If Saturday’s line-up marked a return to form after Friday’s shortcomings, Sunday was something else. It always is. It’s not known as Rock Day for no reason. We don’t like rock at DiS though. So here’s some indie and ‘dance’ reviews.
Just kidding. With their ultra-math drumming and duelling bulldozer riffs, Mastodon play edgy and obscure metal at it’s finest but seem to miss the cue here. Far from their exhilarating best, it’s difficult to determine whether it’s the new material or the sunshine that’s fucking this shit up.
It’s too early for Shitdisco, really. Their set is darker and more consciously ‘neu-rave’ than in February but for better or worse they still impress. Faris Rotter towers like a giant crow over Aphex Twin just to the left of me as the friendliest Glaswegians of the weekend whip out the cowbell for ‘Disco Blood’.
feel the 'burn
Dodging DiS’ Canadian indie-pop hipsters Metric in the Radio 1 Tent in favour of Killswitch Engage’s sodomising operatic hardcore was a debatable move. Getting belt-whipped by a passing stranger was far from the highlight of watching arguably the greatest metalcore band around from ripping the Main Stage a new arsehole. Staggeringly good and completely American. Fantastic stuff.
The On Offs play their tight, harmony-based lad-rock has the occasional twist to the standard time signatures, highlighting the Northampton trio’s above-average musical abilities, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that they should really just be playing in your local.
It should be illegal for a band to have as much energy as Switches. Both in their songs and their stage presence, they have an adrenaline rush that is matched by few, and it helps makes their music, high-octane pop-rock bringing to mind The Rakes, Weezer and Hot Hot Heat in different places, all the more enticing
Spank Rock are next, but I can only connect with their porno-hop fleetingly through the fug and their sampling of a track from a Magners ad repulses me. ‘Rick Rubin’ goes a long way to making things better, but there’s nothing here that excites. The crowd is later helped along by two of grime’s best acts: Sway and Lady Sovereign, the latter putting on a stunning display.
Despite her rowdy rude-girl tendencies, Sov is pleasant as well as supremely confident. All goes excellently until a polystyrene tray sailing overhead deposits tepid, congealed curry on yours truly mid-set. The smell is worse than vomit, so there’s little else to do but go and get changed.
Location, Location, Location... context is such a powerful thing when it comes to live shows but so's a fucking great mind-squelching riff thrown in the air and ripped apart like Les Savy Fav lions let loose in a playground. Forward Russia in Leeds is like strawberries with cream. There are circle pits and fanboy passing out fits. Seriously special and a cock in the eye to the corporate machine.
Just when you were beginning to lose faith in mankind; it seems they find their shit detector just in time. Quite a crowd forms as The Lodger take to the stage, only for sixty percent of it to flee as the first twenty seconds of bland caterwauling pub-rock hits you like a rancid £4 burger to the face.
|GLC can't hide|
With rumours of this being Hope Of The States’ last ever show I go see them for the first time and discover hiding behind the sheen of overproduced singles a fantastic live ripping up of counterculture and which is instead big proper post-rock inspired pop songs etched with strings. Later Sam shouts in DiS' general direction that Broken Social Scene are the second most under-rated band in the world and part of me later realises he's maybe right about HOTS being the first.
Eight chavs in florescent yellow bibs chatting crude lyrics over backing tracks of other peoples songs isn’t everyone’s cup of Welsh brew. Goldie Lookin' Chain have one of the most animated crowds witnessed all weekend and I wish I was in Goldie Looking Chain. Being in Bullet For My Valentine is just as coveted. After emerging as one of the biggest British metal bands around at the moment, lots of people want to drink their Welshness. There’s a massive crowd watching – all waiting for Slayer.
As Emily Haines breathily brings 'Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl' to an end, grown men with big bear/beer guts are in tears, texting lost lovers and breathing in deep sighs through their nose. And then they raise their arms in the air and lose control so much so they dance as the trumpets of 'Shoreline' rise into the top of the rock circus tent. Broken Social Scene create the perfect festival spectacle and set to get lost in.
At least Mr Araya
changed out of
Good Shoes are probably the perfect band to entice pop-fans into rock music. They have the look, spiky, inoffensive vocals, and tunes that are catchy with minimal actual songwriting. If Razorlight are a little too intricate for you then Good Shoes could fit like a glove.
