Reading Festival 2014 - Friday
Reading 2014, a weekend of very high highs and somewhat deflating lows, but the questions remain - Who was the best? Who was the worst? And which lead singer was so off his face that it didn’t seem as if he was there?
After an almost biblical trek, some swearing at a tent and drunken teenagers shouting “Alan!” we finally settled in on Thursday evening ready for the weekend ahead. We began with former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way. Striding onto stage in the packed out NME/Radio 1 Stage in an impeccable blue suit and flaming orange hair akin to Bowie’s Low era, Way immediately has the crowd in his hands. Gone are the theatrics of his former band, replaced with good honest rock during a set of brand new material from his forthcoming solo debut Hesitant Alien. Promo single 'Action Cat' comes early in the set, sparking the crowd into a frenzy (or as much of a frenzy as there can be at Friday midday). The new material has a big Britpop influence - which will surprise many - but he's a (very) early contender for set of the weekend.
A casual walk over to the Festival Republic stage follows to see Hudson Taylor. Imagine Coldplay meets Mumford & Sons in the blandest possible way. The band deliver a set of uninspiring songs, yet the crowd lap it up somehow. Kids these days, eh? After making a beeline for the exit halfway through, we catch the end of Japanese metallers Crossfaith on the main stage who seem to have delivered a deliciously heavy set where the dust thrown up from the various mosh pits hangs low in the air.
TMF favourites Blood Red Shoes are next up on the main stage and expertly deliver a set of two person rock with material spanning across their entire career. Opening with the instrumental 'Welcome Home', they’ve already proved why they’ve earned their reputation as a fantastic live band. Drummer Steve Ansell is ferocious in his showmanship, spurring on the crowd at every opportunity whilst guitarist Laura-Mary Carter burns through guitars like some burn through cigarettes. 'An Animal' sees Ansell pounding away at the drums even harder, screaming the words into his mic. A mighty fine mid-afternoon treat for those who watched.
We found ourselves drawn into the Festival Republic stage by what sounded like a poor man’s Nirvana, and poor it turned out to be. Darlia sounded almost exactly like Cobain and co. (not in a good way) but they have to watch as the audience slowly dissipates in front of them.
Next up are Fat White Family. A friend once described watching them live as like watching a car crash in slow motion - you shouldn’t be enjoying it, yet you are, and you can’t look away. The band had suspiciously red eyes and brought with them a hyper crowd in a set that included the likes of 'Auto Neutron'. They overran and were forced off the stage before being able to play fan favourite 'Touch That Leather' and yet, they were brilliant.
A quick dash to the Lock Up stage ensues to catch indie/punk rockers Eagulls. Blending an 80s vibe in with their punk sensibilities, the rockers ended up playing a great set to a healthy sized crowd. Following this, we sprinted across back to the NME/Radio 1 Stage which was slowly filling up for Scottish rockers Twin Atlantic. The crowd were treated to a selection of stadium rock anthems including 'Heart & Soul' and 'Free'. A rather touching rendition of recent single 'Brothers & Sisters' saw the tent come alive with voices in one of the biggest sing-alongs of the day. Main stage next year?
We had our doubts that Temples would be able to translate their psych-rock offerings to the festival’s second biggest stage in a satisfactory manner but they duly delivered. Highlights were seeing the crowd dancing along with the likes of 'Keep In The Dark', 'Mesmerize' and 'Shelter Song'.
We returned to the main stage just in time for Vampire Weekend to walk on stage. A rather drunk gentleman in front of us turned around and said “There’s only one way to go when Vampire Weekend are on… full on!”, but the set was rather chilled despite opening with 'Diane Young'. Indeed it was a rather enjoyable way to relax before the evening’s two headliners. The crowd briefly came alive for 'A-Punk', but the band weaved their way effortlessly through a greatest hits catalogue including 'Oxford Comma', 'Cousins' and 'Unbelievers'. Finishing with 'Walcott', the crowd was very much satisfied before Paramore stepped on stage.
Opening with megahit 'Still Into You', Paramore surprised many, but the set was not without problems as sound cuts plagued 2009 hit 'Ignorance' while the sound system finally gave up the ghost while singer Hayley Williams spoke to a crowd after the song. This lead to an acapella rendition of 'The Only Exception' which will live on in many people’s minds. It was a haunting moment seeing the crowd light up with lighters and cameras whilst Williams’ voice floated across the field. The sound returned in time for a touching rendition of 'Lost Hope' and for the rest of a hit-packed set including the likes of 'That’s What You Get', Misery Business' (which saw a fan in a dinosaur onesie picked from the crowd and brought on stage), and 'Brick By Boring Brick'.
As Paramore brought theatrics, Queens of the Stone Age brought balls-to-the-wall rock in the best headline set of the weekend. Packed with hits as every member showed off exactly what they can do, the band opened with 'You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire' before going straight into 'No One Knows' and 'My God Is The Sun', the band proved exactly why they were headlining. Josh Homme looked effortlessly cool smoking a cigarette during 'Make It Wit Chu' whilst drummer Jon Theodore delivered a quite frankly epic drum solo during 'A Song For The Dead'. But what made it such a brilliant headline set? The band were on fire throughout, and apart from stringing out 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' for a bit too long, every single song was ferocious and played expertly. Queens of the Stone Age? More like Kings of Reading 2014.