Reading Festival Highlights – Sunday

Alberta Cross

I joined a group of friends to see Alberta Cross. They are a fairly laid back blues rock with a strong sense of momentum. I’m not likely to go out of my way to see them again, but I did enjoy their show and may check them out again when in a mellower mood.

2:54

Along with Savages on Friday, 2:54 is the other band new to me that I’m going to keep an eye on after the festival. Building and occasionally brash without being overstated, this indie act made an impression. Their front-woman was striking and commanding of the audience’s attention whilst their music ebbed and flowed between loud and soft.

Gallows

I saw the first half of the Gallows‘ set. They are a well respected hardcore punk act for good reason. A bit too straight up for my tastes I avoided the brawl, but they were good to see. Having recently changed singers doesn’t seem to have reduced their appeal. Although, when your lyrics start to reference things like the 4th of July its time to question your credibility as a British band.

Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters were the headliner act. They couldn’t really be anywhere else on the bill. Even them playing earlier in the weekend at Leeds seems as though it would be out of place. It’s a shame I don’t care that much. I like some of their material and they’re hard to avoid, but really I wasn’t there for the sing along. I meandered between the stages to see what was on, but I ended up watching most of the Foo Fighters.

Dave Grohl is a good frontman and the band were really tight. They had all their show pieces worked out and were definitely entertaining. But I find most of their stuff benign at best. That said, I did sing my heart out to Everlong and had secret wish for them to play Stacked Actors (if the did I missed it in my exploration). It was a good end to a good weekend, but my preference seems to be for small bands. The way in which big bands work the crowd, whilst an art in itself, isn’t really my thing. The Cure didn’t suffer from this as they were all music and very little persona. Yet, for that very same reason they would be less suited to playing in the Sunday slot.

Its a tough slot to fill as the site tends to get more crowded as the weekend progresses. That’s a lot of people to please. They may not be my favourite headline to play that slot (Radiohead or Muse might be it for me), but they played it ably. And with charisma to spare.

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Reading Festival Highlights – Saturday

Green Day

[youtube http://youtu.be/45ZdYYYjKoc]

Green Day were the surprise guests this year. They are a well practised live act and put on a good show. Mostly they were there to have fun, this led to Billy Joe getting the audience to chant back to him a little more than I would have liked, but there was a great atmosphere.

Seeing them live does highlight how different their new material is and I found it less engaging. But when they open with Welcome to Paradise and play some old classics as well as have fun with their new material, I can’t complain. Besides, they we’re first on the bill, its not like they clashed with anyone.

Introducing

I only caught 30 seconds of Vengeance and the Panther Queen whilst moving round the site, but my curiosity was piqued enough to look up who they were after the fact. I’m not quite sure to make of their eclectic stoner-tech-metal come shout-along style, but I have had My Ebola stuck in my head since discovering it.

Hildemay are a hardcore band from Kent that I have a feeling that I may have seen before. They are just about to release their debut album and have made enough of an impression that they may stick in my brain.

Enter Shikari

[youtube http://youtu.be/7SRRExSiAds]

I’ve seen Enter Shikari a couple of times before at Reading and not a time since has been as fun as the first. I really like the way they push genre boundaries and Common Dreads as an album. However, they seem to have found a sound leading to them becoming a bit samey and jumping on the dubstep bandwagon.

I had trouble getting into their set with the new material they played. Maybe I’m just less familiar with it. I did enjoy them finishing up with Juggernaut, heavily reworked, and Zzzonked, but overall I didn’t really connect with them this time.

Florence + The Machine

[youtube http://youtu.be/g1Q5a9Rvzk8]

Its good to see that Florence still has her personality. I’m not really a fan of the new material and I only went along out of curiosity as to what her show would be like. She has long made it to pop star status and performed well, but I think its a shame her career has gone that route.

There was some beautiful, heartfelt acoustic live performances that she did prior to releasing Lungs, but this stripped down nature has been lost to the machine. Whilst musical directions change it was all about the show and the crowd loved it, its just not my thing any more.

At The Drive-in

[youtube http://youtu.be/12veSNXIfos]

This is it. At the Drive-in was the deciding factor on me getting a ticket this year. And they did not disappoint. Cedric is as quirky and energetic as ever, the band was tight and the crowd loved it.

