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Live Review: Reading Festival (28/08/2009 - 30/08/2009)

Every time I tell someone that I am going to be attending next year’s Reading Festival, I tend to receive quite a mix of responses. People most often either raise the point of the ridiculous ticket price, or exclaim that they want to go and try to haggle my ticket down to a cheap undercutting value for them to buy it, some people proclaim their love for Glastonbury or Download and how Reading and Leeds would “Never match up to their grandeur.” and I do occasionally get the crowd who simply ask “I’m sorry, what is that?”

However, the one question which has the easiest answer for me to give is “Why are you going?” and the answer is simple. The bands. It is a festival that I have attended over the past 3 years and one that I has most of my fondest and best live performances at, such as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails serenading ‘Hurt’ to crowd full of tired and weary fans on the Sunday night of 2007 and Metallica quite easily deafening and pissing off everyone within a 5 mile radius with their ridiculous sound levels in 2008.


Manchester Orchestra (3/5) take to an opening slot in the NME/Radio 1 Tent with their slow-slow-loud-loud playing style which echoes too fondly of Brand New (A connection made between bands which is far too common these days). Their creeping calmness is welcomed by a slightly baffled and semi-awake audience who either only know their first record (Which they play nothing from) or have arrived for the word-of-mouth hype that they have been earning in column inches from ‘artsy’ music blogs on the ‘net.

Over on the main stage, soon afterwards, Alexisonfire (2/5) launch in to their first set of the day with a mix of tracks from their latest record, Old Crows/Young Cardinals and from their wealthy back catalogue. However, perhaps the crowd has drunk a bit TOO much last night as the not-so-hardcore fans stand motionless wondering what is happening and quite possibly waiting eagerly for New Found Glory (3/5) who take to the stage as if they have drunk one too many Red Bulls and feel like it’s their mission to see some movement in the crowd. Sing-alongs were earned as the crowd bounced and welcome both old and new tracks with a huge applaud as ‘My Friend Over You’ begun to play. However, what stops this performance from hitting the dizzy heights of the usual NFG show is their songs are perhaps too stop and start momentarily for a too early slot in the day.

After a food and awful toilet stop, I made my way over to the tiny Festival Republic Tent to witness Jack’s Mannequin (5/5) who packs out the tent quite easily with hundreds of people there to glimpse the artist who is quite a rare sighting on this side of the pond. As soon as he opens with ‘Mixtape’ all the way to his closing song, the crowd welcome each song with a chorus of the lyrics all sung majestically. Please come back more often Andrew McMahon.

I must admit that I was not expecting much from Fall Out Boy’s (4/5) main stage slot. However, the moment they take to the stage, the band orchestrates the crowd in succession, with one of the best chosen set lists of the weekend. Wentz’s Bass playing is still laughably daft and Patrick Stump can’t quite hit the ‘Woaaaahs’ that seem to plague their songs lately, however they receive a welcomed sing-along from the crowd with even everyone cheering to a cover of ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey which was a pleasant surprise had by everyone.


The Saturday opens up with Enter Shikari (3/5) taking to the main stage, initiating circle pits, causing mass amounts of dust to be kicked up and the crowd to go, well, a bit crazy. Standard Shikari show shenanigans take place with the building of human pyramids during ‘Labyrinth’ and everyone hand clapping during that certain bit in ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’.

However, something truly majestic is about to happen over at the NME/Radio 1 tent as a secret slot welcomes Them Crooked Vultures (4/5), the combination of John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age. Thousands and thousands ditch the pitiful Courteeners on main stage to witness this mammoth of a super rock star group be born, however only very little stay as Homme’s usual ‘Drag out the solos as much as possible’ take place and the majority of the crowd only there to glimpse Grohl behind drums. Great idea, but to grab hold of and keep a wealthy size crowd, perhaps release some worthwhile material first?

Afterwards, on the same stage, You Me At Six (4/5) bounce on wildly and have the time of their lives. Doing as every band does and covering ‘Pokerface’ and a small section of Rage against the Machine, the band really gets the crowd to have fun with them. Smiles appear on the young band’s faces as this is another great show under their belts with many more to be achieved.

Much later in the evening, over on the tiny Festival Republic Stage, Bring Me the Horizon (2/5) are ‘welcomed’ back to Reading Festival for the second year in a row. Last year, they were the subject of a bottle barrage for filling in for the last minute drop outs, however the crowd today are here to actually WATCH the band instead. It’s a shame that their fist-raising songs from their impressive latest record, Suicide Season, don’t really come across well live.

As the crowd thins over on the main stage after The Prodigy leave the stage and Arctic Monkeys kick into a shambolic set list of slow and shallow ‘hits’, Rise Against (3/5) begin their headline slot in the Lockup tent. As usual, the band plays their most active songs and the crowd goes nuts. Nothing new and exciting, but still a great way to end the day.


By the Sunday, everyone is too tired to fully appreciate most of the deserving bands on the day, which is a shame for Kids In Glass Houses (1/5) who fail to impress the by standing crowd. Aled’s vocals fail to hit their usual notes and the band stand around as glum as the mud in the campsite.

Opening the NME/Radio 1 tent must be a dream come true for In Case Of Fire (3/5) who are well seasoned live by countless support slots on tours. Its business as usual as they plough through their usual set, ending on a sterling performance of ‘Plan A’.

I still can’t believe how quickly Frank Turner (4/5) has gained in popularity. 2 years ago, he was playing to a small rabble of people in the Carling Tent, but now he pulls an impressively large crowd for such an early slot in the day. Perhaps a main stage slot for him next year? The crowd sing-along for ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ definitely indicates towards it.

Any Brand New (2/5) live set is ALWAYS going to have split opinions. People will complain they don’t play enough of their first album and others will complain that they play too much off their unreleased new album ‘Daisy’. To be honest, Brand New don’t really help themselves with miserable faces and a poor choice of set list.

A year can sure change a band’s growth of their fanbase and The Gaslight Anthem (4/5)are prime examples of this. Last year, they played to a half full Lockup tent with only ten percent of those actually there for the music, the rest there for the hype they’ve read about in numerous music magazines and blogs. However, a year later and they are playing only 3 slots from NME headline slot. And this time crowd are there to actually sing the words back! Vocalist Brian Fallon has often said that England is one of their new favourite places to play, and this set only supports his point even stronger.

Gallows (5/5) playing the NME tent? What has happened here? Well, something incredible actually. After claiming they would never play the NME or main stages, they seem to be slotted quite high in a tent of a publication that they used to slander. However, despite having to eat their words as they take to the stage, it’s a usual Gallows set, with swearing, circle pits and the band’s family shout-outs. Everyone is there to either sing the words or get sweaty in the huge pit the stretches from pillar to pillar. Frank Carter crying marks the incoming end of the set as he claims he thought he would never see that many people going ape-shit for ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’. Anyone saying they would never do well on larger stages must be eating their words.

However these aren’t the only genres that cater for the gaping public that swamp the festival gates every year. A wealth of other artists ranging from the melodic warbling of Florence and The Machine to the cheesy pop (I dare not to call it rock) of Kaiser Chiefs to the quite mad but influential icons Radiohead. Another year over, and another year for the site to recover from this year’s battering of the 80,000 attendees. Roll on Reading and Leeds 2010.

Andy Touch

Alter The Press!