I started off the day with a bit of Popcorn Comedy (impossible to rate, too many shorts!), a variety of comedy film shorts and live performances. Of particular note was the Buttery Biscuit Base song, a cat that smeared poo on its owner’s wall to stop her from having a date and Carly Spellman’s song about her brother. And the one dedicated to Simon. You really had to be there for that one. The first main stage act I headed for was Taking Back Sunday (2.5/5), who I was particularly excited for considering their return to their original lineup. I am a big John Nolan fan. And I can tell you that he didn’t disappoint. TBS may be older and wiser, but he’s still got that raw emotion in his voice that made Tell All Your Friends. Adam Lazzara, on the other hand, was probably on something. The songs were fine, they were great even, and they rolled through all the classics, including the stuff that they’d written in the absence of John and co, but Adam was extremely overwhelming. I’ve seen Taking Back Sunday before, I know that he’s a bit of a character. But this was something else, and I honestly felt uncomfortable watching it. A good job that Frank Turner (4.5/5) came along to save the day! Frank’s first time on the main stage and he was positively glowing. The sun came out, the crowd sang along and I lost my voice. Frank and the Sleeping Souls chose their set very carefully, resulting in thousands of voices being hurled back at them. There really is no performer like Frank Turner. The soothing voice, the snappy dress, he’s got us in the palm of his hand. He oozes charisma, but moreso than that, his songs truly connect with so many people. The ‘I won’t sit down’ bit in Photosynthesis is always worth a laugh (essentially he gets everyone to sit down and jump up at a certain point in the song) and with less crush than in the NME tent last year, it actually worked! He’s touring in November, go and see him if you’ve got any sense.
Fast forward a bit to Bedouin Soundclash (3/5). By this point, the clouds had kicked back in, so their brand of reggae/ska managed to cheer everyone up. The tent was filled with people who’d heard that song on the T-mobile advert and not a lot else, but everyone was dancing. It’s happy music, chilled out and made a change from the hardcore being played earlier in the day (I did catch a bit of Off! but it was pretty dire and I wasn’t paying that much attention, so I’m virtually disregarding it). Hot Water Music (4/5) wowed us all. A great return for the band, they played a veritable aural feast from their ‘punk’ catalogue (no Fuel For The Hate Game love?). In fact, I’m surprised that the tent wasn’t as full as it was. Hot Water Music know what it’s all about, and the cover of True Believers at the end where all of their friends came on to join in was inspiring. The whole set was inspiring, really. If I can be as half an accomplished musician as any of them, I’ll be happy with my life. Face To Face followed them, but I didn’t really catch that much of it. What I did catch sounded pretty good though. My apologies to soufex for not seeing one of her faves!
Frank Turner (5/5) played a second set in the Lock Up, which topped his first one by miles, if that was even truly possible. There was admittedly some repetition from earlier, as he played The Road again, but in a much more intimate setting, it was far more involving than before. However, the true highlight of the set was Frank’s cover of Queen’s Somebody To Love, where he ditched the guitar and picked up the mic for an incredible rendition. Screw Glee, Frank Turner is where it’s at! Oh, and The Ballad Of Me And My Friends never ever gets old. As Frank says, “I’m definitely going to hell, but I’ll have all the best stories to tell” and that set can definitely be included amongst the best stories we have to tell. I’m really struggling to write comprehensively at this point, because my brain is just going “AJGDJHFF SO AWESOME” and I think that if a set can reduce me to some kind of babbling mess, it’s got to be worth it, right?
Flogging Molly (5/5) in comparison turned me into some kind of dancing machine. A friend of mine had come for the day and was meant to be watching Muse with his friends, but turned to me and said “I CANNOT LEAVE THIS RIGHT NOW!” To be perfectly honest, it was the most fun I’d had all weekend. Flogging Molly are not one of those bands I’d choose to listen to in the privacy of my own room, not really. They’ve got some great songs and I’m sure there’s some real gems out there, but in a way, I’ve always thought it was too gimmicky. I’m very happy to say I think I’ve been proven wrong. There was a phenomenal atmosphere in the room; everyone was dancing, cheering, clapping, singing… drink was flowing and people who didn’t even know each other were linking arms and dancing with each other. All in all, I think that was a great success. So much so, that Descendents (4.5/5), although they were amazing in their own way, just missed out in topping the list over Frank and Flogging Molly. They may be all grown up now, but they’ve still got it. It was a dream come true to be able to see them, as they covered a huge range of songs from their back catalogue. They clearly love what they do and the on stage banter was hugely entertaining, as well as their choice from a few of the jokier songs in their repertoire (Coffee Mug, anyone?). Milo is a great hero of mine for many reasons, and the true highlight of their set for me was having a mic thrust in my face and singing a line. Punk rock ambition number 12 achieved! The songs sound just as good as on record, even better perhaps as Stephen Egerton takes it up a notch. So the weekend ended on a high, as I got to see one of my favourite bands who I’ll probably never get the opportunity to see again and completely disregarded Muse because I’m a total rebel. This year, Reading rocked.