Reading: Saturday and Sunday
We started late on Saturday after a boat ride down the Thames to fetch some beer. The first band we saw were the Shins, of unsubtle plug in Garden State fame. Apparently they’ll change your life. They sounded alright but I’m not converted yet.
Young Knives were pretty good, refreshing my memory of last summer’s hits. Thanks to backpacking and not have a radio in my room, my keeping track of new music has been a bit slack the past year. I thought I would have heard more of the current big thing Pigeon Detectives before I saw them, but I only managed to recognise two songs. The rest of the crowd were certainly au fait and the atmosphere in the NME tent was great.
I think I saw some of the Tokyo Police Club but they obviously made no impression on me. Bloc Party had the tunes and were basically flawless but they didn’t really offer anything special so I got distracted by teenagers on piggyback getting stuff thrown at them by angry people behind them. And the bar.
Arcade Fire were one of the highlights of the weekend with what are now bona fide anthems and their insane percussion section. The sunset halfway through their set was a nice touch.
We Are Scientists are in many ways like Jimmy Eat World with their epic, vaguely indie rock and the fact they are well underrated. While everyone was getting to the Main Stage for the Chilis, I went up to the relatively sparse NME Tent to catch the Californian three-piece. The set was half a showcase for the last album and half a bunch of new songs, which are sounding promising. The only problem was I couldn’t hear their whimsical banter between songs.
I caught six songs of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, only one of which I’d heard before – that shit Hey Oh one. What Hits? indeed. Saw a bit of Hot Hot Heat, who were decent enough.
This is how out of the new music loop I am. I own not one album by a band who were playing on the Sunday. It was a good opportunity to flit between the Carling and NME stages to take in some random bands and see what all this New Rave fuss was about.
Pull Tiger Tail were good. Hadouken! were better. Ben, the lucky get, found some chump’s unused VIP pass lying on the ground so went to watch the band from backstage alongside folk from the Klaxons, CSS and the NME.
New Young Pony Club did exactly what it says on the tin: they were new, they were young, and they were pony. The only memorable part of the Operator Please set was when NME editor Conor McNicholas walked past me, and it turns out he’s quite short! If someone like him can get into a position of power, there’s hope for me yet.
After missing Kubichek! every time they played live when I was in Newcastle, I finally saw them and they were rather frenetic. Cold War Kids and Devendra Banhart were up next and they were probably the most impressive of the weekend’s “new” music. At first I thought CWK’s singer sounded like James Walsh out of Starsailor, but then it transpired that he was from the States, so he’s allowed to sing in that accent. Banhart wasn’t inaccessibly quirky as I’d been lead to believe though at one point he took the unusual step of bringing some “random” members of the crowd on stage to sing a song.
Former Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley was looking and sounding good. We saw about half of CSS who were enjoyable enough before heading over to see Seasick Steve, a grizzled old slide guitarist playing some swampy delta blues. Completely anachronistic at Reading, but brilliant. Everyone was chanting “Seasick! Seasick!” between songs and he said that made a nice change from “Steve-o! Steve-o!” which he got at his last gig. Of course, everyone took this as a cue to start chanting “Steve-o!” which was a bit harsh on the kindly old man, but he was a good sport.
LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy doesn’t look like he should be fronting a hip dance-rock outfit. A session drummer at best, maybe. I might buy their latest critically-acclaimed album, but I was slightly put off by their set-closer, the lyrics to which are “yeah” ad infinitum. And Daft Punk Is Playing In My House needs more cowbell.
We decided to be poncey and buy some Thai food then returned to see the NME Tent’s headliners the Klaxons. It seemed like if you didn’t have a glowstick you weren’t getting in, so we tried to listen from outside, but the strains of the Smashing Pumpkins drifting over from the Main Stage got in the way of the New Rave so we cut our losses and went to end the festival at the Silent Disco.