Wednesday, August 31, 2011

READING FESTIVAL 2011: DAY TWO!


© Rene Ehrhardt Photography

I arrive on day two to sun, dry mud and the end of Yuck’s set on the NME/Radio 1 Stage. Over on the Lockup Stage, Wyoming punk rockers Teenage Bottlerocket are just about ready to go.

Bottlerocket tear through their set of catchy, Ramones-inspired pop punk, with ex-Lillingtons frontman Kody Templeman wearing his regular contrasting black/death metal t-shirt (this time Goatwhore).

Meanwhile, Seasick Steve and his band of merry hobos are bluesing it up on the Main Stage. Drummer Dan Magnusson looks like he just climbed down from his mountain jam room and it's great to see Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones in action.



“I went to Nashville and met Jack White, that White Stripes kid… and me and him recorded this tune”, says Steve. Later, he whips out a guitar made out of a hubcap and a broomstick. After every song he goes, “Thank y’all for that… It sure is nice to come here and play for y’all”.

On the Festival Republic stage, Camden hipsters Tribes’ infectious brand of floaty Pixie jams sounds awesome. During “Dumb It Down” I can't help thinking about Rise Against’s progression from relatively obscure punk rock champions to world conquering average band. "Coming of Age" is a crowd pleaser. And set closer “We Were Children”, with most people in the packed tent singing along, sounds incredible.



After that I catch Los Angeles rockers The Bronx’s mariachi alter-ego Mariachi El Bronx, Madness, Boysetsfire (whose occult symbol melodic hardcore sounds great but draws the smallest crowd so far), The Kills and Comeback Kid. Going from Boysetsfire at the Lockup Stage to The Kills’ ghoulish, love letter mantra jams over at the NME/Radio 1 Stage is like leaving the ‘90s and arriving smack bang in the middle of 2011.



Leftover Crack is up next on the Lockup Stage. And while they sound great, I’m not sure I agree with their cop-killer anthems and close-minded, juvenile anarchy. “So you guys had some riots. The police killed an innocent, unarmed man and you responded. I can appreciate that”, says frontman Scott Sturgeon. “This song is called ‘One Dead Cop’”.

My problem with Sturgeon’s take on the riots is: a) he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. And b) he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about! But like I say, they sound great. And you can’t argue with the message behind “Gay Rude Boys Unite”.


© BBC

Looking around, someone must be making a killing selling stupid animal outfits and hats. A drunk guy waltzes by wearing a g-string, a cape and a stupid grin. And I can’t help thinking, “Who the fuck comes to Reading to be that guy?” What’s the attraction in being the obnoxious retard that doesn’t remember anything, looks like an idiot and physically repels his fellow festival goers?


Also, I can’t help but notice the cowardly way English music fans love to throw things. Mostly, it’s half empty beers. I catch a few nerdy looking drunk kids throwing their beers into the crowd, then hiding behind their friends and cheering their own lameness. I even catch a 50-something-year-old woman getting into the spirit(s). But hey, at least no one’s throwing piss (I hope).

Over on the main stage it’s time for brooding Ohio indie minstrels The National. At first, the band sounds subdued and tame. But soon the blood’s pumping. “Squalor Victoria” sounds particularly epic. Frontman Matt Berninger seems drunk and desperate, like a man at his wit’s end, as he screams “Squalor Victoria!” and smashes his microphone into the stage repeatedly. “This isn’t working, fuckers”, he yells! John Lennon-looking drummer Bryan Devendorf is an inspiration.



After that, The Bronx, sans mariachi getups, are intense on the Lockup Stage. Crystal Castles command a massive tent of gawkers on the NME/Radio 1 Stage, as Alice Glass wades into a sea of eager-to-grope hands and fans and comes out on top. And back at the main stage, Pulp’s disco light backdrop explains where the money from ticket sales went.



Saturday night headliners The Strokes go on half an hour late to a ridiculously over the top entrance theme and open with “Is This It” and “New York City Cops”. What a bunch of rock stars! But they sound amazing, serving up hit after hit after hit... Meanwhile, over at the NME/Radio 1 stage, Jane’s Addiction are forced to pull out due to singer Perry Farrell’s apparent illness. Nobody seems to care…

And so ends day two…


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