For a cult band defunct for about a decade we knew a lot of the words. They played a good mix of their newer and older material. I really enjoyed their set. My only disappointment was that although Cedric’s spirit of old remained Omar, the guitarist, played tunefully completely losing the discordant chaos that be brought in a previous lifetime.

Reading Festival Highlights 2012 – Friday

Three days of music, good weather (mostly). This is some of what I saw and what I thought.

Future of the Left

The Future of the Left are a recent discovery for me. I encountered them through Fever Fever who have recently been a support for them. They were better than I expected and a good start to the festival.

Sardonic, witty and at times aggressive FotL have taken me from knowing one song to wanting to explore their back catalogue.

Hadouken!

Ok, I like Hadouken. Coming out as a fan was received with cries of “what are you, fourteen!?” (The answer is no.) But they do make good music. The first album is full of social commentary and the stuff since, well… At least its that kind of cross-over that stops it being generic.

They were better live than I expected. I was thinking one in the morning would be a better slot for them than one in the afternoon. That didn’t stop the crowd for getting going, but that may have been chemical suggestion.

Savages

Savages are new to me. One of the joys of three days of endless music is that you can wander around and see what takes your fancy. The driving bass and drums with moody vocals and ethereal guitar caught my interest. Reminding me of a less aggressive Cold in Berlin and having just recently released their first single this may be a band to watch.

Scroobius Pip

This was the third time I’ve seen Scroobius Pip play live this year. The alternative stage makes sense for a spoken word artist, but he seemed out of place with his whole band. Not that I’m complaining, he is a delight to watch.

Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles are one of those bands I’m never sure whether I like or not. I’m pretty sure they played a good set, through. It was intense and unrelenting. They made 40 minutes seem like 20, I take this to be a good sign. But I’m still not sure if I’ll ever listen to an album from start to finish.

Paramore

This is the second time I’ve seen Paramore. I was interested in how the band would perform after losing two of its founding members in an unpleasant way. Haley Williams is a good front woman and they put on a good show, but they didn’t feel like the band I saw before.

I’m sure the band will continue to do well for itself, Haley does have a cult of personality about her and lineup changes will not affect that. However, I’m not convinced of the writing power or the cohesion of this new lineup. Strangely, their first album comes across as the most mature and I hope the band doesn’t descend into teenage angst sophistry. Time will tell.

The Cure

The Cure were really good. Robert Smith was a quiet front man and they just played and played. With such a large back catalogue it was all good material, some of which I’d forgotten how good it is.

Refused Live 12th August 2012

At The Forum

Some bands live, die, and leave their legacy behind them. There are bands you wished you could have had the chance to witness, but assume it will never be. Refused have been broken up for near 15 years, and when I heard that they had reformed I had to see them.

Their last UK tour had them pulling at most a 100-200 member audience. But The Shape Of Punk To Come has become a cult album. Having the a dynamic and experimental approach to hardcore their influence has been wide spread, yet no one else seems to have pulled it off.

I would have travelled far and wide too see them, but London suited me fine. I waited for the box office to open and the tickets sold out in the time it took for me to enter my credit card details. Fortunately a friend got a spare. The demand was great enough for them to add a second date. The fact that their audience has grown so much, whilst they have been disbanded, is testimony to their quality and the power of word of mouth.

The crowd was eager and excited to see the band. There was a level of cheering far beyond what was typical. The anticipation built as the background loop slowly rose in volume. After what seemed an eternity the band took to the stage. The lights flashed and immediately they went into Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull.

It was an intense and dynamic set. It was good to see them enjoying themselves. Reunions seem to be a bit of a trend at the moment, and its good to see that they remain true to their original spirit. Dennis, the frontman, prefaced Summertime vs Punk Routine with the statement that he thought they were still relevant. An important piece of context before screaming ‘Rather be forgotten than remembered for giving in’ in the chorus.

The rebellious spirit remained. Both the support and Refused made a point of mentioning controversy over Pussy Riot. Really, it was just a good show. Everyone sang along to New Noise and the finale of  Tannhäuser / Derivè was immense.