ROB ROCKS READING: day one
The sky is a tower of cloud, there is mud underfoot, but it’s warm and the vibe is mellow. I arrive at the Richfield Avenue site in time to catch the last squalls of feedback from Fell City Girl. It’s very nice feedback, but not enough for me to form an opinion. I probably would have caught more of their set if I hadn’t been bumbling around aimlessly for 20 minutes trying to find somewhere to exchange my crumpled tickets for that most precious of articles, the wristband. It’s a sense of relief to finally get sorted, and into the arena. I head for the main stage.
Goldie Looking Chain are flooding the field with bouncy Welshness. I arrive just as they launch into “Guns Don’t Kill People…” The scrum of faithful at the front are loving it. Me, I’m starving, so I enjoy the rest of the set with a burger and a beer. “Your Mother’s Got A Penis” is a highlight.
I’m on my own today, due to circumstances beyond my control and the fact that nobody loves me. That’s fine, but I’m not the most gregarious of persons, so I’ve alreay made a pact that today is all about the bands and being observational, and I’ll save the social aspects for tomorrow.
Reading fashion, at least for the ladies, is all about rocking the short skirt, knee-high socks and flowery wellies look. Which is fine, but Kate Moss has clearly got a lot to answer for.
While sat quietly and scribbling in my notebook, i’m offered my first toke of the day. I refuse. Another disadvantage to being on your own – no-one to bail you out if you get silly.
Thirsty Merc (Carling Stage)
Caught the last ten minutes of this Oz combo’s bouncy pop stylings. They’re a smiley bunch, surfer-bloke handsome and the crowd in the Carling tent respond in kind. I think they’ve made some fans. Very reminiscant of Crowded House in places, with a distinct Beatley tang to the harmonies. A band Clare would like, I feel.
The semi-legendary Wedding Present clang through a tight, sharp set that takes me right back to the days when they were scoring top forty hits on a monthly basis. David Gedge is as lovelorn as ever, I see. They present war dispatches from the frontline of the heart, groove-based poetry that twists it’s way into your heart. As you can tell, I really rather liked it. Appropriately, as the set finishes, rain starts to fall.
I skip around a bit in search of a vibe. I find Performance in the Dance tent. An earnest young man in a skirt bleats about guilty feelings while 80s synths squelch behind him. I last two songs.
In the Radio 1 tent, The Dead 60s pump out turgid agit-ska. I saw them supporting the Thrills last year, and they were dull then, too.
14:45, and I circle back round to the Carling tent, where Two Gallants are just kicking off. A pair of San Franciscan dudes on geetar and traps, they hammer out swamp-folk very much in a White Stripes style. OK, but distinctly lacking in showmanship, and trouble with the kit doesn’t help.
On a whim, I head back to the R1 tent for Death From Above 1979. Again, two blokes, guitar and drums. The difference here is the full-bore blast of filth-dirge they spew out, played with a head-crushing intensity. Fast. Loud. Tight. Hard. Blew my head off.
My ears are ringing as I stumble out of the R1 tent, grinning like a loon. Into the dance tent for a bit of a bounce to Dreadzone, who know how to work a crowd, especially one that includes blokes dressed in cow-suits and scantily-dressed ladies whirling pois around. Fun, but i’m hearing whispers about The Subways next door, so I scoot back into the R1 tent.
Juicy nuggets of pop goodness, dispensed by a happy young chappy and his blonde, mini-skirted bassist fiancee. The tent is heaving, and everyone is grinning. Too heaving, actually. I can’t see, and the situtaion is made worse when two German s in sombreros plant themselves right in front of me. I take the hint, and leave for the main stage.
Launching an album the muso press is already calling the best of their career, and I’m rabidly looking forward to it on the strength of the new songs showcased here. I wasn’t initially sure about the Bury boys in a featival setting, always preferring them myself in a late night, thoughtful and drunk kind of mood. They were great here though. Guy prompts a marriage proposal from two lovers in the crowd during “Newborn” (the most romantic song ever to mention a corpse in a bathtub), and gets the mob play-acting and Mexican waving. Glitter cannons go off, and the sun comes out. Result.
Clare calls, to see how I’m doing, and reports that she can hear the festival from our house. That’s money well spent on two day tickets, then. Base camps starts sprouting by the main stage, as folding chairs come out. I sit in the mud, and scribble in my notebook. Somewhere in the distance, the Coral play. Very nice, but I have to be in the mood for pscychedeliscally stuff, and I kind of wasn’t. The crowd response was fine, though, so what do I know.
The Queens of The Stone Age
Much more my speed. “I dunno about you,” Josh Homme Says, “but I’m fucked up already.” Sadly, no. But the set is extraordinary. Classics, stuff from the Desert Sessions (“Punk Rocker’s Blood”), the lost track from Lullabies, “The Fun Machine Took A Shit And Died”, and as a finale, an extraordinary 15 minute breakdown and rebuild of “No-One Knows”. Apparantly, a busted knee meant Josh almost missed the festival. I would have been distraught. As he leaves, he hopes everyone gets laid tonight. What a guy.
As the sky darkens, impromptu fires bloom, fuelled with old Carling mugs and stray bits of whatever’s to hand. The air is heavy with the smell of burning cardboard and dope. I’m either knackered or at least secondarily stoned. A bloke dressed as Batman chats up two girls, while a trio of blokes dressed up as a McDonald’s value meal stroll past. The shake gets especial attention from the ladies.
Like I said, at least secondarily stoned.
The Killers roll out just about all of “Hot Fuss” and it’s splendid. Brandon Flowers is very Duran in white black-trimmed jacket and eye-liner, and the set boasts a sucker 1-2 punch in “Mr. Brightside” and “All The Things That I’ve Done”. I love the “Mrs. Brightside” banner in the crowd, by the way. Slick, glossy, glamourous. Not very Reading, then!
I catch a bit of Lemon Jelly in the Dance Tent. Mostly stuff off the new album, which I haven’t got, and I’m too tired to dance. No matter though. I know what’ll lively me up, and it arrives on the main stage with no fuss or announcement five minutes earlier than expected.
Oh joy. Oh happy wallow. I sing along to everything, screaming when I can, although no bugger can match the nastiness at the back of Black Francis’ throat. David Lovering is a metronome, a machine. Joey Santiago makes his retro-fiitted Gibson sing, cry and bellow. Kim Deal, the only person on the planet who can be that cool while rocking a red pully over a sensible shirt and BHS slacks. She sucks fags down to ash in momonts, yet still sings as sweetly as a schoolgirl. There’s a feeling that bad blood and animosity is being wiped away as we watch, as the Pixies shrug, smile and share wry jokes. Black Francis and Kim share a hug at the end, before they launch into “Hey!” and “Gigantic.” Holy crap, they’re back. No new songs, but who cares when you can cram 80 minutes full with songs about alien abduction and eyeballs and the apocalypse that have 50 thousand people singing along? I’m whooping like a nutcase. Sailing away on a wave of mutilation.
Home. My feet feel like they’ve had a hammer taken to them. I’m ten yards from collpase when I get through the door. But then. I’ve got a comfy bed and a shower to hand, unlike the thousands of willing victims under canvas tonight.
Clare, abed, mumbles and nuzzles. “Have a nice time?” she asks.
I just grin in the dark. I’m shredded, and i’m doing it all again tomorrow. I can’t wait.
*NB all my photos on the day are rubbish. Everything on here has been nabbed off the Mean Fiddler and NME wubshites. Hey, it’s only rock and roll.