Reading 2010 will be remembered for the wrong reason

Reading Festival 2010 review

published: Tue 31st Aug 2010

Guns N Roses (2)

Friday 27th to Sunday 29th August 2010
Little Johns Farm, Richfield Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8EQ, England MAP
£180 for a weekend ticket
daily capacity: 87000
last updated: Thu 26th Aug 2010

The bars at Reading Festival this year were named after legendary years in the festival's past and above them banners showing the illustrious names who have graced the stages at Little Johns Farm over the years. Reading and Leeds Festivals goers had the chance to witness live a couple of re-united acts that are amongst these names in Blink 182, and The Libertines. There was also a chance to see the echoes of previous line-ups in the likes of Weezer, and Cypress Hill.

around the festival site (Saturday)
For forward looking music fans there was plenty to whet the appetite with a chance to see half of the current Mercury Music Prize nominees with Biffy Clyro, Villagers, Dizzee Rascal, Mumford & Sons, Foals, and Wild Beasts all showcasing their material. Plus new music from the BBC Introducing stage which showcases new talent. The stage was new last year and the festival offers a good platform to showcase talent if goes on to foster with Pulled Apart By Horses, and Everything Everything returning from their first appearance last year.

The heavy weighting towards more popular teen bands which dominated last year has gone with Reading returning to the more tried and tested. With many names returning for another appearance with fan favourites like Klaxons, LCD Soundsystem, and Frank Turner returning to provide terrific singalong moments. This year also saw the bill packed with American acts again this year with no Brit main stage headlining acts this year, but a decent showing of UK artists further down the bill.

Arcade Fire
Festival goers want three things from a headlining act, musical proficiency, singalong anthems and a memorable performance. Reading Festival offered us one of these each night. The musical proficiency came from Arcade Fire who delivered a technically jaw dropping set. The singalong anthems were delivered by a zestful Blink 182 and of course that memorable, late and finally flawed performance from Guns N' Roses, one which will be a talking point for years for all the wrong reasons.

This year's billing was also all about getting the band back together with Blink 182, and The Libertines. The latter reunited after six years perhaps coming closest to meeting the above headlining criteria. Even going off plan during 'Time For Heroes' when an electrical fault cuts the sound, giving the crush at the front time to breathe. It's worth mentioning the terrific work the crowd security did over the weekend. The front of the crowd for Enter Shikari was total chaos, people were collapsing in the mosh pit and security were struggling to get them out. It was a Herculean effort with those they had pulled from the throng, who incidentally seemed not to be helping each other out, collapsing it the pit area. A similar situation at the main stage for Blink 182 where a security guy had to be held by his ankles as he worked to help crush victims get out of the situation, and was clearly exhausted from the physical effort once his task was done.

Freelance Whales (2)
Some of the bands on offer over the weekend have a sound you have to listen to like Avi Buffalo, Band of Horses, Yeasayer, Local Natives, and Freelance Whales. These acts were slightly lost at Reading despite their musical expertise. But at a festival like this it's the more immediate beats that get the crowds going from the off, and it's noticeable a change of gear results in some of the audience not giving these bands a listen, but they're a vitally important part of the live music scene offering an important diversity to the big dance beats.

It was nice to have variety in drink too, with ale available for the first time this year in the form of Hektor's Brewery with their Scarecrow (5%) and Pure (3.8%) available from a tiny real ale bar. It's a promising start to more diversity although the ale runs out early on Sunday with the barmaid physically upending and shaking the barrel to get me the last pint of it. The queue behind me are unhappy to discover it's the last drop on sale at the festival.

Also frustrating was the inability of acts in the Alternative stage to appear at times recommended in the programme. The line-up which included Emo Philips, Kevin Bridges, Angelos Epithemiou, and the award winning Russell Kane appeared to be a little random with no noticeboards or signs with the correct running order, at least the Festival Republic Stage had signs to make music fans aware that it was running half an hour late on Friday.

around the festival site (Friday)
The NME Tent had been moved to alleviate the annual crush between it and the Lock Up Stage and the new position worked well. But, it meant less toilets and less space in the toilet areas, creating gridlock with crowds unable to get both in and out at the same time. Overall the toilet experience all over the site was the same as ever (adequate with long queues) and resulted in the usual problems, it was best avoiding leaning against any hoardings or fencing or sitting in the shady areas at the edges of the arena as they were permanently being used as urinals, particularly at night. This area also had some noise bleed at times from the stage out in the campsite.

Of course the biggest changes were the new campsite policies on Sunday implemented to halt the anti-social, violent behaviour that has taken root on the last day in previous years. The new restrictions worked with police responding rapidly to outbreaks of disorder. The prevention needs to continue over the next few years to ensure that the trouble doesn't return. Now that festival goers behaving like idiots is out the way, perhaps the next problem to be dealt with is their complete inability to dispose of their rubbish. Maybe it's the fact that every other festival is improving on the amount of waste in their arenas that makes Reading look worse, or it's that Reading attracts people who like sitting in trash. Perhaps the festival doesn't do enough to help, bins in busy areas are difficult to spot, the money back on cups has stopped bar cups littering the place but not all the other on site packaging. Instead of overflowing bins, bins were almost empty and litter picking crews working overtime to keep the festival tidy.

The weather held in the main, with festival organiser Melvin saving the festival from flooding by co-ordinating the Environmental Agency to empty the Thames of a quarter of a million gallons of water. We had some drizzle on Friday as the mud on site demanded the wearing of wellies although an energetic performance from Gogol Bordello soon made us forget the ground conditions. Saturday delivered sunshine and a warm night, before a blustery Sunday unleashed a torrential downpour during All Time Low, where we all reached for waterproofs and wondered if things were to turn nasty, only for the weather to remain pleasant for the rest of the festival.

Guns N Roses (2)
Reading has returned to form this year, with a line-up that appeals to a wide cross section of music fans of all ages. The crowds were markedly older on the first night to see Guns N' Roses and markedly younger on Sunday for Blink 182. It should have been Axl and Co. that delivered a legendary performance, but they let their fans down. Ultimately it was, surprisingly, The Libertines, that provided the positive festival headlines of the weekend. That reunion and peerless impassioned performance will one day grace the signs above a Reading bar in the future, I hope Arcade Fire join them they deserve it for what was clearly, for the Montreal seven piece, one of their finest hours to date .

A beaming festival organiser, Melvin Benn, revealed he was quite happy with the size the festival has grown to now and described it as, "The greatest festival on Earth." Whilst it might fall slightly short of that moniker, you know what you're getting with Reading Festival - an old school arena festival. It's festival light, as there's little on offer away from the music that's on offer of some of the newer festivals, aside from the flags and the food stalls. An old school arena festival, from the gluten rich food, the mud, the noisy campsites, the expensive drinks, and the school leavers let off the leash for the first time - it's festival light. But with the stages so close where else can you see so many well known acts? I saw a total of 65 bands over this fantastic weekend of music. eFestivals will have band reviews from the weekend online shortly.

The only question now is who will festival organisers get to top the bill for next year?

around the festival site (Saturday)
review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Karen Williams / Zelah Williams

Friday 27th to Sunday 29th August 2010
Little Johns Farm, Richfield Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8EQ, England MAP
£180 for a weekend ticket
daily capacity: 87000
last updated: Thu 26th Aug 2010

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