Sunday, August 31, 2008

Festival Season: Reading Review - Day 2

With Britain’s astonishing success in the Beijing Olympics, I am similarly inspired in my continued attempt to set the world record for greatest number of brilliant bands witnessed over a 3 day period. But before the 2nd lap of my musical marathon can begin, I need to traverse a scheduling hurdle as BTA darlings Collapsing Cities and Bombay Bicycle Club both vie to kick off the day.

Based on their impressive consistency, I plump for BBC. Still too young to legally buy alcohol or vote, these teenagers are disgustingly talented. Julian Casablancas would give his shiny new Converse shoes to sing songs as catchy as ‘Open House’ or ‘Evening / Morning’ when the Strokes’ fourth album finally emerges. At least they look pre-pubescent on stage, as if they’re playing to friends in their dad’s basement. Surely future headliners.

After being listed in NME’s must-see new bands at this year’s fest I decide to give Lovvers a chance to impress. Which they singularly fail to do, coming across like Andrew W.K. minus ‘Party Hard’. They at least finish 10 minutes early, providing ample opportunity to secure a choice spot in the newly enlarged Alternative Tent for Jeffrey Lewis & The Jitters. Jeff has compared choosing his setlist to a game of chess, based on the audience’s reaction to each song. In which case it’s checkmate after the first song, a spine tingling ‘I Ain’t Thick It’s Just A Trick’, one of 3 Crass covers the master storyteller plays for us. One of the real treasures of the weekend.

Over from probably the least to the most mainstream act on the site next for Santogold. Her painfully out of tune vocals live demonstrate why she needs the production levels on her eponymous debut record and there’s an overload of bass emitting from the speakers. The tunes just about fight their way through and the heavily choreographed dancers make a welcome distraction and bring some variety to the standard indie rock fare on offer.

I scamper across to the Festival Republic stage next to catch a few songs of a band getting the UK music press very excited. Twisted Wheel are yet another northern guitar band boasting an arrogance-fuelled swagger, who always seem to carve a special place in British hearts (aka The Enemy, Oasis, Kasabian etc). They allay my initial fear of another The Twang by proving in ‘Strife’ and ‘You Stole the Sun’ they have 2 songs containing a lyrical intelligence and relevance the Brummie band never realised. Fully expect to see them on the main stage next summer.

Mid afternoon on Saturday may seem a strange time for an 80s indie disco but bizarre scheduling decisions are not about to derail the Mystery Jets party train. Still wearing the outfits from their ‘Two Doors Down’ MTV friendly video, they draw heavily from their vastly superior 2nd album to deliver a set of unashamedly 80s pop tunes, like ‘Half in Love with Elizabeth’. Taking away 1 point for once again being without indie folk goddess Laura Marling, they are your typical 7/10 band.

Which makes Los Campesinos a 9.5/10 and proud recipients of the award for best band of the weekend. The set list is sublime, especially as they play 'The International Tweexcore Underground’, sadly omitted from their debut LP. The between song banter also impresses; “I’ve waited 6 months to play a gig with no Ting Tings fans!” As is the crowd's reaction who reach such height with their bouncing I’m sure someone’s snuck in a trampoline beneath their feet. I now appreciate why the reaction in some quarters to their debut was muted; as even though it’s chocked full of indie twee gems, ‘Hold on Now, Youngster’ doesn’t come near to capturing their youthful exuberance and charm.

Moving back into new band research mode now to see Fangs on the BBC Introducing stage. They play dirty glam dance rock and ‘Panic Attack’ and ‘SICKO’ are definitely capable of slaying the indie club dance floors this year. Which of course Black Kids have been doing for many months. They pick up the 80s party baton from Mystery Jets and the masses respond in style with some John Travolta style dance moves.

Thankfully I chose them over the start of The Raconteurs, whose set is sabotaged by the pitiful main stage sound, which I’ve read apparently fell victim to the great British weather. Jack White doesn’t exactly help matters by spending far too much of the set playing ridiculously long guitar solos. Ok Jack, I get it, you’re one of the best guitar players alive today but that doesn’t excuse this kind of musical masturbation.

And the main stage is our home for the remainder of the evening. Bloc Party leader Kele reminds us this is their only festival performance of the summer and they’re clearly relishing the moment, grinning like Cheshire cats. Coming back on to play a storming ‘She’s Hearing Voices’ as an encore, the general mood of the crowd is summed up by one girl’s reaction, “It feels like we’ve just seen the headliners”.

The actual headliners are The Killers, who bring their Las Vegas style (and light show) to Reading. They bizarrely follow up an opening ‘Somebody Tells Me’ by playing a sudo encore at the beginning with a new song and a forgettable Joy Division cover and immediately start to lose the crowd. It’s turned around in style with the usual hits and by the end of traditional closer ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ the crowd is left wanting and expecting more, at least in part as they finish 15 minutes early. Brendan Flowers is known as a resolute perfectionist, and I’m left with the sense that given the sound issues he was too frustrated to continue.

At least I won’t be bemoaning the sound levels tomorrow as I’ll be in the tents staying well clear or the main stage's heavy and comedy rock artists…

Bombay Bicycle Club - Evening / Morning
Twisted Wheel – You Stole The Sun (Clean Edit)
Fangs - Panic Attack (Radio Edit)
Jeffrey Lewis – I Ain’t Thick It’s Just A Trick
Low Campesinos - The International Tweexcore Underground


1 comment:


Mmm, Jack White needs to stop being so... vituoso. It kind of wrecks every live show with his, as you delightfully put it, musical masterbation!

But I need to check up on Collapsing Cities. I have a feeling they'll be good.