Thursday, 28 August 2008
We’re expecting big things from the Friday at this year's Reading Festval, mainly due to the fact that Rage will be tearing the place apart on the main stage later on for the first time since, well, since they played their last UK gig here, eight years ago.
To keep us going in the meantime, however, we thought it would be for the best to take our minds off it and watching some of the other attractions the arena has to offer. First up on the menu was Southend’s These New Puritans on the Festival Republic stage, who tear through a set culled mainly from their debut released earlier in the year and instant classics such as ‘Elvis’ and ‘En Papier’ get those in the know bouncing to their taught and angular electro post-punk with delight while everyone else just seems a little confused by the cacophony. Though we did catch a little bit of Dizzee Rascal hyping the main stage crowd by dropping straight into ‘He’s Just A Rascal’ getting the field moving early on. A shame we were off elsewhere then.
Later on Friendly Fires get the ball rolling for an evening of synth-laden indie-pop/jerky punk that’s oh so of-the-moment. Luckily they have the tracks to back it up and a set including singles “Photobooth’ as well as Jamie Principal and Frankie Knuckles classic, ‘Your Love’ is a delight to behold and culminates in what seems less festival appearance as an entire carnival on stage with endless confetti being fired out into the crowd. All a good thing.
Following this up are French band, The Teenagers who answer the question as to whether they’re trend-following scenesters or a genuine pop act and in it for the long haul by reeling out an array of this from their recent debut and hyping an ecstatic crowd who fully lose-it when underground electro-hit and raunchy classic in the making ‘Homecoming’ is doled out. Perfect pop music for a sunny afternoon in a big green field.
Next on were Castle Donnington’s Late Of The Pier, who, fresh of the back of releasing the most hyped debut record of the year, are evidently going to be this year’s band to have seen. With the tent packed to the rafters and splitting at the scenes the proceed with a familiar set that never gets stale and everyone promptly goes bananas to big single ‘Space And The Woods’ and does stop for love nor money. This is a flawless set from a band that is only going to go through the stratosphere. THE band to say you saw, even if you were asleep back in camp.
Blacks hoods, arms behind backs and orange jumpsuits. That is the sight that finally greets us, eight years almost to the day since Rage Against The Machine last this site.
What proceeds to unfold is a nothing less than a master class in how to play a live show that names such as Daft Punk could learn from. Dropping straight into ‘Bombtrack’, statement made, they swiftly ditch the outfits and really plough into a set that is so full of hits it’s hard to believe that they stem from only three albums. None-the-less, this is the case, and it is easily enough to justify their reformation to any naysayers, skeptical Rage may have sold out their values in search for a quick buck. No, seemingly, they have something new to say that demands the appropriate platform from which to deliver it. For which the background of tracks like ‘Know Your Enemy’, ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’, ‘Bulls On Parade’ and, of course, ‘Killing In The Name’ are absolutely perfect.
With the sublime addition of ‘Ashes In The Fall’ in the set, not a huge track of theirs, but played so well it reduces various members of the crowd to tears with the pure emotional power of the band. As a group, we don’t quite have the words to express how stunning this set truly was, suffice to say it’s not often a band can reduce grown men to weeping quietly but openly in a field. All that really needs to be said is that this is band that went away and have returned in better form than ever. Spurn this comeback and you’ll only be hurting yourself.
Opening up the day on the Alternative Stage is George Pringle who, at twelve in the afternoon, has the un-enviable task of trying to get the best out of a bunch of stragglers who have been drunk in a field for a minimum of two days. Fortunately for all, her individual mix of lo-fi electro and streams of consciousness layered on top. The very laid back crowd lap up the gentle beats, basking in the beauty of her voice when she drops into to full blown singing, as opposed to her usual spoken word style. Music this interesting needs to be heard and, while it might be over the head of your average Joe, anyone with a vested interest in refreshing and inventive music should be keeping an eye on this young lady.
Fucked Up do nothing less than grab the stage by the throat and absolutely tear it apart with their brand of Black Flag inspired old school hardcore punk. Vocalist Pink Eyes is, as per usual, shirtless, vast and right in the faces of the crowd, handing them the microphone to scream the key lyrics for the songs themselves. The set, comprising mostly of tracks from their last album, Hidden World, storm the tent and cause wave upon wave of crowd surfers to float across the top of the mosh pit with Pink Eyes even catching half of them himself, even ending up with a sweaty human hat at one point! Leaving us with a closing salvo of “Crusades’, ‘David Comes To Life’ and a track from their, as of yet, unreleased new album we leave damaged, damp and incredibly happy, arm in arm with Pink Eyes who took it upon himself to leave, not with his band, but with the rest of us having clambered over the barrier for some post-set banter.
Justice step onto stage behind their traditional wall of Marshall amps along with their signature brightly lit cross and drop straight into album opener, ‘Genesis’. The crowd promptly goes completely mental and continues in that fashion for the next forty minutes. The likes of “D.A.N.C.E.”, ‘DVNO’ and the ‘Never Be Alone Again’ remix completely floor us in their majesty and keep me night on us nigh on as happy as Rage Against the Machine did on Friday. And that is saying something.
Playing surprisingly early on in the day for a band who have just released their acclaimed second album and so, correspondingly, Mystery Jets pack out the NME/Radio 1 tent at four the afternoon with a set of classics and new material form the aforementioned new record. Songs such as ‘Hideaway’ ‘Young Love’ and ‘Two Doors Down’ have thousands upon thousands of hands in the air singing along to their perfect pop choruses, regardless of the fact that the album was only released around a month ago, testament to their ability to write sublime pop hooks whilst retaining their indie credibility. The best reaction is, of course, saved for the HUGE old single, ‘You Can’t Fool Me Dennis’ which, despite being played early on, more or less incites an afternoon riot. Without a doubt, these boys will soon be back headlining this tent.
