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Reading Festival 2014 reviewed

Festival Republic does it again, the legendary Reading Festival triumphs

Reading Festival is one of only a handful of festivals that have been around for a very long time; in fact it's been here long before festivals were anything like we know them today. Back in the '70s festivals were influenced by the likes of America’s Woodstock and the infamous 1970 Isle of Wight, Glastonbury was just starting out and in general the festival scene was most certainly not mainstream, it was for the more adventurous, a counterculture affair for free thinking folk, something no-one's parents would have considered appropriate in any way, attending a festival back then was very much a thought of as a subversive action. 

So having hailed from the days when festivals really were a bit of a 'walk on the wild side' Reading has, along the way, become a legendary and iconic event with a certain reputation to maintain, something it manages to do with remarkable ease despite the fact that festivals these days have to toe the line to survive, health and safety has constricted them severely and they’ve all lost that real subversive edge that defined festivals of the past.. 

Still - surfing the hands brings its own excitement!
Still - surfing the hands brings its own excitement!

What can't be denied about Reading Festival is the fact that it has one almighty presence on the festival scene. Given its legacy, longevity and very special place in the hearts of generations Reading Festival ranks as one of the UK’s most important festivals.

Reading is generally said to be a 'rite of passage', for the young ones celebrating with their 'after exams' bash - but maybe that’s just a little too simplistic, there’s plenty of people who’ve been going for many years, so while it does predominantly attract a very young crowd but it isn’t exclusively for the post exam set, it’s for all who haven’t lost touch with their wild side, who love life and music and every once in a while want to really let it all go. What Reading is really all about is full on exuberance with a splash of danger, rock 'n roll as it always has been, it's one great big edgy celebration of life, music, mayhem and fun, it's a place that allows you to forget about all the detritus of life and live in the here and now. 

and you can bring your own pot plant!
and you can bring your own pot plant!

Reading Festival can bring out the very best in people and occasionally the worst (yes, there have been a few artistic hissy fits through the years and sometimes a bit of bad crowd behaviour) but Reading reflects and mirrors the scene and culture as it is at the moment, and it's been doing that since it began way back in the '70's so it’s a bit of a master in that respect.

Reading Festival recognises that the right blend of music, people, opportunity and space can combine to create an event full of those indefinable qualities that turn music, madness and mayhem into a haven of escapism that, for a short time, encapsulates the essence of rock 'n roll and makes all involved part of an experience to remember. Health and safety may have dumbed down some aspects but Reading has an ability to keep hold of it's edgy nature despite the ever growing plethora of rules and regulations that attempt to strangle the life out of it, Reading is a true survivor and has seen many come and go while it remains strong and resolute.

The acts at any festival generate debate, arguments and divide opinions, as usual the main stage headliners came in for some stick, sometime we think that short of resurrecting John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Elvis some people will never be content, even if that were possible we're pretty sure even they wouldn't quieten the critics. To really find out what the festival crowd want get out there amongst them, we found an audience that are over the moon to find so many musical icons, newcomers and everyone in between scattered across a number of themed stages bringing a wealth of different musical genres. I think it's safe to say that there really is something to suit everyone with plenty of new acts to discover, the fact that Reading Festival is always a sell out ultimately says all you really need to know about this festival.

2014 brought with it some big hard hitting headliners, Paramore and Queens of the Stone Age were co-headlining on the Friday, there were some sound issues for Paramore during the set but in her usual fashion Hayley Williams turned the situation on its head, delivering a delightful acoustic version of 'The Only Exception', with that impromptu performance the bands fate was sealed and the rest was a walk in the park for this act, one very feisty woman with a huge talent. 

Hayley Williams, Paramore
Hayley Williams, Paramore

Queens of the Stone Age took to the main stage like ducks to water, delivering a memorable set they proved in no uncertain terms why they were chosen to close the main stage on the first day of the festival. Opening with 'You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire' and following with 'No One Knows' they ripped through a hit laden set and had the crowd on side from the opening notes. At one point Josh Homme urged the audience to take out their phones, insisting "it's a modern f**king world... turn out the lights, you'll be the light show". Finishing the set with 'A Song For The Dead' and a drum solo they were gone – but not forgotten.

