Brits rock on final day of Reading!

Reading Festival 2011 review

By Scott Williams | Published: Mon 29th Aug 2011

Reading Festival 2011 - Muse
Photo credit: Zelah Williams

Reading Festival 2011

Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August 2011
Little Johns Farm, Richfield Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8EQ, England MAP
£192.50 for a weekend ticket - SOLD OUT, £82.50 - Friday or Saturday
Daily capacity: 90,000

Sunday is a day dominated by Brit festival favourites. Headliners Muse deliver a hit packed sing along set that keeps the audience moving and warm in the cool night air. Before them a brace of UK acts in , Elbow, Ed Sheeran, and The Streets upped the feel good factor and drew huge crowds as the sun set.

around the festival site (1)
The day had started with clear skies for once, and the streets of Reading were busy with animated fans walking in and there was noticeably more of a buzz about the day, than the previous two days, and the arena seemed much busier, day tickets for Sunday were the first to sell out.

By Sunday we've gone native, the legs may feel stiff, but with a bank holiday tomorrow, a portion of chips and a pear cider makes a decent £7 breakfast. The food on offer seems to be the usual standard fare, but for some reason it's now all labelled as 'gourmet' by the caterers. It's not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination. We Are The Ocean open the main stage with Dananananaykroyd kicking things off in the vast NME tent.

Today is a day for ignoring the no crowd surfing signs, as the cameras on the big screens, and presumably the BBC coverage focuses on the crowd surfing antics of Damian Abraham who kicks things off. Fucked Up make a decent fist of playing on as their heavyweight lead siwnger belly flops over the barrier and goes swimming in a sea of arms and heads, donning various people's headwear. It's a terrific set, that's by degrees musical and trainwreck.

Enter Shikari
Later American Matthew Shultz, Cage The Elephant's frontman copies the antics of the Canadian with virtually the same crowd surfing antics, admittedly in a crowd that's grown considerably, and also inspiring more to join him. 'Ain't No Rest for the Wicked' also proves a stand out track of their polished set.

Over on the main stage a few hours later Enter Shikari show both acts how it's done by clambering up the side of the stage and commanding revellers to attempt to beat the record for crowd surfers at their last Reading show. Wellied surfers duly oblige and what follows is one of the craziest scenes ever witnessed in the crowds of Reading, as a sea of boots flow towards the blue shirted security on the barrier.

Before them Reading's self proclaimed favourite son Frank Turner, kept up the getting the crowd to sit down tradition that seems to have become such a staple of live shows this weekend to conclude a singalong set with 'Photosynthesis'.

Funeral Suits
A change to published times had Ed Sheeran play his acoustic set before 18 year old Blackpool singer Rae Morris which led to her getting a big crowd at the BBC Introducing Stage, who respectfully stayed to listen and didn't repeat the The FFers bottling incident of a few year's ago. Earlier Funeral Suits delivered a 'ones to watch' set, with Ham SandwicH's later cover of 'Running Up That Hill' closing a set that leads to one happy festival goer exclaiming "This is what it's all about, seeing bands you've never heard of and loving it." No doubt the rap fuelled energy of Murkage's live show, the synth heavy beats of Cardiff's Cuba Cuba, and the 'Down With The Trumpets' headlining set of Rizzle Kicks also fulfilled that brief. I'd expect most of the line-up on the small outdoor stage to be back to grace the bigger stages next year.

Hot Water Music
The Lock Up meanwhile was giving fans a sweaty work out with Spy Catcher following 'Remember Where You Were When Michael Jackson Died' with 'Good Times'. The frenetic punk from , The Menzingers, The Black Pacific, OFF!, and the Frank Turner endorsed Hot Water Music, is offset by the reggae ska stylings of Bedouin Soundclash.

Friendly Fires brought a funky 'Hawaiian Air' themed set to the main stage to get the crowd moving, before Interpol do their best to have them all go elsewhere. There's a huge crowd on the grass/mud outside the huge NME/Radio 1 tent hoping the occasional droplets of rain from the dark skies don't precede a down pour. Luckily they don't, and the crowd are treated to turns from Chapel Club and a spellbinding Warpaint , who seem exuberant on stage and it shows in the music surrounding a sublime 'Undertow', and 'Elephants'.

There's a chance to break away from the noise of the festival by sampling the musical choices on offer in the Festival Republic stage with folk from Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Fight Like Apes (fortunately they didn't have to cancel after their drummer got a throat infection), Twin Atlantic, Young Legionnaire and the feel good soul music of CocknBullKid, surely she has to become more well known in the next year!

Before the night draws in it's Panic At The Disco who draw the biggest crowd in the NME all weekend, and the best rainbow, for a belter of a set. The 11 songs are rapturously received by the still partying masses that holler along to 'Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)', 'But It's Better If You Do', 'The Ballad of Mona Lisa', and more. Brendon Boyd Urie reminds us all of the outside world, by saying they can't return to New York because of Irene before unleashing his own 'Hurricane'. A terrific set concludes with 'Nearly Witches' and this band are surely only one album away from making the step up to the big time in the next few years.

And so we arrive at the seminal moment of this weekend's Reading Festival, with three of this country's best feel good acts all going head to head to draw in huge crowds to sing along to their hits.

In the Festival Republic tent, and the surrounding space around it, youngsters packed themselves in, in scenes reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys, and La Roux's sets in the past, to hear 20 year old Ed Sheeran deliver 'Grade 8', 'The City', 'Homeless', and Jamie Woon's 'Wayfaring Stranger'. Before the inevitable folk tinged sing along of 'The A Team', and a surprise appearance of Mikill Pane for 'Little Lady' before concluding with the rapilicious 'You Need Me, I Don't Need You' and for those in the tent it's been a magic moment.

The same can be said for Elbow's feel good soaring anthemic main stage performance which sees the throng enjoy Guy Garvey's lilting lyrics and 'Grounds for Divorce ', 'Neat Little Rows', and set closer 'One Day Like This' bury themselves deep, to be repeated long into the night even after the songs of headliners Muse, and it's been the feel good moment of the festival for many watching as the sun sets.

At the same time over in the cavernous NME/Radio 1 Tent there's also a huge throng gathered to gurn and sing along to Mike Skinner's tunes, and bade farewell to his band The Streets who are making their last Reading appearance as the sun dips. The crowd are rapturous, repeating every word, and grooving to the beats of Skinner's greatest hits. It perhaps shows their age that when he's joined on stage by guests from the day's acts to sing a version 'I Love Rock N Roll', many in the audience don't know the words! His popularity with the press doesn't go unnoticed, with the massed ranks of photographers in luminous vests looking like fire fighters, leading Skinner to comment if there was a fire there would be no problem putting it out.

But there's one group whose brand of rock'n'roll we're here to see, and they build the anticipation cloaked behind a white sheet, with snippets from Tom Waits' 'What's He Building?', and the crowds cheers wildly as they are occasionally offered shadows of the trio of Muse thrown upon it.

The curtain eventually falls as the band break into their second album 'Origin Of Symmetry' with a stage set and visuals themed around the album's 'cactus' cover. Tonight the weekend's best headliners offer up the whole album in order, delivered alongside a chorus of waving arms and voices. But the real treats come after the album with a 10 song greatest hits set complete with aural video overload that feels like a Survivors Ceilidh and includes 'Uprising', 'Supermassive Black Hole', 'Hysteria ', 'Stockholm Syndrome', 'Undisclosed Desires', 'Resistance', 'House Of The Rising Sun/Time Is Running Out', and 'Knights of Cydonia' with the crowd's number growing throughout. By the end it's a hoarse, sweaty mass of delighted faces that turn upward to see the concluding fireworks, before walking home happy.

Reading ends on a triumphant high, I'm still not sure what it is about this festival, that makes it such a favourite, but we'll be back for more next year! Whether by design or by coincidence it would seem that the last few acts on offer at this year's festival, I missed both 2mandyDjs, and Peter Docherty, created one of the best atmospheres any festival could hope for, and the fact the rain had held off made it all the sweeter.

around the festival site (2)
review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Karen Williams / Zelah Williams

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