The August Bank Holiday weekend tends to signal the closing stages of summer and hordes of revellers descended upon Richfield Avenue in Reading for three days of live music and entertainment. While the headliners and many of the main stage acts rolled back the years, there were also plenty of new bands around the weekend, including many of those oh-so-hyped bands you’ve been meaning to check out since their appearances in the lists at the beginning of the year.
Friday 23 August
Drawing a huge crowd into the Radio 1 tent, Dry the River opened the festival with a short but sweet set that was mainly drawn from their debut album ‘Shallow Bed’. While the new song aired hints that they’re going to expand to a more multifaceted sound as they aim for arenas with their second album, the older ones still soared through the air with the falsetto vocals and harmonies gently waking everyone up. Sometimes the Alternative Stage at Reading can provide a brilliant restbite from bands and this was once again the case on early Friday afternoon when Twitter sensation Rob Delaney came on stage and had the whole crowd in stitches with his smutty observations on growing up and life in general. Later on, sketch troupe Idiots of Ants would also raise more than a few chuckles with their inane and brilliantly silly set.
The Computers opened their set with a three-song blast from ‘Love Triangles, Hate Squares’ and they may well have been the best dressed people at the festival with their wonderful burgundy suits. The short punk-meets-Motown sound had everyone dancing and the audience was in the palm of Alex Kershaw hands as he confidently laid out his gospel spiel. Slightly clashing with The Computers was Jeffrey Lewis, one of the most talented singer-songwriters around. Performing to a shockingly small crowd in the Alternative Stage, Jeff and his latest band The Rain, played a set heavily drawn from his last album ‘A Turn in the Dream-Songs’. The New York comic book artist has the perfect blend of humour and heartfelt self-depreciation in his songs that it’s hard not to be drawn into his perfectly described world. With ‘If Life Exists’ and ‘How Can It Be’ both sounding so personal and covering topics as important as love and the nature of life itself, he also treated the crowd to a performance of his ‘low-budget documentary’ (a Powerpoint presentation of comic book pages) celebrating the life of Alan Moore. With brilliant artwork and little-known facts about the celebrated creator of Watchmen, this was a fascinating treat to see not only Jeff’s talent for drawing but also his ability to craft a cohesive biography into a very funny song. Jeff also played new track ‘WWPRD?’, a protest song that asks the question on everyone’s lips – ‘What would Pussy Riot do?’
Alkaline Trio rolled back the years by performing a greatest hits set to a dedicated crowd in the Lock-Up stage. Treated like returning heroes, ‘Radio’ and ‘Private Eye’ still sound as fresh today as when they first hit the airwaves. With a crowd in full voice throughout, this was a punk-rock show full of communal spirit and admiration between bands and fans. Lauren Aquilina’s gorgeous pop songs were also a lovely antidote to the endless guitar bands over on the BBC Introducing stage and hint towards a girl, who despite still only being 18 years old, has a massive future ahead of her with a sound that will happily find a home on the independent radio stations and with a more commercial crowd.