Bad Religion – Reading Festival


Following the sound shortcomings of yesterday, Punktastic is more than a little apprehensive as we take up residence in the Lock Up tent (again, unless otherwise stated, the bands below played everybody?s favourite punk rock stage). That apprehension lasts about the length of time between arriving and the opening band kicking off. Welcome to CARNAGE SATURDAY.

?The cure for hangovers is circle pits. Lots of circle pits.? Far from being a household name, MORAL DILEMMA isn?t exactly a draw to the masses on a hung-over Saturday lunch breakfast time, but that means absolutely fuck all. The London trio manages to whip up a storm and put Punktastic?s faith immediately back into this festival. Angry, cutting and immediate, the band is writhing in brutally blunt menace, fast, intense and intelligent. This is the sound of a UK band making the most of an opportunity. (4.5/5)

Note to the organiser: RANDOM HAND may well be an alternate (replacing the now apparently defunct Crime In Stereo) but the Yorkshire outfit is really too low down the bill. Just take a look at the size of the crowd (it?s not until a certain Hertfordshire hardcore machine takes to the stage later that these numbers make it into the tent again). Not one to fret, the quartet bangs out a festival sized 30 minutes of high octane energy and brute force. Even a brand new track doesn?t falter the momentum that peaks with the closing ?Anthropology?, an absolute belter with a pit to match. (4.5/5)

Today?s second substitute, CEREBAL BALLZY, couldn?t be any further away from the band it replaces (RX Bandits, fact fans) if it were the mutant spawn of an inbred socialite. The New Yorkers may only just have hit the radar but you wouldn?t know it from the arrogant, charmless way the band performs. Musically it?s messy hardcore that has hints of intrigue, and plenty of throwaway neglect. Entertainment wise, any band that can open up a 30ft circle pit that never closes and induce moshing, cartwheels, springboard barrier jumps, wrestling and stage threats is worth a few minutes of your time. Carnage! This is either pure genius or complete tripe. The precipice between the two is dangerously thin. (Unclassifiable/5)

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS in contrast kind of get lost by the wayside. It?s very hard to argue against the Minnesota quartet being a quality band (almost impossible in fact) but the band is far more suited to small venues, up close and personal. Whilst no foot is put wrong, this just happens to be one of those solid-but-unmemorable showings. (3/5)

[Over on the Main Stage?]

THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM makes it three years in a row at Reading/Leeds, a testament to the lofty heights the band has reached in a very short space of time. It?s predictable stuff for the NJ quartet; a mixture of tracks from this year?s ?American Slang? and its predecessor, ?The 59 Sound?, the latter of which receives the obligatory riotous response, makes up a festival friendly set that goes a long way to impressing the abilities of the band on the viewer, yet seems luke warm. It?s perfectly efficient, but the lack of character at the main stage means it?s far from outstanding. (3/5)

[A return to the Lock Up?]

PAINT IT BLACK brings gnarly to the stage, fiercely spitting out melodic hardcore in short, sharp ruptures. The Philly outfit has been there, done that, and yet still sound youthful and relevant, managing to impress a crowd that is thickening out. Quite the entrโ€še for what?s up next. (3/5)

The festival?s worst kept secret is revealed as THE RATS GALLOWS take to the stage and proceed to blitz the Lock Up tent with 50 minutes or so of complete carnage. It?s four consecutive years at R/L for the Watford major-botherers, but any critics claiming ?same old, same old? are silenced by the ferocity of the band and one seriously messy set. The diminutive Frank Carter orders a packed tent to form the biggest circle-pit seen in these parts (for the record, it pretty much goes in and out of either side of the tent), crowd surfs across the throng before parting the ?trendy hardcore? sea. To be honest, it?s quite the example of style over substance in terms of showings, but the music is still gnarly, gritty and just plain chaotic, which is just the way it should be. Gallows will never be the most technical of bands, but a show will always be put on. Oh, and a little bit of controversy never hurt anyone. (4/5)

How do you follow that? Well, how about trash barrels and shoes indiscriminately flying around the tent, a mass stage invasion (security has no hope) that sees frontman Lee Spielman crowd surfing on stage, bassist Spencer Pollard adorn the steel structure of the stage, and guitarist Garrett Stevenson take a dive off of a speaker stack? With rampant speculation that TRASH TALK may well be punk for punk?s sake it?s impossible to ignore the spectacle the California band provides. Aside from the mayhem incited, the quartet plays hardcore punk in very short bursts of ferocity, just the way it should be. It?s not revolutionary but it is very good, and it fits this festival stage particularly well. (4/5)

[A rare visit to the NME/Radio 1 tent?]

Another Reading festival, another FRANK TURNER appearance. That?s four in a row if you?re counting. To be fair, Turner probably should have been on the big stage this year, but nevertheless he seems quite cosy here at the second podium. Playing a set that?s not a million miles removed from that of last year means the appetite of the masses is sated (?Long Live the Queen?, and ?Try This At Home? make sure of this), whilst the folk-punk troubadour?s wry wit, charm and jealousy-inducing talent is on display at all times. He?s really grown into the full-band experience, a set-up that?s perfect for days like this. (4/5)

[Again, to the Lock Up?]

If heavy-as-you-like is today?s Lock Up theme then CANCER BATS can do no wrong. Hell, just having the balls to cover the Beastie Boys? ?Sabotage? should get you a five-star review. Today?s showing is vintage CB fare, gutturally roaring forward at a breakneck pace whilst laying waste to eardrums left right and centre. And, as ever, ?Hail Destroyer? is simply impressive. Really, really impressive. (4/5)

Such an abundance of brutality over such a small space of time means that THE GET UP KIDS stick out like a sore thumb, and as a result seem a little saccharine and bogged down. Go read Jamie?s review of the band?s Bolton show for a much more rounded viewpoint. (2.5/5)

Whilst Gallows? ?surprise set? was about as secret as government documents sat on a passenger train, the ?super secret special guest? slot NOFX plays tonight actually seems to have at least rused a few people. The tent is busy as people wait for The Gaslight Anthem only to be greeted by the band?s trademark ridiculously small back drop. Some leave, but, as word gets around the arena, some arrive. On stage it?s a performance that is most unlike the NOFX you?ve seen over the years. There?re songs, lots of songs. The banter and poor taste jokes are considerably less. The band seems genuinely honoured to be playing not only the Lock Up (which was touted from the main stage yesterday as the ?only stage worth watching?) but to be playing with Bad Religion. It?s good to see that a band that?s been going as long as these SoCal stalwarts is still humbled. So, it?s a ?special issue? set, lacking in the really big ?hits? (?Don?t Call Me White? aside) that sees the band treating the audience, not to mention an ecstatic Frank Turner who gets guitar and vocal duties on ?The Decline?. This is NOFX sans the silly bullshit that many say is part of the charm. This is the NOFX I wanted to see, and I?m betting a hell of a lot of others did as well. (4/5)

So, the business end of the day comes in the form of the 30th anniversary celebrating BAD RELIGION, providing the exact performance you?d expect of those so long in the tooth. Honed, crisp and immaculate, Graffin and co. set about filling 60 minutes with solid song after solid song. ?Los Angeles Is Burning?: ?New Dark Ages?; ?Sorrow?; ?20th Century (Digital Boy)?; ?Infected?; ?American Jesus?. Around the stage faces watch on (noticeably Fat Mike sings along to every word as well) whilst a crowd that is smaller than it should justifiably be (did people really skip out for Arcade Fire and Pendulum?), is treated to an impressive showing. A showing packed with class and style. Being 30 isn?t so bad after all. (4/5)