of Kings of Leon, and so are we. But if any of you don’t think we deserve to be where we are. Fuck You.” The band went on to play an uncharacteristically un-interactive set before Jared threw his guitar into the audience and shoved his finger up. Perhaps a result of a noticeably more aggressive audience this year or whether KOL are attempting to step back from the pedestal they’ve so long resented, fans felt noticeably let down. Yet, spirits would have undoubtedly been lifted by Marmaduke Duke’s set on the Festival Republic Stage midway through Kings of Leon. With showmanship in the bucket loads, Simon Neil crowd surfed as he sang his way through the band’s back catalogue, playing more mainstream releases including ‘Silhouettes’ and ‘Everybody Dance’ as well as the lesser known metal. As he sang “I wish you weren’t ordinary”, audiences were left instead feeling pretty chuffed that Biffy Clyro’s frontman’s side project is so far from it.

The Rakes were the third band to grace the Main Stage on the sunny second day. Whilst the open air was less suited to a band that strive in more intimate gigs, singer Alan Donohoe, brought the set to life with his eccentric vocals and trademark dancing like a sporadic fit of ADHD, something that makes the band appear wholly endearing. Yet the highlight of the Saturday for those ‘in the know’ was no doubt the unannounced band that sandwiched themselves between Patrick Wolf and You Me at Six on the NME/Radio 1 Stage. Them Crooked Vultures took to the stage at 4pm. The supergroup, made up of Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and Led Zepplin’s John Paul Jones rocked an amazed audience, not least because of their astounding status as musicians individually, but because of their musical prowess as a band. The Maccabees clashed with Maximo Park on the Main Stage later, but The Maccabees showed their worth with a spine-tinglingly good set. Working their way through the old and new tracks, Orlando’s vocals pierced the hardest of hearts in the way that he does so well. Changing the pace entirely, The Prodigy followed on the Main Stage with thousands dancing like their lives depended on it. Second headliners of the weekend, the Arctic Monkeys, showed a lot less resentment towards the crowd and played a predictably good set, fusing their new sounding tracks with classics including ‘Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’; much to the crowd’s delight.


Master Shortie kicked the last day off on the Dance Stage, playing a highly energised set. Reminding audiences of his debut album’s release and his future tour repeatedly, the nineteen-year-old soaked up the atmosphere and pumped energy into a rather hungover crowd, soon getting everyone dancing and screaming ‘Dance Like a White Boy’.

1pm, the sun still shined down on Reading as Noah and The Whale took to the Main Stage. With Charlie’s vocals cooing over an orchestra of musical instruments fitting the open air perfectly, even an electric toothbrush was used for sound, demonstrating the attention to detail that has got the band so far. Metronomy and Passion Pit took to the NME/Radio 1 Stage later in the afternoon, with both impressing audiences but Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos’ vocals perhaps less suited to such a grand stage.

Vampire Weekend played to the high-spirited crowd, keeping everyone energised before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs graced the Main Stage with Karen O dressed typically eccentrically. Playing an astounding hour of tracks from ‘Heads Will Roll’ to the notoriously intoxicating ‘Maps’, the band looked delighted as the crowd cheered ceaselessly and it soon became clear that for many, this would truly be one of the performances that defined their weekend. Bloc Party followed and despite concerns that they would struggle to perform to the best of their abilities on the Main Stage against the open air, the band played an astounding set. Regardless of the British drizzle, festival goers danced harder than they had all weekend as the band played songs from all three of their albums, with Kele’s vocals reaching into the hearts of their loyal fans.

Radiohead rounded off the weekend, making the lives of their decade-long standing fans. A little late to start, the band was the first to re-adjust the lighting and screens to fit their set and it made all the difference. A truly atmospheric and incredible end to a weekend that showcases some of the best bands in the world.

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