Saturday, 2 August 2008

Reading Festival 2007, Friday

Reading Festival, 24-26 August 2007


Have you ever had a moment of supreme cleverness that was utterly ruined by that ol’ bandit of British summertime, the weather? This year’s Reading was plagued by scorching sun, endless clear skies and teenagers with dribbly ice lollies running down their hands. Cunningly, in preparation for this onslaught, I decided to do what I would otherwise consider an act of cowardice of almost French proportions – commute to the Reading festival.

Yes, like a total loser, I commuted by train every morning and night to a festival that was dry and tent-friendly. Having read the warnings on the official website, it seemed that about a third of the camping area was out of action, so I thought I was cunningly avoiding a three day mudbath (having already emerged, weak of limb and trenchy of foot, from this year’s Somme-like Glastonbury). And so, inevitably, it was a beautiful, baking Indian summer weekend. Still, at least I left my wellies at home – everyone else looked like a bit of a tit in their Dunlop greens and burnt pink shoulders.

It’s only fitting to come to the actual music two paragraphs later, as this year’s Reading festival is widely recognised as being one of the worst line-ups for about five years. This I blame solely on the fact that the year’s new bands have been a veritable mid-priced buffet of limp pickings and regurgitated meat and potatoes, most of whom have a cutesy shtick of speaking in accents that they wish they had and having a ‘who can write the most banal lyric and get away with it?’ competition.

So, pleasantly for you, none of this tosh will be covered in the following review.

Clashing brilliantly with the smug sunshine, The Horrors creep on to the stage for one of their typically uncompromising festival sets. Faris Rotter just gets badder and badder, prowling around like a captive animal flanked by the white-eyed zombie Spider Webb and Josh von Grimm’s truly terrifying perma-grin. No doubt they’re dying to get back to the safety of night time winter gigging, but luckily none of the band seem to have got any colour in their cheeks this summer.

Another absurdly inappropriate-for-festivals band takes to the Main stage, with an equally absurd moustache. Interpol are finally back on the live circuit and Carlos D has cultivated a bizarre Wild West ‘tache, following a trend started by Matty from White Heat (the club night and record label), who this weekend is spotted looking increasingly like a 1920s strongman, right down to the extreme Brylcreemed side parting. Needless to say, Interpol’s set is a perfect mix of older stuff – ‘Evil’ has become a complete classic – and new stuff that’s received with equal rapture. Luckily, and somewhat unusually for festivals, they avoid the kind of sound problems that so often mar bands that go beyond noisy guitars and heavyweight drumming. The only thing is, it’s still really, really sunny. And that’s just wrong. Interpol, I’m afraid, need a goddamn light show. They need smoke. Although Carlos does try to help by doing his smoking and playing at the same time trick which, even with the moustache, makes him one of the most attractive men in the universe. I wouldn’t have believed it either.

As the sun finally gives in for the day, Patrick Wolf enters to a packed out and positively bleating crowd in the Carling tent. Every song is met with squeals and cheers as he shows just how much he’s matured as a showman over the past year, strutting about the stage besequined and pouting to his sexy beats and heartrending violin. If you haven’t seen him, or even if you haven’t seen him for a while, now is the time to go and watch Wolf as he hits his stride as one of the most original and exciting artists in the country.

And so to a band who hit their stride about twelve years ago but are still full of the same kind of teenage energy as they had five albums ago – Ash headline the Radio 1 tent, returning to live music as a three piece after apparently giving Charlotte the heave-ho earlier this year. And, I’m afraid to say, they do indeed struggle. It seems they’ve also forgotten to tell their soundman about their new found trio-dom too, as Tim’s guitar lines barely make it above the clatter of Rick’s ever brilliant drumming and ‘Darth’ Mark Hamilton’s bass. As always, this Ash set is a Greatest Hits show, stopping off at ‘Kung Fu’, ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Orpheus’ (though sadly bypassing the massively under-rated Nuclear Sounds album). Newie ‘End Of The World’ provokes a mass sing-along and they encore with their debut single, ‘Jack Names The Planets’ which, and I know you probably don’t need reminding but please, humour me, is THIRTEEN years old. And they still look like awkward, sexy teenagers.

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