Friday, 17 December 2010



Bollocks to camping! Remembering last year's sleepless nightmare (which I appreciate is somewhat of an oxymoron), and with the forecast for inclement weather this weekend, I decided to travel up and down every day and get some proper kip in my own bed at night!

The weather was OK the first day, so I travelled up with the happy campers, pitching their tents in the field directly behind the arena, then got the festival gear in; namely comedy Clive beads, and Soke style bandanas!

Kicking off musical festivities in the main arena were REDD KROSS at 2; a girlie in pink trouser suit introducing the set with the keyboard refrain to "The Candyman Can", leading on a weird set of chaps (including the vocalist in a shiny yellow top and basin hair, and also a hillbilly!) who played an initially leaden but ultimately worthy set of dirty seventies style retro glam rock'n'roll. FATIMA MANSIONS followed, and disappointed with a patchy struggle of a set, despite vocalist Cathal Coughlan's obvious intense conviction. Made me wonder how many other people cared what he was talking about. "Only Losers Take The Bus" was the best of a set, the end of which I missed while wandering around the arena, passing SOME HAVE FINS' noisy tent set on the way.

I returned to the tent shortly afterwards for the last half of a LEATHERFACE set which made me so pissed off I'd missed the first half! T'was the bollocks; loud driving rock with urgent, memorable tunes in a Husker Du meets Motorhead kind of way. A cover of "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You" climaxed a breathtaking set. Ugly as fuck and from Sunderland they may be, but they cranked out a helluva noise and had compere John Peel commenting on the main arena PA, "I've just come from the tent and if you weren't there you've missed a shit hot set!"

Met up with the boys at base camp afterwards, and decamped to the arena for MEGA CITY FOUR's disappointingly samey set - all the songs being similarly rhythmed and merging into each other. Dull, I'm afraid. Next up, PJ HARVEY graced us with her presence; clad in PVC, she played a dodgy set in keeping with her patchy debut LP "Dry". I didn't stop for the set as I was tent-bound for a potential first day highlight, but as I left the arena it seemed to be going South for poor old Polly, with one song being stopped halfway through and re-started. "Dress", second number in, was good, though.

GOD MACHINE, running late in the tent on my arrival, were loud and pretentious; their set seemed interminably long, but when they finally finished I pushed to the front for said first day highlight. Onto the barriers for MIDWAY STILL; they rushed through a high-octane set of confident, breathtaking guitar-driven power rock, highlighting their new EP material, but with "Better Than Before" the set highlight. Excellent, and living up to my expectations!

Early evening now, as I came into the arena for PUBLIC IMAGE LTD., who were sad, old, out of date and out of touch. John Lydon seemed to have nothing better to do than insult the audience, so I got some grub in and ignored it! Popped back in to the tent briefly for CRACKER's gawkily appealing, Noo Yawk cool set of driving pop rock with a slight country lilt. Nice, but nothing stuck, really. Back into the arena - hectic stuff, this - for all of THE CHARLATANS' pleasant retro 60's keyboard fuelled pop set. I lay down in the twilight and let their greatest hits set wash over me.

Then it was headliner time, as THE WONDERSTUFF blitzed the crowd with lasers, and wowed them with a top set of their unique slightly-delic fiddle powered flippant guitar pop. Miles was in excellent form, flippant as ever ("how the fuck are ya!"), and they dragged on Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer for the inevitable encore "Dizzy", which I actually missed as I hit the road at the end of their set proper to head for the station and home. And a good night's kip!


Rumours of inclement weather being (so far) exaggerated, I dragged Clive out today; he drove and we parked directly outside the campsite, then we met up with the boys at base camp - all with comedy Clive beads on!

Sensitise, due on at 12 in the tent, were replaced by a brassy Latin salsa outfit called JUPITERS, so as this wasn't my cup of tea, I popped into the arena for some of THERAPY?'s set. They were extremely noisy and unimpressive with a sub-Killing Joke sheet metal music style, only with no "edge" like da Joke.

Headed for the moshpit down the front for BUFFALO TOM at 1. Their set was excellently paced with their hard-rocking laze rock mixed in with touching and heartfelt tunes, and, hey let's face it, downright wonderful songs. Much like The Fat Lady Sings, last year, their self-deprecating attitude ("excuse our inexperience at this size of event") won everyone over, and this top set, which culminated in an excellent "Sunflower Suit" and "Velvet Roof", won the day in the arena.

Baked potatoes and cider during THOUSAND YARD STARE; their set was full of their easy-on-the-ears melodies and good pop dance music. "Buttermouth", second number in, was the highlight. Then into the tent for SPITFIRE, who showed the 90's are the 60's upside down, with a shocking, dynamic set of powerful retro pop, with dancing girls onstage and wah wah effects in abundance. Good stuff!

SHONEN KNIFE followed; much lauded by festival headliners Nirvana, they were plain silly, a throwaway set of simple Japanese girly bubblegum Ramones-ish pop. Weird but cute - songs about cats and bison? Back into the arena for SMASHING PUMPKINS' set conclusion, which culminated in the vocalist smashing the stage up. Compere Peel remarked, "perhaps he's a Leeds supporter because they're losing..."

Back off to the tent as THE FARM started their poor baggy stuff, catching the last of FORCE N K ZEE's ragga rap set there. However, we were on a mission - Clive and I went straight down the front for THE HEART THROBS. Their set made the adjective "Godlike" seem somewhat inadequate; with much more oomph even than their recent superb Jericho set to augment their obvious class, style, sex, suss and heart-tugging melody, Rose and co. stormed through their set in a confident and totally assured manner. Best Band Of The Weekend - by a million miles!

