Reading Festival 2014. Growing up, or not.


Reading Festival
This is Growing Up or not.

“Well I guess this is growing up.” Fourteen years after they discovered maturity was painful and thus baulked against it, Blink 182’s almost last words brought another Reading Festival to a close. It’s an idea that’s still held dear by all the grubby hands in attendance, not from lazy nostalgia but actualized reality.

From the teenagers suffering a 7pm hangover to Royal Blood becoming bigger than great, it seems that Reading 2014 was built on the foundation of growth.

No one would dare accuse Blink 182 of growing up though. While they’ve never sounded better, the puerile nature of their onstage banter and the very way they attack the show is as reckless and wonderful as ever. Offence is, of course, there if you search for it but after seeing Die Antwoord turn their bodies into performance art, it’s difficult to get rattled by semen. Turning the tent into a rave, Die Antwoord shock everyone and not just because they weren’t shit. Their dancehall, a retro unification of skinny jeans and piercings, worked on so many levels that it’s impossible to work out whether their performance offended, angered or aroused. They subvert the mainstream, repackage it and sell it back to their own children without anyone realising. It’s witty, subversive and most importantly, fun.

The likes of Brody Dalle, Darlia, and Blood Red Shoes brought a sultry, no-nonsense collision of straightforward rock and honesty to the weekend. No thrills, no pandering, just songs that head straight for the chest. That attitude is carried over onto the finale of Friday as Queens of The Stone Age comfortably step up to the mantel as headliners. Confident, majestic and careering between haunting and brutality with little more than a flick of the wrist, Josh Homme is a man with nothing to prove.

Paramore were good. It was an over-eager run through of a set that didn’t quite work, but the enthused gushing and heart-on-sleeve nature of the band made it endearing, rather that trite. They’re a headline band in their own right but there’s still doubts licking at their heels. It could have been worse than losing all sound for a chunk of your set though. It could have been a lot worse. They could have been Arctic Monkeys, a band who haven’t cared about a live show in years. A band whose superiority complex is a kick of dirt into the face of every person who buys their records. Flat, uninteresting and deliberately difficult to follow, Arctic Monkeys once again put in an emotionally disastrous performance, saved only by their fans rose tinted outlook on the world.

It’s odd to see a stadium-ready frontman perform to an arena crowd, with songs shaped for basements but that’s how Gerard Way reintroduced himself. It was as scuzzy and heartfelt as we’ve been led to expect and while it satisfied the curiosity, it did little else to really leave a mark. The man means something to a lot of people but the songs don’t. Yet.

A band who do know about left marks are CHVRCHES, whose sonic dreamland came to life amid a sea of lasers, transporting the NME tent to a heavenly wasteland of dark conversations and thundering jubilance. The Wytches don’t have the light show for such epic movement but their sparse, rolling landscape of tumbling guitars and hoarse vocals finds a life of its own that’s just as mesmerising.

Baby Godzilla live shows are described as chaotic. You go in expecting chaos. Maybe a broken guitar, a torn shirt, a circle pit. Behaviour that would get you kicked out of waitrose, certainly, but everything’s chaotic nowadays. Our sights have been lowered. Our imagination tamed. Chaos, just isn’t anymore. And because of this we’re going to need a bigger adjective.

I could list who went where, atop what but you wouldn’t believe me. And it might  be quicker to just list what Baby Godzilla didn’t do. Their punchy noisepunk is morphing into something encompassing, with glimmers of anthems in amongst all the ruckus. The crowd started with a look of bemusement on their face and left having been drawn into their pantomime of extremes. So glorious, were Baby Godzilla that solid sets from Papa Roach and A Day To Remember seemed lacklustre. One of them contained a man in a ball running over the mainstage crowd, the other, Last Resort. So, while I try and define Baby Godzilla they continue to be one of the more exciting prospects in British rock, joining the likes of Pulled Apart By Horses and Gnarwolves.

Pulled Apart By Horses return to the mainstage is one flooded with expectation. The once-regulars have been away for a while, and these are the biggest shows on their slow emersion back into our lives. It’s not an awkward catch-up, nor do they go for the handshake, while we rush in for the hug. This is instant and wonderful.The new songs, of which four are aired,  are crushing slabs of pop with all the dark, juttering wrappings of the band we fell in love while the older material has been given a meaty overhaul. Tackling the stage like it’s their own, it’s a case of when, not if they close the festival.

Fucking. Gnarwolves. Man. They took their grimy punk rock onto the biggest stage at the festival and created one of the most intimate, beautiful experiences the festival has ever seen. They’ve been playing small venues for years, giving countless people those ‘I was there when..’ stories to recount when they indadvertedly blow up but the only one that matters is this one. “I was there when Gnarwolves played the mainstage at Reading and became a genuinely great band.” And do you want to know a secret? This isn’t close to being their peak.

Architects tell a similar tale in the Lock-Up. Same passion, same reaction, same shit-eating grins as they realise the music they made in private, touches upon something marvelous and grand. Their one voice is universal. Lower down the lineup Pup and Vales had similar epiphanies, all of which are a triumph for honesty and integrity if we stop and look at the bigger picture for a second. It’s a view that Letlive are constantly watching with a fearful look in their eye. They stop their set tonight to remember Michael Brown, a young man murdered in America without reason and without justice. It’s reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine breaking down the walls between reality and the escapism of music and it’s one that lacking in the world today.The goosebumps come and go as Letlive trade activism for action, throwing themselves around the stage like men possessed before another message about defiance and living life. It sounds conceited and in a different guise it wouldn’t feel genuine, but Jason Aalon Butler is a powerful, sincere figure. We are Letlive. We might change the world.

Pop-Punk isn’t just about staying young for as long as possible. It’s something bigger than that. It’s about growing up together. That’s the message Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell from The Wonder Years has taken away from this years Lock-Up Stage, having shared it with peers and idols, and it’s one he wants to share with the crowd. “We’ve grown up with you, I hope you’ve grown up with us.” he finishes. Jimmy Eat World, having straddled two decades, are a band who have touched countless lives. Today they’re simply glorious. A mainstage set of crowd-pleasers is soulful and warm, while a later headliner slot in the lock up sees ‘Futures’ get a full run-out, arming the crowd with anthems of defiance, loss and hope. They’re a band who unite a crowd of strangers with a single chorus and this weekend they were at their ridiculous best.

Tonight Alive have grown up fast. The Paramore comparisons are still rife but that’s nothing to do with gender, more  the inescapable energy the band emit. Jenna McDougall bounces around the stage with hip-hop swagger, throwing their weighted pop-punk around with ease. Issues fit under the same umbrella, but only because they have nowhere else to go. They are the parallel universe Fall Out Boy, just as catchy, insatiable and captivating as their real world counterparts. N’Sync vocals bury themselves in a clattering hell storm of screams, riffs and destruction and while it sounds jarring, you’re too busy having a good time to notice.

The Wonder Years know what growing up is and boy does it hurt. With a painful look into their heart, it turns out we all bleed the same. Defeat isn’t on the agenda though and this similarity is a cause for fist in the air, scream at the top of your lungs, disregarding celebration. It’s a celebration that every single person takes part in, whether weathered The Wonder Years fan, or those brought along for the ride. If there was ever a reason to believe that the rampant heart of pop-punk will beat forever, it’s this.

And so, I guess this is growing up.  Surrounded by like-minded individuals though, it really isn’t so bad.


~ by justdip on 27/08/2014.

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