Reading Festival 2011 – Friday

Let it be noted that the rest IS on the way, but considering I haven’t done a real update in a while, you can have Friday first and the rest in a couple of days when I’ve written it!
Another year, another Reading. One more weekend of sleeping on the ground, of being pissed on by the heavens, of probably catching some kind of STI from the longdrops and of obscenely good music. There are a lot of festivals out there and arguably, Britain has most of them on its shores, but Reading is and always will be my festival. No other festival quite has the variety that Reading does, nor the charm. You’d never get Glassjaw and Bombay Bicycle Club sharing the same stage anywhere else. Some people go just for the “experience”, others for the overpriced alcohol and getting stoned in a field. Those two things may actually be one and the same but I go for music. I’ve paid an extortionate amount of money. And this year’s review actually has a lot of bands (and a bit more comedy than last year) in it. Always a plus.

After a night of essentially being a wetboy (“Can I go to bed yet? I’ve been up since half six!” “NO IT’S ONLY HALF NINE. That isn’t socially acceptable!”) I rose nice and early on Friday morning to wade my way through six inches of mud in an attempt to reach the arena in time for Architects (3.5/5). Architects proved to be a solid opener for Friday’s main stage, playing a mix between their older, heavier material and newer effort, The Here And Now. A substantial wake up call at midday, Architects proved that they can indeed bring it. The Blackout (4/5) followed up with a bloody brilliant set, bouncing all over the place. Sean and Gavin are such charmers. The ever-so-slightly altered vocal dynamic (essentially, Sean doesn’t shout quite as much) that was found in Hope translates well live. I did find myself disappointed that there was no spit catching, but I think that was just me. Spit catching aside, The Blackout brought so much energy to the morning that New Found Glory (3/5) were struggling to keep up. While it was by no means a bad set from the Floridian pop-punksters, it’s clear that New Found Glory aren’t quite at home on the main stage. Having seen NFG multiple times throughout the years, something felt very off about their set in comparison. The main stage at Reading is a big thing, it has to be to get 30 Seconds To Mars’ ridiculous stage set up there and although NFG are big players in the pop-punk scene, their presence didn’t dominate as much as it should have done. Nevertheless, they played a decent amount from their back catalogue, inciting mass singalongs, while I sat in regret at having to sell my ticket for their intimate headline tour (first time I’ve missed them in seven years. SEVEN YEARS). So I guess pop punk’s not dead yet, is it Chad? No. Bring Me The Horizon (4.5/5) played the best set so far that day with an intense experience that only they can provide. The crowd surfing was mental. Oli Sykes, despite his pissant reputation, was positively adorable and simultaneously terrifying as he ripped through their set with high velocity. There’s always a certain aggression associated with a BMTH set which is easily spotted through the various moshpits and walls of death, but as Oli grinned from ear to ear, the notion of a band all grown up shined through. Their latest effort, perhaps their magnum opus, is a sophisticated affair despite having a song called ‘Fuck’ on it and their Reading set was a blinder. Ta very much. In comparison, Rise Against’s (3/5) was a more watered down affair as the band chose to go with their newer, middle of the road material. Following BMTH, it would have been entirely possible to pick out some of the finest from Siren Song Of The Counter Culture or Revolutions Per Minute but I was left feeling underwhelmed. Songs like Saviour are nice, and Tim McIllrath has developed a lovely gruff singing voice over the years which sounds sublime sailing across a sea of writhing bodies but come on… hardcore punk isn’t over yet. Their cover of The Clash’s ‘White Riot’ was superb though, even if Tim’s statement regarding the London riots of late did not go down too well with the crowd.

We left the main stage because Deftones were on there and I’ve never liked them. I always feel like I should apologise for that fact, because they’re such a big institution, but broccoli is a big vegetable and I don’t apologise for disliking that so I think my conscience is clear. Instead, we were wowed by The Petebox (4/5) in the Alternative tent with a simply astounding demonstration of just what the human voice can do. He covered Where’s Your Head At amongst other classic tunes using just his voice! Brill! Apparently he’s got a new album coming out which should be interesting. Henry Rollins (5/5) is always an inspiration. Always. There is never a time when I walk out of a room where Henry has been on stage and feel disappointed. His stories are funny, despite his protestation against such accusations, endearing, on the edge and enthralling. In this set, he gave us some details about his time in North Korea as one of the very few Americans let in yearly, the time when Black Flag got some girl’s eye put out and living on the Santa Monica Boulevard during a high point in male prostitution in the area. This man has lived the most incredible life and he urges us to do the same. If you have never, ever seen Henry speak, or read one of his books, or listened to one of the various spoken word albums he’s done, then remedy this immediately. You won’t regret it.

A brief dinner and then back to the main stage for 30 Seconds To Mars (4/5). Part of me wanted to hate this performance. I mean, I’ve always thought that 30STM have demanded this kind of grandeur out of nowhere. In another article, I discuss this lack of understanding at simply how 30STM are where they are but finally seeing it for myself has made me realise that actually, this is a band that deserve to be centre stage right now. Pretty much everything about this set can be described as epic. The staging, with its huge screens and rising platforms, looked incredible. Jared’s interaction with the crowd was insane – as soon as Kings and Queens rolls up, there are literally fifty fans singing their heart out on stage with him as he prances around in a fan’s tiger onesie. They picked only the most anthemic of their songs, and although they left out From Yesterday which is my personal favourite from A Beautiful Lie (actually… the only song I truly like off that release), the entire field rang out with cheers and screams. 30STM are a highly visual band and as odd as that sounds, they do have to be seen to be believed. I was pretty much half converted before this set, but now I’m ready to go all the way.

Despite their cracking performance, 30STM simply could not measure up to My Chemical Romance (5/5). It’s not been long since the band have been back in the UK but it’s been at least three years since they graced the main stage at Reading and Leeds. And they have been missed. Gerard and the boys were certainly in fine form and loving it. The set was comprised of various hits from their new album, which is superb by the way, The Black Parade and Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. Unlike Leeds’ set, we didn’t get Our Lady Of Sorrows, but that’s okay. Each and every song was thrashed to perfection as the band whirled their way across the stage. James Dewees (at least I swear that was him under the fursuit!) made a welcome return to keys and knocked out a fantastic rendition of Mama with the band. My Chemical Romance have not lost their passion in any way. I know it’s not all about Gerard, and truly, the band as a whole are amazing, but he completely stole the show in every way possible. In today’s music, there isn’t a better front man. He’s got the voice, the passion, the energy that so many others have but taken to a whole new level. The experience as a whole was taken up about ten notches during the encore as Queen’s Brian May (BRIAN MAY YOU GUYS, BRIAN MAY!!) came on stage for a cheeky cover of We Will Rock You and Welcome To The Black Parade. There were fireworks. There was a lot of hair. There was an epic solo. Gerard looked like a kid who’d eaten too many blue Smarties. Everything was perfect. And so Friday finished in the greatest possible way and My Chemical Romance are the best headliners I’ve seen at Reading ever. True fact.

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