From the tent to the arena and from the sublime to the ridiculous; MANIC STREET PREACHERS kicked through a comic but nevertheless entertaining set of their well-known powerpop punk rock, which culminated in vocalist James giving his guitar away to some lucky punter down the front! I then caught some of EMF's techno guitar pop before heading tent-side and joining the hysterical reception for THE SULTANS OF PING FC's early evening tent set. Niall, the evil sex punk himself, and his band of leather loons put on a supremely entertaining performance of their ramshackle DIY rabble rock.

Out for a few of RIDE's opening numbers, which sounded really good, their buzzsaw approach being augmented with maturity and style, and I'd have loved to catch some more. However, I was back in the tent for SUEDE, who capped the best day of the festival with a wonderful performance of classy and touching glam-tinged dreamy pop. Boundless potential, superb songs, vocalist Brett Anderson a true star of our times, this lot are destined for the main stage very very soon!

This took us to 10, so, not bothered about seeing either headliner, Clive and I hit the road and went to Level 3! Encountered rain on the M4 on the way home; is this an ominous sign, or what...


Short answer to that - Yes! It had pissed down in the night, so I caught the train to Reading to find the arena and campsite a mudbath, my weekend friends' "base camp" collapsed, and the boys nowhere! It turned out they'd been washed out at 5 am, so went home shortly afterwards to dry everything off and get some kip!

So, I was on my own for starters; into the tent for TABITHA ZU; a dead good opener of spooky, mysterious gothy pop, with Mel's gymnastic larynx again the feature. Dinner, then SWEET JESUS; their wall of noise/ Manics meets Weddoes in a honey factory set was excellent, especially "Phonefreak Honey". Vocalist Ben's fey, lilting singing voice was at odds with his more masculine speaking voice, but the lilt fitted the Spector-ish mood perfectly. However, rather ominously, the tent started bucking and swaying precariously in the high wind...

Into the arena for the last half of SCREAMING TREES' pretty standard actually rock set, before seeing half of PAVEMENT's much hyped but ultimately disappointingly discordant and obviously derivative set - Mark E Smith of The Fall should either be flattered, or sue! Decided then to head for the tent, only to find it had been evacuated for safety reasons! Fuck!

So, stuck with the mainstage fayre, I caught BJORN AGAIN. They were totally unfunny Abba "pisstakes", who, disappointingly, played the songs straight! "We're glad to be at the Reading Festival; we've brought many books and I hope you have too," was the extent of their humour. T'uh! Met up afterwards with the boys at their collapsed campsite and heard the whole sorry story. I'm glad I commuted! Stayed there awhile as it had started to rain quite hard again - that's all we need!

Tent still shut, so caught the last of THE BEASTIE BOYS set - which I thought was a load of bollocks - and wandered around the arena while the terrible L7 were on. Eventually the tent re-opened for a truncated PELE set at 5; they did 4 numbers - all singles - and made the most of their short time with their happy fiddle pop. At least they got to play, unlike the cancelled Power Of Dreams (bugger!) and Captain America (fuck)!.

Next up, then, were SCORPIO RISING; I gratefully lay down under cover and drifted off to their not bad poppy wah wah dancey set. Unpacked the boys campsite before REVOLVER; caught most of their mighty fine breathy rockist style set. The half-acoustic "Heaven Sent An Angel" was the highlight of their set.

Into the mudbath of an arena, for, appropriately enough, MUDHONEY ("is that Nirvana, darling?" "No, it's Mud, honey..."). In between slagging off the crowd for throwing mud at them (what d'you expect, with a name like that?), and actually slinging it back, they played a dynamic set of their unique unhinged grunge rock, which varied from the excellent to the dirge-like. Back to the tent afterwards for EAT and their early evening performance. I've not been their biggest fan over the years, but tonight they were excellent. A fine selection of rocking tunes in a Doors/ Wonderstuff way, but very individual and fun, and with vocalist Ange Doolittle giving an excellent frontman performance. Smat!

CATHERINE WHEEL started very promisingly in their fuzzy guitar maelstrom kind of way, but grub was a more attractive idea, so I ate in the arena while listening to NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS' final funereal dirges, and pretty awful deathly doomy encores.

Then, the big one; NIRVANA. The headliners of the day, indeed the whole weekend. The biggest draw on the planet right now and ultimately, for me, a big disappointment. After their excellent "Nevermind" LP, merging rock, punk, metal and powerpop together in a mighty mush, expectations were high, but on tonight's evidence I'm not sure they're ready for this size of gig/ level of adulation just yet. The sodden crowd were "treated" to a rushed-sounding, slapdash performance by a band who seemed ill at ease, as if they wanted to be elsewhere. Titanic tracks such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "In Bloom" were low grumbles in the distance, and not a patch on the album interpretations.

So off we went at 10.45, after Nirvana started the last number of their (also short) set. A messy, sodden and disappointing end to a festival which started well, got better, then went out like a damp squib. But don't get me wrong, I'm glad I went; and even gladder I commuted!


Saturday Best: 1. HEART THROBS, 2. SUEDE, 3. BUFFALO TOM (of 15)
Sunday Best: 1. SWEET JESUS, 2. EAT, 3. TABITHA ZU(of 15)


Best New Band: 1. LEATHERFACE.
Star Of The Show: 1. ME! For commuting! That was my idea!

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