If Razorlight aren’t your cup of tea then maybe one might tempt sir into a slice of (motherfucking) Slayer? What is there to say about these 45 minutes? There are several thousand people in attendance purely for this set. It’s fucking Slayer. That’s the end of the story. For many, it’s time to go home.
Call me a cynic, but it's hard not to be suspicious of a band when they look this pretty. The acid test? Close your eyes and ask yourself whether it sounds as good. In the case of Dead Disco’s upcoming single, 'Automatic', the answer's a resounding sexy-pop yes. Now open your eyes again, and enjoy. Not like that.
|Dead Disco: down boys|
The very arrival of Vib Gyor on the Topman Stage provokes a mass ruckus in the front row, but this isn't fight music. Instead, it's an ambitious, epic three-guitar assault from a Leeds quintet who've been spoken about in hushed tones for years. Think Radiohead, think Flaming Lips, think... bloody good.
When I return, it is with the intention of going to see The Klaxons, but several thousand other people have much the same idea. The Carling Tent struggles and ultimately fails to hold the hordes and the way that Klaxons blare their death-ray neu-rave compels my loyalty even to that genre name. Glowsticks fly and splatter neon goo across chests and faces, the circle is a swirling mass of colour and sweat-built dancing pits, black holes that work with infectious bobbing basslines and searing static to suck and steer you in. Blowing my suspicions of being a ‘one-song band’ out of orbit, they are the firework at the end of a slowburning weekend.
Shortly after their departure, Steve Lamacq is stood alongside me, nodding in approval before mentioning how My Chemical Romance have the smallest Main Stage Sunday audience he’s ever seen, and that most are just there to bottle them off. You have to feel sorry for Slayer, being billed beneath them.
Kooks: too many
spoil the broth
As the sun sets today The Kooks' performance could be much more accurately dissected could we get anywhere near the bastard tent. As with many of the bands that skyrocket to success with a first album they basically play the lot, with the four singles virtually inaudible over the incessant crowd. Not ideal.
Lamacq also says I’m not allowed to slag off Larrikin Love, but it turns out I had no reason to anyway. Despite playing to a smaller crowd than the preceding Klaxons, Larrikin Love create a do-si-do frenzy, bringing with them a horde of violins, spoons and singers. Even ‘Downing St. Kindling’, which, on record, preaches revolution with all the conviction of a Blair campaign promise, is bought to life. If only they could capture the vibe on record instead of sounding like a ska-pop tribute to The Libertines, I wouldn’t find them so irritatingly shit.
If Larrikin Love’s set was weak songs played brilliantly, the opposite applies to Soulwax’s Niteversions set. Though the concept of playing a live rendition of the club version of an electronica album sounds interesting, the reality proves not quite so appealing as wave upon wave of hypnotic, tuneless, ceaseless beats pierce the air. A lack of variety doesn’t stop the crowds enjoying every second, but I can’t shake the feeling a normal Soulwax set would’ve beaten it.
The same could be said for the Dewaele brothers’ headline set. Normally full of fast and furious alternative mash-ups, much of 2ManyDJs’ hour on the decks is spent mixing club anthems together in the more conventional sense. You can’t help but feel slightly teased.
A tease is not what Pearl Jam are about. This is the closing set of Reading Festival and it turns out to be the best of the weekend. Playing an even more perfect mixture of old and new than Muse did the night before, the experienced American create the legendary festival atmosphere that everyone loves. It’s that feeling where your hairs really do stand up, because you can feel it and you’re amazed that it’s happening, and you’re almost close to crying because it’s all just getting too much. You’re witnessing something really special. This is history.
Pulling away from microphone, self-censoring himself during ‘Jeremy’, Eddie Vedder forgets for a moment that this is the UK and he really can swear in front of 80,000 people but it’s fine because everyone’s already singing the words. It’s something to behold. It only happens once a year.
There is an mutual appreciation here that no other band has found all weekend. This is what this festival is all about and it’s a shame that we had to wait so long for it.
Photos courtesy of Chris Harris, Ben Jones and Gary Wolstenholme.