A little bit corporate, somewhat dirty, with its big wire fencing, dusty paths, and discarded chip trays, Reading Festival isn’t one I usually cite as one of my favourites, sometimes lacking the spirit and joie de vivre that percolates smaller festivals. However, with a big reputation, big bucks, and a big profile, it does attract some of the world’s biggest names and often has a line up glittering with long time stars and those rising up. This year was no exception, and with a Sunday day ticket and one heck of a hangover, we set out to Berkshire.
Django Django inspired some of the best dance moves of the day, with the jerking chicken dance coming out for Default, and some brilliantly synchronised Egyptian style moves for Cairo. At 2pm on a lazy Sunday afternoon, their slot probably wasn’t the best one for such infectious party music, but the NME tent still want off with a bang. In what can only be described as a Bolanesque sequined ensemble Johnny Lloyd, lead singer of Tribes, led the band in a vital and intense performance showcasing their new album Baby. Their rougueish spirit was evident, and Sappho and We Were Children in particular wrapped the crowd into their tearaway fold.
Next it was a dash to the BBC Introducing session, to watch the lovely Rachel Sermanni entrance the crowd. Rich and warm vocals, tantalising strumming, all enhanced by the ‘girls’ and their supporting strings, Miss Sermanni managed to captivate even the most unassuming members of the crowd just looking for a place to sleep off the night before, with one member of the audience articulating what everyone was thinking when he shouted out ‘I want to give you a cuddle!’ Selected by the BBC’s Ally McCrae, and about to embark on a European tour, Rachel’s debut album Under The Mountains is out on September 17th, and this performance will have driven a fair few new fans to purchase.
Those familiar with It’s All Happening will know that wherever The Joy Formidable are, we’re not far behind, and today was no exception. The fandom of a certain Mr Grohl has certainly done them no harm, and it was great to see thousands of people singing out long time live favourites such as Austere and The Greatest Light… From the first quivering notes of Whirring, to the final elongated feedback drenched chords of the set, Ritzy, Matt and Rhydian did what they always did – made one heck of noise, but also experimented more with volumes and tempos than previously, soothing and softening before another fuck off massive crescendo, creating glacial soundscapes that explode on a moment, perhaps a sign of what is to come from the forthcoming second album.
2:54 are dark, brooding and visceral to listen to and to see live, and Collette Thurlow’s warm and charming pleasure at seeing the crowd moved by her music made the Thurlow sisters performance all the more disarming. Kicking off with new single Sugar, they slinked and stomped through the set, all thundery skies and gritty basslines, their sweet and sinister songs proving a highlight of the afternoon.
‘Guess who’s next’ Dan asked, ‘I’ll give you a clue. It’s coming up in several months. ‘
Er, a holiday?
It was ‘winter’ and the band Zulu Winter. Dreadful game to play, brilliant band to watch. Swimming has been one of It’s All Happening’s tracks of the summer, introduced to us by the lovely Amazing radio, and its hypnotic halcyonic vibe is not alone in Zulu Winter’s live set. Bolshy and defiant drums underpinned smooth electronic feeling melodies, in what was something of a surprise stand out, full of refulgent splendour.
The respective members of Deaf Club don’t look like they should be a band, nor capable of emitting such menacing and mesmerising indie noir, but their lack of contrived image only serves to highlight the truth – that Jen Long has definitely picked up on of the UKs most talented new bands. Also on the BBC Introducing stage we caught the end of Dinghus Khan, an 8 piece band whose stage set up is almost confrontational, lining up in a row to face the crowd and deliver their raucous and rambunctious pop.
Ricky Wilson is always an entertainer, and The Kaiser Chiefs performance got any of the festival site who weren’t yet in the party spirit ready for a riot. A scratchy throat meant that some of the vocal delivery wasn’t as strong as it could be, but since the slight musical decline post their debut album, The Kaiser Chiefs are all about having fun and putting on a performance, and thus didn’t disappoint. Another band who whack up the fun factor are King Charles (and not just due to the questionable hair styles inspired by the band’s namesake) but a result of their shambolic sea shanty style tunes that had the whole of the Festival Republic stage tent bouncing and bounding.
Having gone through an image change with the release of last year’s album Skying, The Horrors played an epic charge of songs that brutally assaulted the senses whilst fully immersing and swooping you up within them. Somewhat alone in the current climate, they make intelligent and intense rock that absorbs layers from the musical canon, fused together to make their own original output. Watching The Horrors live feels like a natural negotiation, tugging and pulling at the gut and the heart, a tangle of bittersweet vocals, driving bass lines and bristling energy.