Saturday, 2 August 2008

Reading Festival 2007, Saturday

Reading Festival, 24-26 August 2007,

Before you ask, yes, yes, it took me hours to negotiate my way home on London’s delightful night bus system. Returning not-exactly-refreshed by train the next morning, I reward myself with the once-famed milkshakes from that stall near the Radio 1 tent. Happily, it turns out they’ve removed one of the ingredients – they’ve removed the ice cream. The main ingredient. So I have a huge paper cup of milk with a mint aero in it for lunch. Mm-mmm, that really made me feel better about getting zero hours of sleep and being thrust back into the rock’n’roll barbeque.

Trudging back to the Radio 1 tent, I am equally horrified to discover that The Twang are higher up on the bill than Dinosaur Jr. What did I say about the line-up? Anyway, the Dinos are fantastic, they sound enormous and thankfully I’m not the only one with my air guitar out. Few bands can combine alternative noise-grunge with absolutely ripping shredwankery and still sound this brill. J Mascis isn’t convinced though: “You guys don’t like us, I can tell”, he sulks, swinging his post-resurrection-Gandalf hair round his head like a silver windmill.

In the Carling tent, all the hip kids crowd round for band of the moment, Battles. With a stage piled high with boxes and buttons and bleepy gadgets, the band huddle over their machines, trance-like, creating mind boggling pretentiousness of the highest order. Now, artwankery is usually one of my preferred genres, but in this case, finding yourself counting out the 9/8 time signature and hearing it jar, over and over, with the 4/4 drum loop, it’s just a bit fucking tedious. Like a college music project that escaped the lab, even the kids in hi-tops and hoodies are swaying rather despondently. On the plus side, they do walk away with the weekend’s award for best light show, in their apparent homage to classic Disney flick Tron. [NOTE: I love Battles these days. I blame the milkshake and the heatwave. Chal, Aug 2008]

And so I wander over to visit the corpse of punkfunk in the shape of !!!, a band whose built-in obsolescence factor of having a name made only of punctuation (they’re un-Googleable!) means they’re the anti-internet phenomenon and, therefore, the anti-Arctic Monkeys. Ergo brilliant. Anyway, for a genre that’s dead this is all pretty euphoric and, hey, if it tarted itself up a bit it could almost pass for that wondrously meaningless genre known as new rave. This is far more rave than any of that stuff anyway, loud and sweaty in a proper Balearic sort of way. The stage is teeming with people and instruments and singer Offer in his boxers, flanked by a terrifying hypnotic visual of ballroom dancing iguana skeletons. At this point, what with that pint of milk and the Tron lights and the cowbells and the iguanas, I’m only reasonably sure that I haven’t taken any hallucinogens this afternoon.

I could do with the aural equivalent of a cold shower to get out of this headspace, and conveniently there’s a double whammy of damp squibs headlining. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are not my companion’s favourite band, and to prevent any vomitious mishaps we have to stand well back. Unfortunately, it’s still close enough to hear that the Chilis have chosen this night to really get into some of those extended funk workouts they’ve been meaning to practice for ages, and the slap bass has us coming over all queasy. When they allow John Frusciante the spotlight for a buttock-clenching version of Eva Cassidy’s ‘Songbird’, it’s time to make our excuses.

The View are an absolutely pointless band who seem to have no idea of the meaninglessness of their songs in the context of the history of pop music. It’s totally mindless claptrap for girls and boys in battered straw hats; moronic lyrics that would make Noel Gallagher feel like he was performing a teatime matinee for six year olds. “Thus nixt sawng is aboat ge’an pissed”, gurgles front man Kyle, before launching into the sorriest excuse for a guitar solo since Tony Blair’s utterly misguided public appearance on his red Stratocaster. Someone please set The View on fire. Tonight, I make it home in time to catch the tube.

No comments: