for those not camping Reading Festival offers much more than rock

Reading Festival 2008 review

By Scott Williams | Published: Thu 28th Aug 2008

around the site (1)

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th August 2008
Little Johns Farm, Richfield Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8EQ, England MAP
Daily capacity: 55,000
Last updated: Wed 13th Aug 2008

We had gone back on what we said, after Reading 2006 we swore we'd never be back, but there we were waiting for the festival to let us into the press area, so we could dash up to see Future Of The Left opening the NME stage, and as usual the powers that be want to keep the press out so we couldn't cover the start of the event. Why do they do that every year?

However, we've given up on camping at Reading Festival ever again, it's never been a nice experience for us and no doubt there will be more people turning their back on this festival as each successive bunch of yobs try to outdo the stupidity of those that came before them.


This year we also had our just-teenage daughter in tow, and were rather nervous she would be overwhelmed, but quite the contrary, come the last notes of the awesome Metallica set which closed the festival, she said she wanted to return next year. She was a bit disappointed that both bands she came to see Slipknot and Avenged Sevenfold weren't able to play but loved Bullet For My Valentine, Rage Against The Machine, and Metallica, as well as all the alternatives on offer from comedy, wrestling and dance music to the current crop of pop bands with well known singalong numbers.

I'm glad that Festival Republic have dropped their affiliation with Carling, and that the backstage has been paired back to be as minimal as possible, no sponsor tents and very few posers, it's pretty much a working area now.

The dropping of Carling means the slightly more palatable (but not much) Tuborg replaces it in the bars at a costly £3.70, and only two bars sell my tipple of choice cider (that's with apples) as opposed to the more prevalent babycham (pear variety). There's still no beer/ale options, although the cup repayment scheme means when a band finishes a quick buzz around the audience's vacated floorspace and there's enough cups for a free pint instead of paying a hefty £4! For those in the campsites there's some great deals on cheap booze on the way into the festival, but you can't take this in to watch the bands.

The site was slightly wider this year, although with more people in it, you'd never guess, and the burger/chip food options are nearest the main stage with the more 'gourmet' options on offer at the opposite end of the arena, food costs from £2 for a tiny amount of chips to around £7 for a proper meal option, although breakfast and brunch can be grabbed for much less off site, saving money. There were burgers, pasties, and sausage baps available for a fairly reasonable £4ish. The walk into the festival has many cafes offering breakfast for a fiver. There was also an interesting sticker system which was worth noting, the caterers had been graded by health and safety and those with the highest three star rating tended to have their awards on display, these were the venues we stuck to eating happily at all weekend long.

There was a smattering of stalls at the end of the arena, mainly selling clothing, jewellery and it is the usual festival stuff, although I've not seen Atticus anywhere else this year, and the prices are on a par with those offered at other festivals this summer.

Pulled Apart By Horses

A new addition since our last visit is the BBC Introducing Stage, which showcases some great acts and special guest slots. The highlight for me were Pulled Apart By Horses who pulled off a blistering set with much thrashing about the stage, so adrenalin fuelled was their performance the lead singer went all rock n roll on us at the end with some protracted vomiting, bless!

Other great sets were Biffy Clyro's opening set, and We Are Scientists intimate small stage performance. I have to hand it to The FF'ers too, who thanks to some crazy Foo Fighters' secret gig rumours had to face a barrage of bottles once it became apparent they weren't Dave Grohl, they continued with their set even when shoes were added to the mix.

As a metal fan I thought the line up had been stripped of crunching riffs, but Rage Against The Machine and Metallica with Queens Of The Stone Age, Black Tide and Bullet For My Valentine (replete with Spinal Tap pyrotechnics) went some way to sating my headbanging desires. The latter asking if we were sick of indie acts, which by then I was, judging by the crowd's response and the small crowd at Dirty Pretty Things I think perhaps the tide is turning on this tepid music form.

The crowds were minimal each day but rapidly built, with those of us with festival experience realising toilets, bars and eateries were no go zones between band performances.

The Ting Tings

The NME/Radio One tent was rammed for MGMT, Pendulum, Hadouken!, Santogold, The Ting Tings, Seasick Steve, The Music, and Mystery Jets. That's a line-up most festivals would love to have right there. With a rave going on periodically at the nearby Cornish pasty place to keep me amused and I have to thank this tent for their line-up this year, without it the festival would have been pretty dull, the main stage acts just didn't cut it for me, until the last few acts each day, and it was here that the most appealing music for me was housed.

Kids In Glass Houses, Cage The Elephant, and You Me At Six won the cool kids gathering in numbers this year in the Festival Republic tent. The daft award goes to the bottlers who must have waited ages for Elliot Minor before limply throwing their bottles and realising they're missing whatever act it was they wanted to see.

Other highlights include Dizzee Rascal, Frank Turner, Darlings Of The Splitscreen, Fight Like Apes, Black Acid, The King Blues (who pack the Lock up) and the mighty Justice with their huge stack of Marshalls and giant illuminated cross win the best unexpected find of the weekend! Wow what an act! The best new act of the weekend was the cheeky punksters Eureka Machines whose banter, smart suits, crazy stare drummer, and rounded punk rock will go down a storm at smaller festivals next summer.

Robots In Disguise

The dance day acts were all pretty entertaining with Robots In Disguise proving to be the highlight there for me. Although of course the weekend will be most remembered for the Guantamo Bay arriving Rage Against the Machine, who played their socks off. Metallica and their huge screen which meant we could stand at the back near the two additional speaker stack and hear it damn loud as opposed to the tepid sound in the mosh pit area. The pyrotechnics were impressive from there too.

Why The Killers were headliners I have no idea, perhaps the girls squealing in bright lurid mini dresses and wearing sunglasses at night who were on the barrier went some way to explaining it, although it looked from a distance more like a glam band with all the gaudy taste of Abba. That's Probably why they didn't allow any photos to be taken of them. We left early that night, before they finished, but damn it you could hear their cheesy songs, and the crowd singalong all the way out of the arena. I was tempted to pop in the silent disco to escape!

Tenacious D

Talking of crowd participation a mention has to also go to Tenacious D and their rock opera lite, I liked the homage to The Who's Tommy medley at the end, and that was a hefty nod to Daltry and co. For two guys (and a backing band) to hold such a swollen audience enthralled for so long is no mean feat, and the noise of the crowd who sang along relentlessly through out made this a real festival memory.

Of course there were the downsides too, the fact the urinals offloaded straight onto you feet, the huge queues for the loos in general, the massive congestion at times between Lock Up and NME, the reports of torched cars in the car parks which made all of us with cars worry, and animosity in the campsites are the usual negatve aspects, I've come to expect.

However what I hadn't expected was no fires in the arena, and therefore no black smoke and post Reading hacking cough and also the fact that everyone in the arena was so pleasant, no punch ups witnessed, no aggro, randoms happy to chat, and a positive upbeat attitude. My faith in Reading Festival is restored, although there's no way in hell I'm ever camping there again! But without the stress of camping in a war zone the festival is actually a rather nice experience, and with money back on cups, bottles and cardboard cup holders, you can now do the festival on a budget.

Rage Against The Machine
review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Karen Williams

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