Fetid toilets, bipolar weather shifts and sitting around campfires with drunk Australians. Yep, just another successful year of madness at Reading Festival.
Best Act – Foo Fighters/Black Keys: For a long time the Foo Fighters have been peeking behind the clouds, staring at the mere mortals that have taken to the stadium and headline slots of festivals, tours etc and laughed. And rightly so, if i’m honest. This year, they showed Reading Festival more than a good time, and tightened their grip as one of the best live acts of all time. Powerful raw guitar sound, defiant drums and an overall masterclass and genius of Dave Grohl who sped along a spectrum of hilarity and affection to the crowd. However, the Black Keys, who played on the main stage just before the Foo Fighters, showed why they are arguably the best band in the world at the moment. Characterised by divine and relentless blues riffs and old American country dexterity, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney brought Reading to it’s muddy knees. A joint award for these two sensational bands.
Worst Act – Florence And The Machine: For most of their performance, all I could think of was “what is Florence Welch doing?”. Prancing around with no shoes on, pretending to be a ballerina in an old music box and calling out the audience to create a mosh pit. Why? Who starts mosh pits to soft folk/pop music? Her voice was compelling and in a class of it’s own, as we have become accustomed to, but I couldn’t quite process or understand why there has been such a live hype around her whilst I watched her take to the Reading main stage. A large portion of the crowd seemed to be on the same side of the fence as I, which may justify my opinion. Wave lengths never lie.
Best Alternative Act – Joy Formidable: Finishing their current tour with a quick stop off for a forty-five minute slot at Reading Festival, the part Manchester part north Wales threesome rounded off an astonishing afternoon in the Radio 1/NME arena. Ritzy Bryan stood in front of the ever-growing afternoon crowd and belted out a rock ensemble of electric waves and hard bass riffing. For three members they make a hell of a lot of noise, and tie the sound in an equally tight, menacing attack on the audience, maintaining a harmony of aggression and passion. As they played, more and more people were drawn into the tent to witness an amazing performance. In four years, The Joy Formidable have gone from the introducing stage to the second biggest stage of the festival. I predict a place on the main stage next year.
Funniest Act – OFWGKTA: Galavanting around stage, constantly playing a sampled recording of the fierce words “wolf gang” and grinding behind security staff, Odd Future completed another average day at the office. In terms of an actual musical performance, Odd Future presented a poor set on the main stage, with timing, lyrics and showmanship making up a long list of issues. However, the crowd loved the sheer ludicrousness of the performance and really took to the stage presence of the rap collective, joining in with the crowd surfing, swearing and overall madness.
Most Promising New Material – Bombay Bicycle Club: Other than a slight microphone problem when Jack Steadman came in with the opening line of “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep”, Bombay Bicycle Club continued to build on their rich dynasty of live performances. However, taking Lucy Rose into a deeper part of the band, BBC gave the crowd a surprise taste of new material. Without ditching the guitars or synths, the London four-piece added in extra percussion parts and electro samples for new track “Carry Me”. Another sign of Bombay Bicycle Club heading in the right direction and getting better and better along the way.
Biggest Disappointment – Crystal Castles: The first time I saw Crystal Castles they were astonishing. Condensed and diluted down between the small walls of the Bristol 02 Academy, they created the perfect balance between energetic dance/electro harmony and concrete trippy chaos. Sadly, this time the scales were tipped into the manic and savage side of the line. I like a rough gig as the next person, but the will and determination to cause violence and mayhem with the friday Reading crowd left little room to enjoy the music that we were meant to be watching. When I did catch glimpses of the Crystal Castles performance, I wasn’t given much to go on with. Poor sound output, unequal levels and bitter live transition left the overall experience a fraction of the quality the electro duo are capable of.
Most Exciting Performance – Pulled Apart By Horses: If you tried blinking whilst watching PABH performance at Reading Festival this year, you most certainly would have missed something. Whilst belting out grunge anthem after grunge anthem, the band tossed and trifled their ways around the stage, sporting greasy hair and denim jackets that boiled up the early 1990’s nostalgia over the edges. Nothing watered down, over produced or made out of style, just a roots grunge rock performance pulled straight out of the bag and laced upon a hungover, early sunday morning crowd. By the end of the performance, the tone was set for another maverick day at Reading Festival 2012. Hats off to you boys.
Most Promising New Band – Savages: Gracing the always popular Festival Republic Stage, which has nestled the likes of Chapel Club, Giggs, Lightspeed Champion and Darwin Deez into its chest, Savages continued a long line of traditionally brilliant alternative indie bands. Glistening and subtle guitar tracks planted over a soiled and damp reverberated sound allowed a resplendent display of mood and shudder, matching the feelings created by bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and newer acts, such as Zulu Winter and Toy.
Best Festival Characteristic – Text Message Display: Whilst waiting for bands to take to the main arena, for small fee and to save boredom festival goers were able to text in messages to be shown on the video display either side of the stage. All manner of texts ranging from the rude, crude and downright offensive were exhibited on the screens, allowed anticipation to be eased and a few crowd laughs along the way.
Funniest Act – Stephen K Amos: Armed with his usual dry wit, stiff satire and culturally encompassing one liners, Stephen K Amos was met with a picturesque parallel of smiles and hearty laughter from the Reading crowd. When the majority of festival goers arrive wanting music, ataxia and promiscuous sex with strangers, it’s refreshing to find that the minority enjoy attending big name festivals, such as Reading, to taste simpler entertainment delights, like comedy. Jesters like Stephen K Amos are just what the doctor ordered for some, and a welcome surprise for others.