But this festival isn't all about the headliners, there were some awesome performances dotted about in every corner of the site, Australia's Brody Dalle generated quite a buzz prior to her performance which more than lived up to the hype, the former Distillers and Spinnerette front woman really tore it up with a fiery performance, some top girl power on display there. Catfish and the Bottlemen have been going places fast and getting a lot of attention, they gave a very assured performance to an ecstatic crowd proving that they are poised and on the edge of becoming more than 'just another new band’. 

Brody Dalle
Brody Dalle

Fat White Family are just amazing to watch unpredictable, confrontational, raw, a little dodgy and definitely not without huge dollops of merit, worth a watch as you simply never quite know what you will get with their live performances. Jamie T came back with a 'secret' set after a long hiatus, the secret got out real quick as these things do and the tent was rammed - no-one was disappointed with this performance! Gerard Way had an impossibly early slot on the bill, the former My Chemical Romance frontman unveiled his new solo material to a very appreciative crowd, the fans got there despite the early slot, when an artists is worth seeing nothing is going to stop them! 

Enter Shikari are full on from the moment they step onto the stage demolishing all and everything around them - superb performance, always guaranteed and always totally uplifting and energetic, their live performances are not to be missed. Lizzo is a brilliant female rapper and seriously she's worth catching, a full on newbie with an old school sound bringing a new twist in her own way, I suspect we will be hearing a whole lot more from Lizzo. Metronomy just keep on getting better and better with each performance, unmissable stuff, maturing into quite the band, this new maturity is certainly setting them apart, catch them if you can.

Roughton 'Rou' Reynolds, Enter Shikari
Roughton 'Rou' Reynolds, Enter Shikari

Saturday saw Arctic Monkeys close the main stage in style, a sublime performance from a band that have more than earned their stripes and were thoroughly deserving of that headline slot. Relaxed, powerful, confident and worthy with no-one left disappointed, although a few left puzzled by the latest 'Elvis" look! Still, Alex Turner is actually rather cool and can get away with an awful lot with that level of talent - the crowd soaked it up. Left you feeling there is a hell of a lot more to come from these guys in the future, they are here for the long haul and are without doubt future superstars in the making.

Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys
Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys

Jake Bugg did a 'secret' set on the BBC Introducing stage followed by a main stage performance later, folk rock delivered in his own way, very mellow and totally calming, there’s a bit more to this artist than initially meets the eye and his future is looking decidedly bright. American Authors played their debut British festival sealing their place with a very confident set and performing to a packed out tent they with a great rendition of their hit 'Best Day Of My Life', I think we'll be seeing more of these guys on our festival scene next year.

The most engaging performance of the festival had to come from The Hives, a brilliant and engrossing set delivered in the way that only Pelle Almqvist could get away with...perfection on a Saturday afternoon... getting thousands of people to sit down in a field? Inspired! This was a set that appealed to everyone, strong, immersive and engaging, a real stand out act, not easy in a festival packed with quality acts but they conquered Reading with ease and with a helluva lot of style.

The Hives
The Hives

Other stand out performances came from Brutality Will Prevail who gave an awesome performance, this is hardcore and this is furious stuff, aggressive and serious, they got the crowd, they’ve got the fans, what more do you want? Cage the Elephant were equally insane, their live show is incendiary stuff and totally captivating, you just have to be there and experience the show, go see them when you get the chance. Die Antwood were completely mad and utterly mesmerizing and very provocative, they are not too be missed it's an experience and totally off the Richter scale - insanity rules with these guys - mad bad and dangerous to know! 

