Reading Festival 2010. After the excessive ease of getting the tickets in the first place, I knew that shit was going to go down a lot closer to the event and oh boy, I was right. Two of my friends who were campsite assistants ended up going home early due to illness, prompting my ride to turn round and say ‘oh, I’m not going’ – mostly because he was too hungover. If it weren’t for my amazing hero of a father, I wouldn’t even have been at Reading Festival. And then I had to spend most of the weekend with my sister’s shitty ass friends, who complained about everything, despite staying in a nice warm apartment because their tent flooded on the first night. I missed a lot of the bands I wanted to see. I didn’t get to mosh. You might think that I had a bit of a wasted weekend. The phrase ‘fuck you very much’ might spring to mind. However, as years of listening to posicore have taught me, never give up. So I didn’t; I spent most of the weekend on my own, but I watched bands, I danced, I sang, I lost my voice and Tom Gabel smiled right at me.
I cried Friday morning. I was stressed, tired, fed up already. The first band I checked out were Crazy Arm, and even then, I missed half their set after having to wait around for my sister’s friends. Crazy Arm have fast become one of my favourite bands for this year, with album ‘Born To Ruin’ being a fine example of folk punk badassery. Despite only catching them halfway through, I could see the passion and the fervour that these guys put into their live show. They played to a half empty tent and I felt so bad for everyone who was sat at the main stage for missing what was an inspiring effort. One of the songs I managed to catch was Broken By The Wheel, which runs shivers down my spine on CD, but live makes me feel like I can fight anything. If you get the chance to see Crazy Arm this year, go do so! They’re touring with Against Me! and will be one of the best things you’ll see all year. Following Crazy Arm were The Skints, London based ska-punk band. The Skints have a real reggae base to their music, making it perfect for a warm summer’s day. The Lock Up was absolutely packed with people dancing and singing to their edgy ska tunes. Marcia Richards is insanely talented, picking up a flute, a sax and more as well as playing keyboard and singing and generally keeping the crowd entertained. The Skints have an electric stage presence and were definitely one of the more interesting bands I witnessed in the Lock Up this weekend.
Instead of sticking around the Lock Up, I decided to go towards the Alternative stage in search of people I knew. I couldn’t get in to see Stephen K Amos, despite him going on early, so instead, milled around trying to look for people. The festival site isn’t that big, but somehow, it’s impossible to find anyone. Phones just don’t work. And I lost the back of my phone earlier that day, making me extremely conscious of my battery falling out. But after waiting forever, I eventually grabbed my sister and dragged her back to the Alternative stage for The Midnight Beast, Youtube phenomenon turned up and coming comedy band. They may not be The Lonely Island, but they’re all we have and they brought it. I have never seen a tent so packed full of screaming teenage girls. Their ‘cover’ of Tik Tok went down especially well and new single ‘Booty Call’ sounded huge. Very much looking forwards to seeing what goes down for these guys next.
Next, it was to the main stage to check out NOFX. NOFX are a band I’ve always wanted to catch, purely just to see what they would be like. I wasn’t at all disappointed. There was more banter than there were songs, and the band enjoyed messing with their position on the main stage. I absolutely love watching punk bands on the main stage because they are either unsure of why they’re there or indulge in milking it as much as they can. Fat Mike looked wonderful in his tweed jacket and cut off shorts, sipping from a straw – every inch the awkward rock star. They played classics like Leave It Alone and Stickin’ In My Eye, as well as newer songs like Franco Un-American, all to an excellent standard for the self proclaimed ‘worst band of the weekend’. The sound was better for NOFX than it was for Guns ‘N’ Roses. Seriously. We stuck around for Lostprophets and Biffy Clyro, neither of which really interest me. Lostprophets are always fun live, and I’ve seen them several times before, but until they do an anniversary tour for ‘The Fake Sound Of Progress’, I kind of don’t care. Ian was wearing an awesome Street Fighter shirt though. Biffy Clyro were far more interesting. Despite playing virtually all new material and no inclusion of Saturday Superhouse, their set was a great display of the different sounds Biffy are capable of and just why they’re still good. My sister complained that there was “not enough talking and displaying their beautiful accents, too much music!” but that’s what makes them great to watch – they get straight into it and show how capable they are with their music. The light show would have been fantastic if they’d actually played in dark too. Simon Neil’s new blonde hair may have been a controversial decision, but putting them so high up on the main stage was not. In fact, Biffy would have been a much better headliner than Guns ‘N’ Roses were. Fact.
