Reading Festival is a very strange thing. Young people from across the UK congregate on the muddy grounds of Reading like battery farmed chickens, cooped up in a cage of music, drug dealers and beer bongs.
It’s hard to believe that anyone could fully appreciate the music when everywhere you look there’s an underage girl passed out from too many shots, an eighteen year old boy grinding their teeth furiously after too much MDMA, or someone else young doing something stupid after having too much of some other dangerous substance. If one can put down the water bottle full of vodka or plastic baggy containing some sort of mysterious pill for even a minute (I know, it’s hard), the range of talent available for your sober-or-otherwise viewing pleasure last weekend was better than ever before.
The Libertines’ Sunday headlining set convinced me that, while I’ve never been a fan of their music itself (boring pop rock for old people), Pete Doherty and co (because that’s what I think of when I think of The Libertines. Sorry) can still put on a hell of a show. Music that I would never sing along to at home had me singing at the top of my lungs, newer track ‘Gunga Din’ a personal favourite live, even though I would still hesitate to download onto my phone.
Easily one of the best acts from the weekend was Jamie T. Still in his glory days, the punk poet enraptured the festival crowd with a perfect mix of old favourites and newer ballads. ‘Sticks n Stones’, while a cop out favourite, displayed perfectly the kind of feeling you want to get from a festival. Being completely sober for his entire set was one of the best decisions I made on that weekend (and I made a lot of bad ones.)
Indie kings Peace and (indie princes? Yeah) Swim Deep rivalled for the best set over on the NME stage. Swim Deep’s fantastic opener ‘To My Brother’ conjured up best crowd excitement from the weekend, and Peace’s ‘Lovesick’ continued to be a brilliant crowd pleaser. Equally, Circa Waves and Catfish and The Bottlemen put on fun, energetic shows that put them in good stead to headline the NME stage in future.
In terms of smaller bands, I was quite disappointed in Twin Peaks’ set for the sole reason that no one in the crowd really seemed to be enjoying themselves. This probably had something to do with the fact that everyone was too busy gearing up to see the surprise act, Foals, to pay any attention to the Chicago rockers. Personally, I came to the stage for Twin Peaks and left right after, so I was happy to see that the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm didn’t put them off, and that they played with as much oomph as ever before. Stones-esque ‘I Found a New Way’ enticed a few half-assed mosh pits, but fingers crossed that next year they’ll have gained the fans they deserve and the crowd will enjoy their set as much as they (and I) did.
The Bulletproof Bomb were equally impressive on the Festival Republic Stage. Electric track ‘Suitcase’ showed how well the Surrey boys’ songwriting can translate onto the festival stage, and closer ‘Five Green Bottles’ left no doubt that they’ll be moving up both in the world and on Reading staging – last year had them on BBC Introducing; who knows where they’ll be next. (Higher up on Festival Republic, probably.)
Tips for anyone going next year, or to any other festival for their first time: make sure you catch the bands mentioned above if given half a chance, don’t drink too much, and make sure you know what substance you’re taking before you take it. Trust me.
Article by Amy Eskenazi