Die Antwoord
Die Antwoord

Total opposites and a complete change of vibe and genre came when Imagine Dragons took to the main stage, they are fast becoming a festival favourite, always awesome performers these guys seem to be genuinely happy to be where they are - and with the likes of 'Radioactive', ‘Demons’ and ‘On Top Of The World’ they were really irresistible and proved to be quite the draw with the crowd held well and truly in the palms of their hands.

Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons

Other highlights included Bombay Bicycle Club who’s popularity ensures that they always pull in the crowds, they even had long time collaborator Lucy Rose join them on stage as well as Rae Morris, a simply sublime experience is always guaranteed. We Are Scientists made a very welcome return to Reading, they just never fail to please, always excellent they rocked the Festival Republic stage in true style with an assured set, with plenty of hits alongside newer material they kept everyone happy proving to be the perfect choice.  Pusha T delivered brilliantly to a packed Radio 1Extra tent full of happy fans and was well worth catching in this setting, a faultless set. Sigma drew an absolutely massive crowd for a full on high octane set and in so doing they perfectly showcased the lure of dance in all its glory.

Pusha T
Pusha T

Sunday came around all too quickly, headlined by Blink 182, potty mouthed as ever they engaged with their crowd and with a career-spanning set they did what they came to do, with plenty of puerile banter between songs. Blink 182 seemed to work well with the Reading crowd and having met with some of their fans backstage before their set they showed why they remain so popular.  Opening with ‘Feeling This’ the set included ‘What’s My Age Again’ and ‘Rock Show’, finishing with 'Violence', 'Dammit' and 'Family Reunion' there were the expected pyrotechnics with the massive signature flaming ‘FUCK’ during the encore, they came to do what they do and they did it well.

Blink 182
Blink 182

Clean Bandit, earlier in the day drew a truly massive crowd as they always do these days such is the popularity of this band, delightful stuff from some hugely talented musicians, always worth catching, they simply never disappoint. This is musical fusion at its finest and another lively enthusiastic performance showed just why they are a commanding band.

Papa Roach clearly love their fans and their fans love them, which makes for a rip-roaring set that's just awesome to watch, they totally nailed it. Jacoby Shaddix whipped up the audience into a proper frenzy during a set that spanned their career; at one point he mooned at the crowd before telling them “We fucking love you guys!”.

Jacoby Shaddix, Papa Roach
Jacoby Shaddix, Papa Roach

We got two shots at You Me At Six on the Sunday, first up was a gorgeous, atmospheric acoustic performance on the BBC Introducing stage, it was supposed to be a ‘secret’ gig but given that the guys had tweeted it earlier there was nothing secret about it at all, one can only imagine that bands get a tad insecure and think if it’s not leaked they won’t get a crowd, don’t think these guys need to worry about that!  Later we got a full on main stage performance from the guys, Opening with 'Too Young To Feel This Old', 'Underdog' and ‘Loverboy’ Alex Gaskarth from All Time Low joined the band on stage to perform ‘Fresh Start Fever.’ Finishing a well-received set with 'Room to Breathe', 'Bite My Tongue' and 'Lived a Lie' another act that just keeps on getting better and better.

Josh Franceschi, You Me At Six
Josh Franceschi, You Me At Six

Other highlights included Dolomite Minor, who are one of those acts that are gaining a lot of interest at the moment, this is a duo with a huge potential, and one that was remarkably popular and is deservedly gaining fans fast. Vic Mensa also deserves a mention; keep an eye out for him, a totally talented crowd pleaser. Schoolboy Q also drew the crowds and worked it like a pro. Rap and hip-hop were well represented throughout the weekend Reading bought some quality acts from this genre to the stages and it went down well with the crowds.

Schoolboy Q
Schoolboy Q

The ever popular Vampire Weekend who provided a happy sing-along set that brought a wealth of good vibes to the main stage, Vampire Weekend are just so indicative of summer sunshine, happy sing-alongs and anthemic pop at its best. With tracks like 'Diane Young', 'White Sky', 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa',  'Holiday', 'Cousins' and ‘A-Punk' this set reminded everyone just why Vampire Weekend are so effortlessly adorable, they always leave you wanting more.

Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend
Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend

Not unexpectedly the 1975 drew an enormous crowd to the NME/Radio 1 Extra stage and proceeded to wow everyone there, Matt Healy shocked when he appeared on stage wearing a suit and no shirt, kicking off with 'The City', 'Milk', 'So Far (It’s Alright)' and 'Talk!' and making sure one young girl's festival memories were forever set in stone when Matt Healy pulled her on stage and dedicated “Pressure” to her, this was their night. Finishing their set with 'Chocolate' and 'Sex' it's fair to say that The 1975 totally stormed it, clearly this is another band totally in touch with their roots and their fans, they didn't put a foot wrong.

Matt Healy, The 1975
Matt Healy, The 1975

Hip-hop has shown without doubt that it more than deserves its place at Reading and the weekend had brought some massive performances, it was just about to get even better. Over on the main stage Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were proving to be a major festival hit bringing energy, fun and bringing more oomph than we thought possible, they got the crowd on side from the moment they stepped onto the stage, and it was a huge crowd. As the set progressed Macklemore got a fan to pass his giant Spider-Man inflatable to the stage, holding it aloft he said,  "This is Spider-Man’s first ever hip-hop show," they had no trouble engaging the crowd but did they really play ‘Can’t Hold Us’ twice? Yes, really – they did! It was a hugely entertaining show that had the lot, including those all-important pyrotechnics.

Macklemore getting intimate with Spiderman
Macklemore getting intimate with Spiderman

The Horrors, fronted by the ever-charismatic Faris Badwan was, as usual, hidden by reams of smoke and lights on NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage. They conquered it with a smattering of songs from the new album as well as a wealth of older material, always worthy these guys are way more talented than is often appreciated. With a set list that had 'Chasing Shadows', 'In And Out Of Sight', 'Who Can Say', 'Mirror's Image', 'Still Life' and 'I See You' they couldn't help but add to their fan base with a stunning performance that had the whole of the NME / BBC Radio 1 stage crowd enthralled, engaged and quite surprised by what they discovered.

Faris Badwan, The Horrors
Faris Badwan, The Horrors

We didn't spot a duff act or performance throughout the weekend, the whole event was jam packed to the rafters and beyond with top quality acts, appreciative crowds with an obvious and huge love of live music, performance, fun and madness. There was plenty to shout about and oodles of top stand out performances around a site that is well laid out and very easy to get around, the only problem you'll find at Reading is trying to decide who to see when and just what you might have to miss, seriously it's that crammed full of good stuff.

There are plenty of real, proper flushing loos, a huge plus point in my opinion, they are also kept clean and stocked many, many festivals could learn a thing or two about providing proper facilities from Reading.

Special mention has to go to Specialized Security, these guys and gals worked hard, they were fair, friendly and professional, if security at festivals was always as good as these guys it would be a pleasure, they couldn't have done a tough and difficult job any better - big respect to them this year.

Specialized Security,  most impressive security of the season?
Specialized Security,  most impressive security of the season?

This is not a festival for the feint hearted, nor do we think it's an ideal one for families with young children, that's not to say they are excluded by any means but this is a festival that has retained a good splash of old fashioned anarchic rock and roll, it has that edge, it's where anything can happen and frequently does, and that's what makes it a full on festival experience. 

It's the crowd that always makes a festival special
It's the crowd that always makes a festival special

The atmosphere is youthful, exuberant and energetic as you'd expect with such a young demographic and it all adds to the vibrant fun ambience that so categorises and defines the Reading Festival. Simply pulsating with energy, enthusiasm, drive and attitude by the bucket load, ultimately whatever people say about it - this is one cool festival!

It's Reading Festival - where music, people and artistry collide...it delivers and it delivers big time.. Always bringing you a weekend to remember, we'd suggest you get your tickets for 2015 as soon as you can.

 
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Review Info

Author:
Deborah Rees
Added:
22nd August 2014
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Reading Festival 2014 reviewed

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