I debated between sticking around for Queens Of The Stone Age, but a creepy ginger drunk guy made me disappear in search of pastures punk, leaving me to return to the Lock Up stage for Against Me!. I really can’t say enough about these guys, I really can’t. I’ve said it many times before, but Against Me! are potentially the greatest live band you will ever see. I’ve never seen a band that cares more about their performance and that was completely true at Reading. They played a great set, including a variety of songs across their albums. Although it was more heavily weighted towards White Crosses, a few gems from Reinventing Axl Rose slipped in, including a finish on Baby, I’m An Anarchist, resulting in maybe not a lot of anarchy but a fair amount of screaming. This is when the vocal issues and my descent into nothing more than black metal screams began. Nevertheless, Against Me! were on top form and have comfortably settled into their new lineup.
At this point, a nice man let me into the front because I was too short to see much, and Sick Of It All took the stage. I was also in great pain at this point due to wearing wellies that were really too small for me and standing on a metal barrier does not make things better. So thank you, nice man, but it really was detrimental to my health. Sick Of It All are a fantastic band to actually watch, because Pete Koller just goes mental. I’ve not seen someone throw a guitar around so violently and actually witnessed the thing survive. Not to mention this is all while he’s about three feet in the air. Festival set was, of course, composed of the classics, and it was clear that Sick Of It All should have been headlining that tent, not Alkaline Trio. Also, a wall of death that extended to the back of the tent was pretty cool.
As you can probably gather, Alkaline Trio were just not as fascinating as Sick Of It All were. By this point, I was on the verge of collapse, so I ended up sitting at the side, watching them from the screen. The levels were completely messed up and you could barely hear Matt or Dan singing. They played too much from This Addiction. Sure, all the singles were there, and at least nobody threw a hissy fit like in the Academy a few months ago, but they just didn’t measure up to what had preceded them. A real shame. And I know that Alkaline Trio can do better! Nevertheless, the crowd favourites they threw in went down well and hopefully, their next headline tour will be as good as their last.
Friday night was absolutely freezing. If I had balls, they’d have dropped off and formed into little spheres of ice. Not even a cup of scalding tea from the donut stand helped. This trend continued through the night, giving my sister paranoia when the tent collected a bit of condensation and when it poured down with rain early morning, leading her to believe our tent would flood too. It didn’t, it was fine, but it got me in a somewhat grumpy mood. After a morning Tesco trip for something green (I cannot live off of festival food alone), we sat around and waited for her idiot friends, who know nothing of good timekeeping, leaving my mood even worse. Good job there was decent music on that day, right?
After missing about three bands I actually wanted to see, I finally got into the arena in time for Off With Their Heads, a band I’ve been repping for a while now. Like Crazy Arm, they played to less than half a tent, which was a real shame! Although their performance was not quite as intoxicating as Crazy Arm’s, Off With Their Heads still did a pretty good job. My one complaint was that Ryan Young’s voice is far gruffer on record than it actually is live, but let’s face it… that’s nothing. Off With Their Heads are great for punk rock singalongs and that was no different here, with everyone who had actually heard of them before. Great start to a nice summery day. I stuck around for a bit of Paint It Black’s set, purely just to see Dan Yemin on stage more than anything. I’m not massively familiar with their material, always having been more of a Lifetime kind of girl, but they were playing good, honest hardcore, and it sucks that it was so early in the day because there would have been much more people involved later on. I was torn away from them by my sister (if nothing else so that I could find out if she was alive) and we went to go get food and wait for Frank Turner to come on.
The unfortunate thing about waiting for Frank Turner to come on meant having to sit through Kids In Glass Houses. The more unfortunate thing about this was that I had to do it alone as my sister went to go grab her phone out of the lockers, complete with entourage. I ended up phoning my mum and whining about my fate. She called all my friends bellends. She was right. As for Kids In Glass Houses… I saw them back in 2006, back when they had their first EP out and they were still reasonably experimental. Synths were involved. They sounded interesting. Then, in order to get famous, they presumably sold whatever souls they had and began churning out bland, vacuous pop rock. That much rang true in the NME tent. I didn’t see a more boring set all weekend. The worst thing? The fact that the entire tent erupted with teenage girls screaming. I guess that could happen to me too if I decided to do a song with The Saturdays. Of course, everything sounded clean and polished, well rehearsed and everyone was perfectly dressed, but that isn’t what rock music is about. I’ve already witnessed all of my favourite genres become fashion statements, and next time, I don’t want to watch the bands that have enabled it to happen.
But anyway, fuck Kids In Glass Houses, because Frank Turner blew the tent the fuck away. The man knows how to play to a crowd, and you couldn’t get a crowd much bigger – the entire tent was packed to capacity. The new song that Frank played sounded much like it should have done; a bit of a progression from Poetry Of The Deed, but with that same folk punk soul that I’ve come to love Frank for. The highlight of the set for me was Sons Of Liberty, one of my favourite Frank songs and one of the best politically charged anthems around. Frank’s transposition of the fiddle solo was absolutely stellar and everyone had their fists raised high. Of course, pretty everything was great – inclusions of Reasons Not To Be An Idiot, The Road, Long Live The Queen, I Knew Prufrock and more worked out really well and finishing on Photosynthesis was an excellent call. Sadly, the jig pit from last year wasn’t present and instead, replaced by a weird sitting experiment. Frank himself is an absolute charmer and had us all in the palm of his hand. Next year, I want to see Frank on the main stage, because that’s where he deserves to be.
After that, I went back to the Lock Up with my sister to check out The Get Up Kids, this year’s token 90s emo band. Her annoying friends tagged along so that they could brag to a Canadian kid they only know online that they’d seen them. Oh please. One thing that impressed me from the start was that TGUK did all their own set up and soundchecking. I appreciate the need for a road crew, but that’s when you know a band is down to earth and really care about their music, especially when they’re as big as TGUK. Having not seen them before, it was kind of an epic moment when they first started, knowing that this was one of the bands that forged the way for many of my favourites. For a start, fucking James Dewees was on stage, and we all know how much I love that guy! Again, being only a little familiar with their material (I only own Something To Write Home About), I wasn’t entirely sure which song was which, but I did know that each and every note sounded sublime. It’s hard to classify TGUK, and their set jumped from more emo-sounding material to slightly poppier stuff and extending towards more low-key songs that sounded a little more like Pryor’s New Amsterdams stuff. I slapped myself for leaving early due to desperate need for toilet break (and believe me, at a festival, you take them where you can). I thoroughly regret missing their headline tour earlier this year and feel compelled to check out more of their back catalogue as they’re just enchanting live. And no other band can cover The Cure quite so well.
On the programme, there was a massive gap between The Get Up Kids and Bad Religion. Not entirely unusual, but a little suspect. But instead of there just being a whole lot of nothing, NOFX decided to come on and actually play songs! This is a READING EXCLUSIVE, MOTHERFUCKERS! It was great to see the ever so slightly more serious side of NOFX (if that’s even possible in the first place) and to see them just shut up and play awesome songs. And Frank Turner even took to the stage during The Decline! I will never get sick of seeing that ‘The Dream Lives Here’ banner. The truth is, you had to be there. I can’t convey in words how awesome this set was. To be honest, I’m shite at live reviews anyway, so it’s not a hard thing to say. One thing, though – DON’T CALL ME WHITE.
