Saturday 23 August
Big Scary Monsters’ signings Gnarwolves were the openers on the Main Stage and the brash punk-rockers could not believe they’d been given such an impressive slot. With no messing about, they had plenty of their loyal fans in tow and showcased the rewards that hard work and belief in your music can get you. Praising the DIY promoters who have put them on over the past couple of years and helped them get this far, we just hope their impassioned plea of ‘Don’t just go to Reading Festival. Go to gigs in your town’ as well does not fall on deaf ears… A real success story and it was heart-warming to see a band relishing the opportunity to play to such a big crowd – and encourage circle pits amongst them. Dry the River were also on the Main Stage and while mixing up songs from ‘Shallow Bed’ and new album ‘Alarms in the Heart’, they proved just what a special band they are going to be – and how they’re going to soundtrack your cold autumn evenings. The songs from ‘Alarms in the Heart’ are the next level up from those beautifully structured orchestral older tracks. The band clearly have festivals and arenas in mind – don’t be surprised to see them in more prominent slots next year.
We then headed to the Pit (the same stage as the Lock Up but under a different name on the Saturday) to see Death of the Blogger favourites Basement. The tent was rammed and so many people were screaming the words to every song at the top of their voices. An unashamedly emo band who happily sit alongside and probably inspired Moose Blood in the UK’s burgeoning scene, the band also take influences from other genres to create a sound that is tailor-made for gigs like this. Their guitarist was wearing a ‘Morning Glory’-era Oasis jumper and there’s a clear 90s rock & roll influence, while they’re also not afraid to dip their toes into heavier riffage – especially on the Pixies-inspired ‘Covet’. After their Glastonbury and 2000 Trees performances, we were expecting Wolf Alice’s Festival Republic performance to be absolutely rammed. Sadly this wasn’t the case but it didn’t seem to affect the London four-piece in any way as they went on to deliver their well-toned festival-friendly set in style. That album really is going to be something special.
Happyness on the BBC Introducing Stage specialise in slacker indie-pop and really should arrange to go out on a tour with Radstewart. Their 25-minute set was full of Pavement-esque quirks and melodies that will get stuck in your heads for days or weeks afterwards. They’re just the kind of band you want to discover on a stage like this. We Are Scientists have been playing big festivals for years now and ‘It’s a Hit’, ‘After Hours’ and ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ still remain as fresh today. A band who would be perfect for parties as they just seem to be intent on making sure everyone has a good time, their set was all too brief, although in a way this added an extra edge to their performance. Arctic Monkeys headlined with an ‘AM’-heavy set, but something just seemed to be missing… Normally such a strong live band and accomplished festival headliners, the crowd didn’t seem to get into it and there was a somewhat muted reception. Very odd considering how there was a lot of excitement before and the likes of ‘R U Mine?’, ‘Brianstorm’ and of course ‘I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor’ are made for late nights at festivals…
Sunday 24 August
The Sunday saw one of the strongest bills to have ever graced the Lock Up stage. Within seconds of Toronto’s Pup starting, we think the whole tent had found a new favourite band. Fresh from a support slot to The Hives and We Are Scientists at Brixton Academy, the Canadians made no bones about their mantra: ‘We’re here to play some rock and roll’. And they did just that in some style. Recalling Joyce Manor or an angry Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin but with added early Weezer-style pop hooks, they’re a band bursting with party anthems – so many we think they could make Andrew W.K. put on his dancing shoes… Baby Godzilla have a reputation for being one of the best live bands on the circuit right now and their slot in the Lock Up was one that you will kick yourself if you missed. Within seconds, band members were ducking in and out of the crowd with instruments in tow, arms and legs were flailing everywhere and equipment was being climbed on. It never let up and culminated with an amp going crowdsurfing and a guitarist playing outside the tent to innocent passers-by. Heavy and brutal rock riffs with plenty of healthy screaming, they were probably the most exciting and entertaining band of the weekend. The Wonder Years write perfect 3-minute pop songs and their 40-minute set seemed to be over in a flash. Telling how ‘Being pop-punk is all about growing up together and keeping the scene alive’, the group really did seem thrilled to be playing at Reading. Another band who have graduated from playing small venues in rugby clubs in small towns to a big stage like this, they knew how special an opportunity it was and did not want to let anyone down. Triumphantly overcoming jetlag as they delivered songs just begging to be sung along to, hopefully they’ll have picked up some new fans to join their uber-passionate following…
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are perhaps a little under-rated over here. A real shame as their C90-style alternative pop is just gorgeous. Coming across like an American Belle & Sebastien with a more eclectic taste, their songs are perfect for dancing, singing and really should be on the soundtrack of every upcoming indie rom-com. They couldn’t have contrasted more with the band we saw – and enjoyed just as much – after them, Frank Turner’s Mongol Horde. Set to return to their day jobs, this was the last Mongol Horde show for a while and they weren’t prepared to let it go with a whimper. Frank prowled the stage like a man possessed, went stage diving (we hope his back has recovered after his operation last year…) and screamed his heart out in thrash stylings that recall the heaviest moments of Million Dead, Gallows et al. It was a ferocious finale to what may not have been a vintage Reading, but was one that proved just how strong the current emo, rock and punk scene is.