Reading Festival 2008 - live in Reading (Cover Artwork)

Reading Festival 2008

live in Reading (2008)

live show

Dear Reader,

I apologise for the length of this but cutting it down would run the risk of making it rubbish.

Anyway. Reading Festival 2008. For those not in the know, Reading Festival and its sister site at Leeds is the UK's biggest 'rock' festival, with three days of musical action, spread over five stages and catering for all 'alternative' tastes. Luckily, punk music in the UK is truly blessed to have DJ Mike Davies, who puts on the Lock-up Tent for two days of the festival, showcasing all things punk. After years of building up a fearsome reputation, this year had been blessed with what on paper seemed a phenomenal lineup for a festival in a small English city. Scores out of 10 are in brackets.

First up came Anti-Flag, kicking off the festival in its entirety. They were also billed to play on the Lock-up Tent later, but knowing I would never watch it, I decided to check them out on the huge main stage. Unfortunately, it wasn't really worth the two-minute walk, as a set list leaning too much on The Bright Lights of America disappointed many whilst the bizarre guest appearance on backing vocals from a large group of girls dressed in white ("Satan's Brides," apparently) not only looked and sounded terrible but served only to distract the audience and left me wondering how a band as passionate and lively as Anti-Flag can fail to entertain a fresh crowd, even with some help from pretty ladies [4]

Next up was Blackhole, who are also known as 'the band of the brother of Frank Carter from Gallows.' Blackhole as a young and new band were relatively impressive, and I came to find if you squinted a bit and imagine the ginger hair, you might almost convince yourself you were watching Gallows. That feeling then increased further as Frank Carter actually joined his brother on stage for the finale -- an entertaining treat for the early-starters in the crowd. [7]

The Loved Ones came up next and ran onto the stage and quickly launched into "Pretty Good Year." Almost note-perfect, the small but devoted crowd immediately began to enjoy themselves. However, a few songs into the set, the Loved Ones revealed their instruments were currently somewhere between Reading and the U.S., and thus were currently playing on instruments belonging to the Unseen. I would never have even had an inkling had they not said so, as they were tight and professional in their performance that the audience ate it up, especially as an epic rendition of "Louisiana" was unleashed to finish to whole thing off. [9]

I have always found the Briggs a bit funny to listen to, with a strange mixture between straight-up no frills punk and a more intelligent and delicate sound which can often exist in the background. On the couple of recordings I have given a spun, I have never been overly captivated, but translated into a live performance things seemed very different. It may not have been the tightest or cleanest performance of the festival but it was right up there with the best for energy and electricity and if I ever get the chance to see them again I will certainly do so. [8]

Frank Turner hit the stage to an absolutely phenomenal audience, which flowed out of the tent as far as my eye could see; if this man comes back to Reading, he will be somewhere much bigger and not on in the mid-afternoon. What happened when he took to the stage (with his live band) was truly awesome; the crowd was treated to a near-perfect set with absolutely huge sing-along choruses, with the power to shake the tent as if a thrash metal band were on. With just himself, a guitar and a backing band, Frank Turner provided one of the best things I have ever seen and an atmosphere in the crowd usually reserved for international superstars. [10]

H20, Go! And so the next band began in typical fashion playing through a set of newies and oldies, starting with "1995" and ending up at "What Happened?". It was good, but having just seen four back-to-back bands, I was starting to tire, whilst H20 maybe lacked a bit of youthful endeavour and atmosphere compared to those who went before. Even so, a set hard to really fault. [7]

Very tired now and in need of nourishment, the Unseen were the casualty of the day as I gave them a big fat skip. After a dodgy and overpriced burger [3] and then paying £2 ($4) for a bottle of water [0] I returned to watch Tiger Army. Without a double bass. According to lead singer Nick 13 their hired double bass "was fucked," meaning Geoff Kresge was not only playing electric bass live for the first time since 2001 but faced with a set list of songs he had only ever played on double. Given the circumstances I find it very hard to criticise them; Kresge was superb, looking incredibly natural playing songs on a 'foreign instrument,' but I did find myself thinking Nick 13 was working at 75% for the evening. But the crowd lapped up a solid performance, spilling over left right and centre as things got rowdy from a brilliant rendition of "Incorporeal" and onwards and given their initial problems I think they deserve a bonus point. [7+1]

Goldfinger know how to play a festival. "Spokesman." "Superman." "Open Your Eyes." "99 Red Balloons." Everything the crowd wanted was there and as a result Goldfinger got what they wanted: a crowd eating out of the palm of their hand. Aging rockers these days? Maybe, but they still had it based on this performance. [8]

The evening on the lockup saw Anti-Flag (again), Pennywise and Less Than Jake hit the stage in turn. However, I was long gone, straight to the main stage to watch Queens of the Stone Age put forward a one-hour set with probably too much rocking, jamming and improvising to please many, but I was mildly impressed, which was unexpected. [6]

However, I wasn't really watching QOTSA for pleasure, but purely for the Machiavellian reason that I wanted to be at the front to experience Rage Against the Machine play on English soil for the first time in eight years. Hitting the stage to an air siren and fully dressed as Guantanamo Bay prisoners, the band played the entirety of "Bombtrack" blind, with black bags on their heads. I was impressed. Classic after classic shredded out of Tom Morello's guitar and the crowd went insane for every single second of it. The best main stage festival headliner I have ever seen, who somehow managed to make a gig to over 60,000 people as intimate and energetic as if it was 60. Superb. [10]

So in conclusion? What a day. Never have I seen so many fantastic bands on top form; legends and legends in the making. It was a day for fans, not for critics and a day of glorious punk music that I may never see matched. Brilliant. Except that burger.