It was a hard act to follow, but Bad Religion were, without a doubt, the best band of the Lock Up. It’s easy to see how they’ve continued for 30 years. Greg Graffin may now look a bit like my dad, but he was still rocking harder than all those young whippersnappers on the other stages. They had an impressive set, ranging from Fuck Armageddon, This Is Hell all the way up to Sinister Rouge. It was a set for everyone who considered Bad Religion their introduction to punk rock – particular highlight for me was ‘You’, well known from being on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (which was pretty much the only game I played from the age of 10 to 11 and purely for the soundtrack). The levels were sorted out and the sound of Bad Religion rang throughout the tent, completely dominating Arcade Fire by miles. They even tried to amp up the light show to compete with everyone else. But Bad Religion need no gimmicks, no tricks; straight up punk rock is all they play and all they need to offer. Ending on Sorrow, I knew that I had witnessed something incredible. Bad Religion have always held a very special place in my heart and always will, and it was amazing to finally cross them off the list.
I was absolutely exhausted by the end of Saturday, and this is when my voice properly started to disintegrate into nothing more than screeches. I got back to my tent, collapsed and ended up with about eight hours sleep, which is a miracle for one of these things. Why? Because I needed to be on top form for Sunday! To fulfil the dreams of my thirteen year old self!
I was positively hyper with excitement. The truth is, I’d been waiting seven years to see Blink 182. My father dangled the possibility of seeing them on their last UK tour over me when I was thirteen, only to be shot down by my mother who thought that they swore too much. As my friend Jimmy said, surely having heard it means your brain’s damaged goods already? Not according to my overprotective mother. Nevertheless, it wasn’t like I lost out on the chance of ever seeing them due to their recent reformation, so I spent most of the day in complete anticipation.
It was main stage all day today, and my sister’s friends could fuck off because Motion City Soundtrack were on first. I caught these guys earlier in the year and loved every second of it, and their Reading set was very much on par. Justin Pierre (“he looks like he should be on The Big Bang Theory!”) is a simply adorable frontman, nervously telling us the band’s name every other song. Surprisingly, for the first band of the day, the sound quality was superb and you could hear every little bit of synth. Although, Jesse, where’s the wobbly Moog stand these days? Anyway, great set despite the overcast clouds – I always think that MCS should play on a sunny day, considering their music is generally so cheerful. I pretty much love this band with all my heart and you should too.
The King Blues came up afterwards, and to be honest, they should have been in the Lock Up. Despite their music now having a wider appeal since punk came back into fashion, their energy just kind of fizzled out after the first two rows. This is a band that deserves an entire tent going mental over them and they just didn’t get it. I’ve never really listened to The King Blues before, only the occasional song on Lava, but I was impressed by their set. Poppy ska punk infused with politics. However, the politics part was mostly lost on the crowd that day, hence why they should have still played the Lock Up and been higher up the rankings in there.
Thrice played next but I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention. I’ve seen Thrice about three times, they’re alright but I’ve never been a huge fan. All Time Low followed – a band I hate with every ounce of my soul, but that’s an article for another day – and luckily, fate intervened and it started pouring down with rain. So Jimmy and I ran over to the Alternative tent where we caught Charlie Baker, a charming comedian from Devon. And he was a very funny man! I’m generally a bit wary of the Alternative stage – it’s really hit or miss, but Charlie was indeed hilarious! His attempt at a cattle market sadly went over the heads of the audience though. Probably one to watch – and he can sing really well too. A man of many talents. Instead of going back to the main stage, we went for coffee and waited for You Me At Six to disappear. I am sadly going to see this band in December, because Set Your Goals are supporting. Oh, the things I would do for Set Your Goals.
However, Limp Bizkit were on afterwards and let’s face it – no matter how much you hate them, you have got to respect the fact that they have not changed one iota since the late 90s. Fred Durst is still rocking the polo shirts and baseball caps. Limp Bizkit have always been a guilty pleasure of sorts for me – never massively into them but I’ve always left the telly on if Rollin’ was on. And oh my, the amount of people in the crowd who still remembered all the moves. If nothing else, they were worth checking out for nostalgia – and they can clearly still bring it as well as they did back in the day. Break Stuff was particularly entertaining, and Fred’s pleas to look out for each other in the moshpit were an interesting contrast.
