review archive

Reading Fest August 23rd 2002

Yay! It’s that time of year again, pull on yer scummiest trainers and fling yerself onto the fastest westbound train like some kind of indie/rawk hobo.
Disembarking at Reading station in our summer ‘finest’ we’re horrified to discover the temperature here is several hundred degrees lower than in smiley sunny London. Lucky I brought me cardi. Shiveringly shuffling sitewards we play spot the tee-shirt. The more obscure the band, the higher the points. Last year our fun was spoiled by a preponderance of poncey old Carhartt tee-shirts. This year we’re struck by how 1993 everyone looks. Grunge is back in a big way wiv da kidz, with an added soupçon of goff/metal.

da kidz are revolting

We join the crush of bodies waiting to squeeze into the main entrance. Cleverly, a corresponding crush of bodies is waiting to squeeze out of the main entrance as campers flee into town for supplies. This means there is deadlock in the gateway as two opposing forces meet. It takes ages for anyone to trickle through in either direction. Oi! Mean Fiddler! A bit of organisation would be nice, like say a barrier dividing the enterers from the exitees. This isn’t a good way to begin. Once through, we encounter the same mass total gridlock at the campsite entrance (not that we’re camping obviously, but you have to traipse through this shantytown to get anywhere). One big crowd pushes forward as a facing one pushes back. My, what fun this is. It takes forever to shuffle twenty yards. Even more annoyingly, this happens every year at this particular spot. Eventually, we’re free to join the wristband queue, followed by the queue to get into the actual stagey part of the site. I just can’t wait for later when we have to join the queues for the lavs (or if you’re male piss up the side of the beer tent, cheers!)

Exhausted by our epic battle to get in, we flop down on the as yet unsullied grass to be charmed back into good humour by The Moldy Peaches. In proper band mode, resplendent in ridiculous costumes (Kimya seems to be wearing a furry bear’s head and er, an apron printed with a picture of a superhero torso) they hammer out all the faves and more. The singalong playground tunes sound fantastic being given the full on electric treatment. They’re the perfect start to proceedings as finally the sun shines and the vodka flows.
kitten's associates

Sunblock on our noses, gladness in our hearts and cheeky lyrics in our heads, we gambol over to the Evening Sesh tent for the Von Bondies. The sound in there is abysmal, scratchily getting sucked up into the towering vacuum of stripy canvas above our heads. Even so, ver Bondies are rumbling, thumpy beat supremos, voices and guitars alike growling out lowdown, scuffed up, twisted rock ‘n’ roll. Carrie and Marcie glowering over the crowd from either side of hair-swinging Jason, cool switchblade chicks.

Emerging from the tent’s gloom and dazedly blinking in the sunlight, it strikes me yowling, greased up rock ‘n’ roll like this shouldn’t happen in the daytime. Go for a bit of a lie down with the vodka bottle by the main stage as Soundtrack Of Our Lives finish off their billowing prog set. The world is too woozy sunsmacked and flickery for us to pay much attention to proceedings. Pull ourselves together to march back into the stripey Sesh tent for a pummelling from the hearty hollering Bellrays. S’true the lady Lisa belts it out like nothing you’ve ever heard, oh sad schmindie gig attender. Unfortunately, the rest of the band are victims of the Evil Session tent rubbish sound curse, it sounds better when you stand outside and the sound gets compressed and wooshes out the back at you. Can’t stand out here all day, mind, so trundle over to the kindly confines of the wee Carling tent, get right dahn the front and pretend we’re in some norf London backroom hellhole venue. It almost works, apart from the Supertrouper shards of sunlight bouncing round the curtain at the back of the stage and being able to see a man unloading a truckload of water.

Still, it’s The Kills. Woo. Having been an admirer of Jamie Hince’s previous works in Scarfo and Fiji (especially Fiji, you really should get ‘The Glue Hotel Tapes’, it be lovely) I am looking forward to this. Jamie has renamed himself ‘Hotel’ (snigger), partnering Alison, or ‘V V’ to give her her Kills name, on their scratchy, scrapey, rattling raw heartfelt songs. It’s simple, but effective and affecting. A stark drum-machine, feverishly strummed guitar and two desperate, cracking voices. A baby Royal Trux. V V is mesmerising, striding in caged animal circles, pulling at her hair, dragging on cigarettes, pulling a stream of stagefront photographers after her like iron filings to a magnet. Smoke curls in the afternoon sunlight. Sometimes the pair of them sing staring straight into the other’s eyes, it feels like we shouldn’t be here watching, it’s too intimate. It’s something special.
The Kills. Woo
smart tie freaky neatness chic

The next band is gonna have to go some after that. It’s Interpol, currently collecting up the many media ravings gathering ‘neath their petticoats.

We’re told they’re early ‘80s Manchester miserablism, Joy Division, blah, blah. We get a sort of jangley Bauhaus dancing round a maypole with Marion (also once daubed with the New Manc Miseries gluebrush). But, get this Interpol are from New York! Do you get it? They’re doing old, old Britstuff, but they’re Yanks! It must be cool then. And they’re dressed in like, smart tie freaky neatness chic, like what them old bands did. Whatever. Bring on the ROCK!

