August bank holiday weekend can only mean one thing, the return of the Reading festival. For me it was the 4th consecutive one and pre attendance my expectations were very low. The line up, on paper really didn’t offer me too much hope. This will mainly be that I am not what Festival Republic would consider target audience. After all I am in my 40s and not just turned 16. I also am not a fan of dance, r&b or rap so that rules out a large number of the offerings to me.
However, as per usual, once I start packing the excitement levels tend to increase. So it was that we arrived Wednesday afternoon in plenty of time for the gates to open. The entrance this year was considerably more seamless than last year with bag searches being performed a lot less stringently. Setting up the camp was a doddle and although the car park had been moved to accommodate the camper vans it wasn’t too hard getting the rest of the kit. So once set up the BBQ and fires lit it was time to kick back and relax. Thursday followed a similar vein although by the time we arrived back from the town centre (a bonus for Reading being that you are only a short trip into the town) the campsite was largely full, camping in white meant it was busy and the crowds enjoying themselves but, thankfully, most of the aforementioned target audience were camping further away than last year so the atmosphere was very good indeed, the knobhead count almost at zero.
Anyway it was soon Friday and we headed off to the arena to catch the first band on stage the minutes. They kicked off to an empty arena as despite the fact they were on from 11:15 some clever person decided only to open the place up at 11:30. Once we got their, the singer commented it was nice to play to some people and what we had missed was ‘fucking amazing’. From there it was off to see Gerard Way make his solo debut (well after his actual debut in Portsmouth earlier in the week). The arena was expanded last year, this means you have far greater distances to move between stages and it was during one walk to see misty miller that we passed the BBC Introducing stage and caught crybabycry who were quite brilliant. The Introducing stage is a great showcase for up and coming bands to show off their talents, it also gives some of the bigger acts on the line up a chance to play a more intimate set (Jake Bugg played Saturday afternoon for example). The early part of Friday also saw us catch cross faith a quite anarchic Japanese metal band who stormed the main stage, Dave Hause who was brilliant in the lock up stage and Hudson Taylor who absolutely stormed a rammed Festival Republic stage. There was also time to fit in the mighty Drenge who, as per usual, absolutely smashed their set on the NME
Over the years, the Festival Republic line up has always been the one to get my interest and this year was no exception with some great bands over the weekend. However it was the Lock Up stage where I seemed to enjoy myself an awful lot. It was in the Lock Up that I saw a superb set from Eagulls after being (personally) very disappointed with The Fat White Family. From there we headed to the NME Stage where twin Atlantic gave one of the performances of the day to an enraptured full crowd. They were swiftly followed by an excellent set from Temples. Over on the Lock Up stage Mrs Josh Homme Brody Dalle showed she clearly has some talent to keep her old man from being complacent.
Prior to coming, one band I knew would be a highlight was Vampire Weekend and they did not let me down. Another great set from them as the sun began to set. As they were finishing I was told that Jamie T was playing a surprise set in the Festival Republic stage. Again not my thing normally but he certainly was pulling in a crowd who appreciated him, which meant we could relax on the grass and enjoy and also that we could skip off to Jimmy Eat World as they were on the Lock Up at the same time.
From there it was time for the headliners, this year Reading had shared the slot on Friday between Paramore who really are living proof that I am not a target Reading customer. To me how they are so successful will remain a mystery so I was grateful to metronomy for offering a bloody good escape route before the rather excellent Queens of the Stone Age had their turn. An excellent set with lasers and a great line up of songs was only spoilt by the ridiculously short set of 1hr 15. Not exactly giving a band their deserved time to headline.
Overall Friday saw 22 acts watched. To me to qualify as watched I must see the whole of one song as a minimum. If a band is halfway through one then I wait till the end of the next song.
