Reading Festival through the eyes of an Oxfam staff member…
Reading Festival is now a rite of passage for tens of thousands of teenagers all over the country. Having first walked through the now familiar white wristband tunnels solo at the tender age of 15, the yearly sighting of that big red stage can’t help but conjure a million feelings of excitement, nostalgia and happiness inside the hearts of many.
Opting for the last few years to work as a voluntary Oxfam steward rather than attend the festival as a punter, there are always sacrifices to make as to which bands you get to see and those whom you will be working during. Fortunately this year, despite missing the legend that is Eminem, I was able to land shifts meaning I could see Green Day and the incredible Haim.
The atmosphere on Friday morning at Reading always reaches fever pitch. As the hoards of revellers queue outside of the arena, there’s a definite divide between which headliner people are most looking forward to. Skrillex Vs Green Day is not a line up I thought I’d ever see. The latter having been going for more than 20 years and shaping the lives of many whilst Skrillex is very much a controversial choice for what is still (for the most part) a ‘rock’ festival. Dry The River might not suit the excitable atmosphere that the crowd seem to be bringing in buckets, yet their set acts almost like a temporary lullaby to aid those sore heads leftover from the night before. Until those minds are brought crashing back down to Earth by none other than Deap Vally. LA galz Lindsey and Julie take no prisoners as they plough through their set of White Stripes/ Janis Joplin inspired punk. There may only be two of them and they may have met in a crochet class but you’ll be hard pushed to find another female duo who kick as much ass as these lovely ladies this weekend.
Whilst many people will tell you it’s bad to let other bands slip past your radar as you wait at a stage for hours on end to see that one act who have evaded you all year. I am not one of those people. Whilst waiting for the delightfully riotous set from Kate Nash, I got kicked in the head and thought it was the best thing ever. I got to see a lot of bands whom I had yet to fully discover. MSMR from New York never really stood out to me on studio recordings, but the increased power and soul that singer Lizzy Plapinger can create in a live setting is a truly emotional experience. Not only are the lyrics incredibly relatable, but the melodies are upbeat and driven by powerful drum beats that bring a party atmosphere to the Festival Republic Stage.
Danish band MØ have lately been filling a Grimes shaped gap in my life and whilst they have similar styles, there’s no question that whilst they might not match Grimes’ talent so far in their early career, they can certainly echo and build on the way she works a crowd and plays up to the relentless crowd. The biggest and only real disappointment of Friday was to find that – after my sprint to the Radio 1 Dance Stage – Iggy Azalea had cancelled her sets at both Reading and Leeds, leaving a gap in my festival experience that I was none too fond of.
Secret sets aren’t normally Reading Festival’s thing, but every now and again you can strike it lucky. Last year, who could forget Green Day’s not so secretive early morning set. Now, whilst this year the name was nowhere near as big, a lot of people do actually love Bastille. Seeing them play acoustically on the BBC Introducing Stage might not have been as electrifying to me as it was for many other teenage girls, but it did actually sound pretty good and made me think that maybe I’d pre-judged the band a little harshly based purely on the majority of their fan base. Kudos, Bastille.
I find the less I say about System Of A Down the better. Being greeted by a very loud and very crude song about pulling tape worms from a not so wonderful orifice, is not exactly how I had pictured my pre-Green Day psych up. In fact it made me feel a little sick. But this was long forgotten the moment Bohemian Rhapsody filled the arena. An entire crowd singalong reminded us all exactly what is so great about British festivals, community and a sense of being a part of something huge. An ethos that was continued by Green Day in spectacular style as they played their classic album, Dookie, in full. It is a truly timeless album that in the eyes of many – played live – felt like a real moment for them to carry with them for the rest of their lives.
If you have a couple more minutes to spare, why not check out the past week’s other content?
- Feature: The Demon Music Guide to… Reading & Leeds 2013
- Feature: The History of Reading & Leeds
- The Monday Playlist: R&L 2013 Favourites