Kicked off the Festival in the Carling Tent with Bombay Bicycle Club. Judging by the name I expected them to be a quirky dance group or a chain of Indian restaurants, but after hearing two songs it appeared they were just your average indie warm up band. On to the Main Stage then.

Little Man Tate made a great appearance on the Main Stage. Their presence filled the front of the crowd as a lot of people jumped and clapped to them, which is impressive for a band of their status on such a huge stage. Songs like The Agent, Sexy in Latin, and House Party at Boothy’s really spread a party feel throughout the crowd yet I had the feeling that festival had barely got underway yet.

The Long Blondes, the most glamorous punk band since Blondie, were up next and although they had some of the coolest looks and songs they seemed unable to justify the Main Stage and would have put on a much better show on the Carling Stage or Radio1/NME Tent. I think a gig to remember would be to see Debbie Harry collaborating with them: just imagine how Hanging on the Telephone would sound!

Gossip made their mark on the festival when Beth Ditto bravely began to strip down during the powerful live song, Standing in the Way of Control, good for her but not good for every one watching as she bent over and exposed her mammoth-sized behind to the thousands. As overwhelming as Ditto made the band, it is likely that they would not have been on that stage if their highly popular song had not become the theme to the TV show, Skins.

An excellent back-to-back line-up kicked off early afternoon with Maximo Park, who played an excellent set, but had awful banter: ‘This next song’s about…breaking free...’, etc. Interpol followed looking like they were dressed to play a jazz bar that put on funeral receptions and played some dark yet amazingly uplifting songs that created a beautiful and euphoric mood to go with the sunset. The headliners of this great line-up, but not the Main Stage were Kings of Leon. The crowds chanted the words ‘Leon’ and ‘Fuck Razorlight’, as they played one of the greatest gigs of the festival; like Interpol, it was all about the mood they created as played On Call and Knocked Up as well as well as the sheer excitement as they played classics like The Bucket and Molly’s Chambers. They definitely deserved to headline.

One of the DJs finishing off the night was the freaky Nic Gadget who featured mix of typical fairground music and drum n bass as well as a psychedelic screen display of himself.


Early afternoon, or morning as us festival goers call it, was when Eagles of Death Metal took to the Main Stage and played some no-nonsense good fun heavy rock music on the same levels as the music of Tokyo Dragons and they even included a cover of Stealers Wheels’ Stuck in the Middle with You, which went down a storm.

The next gig seemed quite low-key for a band that were rumoured to be playing in Britain for the last ever time. The Shins appeared to fly by with their cool American feel good music, but disappointingly did not play the eerily beautiful New Slang.

A lesser-known band that I discovered for the first time was Shy Child. They are a New York electro duo consisting of a synthesized keyboardist and drummer. They were so good that they encouraged a man to try and motivate the people with their arms folded at the back by raising his arms and shouting, ‘Live it!’

To make a special evening Arcade Fire showed what would happen if the BBC Proms came to Reading. A combination of orchestral and electric instruments plus an introductory video of an over-passionate religious preacher fainting and projections of the neon bible resulted in this band stealing the show. There were about 10 musicians on stage consistently swapping instruments and throwing themselves into the spirit like it was their last gig ever; the most impressive of them all was a percussionist who attacked almost every part of the stage like a mad man, using it as his own instrument. At the end the lead vocalist, Win Butler, gave one last hum that was echoed throughout the crowds and almost refused to fade away.

The tragically disappointing headliners were Red Hot Chili Peppers. It all started so well with bassist, Flea, and guitarist, John Frusciante, playing a jam that no band of today can possibly pull off. As singer, Anthony Kiedis came jumping onto the stage they went into Can’t Stop and despite Anthony’s mistake of kicking the cable out of the microphone it was made part of the act as Flea jumped in to play some funky bass lines. The problem was quickly dealt with and the set got underway in which the musical veterans watched each other closely to read their moves and try to catch each other out, making things even more exciting and left the audience trying to guess what songs they would play next. Why was it disappointing then? The choice of songs was awful frankly; the classics like Under the Bridge and Around the World were left out and too many songs of the anti-climactic new album, Stadium Arcadium were included. It was a miracle that they didn’t leave out Scar Tissue, Parallel Universe, Don’t Forget Me or Give it Away. The end of the gig felt pretty much empty and hollow.