Fridays bands and ranking
The Minutes – great and would loved to have been allowed in to see the whole set 7.5
Gerard Way – never liked My Chemical Romance but I’m not Reading target audience 5
Crybabycry – great trio playing decent rock from Yorkshire but you only know it once they talked 8
Misty Miller – Surprise to see on the Lock Up stage and, to me was largely disappointing 4
Southern – melodic duo kept my interest for a while 6
Cross faith – mental, absolutely mental but tremendous fun all round was had by the band and the crowd 8.5
Hudson Taylor – Think Irish Mumford and Sons the full to capacity tent enjoyed every minute 7.5
Dave Hause – almost missed him but caught his last few songs and wished I had seen more, almost Billy Bragg like in performance 8.5
The Districts – heard a couple of songs before I left and liked them, however on the day they seemed a little disinterested 6
Blood Red Shoes – the first of the weekends 2 man (well 1 man / 1 woman) acts. Pretty loud, pretty entertaining 7
Drenge – 4th time I’ve seen them, 4th time I’ve loved them, though the dresses I’m not so sure 8.5
The Fat White Family – I believe it was public Enemy that said Don’t Believe the Hype and they were right. Really didn’t enjoy 2
Eagulls – a surprise hit for me, a short but excellent set 9
Twin Atlantic – saw them at the Wedge a couple,of years ago, this set coincided with their new album and the NME was rammed and loved a superb set 9.5
Temples – loved by Johnny Marr and on this performance you can see why, psychedelic in sound, great for an afternoons entertainment 7.5
Brody Dalle – entertaining heavier rock set from the wife of Josh Homme 7
Vampire Weekend – collection of great tunes, charismatic frontman and absolutely brilliant live 9.5
Jamie T – Surprise set and one that proved very popular, someone I’ve never really listed to so and therefore someone I will listen to more in future 7.5
Jimmy Eat World – pop punk / rock played as good as anyone at Reading this year (certainly better than one pop punk band later) 8
Paramore – sorry just don’t get them, I know they are popular but I’m not 16-18 or female. They did look energetic though 4
Metronomy – superb cabaret style set using all 3 albums. Highly entertaining 9
Queens of the Stone Age – deserved headline to day one, played all the stuff you really wanted to hear although the set should have been longer 9.5
So a pretty Good Friday all round. Could Saturday be as good? It started with DZ Deathrays on the lock up stage which was a great wake up – I needed it as I’d struggled to sleep being full of man flu all weekend! Anyway a quick divert to our only stop at the Dance Stage to see Tea Street Band, I’d caught them supporting Jimi Goodwin earlier in the year and was keen to see them again, they didn’t disappoint. I was still feeling worn out so took the opportunity of a seat in the Alternative Stage as Mark Watson was due on. Before him we managed to catch Jeff Leach who was utterly brilliant, his dealing with a heckler and the unfortunate young man who happened to be at the front row and was pulled up to explain why the song Blurred Lines is so utterly rotten will live long. With that to follow you’d forgive Mark Watson but thankfully he was even funnier, chasing a devil around the tent whilst, in turn, being chased by security was hilarious as was his blaming of the toaster for not toasting correctly (after he had messed up the settings)
From there it was a quick glimpse of Nico Vega, American authors and the ever brilliant Dry the River before what looked like a possible highlight. A lot has been said and hyped about Royal Blood, the music I had heard before the gig suggested something special, then itunes previewed the album and that got me very excited. For once the reality blew the hype out of the water, what a set, what a band. 40 minutes of pure adrenaline fuelled rock was the order of the day. The NME was rammed and nobody was leaving. What a future they surely have. I even felt for the usually brilliant Peace who had to follow that. But in the afternoon sun they did wonderfully and gave a treat to every who joined them. cage the elephant were great as well and the part of The Hives set I caught was certainly great fun. That’s the problem with a festival that there is too much going on at the same time that sometimes you miss stuff you may want to see, in this case I only caught a part of the brilliant wolf Alice, the strong hozier before going to see the very disappointing Foster the People though Pumped Up Kicks is always going to get the crowd going. From there it was time for, what to me, was the lowest point of my reading career Die Antwoord, oh dear, oh dear. It was made worse that I had to wait for my GF to go to the toilet so suffered (yes that is the right word) 15 minutes of hell. Easily the worst band of the year for me!
