Back in the days of my music journalism aspiration days, where I occasionally feted a band that were circulating in the blogosphere and did work experience at NME, I thought nothing of forking out 2 big ones from my taxpayer-funded student loan to spend 4 nights camping, shitting into a festering swimming pool of sewage (long-drops, how I do not miss thee), and listening to people shout “ALAN!” a lot, a reference which at the time was lost on me. This period only lasted a year, and this festival is still my only full weekender, but I regret nothing.
I saw a lot of bands that year. We’re talking not one, not two, not twenty, but THIRTY-FOUR. Now, I didn’t see their full sets necessarily, but when I wrote up my reviews at the time, I included any of the bands I was watching for 10 minutes+ or saw 3 or more songs by. Now I’m reposting them for your delight, mainly at my 19-year-old genius. Thinking Miles Kane’s debut was one of the best of 2011? Oh for goodness’ sake… That said, I did accidentally end up scouting a then-unknown Rae Morris on the Introducing stage, who’s now a top 10 album artist. #IKnewHerBeforeSheWasPopular
Here, then, are the Friday reviews.
NB: * denotes that I saw their full set.
1. Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Friday, Dance Stage
I kicked off my Reading experience with this lot, who I’d heard of but never listened to. They were a pleasant surprise; their tunes were incredibly catchy – from the 25 minutes I heard, ‘We Are Rockstars’ was my favourite – and the crowd were fantastic. It was like being at an incredibly crowded but enjoyably energetic party – and could that ever be a bad thing? Mind you, I’d probably have had people wearing plastic ponchos kicked out by the bouncers if it had been my party. But that’s not really the point.
2. Miles Kane*
Friday, NME/Radio 1 Stage
His debut album is one of 2011’s best, in my opinion, and he’d been on my festival ‘To See’ list for a while. His performance didn’t disappoint, but the crowd did – though perhaps that’s due to standing too far back. At least there was some movement for ‘Rearrange’, his first single and arguably best song, though. I discovered that 12-year-old giggling girl groups are not best qualified to enjoy a 60s-esque pop singer-songwriter’s music, and standing behind them is not the best place to stand when you actually do want to appreciate it.
3. New Found Glory
Friday, Main Stage
I’d liked a couple of their songs a couple of years ago, enough to get their ‘Sticks and Stones’ album. I soon regretted this decision – it’s one of the worst albums I own, mainly due to the irritatingly whiny voice of the lead singer. The songs were performed adequately enough, but the between-song banter encouraging listeners to purchase ‘Pop-Punk Will Never Die’ merchandise, was laughably lame – like listening to a hysterical 12-year-old Blink-182 fan who’s just heard ‘All The Small Things’. Cringe.
Friday, NME/Radio 1 Stage
The crowd were fairly up for it, and they were ok, but there was nothing exciting or different about them. Just your generic rock band, really. I was only there to get into the crowd for the next few bands, but my jumping-around-to-the-music was totally insincere. Pretty unmemorable, really, but I saw most of their set.
5. The Naked and Famous*
Friday, NME/Radio 1 Stage
Another dancey band, another good crowd response. Despite only really being there for ‘Punching In A Dream’, I found myself really enjoying it, though the performance and songs weren’t really anything special. But it was good enough. I also had the pleasure of witnessing a wannabe indie-loving Casanova try out his moves on a poor unsuspecting girl in front of me, as he began serenading her with TNaF lyrics and putting his arm around her as she glanced in terror at me and her friend. Forwardness gets you everywhere, but only if your definition of ‘everywhere’ is a sexual harassment clinic.
6. Patrick Wolf*
Friday, NME/Radio 1 Stage [3rd row, centre]
The charisma that the other acts had lacked was finally delivered by Patrick Wolf, and it was delivered in spades. Any gig that includes a harp is bound to be a good’un, but it was so much more than that; his vocal delivery was flawless, the music excellent and his presence was magnetic – he’s the sort of artist who you fall a little bit in love with while watching, out of admiration. His set set the benchmark for the weekend, and it wasn’t surpassed until Saturday evening.