The Radio1/NME Tent was a haven for most of Sunday; Late of the Pier kicked things off with some funny little electro-pop tunes that reminisced of the 1980s, particularly The Space and the Woods, which you would expect to hear from the likes of Gary Numan. They even had a synths player who seemed to think he was Penny from the Automatic because of his attempts to out stage the others by flailing his arms and using the drum kit as a jumping platform. All he needed was to yelp like a king charles spaniel and the band would have become the NME’s new band to love.

The most awful act had to be Hadouken! They seemed to attract all the kids who only thought they knew what a rave was and the front man lacked the charisma of a singer, rapper and screamer (those guys from death metal bands; don’t know what they’re called) because it was unclear what he was trying to achieve. They also failed to capture the attention of all those who were sitting down and writing ‘I heart NYPC’ on their arms, waiting for New Young Pony Club to come on.

At the middle of the day Steve Lamacq of Radio1 walked onto the stage and said: ‘I don’t normally introduce bands but this next act is something very special. This will be their biggest gig so far, so let’s make it one to remember for – The Maccabees!’ It certainly was one to remember; of all the five times I have seen them perform live this was the most hectic, energetic, literally crushing and of course special. The time it went quickly as the triumphantly popular band sailed through their set leaving a wake of screaming, singing loving crowds. They have come such a long way and that one gig showed that they’re not even at the peak of their popularity yet and I have no doubt that in two or so years they will return to Reading on the Main Stage.

Things calmed down a bit when Cold War Kids came .., but still gave everyone a great performance. The singer, Nathan Willet, sang like a middle-aged black man and songs like We Used to Vacation and Hang Me up to Dry bared the soul of one.

Later on Jamie T played a set of equal proportion to the Maccabees. There was a real sense of togetherness as everyone shouted to the songs that were very upbeat despite their sometimes-grim lyrics. He had made a big advance in his live performances by speeding up the tempo of each of his songs and changing their style. This is the sign of someone who genuinely loves what they do and will not give up for a long time. The whole thing was like a temporary goodbye from Jamie as it was his last UK tour for a long while and what better way to finish the goodbye than to play Sheila. You couldn’t help but feel that some people were wiping away tears of joy as they left the tent.

If anyone had taken the Main Stage as their own and put on the greatest spectacles it had to be Nine Inch Nails. They had two gigantic screens in front and behind them, which blasted blinding light throughout the arena and made the band seem superior. Mystery was added half way through the gig when they were completely covered by the screen in front of them and they reappeared as ghostly illusions. Johnny Cash’s Hurt is said to be the better take and some people haven’t even realised that Trent Reznor actually wrote it, but he stole it back at the end of the set by playing an even greater version of it and as the band left the stage the name, ‘NINE INCH NAILS’, was flashed all over the screen to emphasize that they had just made their mark on the Main Stage.

In the last couple of hours of the festival people were torn between the decision to either finish things with a rock or a rave, I chose rave. There were no regrets in this decision as LCD Soundsystem’s set was suitable for the apocalypse. Even better, Klaxons were the closing act, the whole tent was like a great multicultural gathering with some over dressed people, some under dressed, a motionless 50-year-old man in sunglasses and the infamous glow stick wielders. The band were clearly touched by everyone’s enjoyment as they wouldn’t cease to say how ‘fucking amazing’ it all was. The second last song, It’s Not Over Yet, pretty much summed up the night, it certainly didn’t feel over when the whole thing had finished, probably because afterwards great events took place like the limbos, the sack race, the silent disco and most importantly of all, the toilet raves.

Will Slater

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