Well summers gone. In a blink of an eye the festival season seems to be over and it was closed with a bang at Reading Festival. The annual bank holiday bash is the pinnacle for any young music lover. If you like grime, hip-hop, dance, electronic, heavy or indie, its the festival for you, and this year, we were not let down.
Scorching temperatures ran right the way through from Wednesday to Monday. The weather wasn’t the only thing that was consistent. Surprises seemed to be sprawling out of every stage during the weekend (but more on those later).
A trio of acts on the NME/Radio 1 stage to kick off the day, The Magic Gang opening the festival for me in triumphant style playing to a pretty packed out tent at 1:40pm. Eager fans quickly began jumping from side to side to side, and pinging the lyrics back to the band as they cruised through their half an hour slot. The Orwells provided a more heavier punk sound to the afternoon having been wedged in between up and coming indie heres The Magic Gang and Declan McKenna, who also shone on stage, attracting a monstrous crowd and a real highlight of then weekend.
Leaving Declan McKenna slightly early, I hopped to the BBC Introducing stage to catch Plaza bask in the sun. Their laid back, breezy,reverb soaked guitars were perfect for the blazing hot sunny afternoon. Wishing I could stay longer, Idles provided one heck of a performance. Their loud and harsh sounds gave an exciting and enthralling show which i just could not take my eyes off. songs such as ‘Mother’ and ‘Well Done’ were delivered with such energy that the crowd didn’t know what to do with itself until lead singer Joe Talbot asked to part the crowd and for everyone to “hug each other like it wad the end of the world”. Idles easily gave one of the best sets of the weekend. It was funny, entertaining and damn right explosive.
Circa Waves and Two Door Cinema Club provided that necessary summery-indie rock fix i was after with Two Doors Alex Trimble making an appearance on stage with Circa Waves to perform ‘Fire That Burns’ in the first of many surprises of the weekend. American band The Districts gave an emotional and extraordinary performance in the Festival Republic Stage whilst the sun was going down. They wee incredible, and again another band that were one of my favourite acts of the weekend.
Rumours of a secret act had arisen all day and Queens Of The Stone Age were the band on everyone’s lips. At 9:30pm, in the NME tent Josh Homme and co, walked with such swagger on stage and ‘No One Knows’ was catapulted into the air with a wild crowd going ballistic (me included). It was an exceptional surprise to see a band who I’ve grown up with play this year, and especially in the way they did it. Giving a taster of old and new songs, the band were in exceptional form and created an energetic, and ruthless set of hits and new material.
After watching a few moments of Fat Boy Slim and realising Kasabian was on, i jumped over to the main stage to watch Serge and Tom shake the festival with a bruising encore, in which during Vlad The Impaler, Great British Bakeoff host Noel Fielding made an appearance on stage, and a sea of red flares were ignited during ‘Fire’. Didn’t think Friday nights could get any better.
Turns out Saturdays can be better than Friday’s… Kicking off the day with a secret Wolf Alice set in the festival Republic stage at midday was the icing on the cake, I didn’t think the weekend could’ve got any better than it already had. Blaeanvon produced a moment of magic in the NME tent, playing to a rather large crowd of dedicated fans. The trio smashed their set, with ‘I Will Be The World’ sounding loud, bold and incredible. With Inheaven cruising through their set me and some friends decided to relax in the sun, taking in the sights, and sounds of ‘Regeneration’ and the festival.
We returned to the arena to watch Everything Everything perform hits from their latest album ‘A Fever Dream’, the band did not disappoint playing an incredible set in the evening before Oxford’s Glass Animals took the stage. The festival had issued a warning that pineapples were banned from the festival, yet, a few risky festival goers risked their tickets to take in the prohibited fruit. with their lead singer Dave Bayley crediting those who risked to bring in the fruit. The sheer scale of blow up versions of the tropical food was bonkers. Both Glass Animals and Everything Everything produced electrifying sets which were full of energy and prowess.
Walking over to the main stage to watch the slightest bit of Eminem wasn’t even worth the time. The sound was horrible, he sounded out of time, and the real slim shady didn’t even look like the REAL slim shady. So with that, we left, and we saw Flume…
What I saw during Flumes’ one hour set was truly spectacular. I knew it would be good, but not that good. Harley Streten blew the crowds away from the get go. With a large piece of fabric dropping down in front of the electronic artist, and trippy lighting, strobes and bright flashes (not to mention the mind blowing visuals on offer) Flume blew every act out of the water with his headline set in the NME tent. Songs such as ‘Never Be Like You’, his remix of Disclosures ‘You & Me’, and ‘Smoke & Retribution” featuring Vince Staples contributed to one heck of a live performance and one that I shall never forget.
Sunday was an odd one for me. After partying late into the night and having one too many, I found myself waking up at around 11am, with the sun already at 27 degrees. I spent the majority of this day relaxing at the campsite, soaking in the sun, the alcohol and the laughs.
After missing bands such as Pond and VANT, and also hearing about Drakes appearance on the main stage with Giggs, i headed down to watch Stockport 5 piece Blossoms. Yet again, one of my personal favourite live bands produced a great set with the sun starting to set in front of the main stage. With snippets of John Lennon and The Smiths, their set was glorious, and songs such as ‘Honey Sweet’ and ‘Charlemagne’ glistened in the setting sun.
One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend would be Liam Gallagher. With a new album on the horizon, and bags of songs under his belt, Liam soared his way through a thrilling set. Despite technical difficulties effecting his vocals, Liam sang Oasis numbers ‘Rock n’ Roll Star’, ‘Slide Away’ and ‘Morning Glory’ with a few more tracks being debuted live from Liam’s upcoming debut solo album. The night was complete when Liam Gallagher began singing Wonderwall. Flares, people on shoulders, it was an emotional moment in all fairness. The audiences acted like a magnificent choir, singing the lyrics back to the front man. It was a magical moment seeing these songs being performed live for the first time, I feel the Oasis hits are what made the set, with Liam only having a handful of songs out, it was necessary to have these tracks feature.
The final acts of the night would first be Charli XCX. An act who I’ve wanted to see live for her joy filled pop tunes, Charli XCX blew the crowds away with her effortless performance and stunning stage presence. Tracks like her new single ‘Boys’ and a rendition of ‘I Love It’ by Icona Pop in which Charli features, were met with great appraisal from the rammed BBC Radio 1 Dance Tent.
This year, Haim would be the act i chose to finish with. Not being a fan of Muse that much, Haim provided a brilliant close to the festival with the American trio throwing all their energy, spirit and joy into the performance. New album tracks went down well with fans, and so did the hits. It was a glorious performance, from a glorious band.
For me this year wasn’t just about the music, it was spending times with friends, and the ones you cared about the most. I went with a group of 30 people, all of which would be going their separate ways with University and full-time work. This festival was in a way, one final hurrah before we all turn our different paths. Thats why it was so special, not just for me, but for everyone who I went with.
Reading Festival has changed over the years. It’s no longer considered as a rock festival with other genres such as grime and dance taking a huge leap in popularity, yet the festival seems to be heading back to its roots. With the almost certain headline slot of Queens Of The Stone Age next year and appearances from Wolf Alice and DON BROCO almost certain as well, we could be seeing the resurgence of heavier, and indie music at the festival.
Only time will tell, but Reading Festival 2017, you’ve been a blast.
Words from Piran Aston, all images taken by writer.