Friday, NME/Radio 1 Stage [1st row, centre]
…and finally I reached the front. And it had to be for a band I’d never heard of (even during the show, I couldn’t remember if they were called ‘Metronomy’ or ‘Metonymy’, or maybe even ‘Metronymy’). The verdict; not sure I’d like them so much on CD, but as a live performance they were fun, had decent songs (albeit fairly similar to each other) and had some good aesthetics going on – by that, I mean I found it funny that three of them resembled the three protagonists of The IT Crowd, and they had some entertaining ‘Danger! Danger! High Voltage’-esque lights on their chests which flashed at opportune moments. So it was a thumbs up.
8. The Vaccines*
Friday, NME/Radio 1 Stage [2nd row, centre]
NME bigged up this set as the best of the festival (aside from the headliners, perhaps). In my opinion, they were totally wrong. The set was alright – it was quite good, in fact, though they didn’t bring much to the stage that wasn’t already on their album. But the crowd completely detracted from it…
I’m not a wuss at gigs. I accept that you have to put up with shoving, tall people standing in front of you, cameras in your viewline and choking on the long, frizzy hair of the girl in front of you. And yes, I expect to come away from a rowdy crowd with a few bruises, whether from elbows in my side or from being crushed against the barrier/people in front of me. What I don’taccept is that, when your thorax is being crushed by the obnoxious primates standing either side of you and you ask them about fifty times to move their arms so you can actually breathe thank you very much, you are ignored and/or mocked for not being able to breathe. I also don’t accept that, when you turn around to see that half the crowd behind you have fallen over and there are girls screaming for help, the same obnoxious primates ignore them or are passive as people are being trampled. I love music, but I’m not going to let it get in the way of being a decent human being. The crowd disturbed me, both through their rabidity and passivity, and the last straw was when some absolute cretins actually laughed when I was trapped by them and couldn’t breathe or stand up. It’s really put me off the band, actually, because of (more than) a few disgusting humanoids without the capacity for empathy or anything other than shouting along to a band who have briefly crossed over and will probably be a footnote on footnotes of bands in Reading history. Rant over.
And yes, if you want to make a joke, then those fans should be vaccinated against knobbishness. But that’s not really taking it far enough; they should have their testicles dipped multiple times into hot, boiling tar until their testes are melted and then forced to watch Napoleon Dynamite on repeat forever. A worse punishment cannot be concocted.
9. 30 Seconds to Mars
Friday, Main Stage
After a calming-down session following my near crushing-to-death at the hands of rabid Vaccines fans, I caught the tail-end of 30 Seconds’ set, not so much because I have any appreciation for them as much as having a guilty moment that I, the one who thought they were bland, could be watching them whilst my 30S-loving brother was stuck at home, playing Call of Duty/talking to strangers on Skype/pretending his hand was Katy Perry’s mimsy, and generally living a Jared Leto-less life. They were alright, the highlight of their set being when Jared Leto, not exactly lacking in the attractiveness department, stole a tiger suit from someone. A bit naughty, really; they were only £15 from the festival stalls. It’s not like he’s picking pennies off the floor, is it?
10. My Chemical Romance
Friday, Main Stage
My inner 14-year-old had been ludicrously excited about My Chemical Romance’s performance ever since getting tickets, whereas my outer 19-year-old tried to be coolly nonchalant about it all. The 14-year-old won out in the end as I cast off the demons that come with ‘liking a band who are deemed so uncool by all of your friends that you feel uncomfortable listening to them’ (McFly are the only band I like who no-one else does that have escaped this curse) and rawked out to angst-classics such as ‘I’m Not OK’ and ‘Teenagers’. Despite being with two people who fell into the ‘deeming bands uncool’ category, MCR managed to win them over into having an emo disco at the back with me and the other MCR fan I was with, and we hand-jived merrily to various tracks. On a music-related note, they were actually very good performers – the tracks from their newest album sounded far better live than on CD – though their between-songs banter was faux-profound and suffered from sounding like utter bollocks. But I believe this faux-profound utter bollocks has gone down quite well with the MCR Army, so never mind.
Tragically we left early to avoid playing competitive mud-skating with the rest of the crowd when they filed out at the end (it was about 6 inches deep and with a texture like setting concrete, so nigh-on impossible to walk through), so missed The Brian May Moment™. I was gutted, but not as gutted as I’d have been to have fallen into the mud and died due to asphyxiation. I’d had enough of asphyxiation for one day, thanks.