So we’ve had a couple of days to shower, shit and surreptitiously massage our pounding heads. Spring cleaning well and truly completed, we thought instead of the same old festival round-up we’d give you 7 things that we learnt at the conclusion of this weekends triumphant Reading festival 2015.
So, here goes nothing…
1) Hip-hop/rap DOES work at a traditionally rock based festival.
First things first, Kendrick does drop a few brilliant clangers - he notes after his track ‘i’ that ‘it [the Reading crowd] kinda reminds me of Compton’. Yes. You heard that right. Fucking Compton! But this hilarity aside, he is a remarkable performer. His music is lush, clever and well deserving of the sweaty, sardine-like crowd that flocks to see his performance. He offers a stark reminder to other rappers exactly how it should be done: live bands accenting the genuine - often overlooked - musical integrity and nuance that is synonymous with good rap music. But Kendrick doesn’t stop there, as he couples a wonderful array of songs with a humble and open approach to his performance. Ultimately, by doing so, he brings those into his circle that might not have been so interested. Rap is traditionally an extremely personal and insular exercise in lyrical indulgence, with pictures, stories and experiences that often seem to have come from a different planet. Creating a barrier, therefore, between yourself and your audience is festival-suicide and Kendrick understands this. He’s a genuine joy to watch and proves he’s got exactly what it takes to headline this festival, and more, in the future.
2) Foals stake the biggest claim of the weekend to be future Reading headliners.
Catching the flying bouquet of Metallica and co, Foals prove themselves something different in an exciting, energetic and confident set.
Heading into their fourth album now, Foals no longer offer a one-dimensional musical output. They are adaptable, bright and boast a wealth of songs that resonate in a huge way; Spanish Sahara is the pick of the bunch. They’ve already headlined Bestival, but you feel like with Foals, there are much bigger things still to come.
Watch this space.
3) Jamie T is as good as ever.
It took him a while, mind you. 5 years to be precise, but as he stamps his almighty mark upon the main stage on Sunday, it’s like he’s never been away.
Dosed up by a carnival-like atmosphere, Jamie T’s Sunday night set is a roaring outpour of aggression and positivity from a man that once-upon-a-time was set for bigger things than have perhaps transpired for the Wimbledon-born, man of the people. With the impressive crowd hanging on the end of his every last lyrical observation, Treay’s 40 minute set triumphantly proves that he has managed to trace back his footprints to re-discover his mojo in a way that is as good, if not better than it ever was before.
Welcome back, Jamie. It’s good to see you again.
4) Metallica are painfully boring. So, so painfully boring.
I get why they’re here and I guess, who am I to paint any kind of criticism on their glittered career? They were once brilliant. But this is it. They were once brilliant, but it’s now just so tiresome to watch them try and pretend that what they are doing is anything new or refreshing.
It’s just not.
I’m sure there are lots of people that enjoyed what they saw, but we as music lovers are always prone to a bit of nostalgia or ‘fan-boyism’, regardless of who or what it is that we obsess over.
Let’s please, please have something new in the hardcore scene. PLEASE. Why is it so impossible for metal/hardcore bands to rise up mainstream bills these days? Of course, music has and always will be a cyclical process. So it could well be that the trends we’re currently seeing in the hardcore scenes are just temporary. Perhaps its just something of a mimicking of an Airport bagage return, with the same old bands going round and round in a recycled festival circle in a horrifically snoozy period. But can that really explain it? This boredom seems to have been going on forever.
Where is the excitement? Where are the rising stars?
It’s worth noting that underground hardcore scenes are often far healthier than that of other genres, but propagating these low-fi successes on a grander scale seems like such an uphill struggle at the moment. Metal and hardcore need a new bastion to carry their messages and extreme musicality forward on a broader scale, not yet another rendition of Enter the Sandman; it was released 22 years ago, for fuck’s sake. It’s time for this musical sleeping giant to awaken and start showing genres such as Indie who rules the roost. Here, its designated representative, Metallica, come up woefully short in delivering anything other than lukewarm enjoyment.
5) Catfish are way more popular than we ever realised.
Just to rub salt into the wounds of hardcore-sympathizers, Catfish and the Bottlemen have a staggering crowd. I’m not really sure why it is they seem so popular at Reading. Sure, they have some catchy tunes and a good frontman to go with it, but everything Catfish produce has all been done before. I’m certainly intrigued to see where they go from here as they have bags of potential, but clearly, as Catfish play to an absolutely rammed NME tent on Saturday, there’s reason for the fanfare-like environment that they are playing in. Perhaps there is greater substance to these guys than I’m giving credit for.
They resonate in a unique way at this year’s festival and that can’t be underestimated.
6) Reading is still such an important festival.
Look left, look right, look up and look down. It’s littered with success stories, progression and bands rising up the bills at staggering pace. Reading has always been such a staple foundation for smaller bands to assert themselves in a big way and it’s so reassuring and positive to see bands such as The Maccabees and even Bring Me the Horizon grow year-on-year. It’s a timely reminder that hard work does in fact pay off, which makes Reading an exciting place to be. Killing time for an hour watching someone at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon can seem a chore one year, but a year later is an exhausted, smug anecdote about how you saw the next big thing before everybody else.
It’s also an unescapable reality that Reading does cater for the younger generations, but again, this should be seen as a massive positive for everyone involved. We all know the current struggle for music amid a shambolic state of external affairs - ALAS, GUITAR MUSIC IS DYING! BLA BLA BLA - and so to expose the next generation of listeners to real, live music is a wonderful thing. It sustains the cycles of musical life and hopefully, this year will prove no different to the latest batch of GCSE graduates…
7) BUT! Fuck me, someone out there needs to re-think what’s going on past 11.30.
It’s a choice between a silent disco… Or your tent. What’s up with that? What are they thinking giving a nightlife choice between a silent disco or your roll-mat, scrunched up in a damp corner of your tent?
It’s certainly one to think over. I’ve been to Reading a few years myself and have been through the classic GCSE rite of passage, so it’s only a few years ago that I was hanging about in a campsite thinking that life had bloody well arrived! But even so, a little re-shuffle of the nightlife wouldn’t go a-miss. Yes, Reading caters to a slightly younger demographic, but as I wander round the festival, I see people of all ages. Let’s not be lazy as a festival now, Reading. It’s time to step up and start getting something a little more representative of your line up as a whole: eclecticism on all fronts, please.
So that’s it from us for another year at Reading and Leeds. Here’s to a million more of those stinking hangovers and stonking line-ups.
I’d say I can’t wait for next year, but for now, that wouldn’t be true. Ask me in a week or so when I’ve flushed the Pringles and Cheesestrings out my system and you’ll hear wistful, romantic memories of yet another brilliant Reading weekend.
Until next time,