As I’ve mentioned already I am not reading target audience so it is a mystery just how high up the bill some bands seem to get. A great example to me is the inexplicable rise of imagine dragons however I clearly know nothing as there were more people in the crowd for this than for the Queens of the Stone Age Friday night, proof that Reading is now for the 16-18 year olds I guess! Anyway they played well, if you like them but I left before the end for another potential highlight Glasgow’s Chvrches. They didn’t disappoint me and I loved every moment. Up there for band of the day material that is for sure. A brilliant set, brilliant light show and a very happy crowd all round. I then took Lisa back so she could experience Jake Bugg sub headline (yes that’s Jake Bugg sub headlining reading!), I like Jake but this seems to show just how poorly Reading struggle to pull big names in. I left after 15 minutes to catch an electric Bombay Bicycle Club set. It was perfect, the tent was rammed, they were able to use the lovely Lucy Rose and Rae Morris in the set too. An odd choice for NME headline act on Saturday as within 10 minutes of them ending the biggest name on the bill began Arctic Monkeys are at the end of their AM Tour and Reading was their penultimate show (clearly Yorkshire lads will put Leeds first) a strong set was ruined by 2 things. firstly Alex Turner’s performance (it really felt he was simply going through the motions at times) and the enormous number of complete and utter dickheads who came to see them. I haven’t seen such an awful crowd in terms of behaviour since Kasabian 2 years ago. It certainly ruined the evening for me and overall I’d say the Arctics were good but could have been so much better sadly.
Saturday’s Bands and Ranking
Leaders of Men – Decent enough start from the Irish Band 6
DZ Deathrays – Loud, Raucous and great fun 7
Tea Street Band – relaxed vibes from Liverpool 7
Jeff Leach – hilarious all round 8
Mark Watson – see above, even better 8.5
Nico Vega – didn’t really do it for me 4
Dry The River – beautiful set, perfect for such a great band, just a shame there was too much going on 9
American Authors – they sing that song from the Center Parcs advert and were pretty good too 8
Royal Blood – simply the best thing about Reading 2014 10
Peace – 4th time in 12 months, still great fun and ideal for a sunny main stage 8.5
Cage the Elephant – only a brief chance to see them but they did not disappoint. Very solid set from them 8
The Hives – got the crowd going, one band who know how to have fun 7
Wolf Alice. – great band set for bigger times, beautiful cover of Wicked Games too 8
Hozier – saw him on the BBC after Arcade Fire won Glastonbury. Saw a bit more today and he didn’t disappoint 7.5
Foster the People – Pumped Up Kicks added 3 to the score 6
Die Antwoord – horrible, just horrible 0
Imagine Dragons – more popular than you’d expect 6
Chvrches – sublime, perfect pop music 9.5
Jake Bugg – not his fault that he was so high up the bill. Still good 8
Bombay Bicycle Club – outstanding all round as per usual 9
Arctic Monkeys – so successful,they simply do not need to try, ruined by the sheer volume of knobheads in the crowd 7.5
So Sunday arrived and with the prospect of a poor morning Monday, we took the liberty of packing away so we could sleep in the car for a bit before heading home. This meant a later start in the arena where we caught the end of Blacklist Royals the opening band in a quite brilliant Lock Stage that day. From there it was off to the Festival Republic where Flyte kept us entertained as we sat and chilled in the sun. It really was a day for relaxing and even though Tonight Alive were up for it, I was too knackered to join them! Once we had enough it was a couple of hours well spent at the NME where firstly the neighbourhood set us up nicely for the remarkable Jungle to really give that Sunday afternoon feeling with a brilliant set. Clean Bandit had a lot to live up to after that but they didn’t disappoint either. But enough chilling it was time for things to get loud, very loud and the Lock Up stage provided the entertainment we needed firstly Canadians Flatliners gave a brilliant set, closely followed by a Wilhelm Scream and Every time I die . In between we could switch to the festival Republic stage, where we joked that downers write up in the program made them a must see as it didn’t describe anything, it turned out they were. a great band and one of the weekends