The least enviable task of the weekend, that of opening the Dance Stage at a festival comprised mainly of rock, metal and indie fans on the final day of the weekend, is left to French electro duo The Shoes. They hit the stage and drop straight into their blissed out remix of Primary 1’s ‘Hold Me Down’, which seems to be the right choice going by the weary expressions on the faces of the few people who’ve made it down at this time in the afternoon, as it eases them in before they start to up the tempo with some blistering live reconstructions of their songs, with recent debut single, ‘Knock Out’ sounding particularly fantastic. They even manage to get the wear souls at the front dancing, singing along and generally create a fun atmosphere, leaving us all wanting more as well as expecting big things from the duo. Justice… watch your backs.
The Death Set was a wholly different proposition. These guys always mean business and, luckily, they seem to be in the business of making party starting, thrashy electro-punk tracks that are fast enough to tear of you’re face and funky enough to make your hips shake at the same time; and interesting proposition. They take the stage and make sure we’re all aware of their intentions to turn the tent into an early afternoon party and immediately drop into their custom intro which mixes up the Jackson 5 and Salt n’ Peppa before they bounce straight into ‘Impossible’ and hips and fists start shaking as heads bang and inhibitions roll away. They continue to thrash out tracks from their two EPs and debut album to an excitable crowd, in amongst shouts of, “Motherf*cking Death Set!’ (see albums tracks ‘MFDS’ for an explanation…) before the guitarist smashes his guitar on stage and frontman Johnny Siera, failing at first to do the same, sets his own guitar alight before repeatedly dashing the aflame instrument against the stage until it’s remnants are littered all around and the whole marvellous ordeal is over as abruptly as it began.
The prospect of reviewing a Holy Fuck show is a little daunting. They are one of those bands whose music is so layered and complex, drawing from a range of influences so wide that it’s a hard task to know where to begin. The best place seems to be to simply state that they are entirely spellbinding.
Drawing their set from last year’s simply stunning debut long player, the majority of the crowd stand stock still in awed admiration as the band meld sounds together into the beautiful, twisted electronica they have been producing for years. Building to a climax, they draw to a close with ‘Lovely Allen’, a track so majestic it feels as if the band and audience alike may just float off into the heavens at any moment.
Holy Fuck are, today, simply inspirational.
Crystal Castles enter amidst a hailstorm of cheering, appearing mysteriously out of a cloud of smoke and waves of reverb and bass. At this point they already appear to have the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands and we start to wander if this will render the rest of the set somewhat moot.
We could not be more wrong as, over the course of the next half hour Crystal Castles go on to justify every single ounce of praise that has ever been heaped upon them. The music remains dark, menacing and atmospheric whilst being simultaneously euphoric at the same time.
A strange combination, and when coupled with vocalist Alice Glass staring out from beneath her fringe with eyes that suggest hints of controlled derangement soon to be unleashed the whole affair becomes truly life-affirming and songs such as ‘Air War’, ‘Loving and Caring’, ‘Crimewave’ and ‘Knights’ feel more like anthems for a generation’s war on the mundane rather than mere 8-bit electro tunes. Possibly the one band of the weekend to make sure you see as soon as you’ve left the festival grounds.
These Montreal-ites enter the stage to chants ripped straight from the somewhat epic minute opener of last year’s ‘Fancy Footwork’ album as hordes of people bellow out, “Chromeo-oh-oh!” until the band step up and belt out a ‘best of’ set compiling every last classic funk filled track from their two albums and the crowd lap up every second.
The whole affair has a much more slick and laid back vibe to it after the deranged chaos of the Canadians who took to the stage previously, Crystal Castles. This is not to say that they go any less brilliantly though, a fact testified by the band having to physically stop playing in the middle of Mama’s Boy when the chants become so loud the music itself is drowned out.
Couple that with their cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing’ and you have a recipe for the most fun set of the weekend, though The Death Set come a close second.
Simian Mobile Disco enter and play in a manner similar to that of Crystal Castles, mysteriously draped in smoke, rendering them almost invisible for much of the set.
This, however, only adds to the atmosphere of their acid house and techno infused brand of electro as opener ‘Sleep Deprivation’ creeps in slowly, before the bass slams in and the entire tent bounces as one. Needless to say that single line sums up the rest of the set, as Simian Mobile Disco blast out tune after tune with dancefloor-devastating timing.
Judging by the quality of their last, this set justifies buying the new album as soon as it appears, as the closing barrage of “I Believe’ reverberates around our skulls.
Bounding straight into their opening track with all the subtlety of a horses hoof to the chest, maximal Kings Digitalism proceed to pound us further and further into the ground with a perfect display of how to perform live electro.
Hyping the crowd, including hook laden synths, memorable vocals and, of course, a cover of The Cure’s ‘Fire In Cairo’ that feasibly warrants the term “genius”, Digitalism have got this down to a fine art, and as the set reaches its climax at the peak of ‘Zdarlight’s’ build up there are more hands raised from grinning bodies than you could ever expect in a tent that’s so hot it is threatening to melt on us which, and trust us here, is most definitely a good thing.
So with that, and Metallica being shit, the weekend is over, leaving me to pass out repeatedly in the guest area before crawling into bed with thoughts of facing the delightful prospect of getting the hell out of this town.
The Fugees - Ready Or Not (Drop the Lime Remix)
Prepare for the next Voodoo, because that's going to have by far and away the best line up yet (taking into account we've recently had Foamo, Andy George, Mystery Jets, Jack Beats, Plimsouls and Shadowdancer and even a little on the spot mix from Erol Alkan, that's pretty good going!) so make sure 19th September is free in your diaries.