I went to fetch pizza and waited for Cypress Hill to finish – a bit of an odd choice for a pretty rock based day. So that we’d be in a good place for Blink, I dragged everyone with me into the thick of it to watch Weezer. Now, if I wasn’t so biased, I’d have called Weezer the best band of the weekend. Rivers Cuomo is actually MENTAL. He climbed up all the adverts, wore a kitty hat someone gave him for most of the set, had his own mini trampoline to pogo up and down on as well as rolling around in mud and wearing a blonde wig whilst singing Poker Face. All that in about 45 minutes. Weezer clearly knew what kind of audience they were playing to and included an MGMT cover as well as one of Teenage Dirtbag, and played a massive amount of stuff. Lots of Blue Album and Pinkerton stuff, as well as all the singles worth shouting about. It’s easy to see why Weezer have been putting out stuff forever (even if some of the in between material has… well, sucked) because they still seem tight as ever as a band and are clearly still good friends. This set destroyed any semblance I had of a voice. Weezer rock. Totally buying Hurley and hey – I LIKE THE COVER.
Paramore were up next. Oh boy, I dislike Paramore these days. I appreciate that they can perform well live – everything was in time, perfectly executed and Hayley Williams has finally found that balance between singer and performer. However, all of their music has lost its heart. You can argue that their performance has too – I miss the days when I saw Paramore in a tiny club room where everyone sang with Hayley and Josh to Franklin. It all seems so artificial and far less intimate these days, but I suppose that’s the price you pay when you play arenas. I spent most of their set bored. They played one song off of All We Know Is Falling and instead, opted for their newer, more mediocre songs. And the crowd lapped it up like mad. I fear for the state of the music industry.
The half hour or so wait in between sets was killing me. In my attempt to get further forwards, I’d been kicked, shoved and punched by a lesbian as she aimed at a bloke next to me. People were trying to push past me, I told them to fuck off. I yelled at a girl who tried to get onto a man’s shoulders directly in my view. Nothing was going to stop me from watching Blink 182, nothing at all. And when they came on… everything just went crazy. I couldn’t sing, my throat was gone. I could just about see Tom and Mark from behind a row of screaming overgrown boys. I was dazzled by the light show and the various different bunny rabbits. It was everything I’d expected and more. It got pretty intense where I was stood so I moved out. Blink 182 were on the fucking stage and I was right there. They did the greatest hits and more. They did all the singles off the self-titled. They finished the set on Family Reunion. I couldn’t ask for more.
The hiatus was always something of a grey area – did they fall out? Did they really just need a break? Did they only get back together because Travis almost died? None of these questions mattered at all once you saw them up on stage together. It’s clear that whatever animosity was potentially there has died as Tom and Mark messed about just like back on the Mark, Tom And Travis Show. Homo erotica by the ton and yeah, a couple of fart jokes. Everything I thought I’d miss out on was there because underneath it all, Blink haven’t really changed – they’ve just grown up a little bit. And despite his forays into Angels And Airwaves, Tom still can’t play keyboard. Sorry, dude. Travis’ drum solo, despite being a bit of a Joey Jordison ripoff, was still really impressive, and revolving drumkits are always a plus!
Best songs of the set? I honestly can’t decide. Everything just brought back so many memories. I guess it was cool to see Reckless Abandon, as it seemed to fit well with the festival vibe, and Stockholm Syndrome, right down to the spoken word at the start of the song, ran shivers down my spine. They haven’t lost it at all. There was Josie, Carousel, Man Overboard, What’s My Age Again… all these songs that I’ve known since I was 13 years old and still haven’t stopped listening to. And that finish? It’s clear that Blink have not lost their roots, not one bit.
I honestly find it impossible to convey how amazing that set was. And I’m glad that the festival finished on Blink, because it first of all gave me something to look forward to and finally validated my reason for going, despite all the shit that went down. So thanks, Blink 182. Thanks for getting back together, thanks for being awesome and thanks for making my £180 worth it. You rule.