Otis Graham on Reading festival
Reading festival, with its northern sister Leeds, has been a staple in the British festival season and promulgator of everything heavy for as long as anyone can remember. This year it boasts a line-up of rock artists from Foals to System of a Down, whereas its ever-increasing focus on electronic music is evident in the high positions that Chase & Status and Skrillex occupy on the billing.
And at Reading it really is the music that’s important, largely because there’s sod-all to do during the day other than sit around and drink warm lager, interrupting the soak only to make a trip to toilets so awful they probably contravene a number of human rights acts. Reading, like all festivals, can be great fun if you’ve got a group of good friends with you, but aside from that it seems to become more and more charmless every year. The crowd, a large amount of whom are 16 and 17 year-olds, tend to interpret the festival spirit as an excuse to scream abuse at strangers and, in a couple of cases last year, to smear faeces on each other’s property. Far from the norm, obviously, but the point is that if you’re heading to Reading it’s gonna be for the music.
So who’s taking the reins this year? Green Day are first up to headline the Main Stage, following on from a rather bizarre 11 o clock-in-the-morning surprise show last year that seriously disrupted the body clocks of revellers who normally reserve mornings at Reading for locating more Carlsberg and trying to work out who pissed on their tent the night before. Still, the ageing punk popsters know how to do a show, as do the majority of the metal acts starting before them on the main stage. If metal isn’t your thing, the NME stage features the likes of Major Lazer and A$AP Rocky.
Though Rocky is a surprisingly big hip hop act to feature so prominently on the Reading line-up, he’s a small fry compared to Saturday’s Main Stage headliner and the year’s true curveball: a certain Marshall Mathers. Eminem has headlined the festival before – back in 2001 – and it’s a shame that the audience this year will have to make do with a forty year-old whining about fame over Haddaway samples rather than the chainsaw-wielding psycho that Reading deserves and once had. Ultimately though, nabbing Slim Shady is a big coup for the festival. Elsewhere on Saturday there’s a chance to catch the more gentle (and relevant) sounds of Tame Impala and Alt-J.
Sunday sees Reading favourites Biffy Clyro take a long-overdue headline spot supported by Nine Inch Nails and Fall Out Boy, while there’s more colourful fare elsewhere, with Azaelia Banks and Phoenix heading off the NME stage. Baauer has the penultimate slot on the Dance Stage, which will quite possibly make for the rowdiest Harlem Shake ever, and the first one where people are actually throwing shit at each other after the drop.