Waaargh! This is more like it. Skranngg, krooww, ‘Waahhh, muthafucker!’ Jump up, down, bash head, throw hair hither and yon, grab front rail and shove backwards to diminish crushage. Wheeee! What with several hundred rock thing bands being unearthed and shovelled up for our delectation every week, The Datsuns (for ‘tis they) have thus far eluded me. I’m expecting another, ‘Yeah, they rock, la la, most amusing, pfft…next!’ type experience (hello D4). Darn it if these cheeky young Kiwis don’t drag the whole clanga clanga thanga up to a whole ‘nother level. They ARE AC/DC only instead of a wizened bloke in a schoolboy outfit, we get sprightly, skinny young things with luxurious hair springing all over the gaff and chunking out a big juicy selection of shake yer everything (tho especially yer hair) riferamalama tunes. Obviously, there’s no excuse for this, but hot damn is it ever fun. Okay, the ‘DC may have 50 foot Angus statues and yer actual swinging Hells Bells on stage (I know, I’ve seen it and loved it with my own eyes), but look! Here are Marcie and Carrie Von Bondie scowling out backing vocals on ‘In Love’ and that’s even cooler than wheeling out the canons for ‘For Those About To Rock…’

Blarrgh! That were ace, I got squished and couldn’t get me breath and everything. Best find the lavs. White Stripes soundtrack our search for some easily accessible facilities, blamming out a jaunty ‘Hotel Yorba’ as we stumble over bodies littering the floor. No way am I joining that queue. Find the cunningly unsignposted secret toilets of splendour, tucked away where folks don’t notice them. Sneak in and out of them for the rest of the day without having to queue once. Yah! Suckers doing leg-crossing, dancing on spot waiting.

Waaargh!
Skranngg!

Go to Eve Sesh for The Vines doing Nirvana with an Aussie Lobotomy. Good songs, keep getting ‘Get Free’ in my head. Nice ‘I’m dead mental, me’ attitood. But I can’t see nuffin’. S’like standing in a queue, staring at the ceiling, listening to a live bootleg. Wander off and find British Sea Power, there are twigs and stuffed owls, there are Bunnymenish bits, but sadly not much mad staring or striking of ridiculous sub-military poses, things that are pretty much compulsory with BSP.

Main stage, Weezer are doing that ‘Buddy Holly’ song. Stop it! I’d only just managed to wipe that from my inhead soundsystem after hearing it continually on GLR in 1995.

Waiting for The! Triumphant! Return! of Jane’s Addiction, the previously sunkissed skies darken and gloomify alarmingly. Raindrops sprinkle down, ha ha dearie me, a bit of a shower. Sheets of rain woosh down. Oh. Jane’s Addiction are on, Perry Farrell’s dressed in a manner that’s eye-catching from way down the far end of the field. Tripping about in allwhite with a beeg befeathered hat. You know, you’ve seen the pictures. Last time I beheld Pezza playing at Reading was with Porno for Pyros. They had stiltwalkers and fire-eaters and trapezers and all sorts of kerazee shit. At least that’s what I saw. This time, I behold Pezza from ‘neath the dripping canvas awning of a hotdog stand next to a pair of colossaly pished geezers cramming their faces with chips as fast as they can buy them. The hotdog stand man gets irate and tells all us rain-shelterers to clear off ‘cos we’re stopping hordes of eager greasy food purchasers from accessing his stall. No we’re not. We ignore him. Jane’s Addiction are doing ‘Pigs In Zen’ Ooh lovely, ‘Pig, goddamn pig’ etc. They rumble on with new stuff. When is it ‘Jane Says’? Ah bollocks, can’t really concentrate on the band’s frolickings like this. Am cold. Go and buy pint, careful not to stand near bit of beer tent that’s serving as an impromptu urinal. ‘Jane Says’ never happens. Boo.

Disappear into warm, snugly arms of Carling tent for Reindeer Section. Aahh. They are lovely. Sundry Scottish (and Irish) persons on loan from sundry Scottish (and Irish) spanglin’ bands shimmy together to produce woozy, bleary-eyed songs of lulling magnificence. Just what is needed at this point in proceedings. Aidan Moffat, Arab Strap man, is standing right by me. Does this mean he’s going to do a song? Will he do my fave, fave ‘Whodunnit?’ Please do that one. He does.
Yay!
It is so beautiful I almost expire with happiness. ‘I fell in love again today I think that’s been every day this week.’ Oh the sticky toffee Scottish gorgeousness of it all. I want to cry. It’s all over too quickly, ending with sentimental singalong ‘You Are My Joy’. We all wave our arms above our heads shouting along. You’re lovely you are. Hic.

Too shivery to venture out of the cosy embrace of this tent, so we stick around for Bobby Conn. Argh! Mummy I’m scared, why is that strange man screeching and trilling like a luminous sateen-clad chazza shop Prince? Hmm, it’s quite funky actually, what with the lady (Mrs Conn) playing violin breaking off to act out the lyrics with overly literal hand movements and all. My thesaurus says ‘funk it - be nervous’. My thesaurus has seen Bobby Conn! A small gaggle of fans-who-know-the-songs scream out at the front. As the set reaches it’s widdly skree climax, Bobby’s perfect shaggy in-eyes bowlcut slips. And falls off. The fans scream louder, ‘It’s a wiiggg!!’

What now? Stay in the tent to keep warm, do a little dance when My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Soon’ comes on. Oh look The Strokes are on the main stage. Go out and leap about pulling as many dumbass moves as we can muster to ‘Someday’ and ‘Soma’ and stuff. Sing ‘This song sounds just like the last song’ along to ‘Meet Me In The Bathroom’. Notice couple on ground in front of us, snorting coke from each other’s chests. Oblivious to surroundings, boy waves credit card aloft. Contemplate running past nicking card whilst licking coke in one smooth movement. Decide probably can’t pull this off, so opt for executing silly dance around couple in many jerky movements. Couple unaware. ‘The Modern Age’. Dancing gets more deranged. Couple stagger, fall, stagger off. ‘Hard To Explain’. You know what these songs sound like. I’m v. v. bored with all The Strokes hype, I don’t need to know anything else about them ever, but I still enjoy their silly, jumpy, easy tunes. They play ‘Is This It?’ We decide it is and bugger off to get the train home.

[top of page]