discoveries for me. Whilst I had heard some great stuff from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart prior to reading to hear them live was a great experience, certainly a better band than their name! As the evening wore in it was time for The Horrors to show off their latest album of ’80s inspired music and again I was left entranced and enthused. The NME then got very busy as The 1975 came out for a highly enjoyable set, certainly young Sophie – pulled from the crowd- had an experience she’ll never forget in her lifetime. Once we heard Chocolate it was time for one last visit to the Lock Up Stage for the monumental Frank Turner and his Mongol Horde set. Frank is one the great entertainers and he delivered in spades. A thrilling end to a fantastic stage line up. As Blink 182 were headlining the main stage, I wanted something better and found it in the Festival Republic stage as Augustines were outstanding. The sparse crowd got given an electric show and it would have ended my festival on a real high but sadly they finished before Blink so we suffered their encore (where the hell were the fireworks this year) before heading back to the car for a nap and drive home. A relief when I woke up Monday to it throwing down with rain.
Sunday Bands and Rankings
The Witches – not really my thing at all 3
Blacklist Royals – Great band but such a short set sadly 7
Flyte – perfect Sunday pop 7.5
The Neighbourhood – entertaining enough but really a build up to jungle 7
Jungle – superb set, great band 8.5
Raleigh Richie – brilliant up and coming R&B not usually my thing but he was very good indeed 8
Clean Bandit – hugely popular, no doubt going to be much higher up the bill next year 8
Dolomite Minor – the White Stripes have a lot to answer for, another 2 piece band giving a good set 6
The Flatliners. – brilliant Canadian band, really rocked the place 8
Drowners – certainly better than billed in the programme 8
A Wilhelm Scream – loud, angry, but great fun 7.5
You Me at 6 – hugely popular new British rock band. Not as good as twin Atlantic but still not bad at all 7
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – better than their name, lovely pop for a Sunday evening 8.5
The Horrors – dark, brooding,,early simple minds and great 9
The 1975 – become huge in the past 12 months and deservedly so, they were there party and so was the crowd 8.5
Mongol Horde – it’s Frank Turner and that’s all you need. Brilliant 9
Augustines – outstanding set from the brilliant New Yorkers. One that those their will remember 9.5
Blink 182 – just a crap Green Day to me, poor choice and a sad end to the weekend 3
So there we go. Some 60 acts seen, many more missed (you can’t see everyone sadly). And a far better experience musically that I expected before going. There really were some great bands with royal blood taking the band of the weekend contest but, as ever, there were a few things that really ruin the weekend:
The over officious ness of the stewarding at the arena entry, bring all the drugs and flares you want into the place just do not smuggle a single can of cider or a half drunk bottle of water.
The rip off pricing. Seeing as you do not allow a single can into the arena then to charge £5 for second rate cider and even worse lager should be a crime. In addition the food is overly expensive. Granted you are allowed free water but if they charged a more reasonable price then People will buy more!
The bookings – Blink 182 only headlined in 2010, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and Jake Bugg as sub headline acts!! When the Manic Street Preachers are about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Holy Bible, Pixies have new material out can we honestly say they could not have booked better? Even the time slots given, 1 hr 15 for QOTSA is a joke
The fact they actually tried to avoid issuing toilet rolls is an utter disgrace. people are paying up to £240 each for a weekend and are expected to carry bog roll around. What a joke, I’m sure the stewards would have confiscated it at the arena anyway!
Finally the fact that reading now only wants 16 years olds there. The line up, the way the festival is sold to people. It all adds up to say 40 something’s should probably stay well away. This is very sad indeed.
However it wasn’t all bad,certainly some of the music more than made up for it and I have to say a weekend with mates, almost no rain and a lovely lady is one hell of a way to spend some time