Reading Festival 2012: Reviews from Two Perspectives

Among the thousands at Reading Festival over the weekend were Kentishtowners Susie and Jon. Each viewed the event from a …

Among the thousands at Reading Festival over the weekend were Kentishtowners Susie and Jon. Each viewed the event from a rather different stand point. In the left column the music-loving parent, on the right the Reading regular.

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Having packed the 16 year old off the day before with blow up mattress, tent and dry shampoo for his first festival weekend at Reading, the husband and I took advantage of a generous offer of a day pass from our friends at Kobalt and promptly went to join him. When I say ‘join’, I mean send a lot of texts, finally manage to meet for ten minutes, top him up with cash and try not to be too grossly embarrassing.

Our first stop was to see The Hives in the NME tent mid afternoon. The joint was heaving with energetic and enthusiastic teenage fans, moshing and jumping and singing along at top volume. After an undignified ten minutes where we – the two oldest groovers in the room (possibly the whole field) – got stuck in the mosh, the whole performance was a joy.

The lead singer swaggered and boasted, giving one of the most arrogant yet charming performances I’ve ever witnessed. He promised that he would ruin the rest of the festival as this crowd would be too tired to enjoy any more. It was cool when the band literally froze mid song for a good few minutes, even cooler when they demanded that the whole audience sit down on the ground, before climaxing the gig to resounding applause and excitement. A real treat.

The crowd was so massive for Alt-J we couldn’t get near the Festival Republic tent – which was a shame as I have reports they were amazing – so we meandered back into NME for a bit of Graham Coxon. Meandering is pertinent, as everyone else seemed to do much unnecessary running from tent to field, as well as random high-fiving. Mr Coxon was right on it, with his serious musician stance, a touch uncommunicative and grouchy, to be expected of him in his solo super-talented manifestation. He did at least ask if the audience were all tired from The Hives.

The Cure came on the main stage at bang on 9pm and played their grown-up Goth hearts out. Robert Smith, a gorgeous caricature of himself, really does have a terrific voice and loads of commitment, and in an uncharacteristic chatty moment he reminded us that it was at least the right day for “Friday I’m in love”. Tight musicianship, clean and vibrant lighting, a great festival night out.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled, but compared with the jolliness and style of Bestival, the charm of Hop Farm and the, let’s-face-it, gross conspicuous consumption of the House Festival, Reading really is quite grubby, or at least basic.

With no chill-out areas, nowhere for a decent cocktail or a seemingly healthy gourmet snack, this one is not catering for the should-know-better mature punter, but instead targets the young and free, most of them still reeling from their A level and GCSE results.

It is, quite rightly, their time to let gelled and braided hair down, and from the guarded reports we got from our boy, a Party time for all. And thank God for that, they deserve it. No kid should be exposed to too much Dad Dancing.

Words: Susie Innes

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I may be slightly biased as it’s my ‘home’ festival (I was born and bred in Reading), but Glastonbury apart, I still consider it to be the most iconic British festival there is.

2012’s line-up probably couldn’t be described as vintage, but there was still a fantastic mix of rock legends, indie greats and NME hyped up-and-coming bands. Londoners Spector drew the first big crowd of the Friday to the NME/Radio 1 tent and whilst their debut album may be pretty derivative of the likes of The Killers and The Vaccines, it seemed well suited to a festival tent and very enjoyable.

Elsewhere, on the Festival Republic Stage, Brooklyn band We Are Augustines, whose debut album Rise Ye Sunken Ships is one of my favourites of the year so far, played one of the most energetic set of the weekend which surely promises of bigger things to come. The Cure closed the Main Stage on the Friday with a mammoth 32 song set, which only really got going during the encore, and included Lovecats and Boys Don’t Cry.

So onto Saturday, and another Brooklyn band Oberhofer were hugely impressive on the Festival Republic Stage. Frontman Brad Oberhofer jumps around like a hyperactive child, but his enthusiasm is infectious and their short set was one of my highlights of the weekend. Dry the River’s slice of Americana via East London was also fantastic in the NME tent in the afternoon, but then it was all about the main stage as darkness fell.

Firstly, Florence & the Machine played to a massive crowd in the rain to display their meteoric rise, before headliners Kasabian delivered an amazing greatest hits set, with songs from all four of their albums. Festival goers young and old danced and jumped around like idiots to what was a triumphant headline act.

Slight weariness and cider headaches had kicked in by the Sunday, but Scottish hipsters Django Django sorted that out with their brand of psychedelia in the NME tent early on. Next up were Camden’s own Tribes. Suspect fashion choices aside, their set was laden with anthemnic choruses, perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon at a festival.

The Black Keys cemented their place as one of the biggest bands in the world with their sub-headline slot on the main stage, but it was Two Door Cinema Club in the NME tent who stole the show on the Sunday for this writer. Just two years after making their Reading debut, they played to one of the biggest tent crowds I’ve ever seen, with songs from new album Beacon fitting in perfectly with those from their debut LP. Alas after that, tiredness kicked in so we couldn’t make it through Foo Fighter’s 180 minute set – meaning that was it for another year.

Words & pics: Jon Simmons



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