LIVE: Reading Festival 2018 – Friday

By Yasmin Brown

Reading Festival continues to be one of the most popular festivals to brighten up our British summer each year, even when summer fails to truly arrive and we are left wading through mud in our favourite wellies. Every year offers a lineup filled with the biggest current names in music, with 2018 being no exception. The Punktastic team made their way to Reading to report back on all of the best that 2018’s lineup had to offer.

Images: Olly Hanks, Words: Yasmin Brown [YB] / Gemma Rogers [GR]

Despite their midday slot, Petrol Girls kicked off the day with as much energy as if they’d had a prime time slot on the main stage. The entire 30 minute set was a political statement and, regardless of whether there were 5 or 5,000 people listening, lead singer Ren Aldridge was going to say it, and she was going to say it with conviction. Topics addressed included sexual assault, consent, the ridiculousness of gender binary and, as a result of this binary, gender stereotypes. Aldridge spread these messages through her unexpectedly powerful growl – something that initially comes as a surprise, considering her petite frame – and she commanded the stage with dance moves and determined head banging. Petrol Girls brought powerful, feminist punk to the festival and kicked off the day with songs that gave you a lot to think about, simultaneously creating a surge of vivacity in the crowd that was sure to last the weekend. [YB]

The main stage then offered a completely different atmosphere, as from the moment Waterparks took to the stage it was clear to see that they had a solid fan base of people who were more than just a little excited to see them. The band played a set filled with typically American pop punk songs, interacting with the crowd and ensuring everyone was engaged from the first notes to the last – with circle pits intermittently opening up throughout the set, following the band’s encouragement. In reality though, not much encouragement was needed, leading front man Awsten Knight to comment that, “y’all can jump so fucking high”. The band took a break from the overt pop-punk to play something softer and more acoustically driven, and though Knight’s vocals wavered at this point – struggling without the support of his band – the crowd didn’t seem to mind, and it was ultimately still enjoyable. The set was outrageous amounts of fun, even for those towards the back of the crowd who weren’t too familiar with the band, highlighting their natural ability to command the stage and put on a live show. Despite their early time slot, Waterparks brought all the energy that the main stage deserves and set the bar high for the bands that were set to follow. [YB]

Throughout the early afternoon, picket signs had been spotted advertising that ‘Mantra is here’, with the time 2:30. Those that hadn’t already worked it out now picked up on the fact that this was the title of Bring Me The Horizon’s new single – and this picket sign meant a secret set, seeing BMTH’s return to the Reading and Leeds stages.

It’s been a while since Bring Me The Horizon have played any live shows, so their return has, naturally, been highly anticipated by all fans. And what a comeback it was. Despite the late notice, word had spread rapidly and the tent was completely packed out. From the moment they took to the stage for their first live performance of ‘Mantra’, to the last notes of ‘Drown’, circle pits that took up half of the arena intermittently emerged, engulfing anyone that happened to be nearby in a sea of sweat-drenched bodies. It was an insane atmosphere, and one that proved we were all ecstatic to have the Sheffield boys back. The crowd obeyed every command to sit down and jump up, to form a wall of death, and generally just go mental. If this short set was anything to go by, the next album cycle is going to be one hell of a ride, one that all BMTH’s fans should be fast to jump on. [YB]

Following Waterparks on the main stage are Brit horror punk outfit Creeper who, despite still only having one album to their name, have become firm festival favourites – due in no small part to their ability to deliver an outstanding, high energy live performance. Today is no different, as front man Will Gould bounds around the stage with pitch perfect vocals, coaxing the audience into forming pits that cause dust to fly from the dry ground in clouds. Even back towards the sound desk, feet tap and heads nod along to the upbeat riffs and singalong choruses – though with such a limited amount of material available to the band it is a set that’s becoming all too familiar to regular festival goers. The performance, though, is near flawless, and Creeper prove that they have well and truly earned their main stage slot. [GR]

The Lock Up is running around 20 minutes late by the time The Fever 333 take to the stage – a blessing for anyone rushing over from sets elsewhere (us, legging it from the main stage, for example) – with a white sheet covering the stage for the first few moments whilst a hooded figure stands, fist raised, in front. It’s an attention grabbing start from a band who are difficult to ignore and, frankly, you’d never want to – vocalist Jason Aalon Butler and guitarist Stevis Harrison treat The Lock Up tent like a playground, clambering and swinging from anything they fancy. In a lineup dominated by pop and rap, this hard-hitting, heavy set is a breath of fresh air for rock and metal fans – especially with such powerful execution. The Fever 333 may be a relatively new venture for its experienced members, but they’re already making a huge name for themselves in the scene; with emphatic performances like this, it’s easy to see why. [GR]

This year’s set was Yonaka’s second at Reading Festival, and their Festival Republic stage performance highlighted a level of confidence that only comes with having played to such a crowd before. The turn out wasn’t huge, given the early set time, but this didn’t affect the performance in the slightest. The band was engaging from the offset, encouraging the crowd to dance and sing along throughout. Front woman Theresa Jarvis took the instrumental breaks as an opportunity to show off her dance moves, before blowing us all away with her mighty and controlled vocals. Dedicating the final song, ‘Rockstar’, to “the dreamers”, Jarvis requested that we crouch down and jump up in classic festival style, as the band jumped along with us enthusiastically and without inhibition. Whether you’d previously heard of Yonaka or whether you were there out of luck, or even because you were waiting for another band, there’s no way you could have found yourself feeling anything but pure joy as you took in the scene in front of you and admired everything this band has to offer. [YB]

Australia’s Trophy Eyes take up a slot on The Lock Up only weeks after the release of third album ‘The American Dream’, and the band understandably choose to focus their half hour set on these newer tracks. From the song with 2018’s greatest key change, ‘Lavender Bay’, to the more unexpected and delicate ‘Broken’, it’s a beautifully balanced set designed to appeal to a festival crowd – though the couple of older tracks and closing number ‘You Can Count On Me’ are received by fans with rapturous joy. John Floreani’s vocals aren’t always perfect as he dances around the stage, and he’s hampered by a few technical issues, but his voice is so filled with feeling that it’s easy to overlook any minor flaws. It’s fantastic to see this hugely talented band begin to get the recognition they deserve; bigger stages are surely in their future. [GR]

The evening’s entertainment began at the Radio 1 stage with The Front Bottoms, a truly delightful folk driven band who are no strangers to the Reading and Leeds stages – although front man Brian Sella admits he can’t remember a single thing from three years ago, when they last played the festival. This set was an opportunity to make new memories, and from where the crowd was standing at least, it’s almost certain that this was going to be a set to remember. With crowd members that were there solely to see The Front Bottoms, and who sung along to every word without hesitation, this New Jersey band have clearly made a name for themselves on our side of the pond. Bringing with them a multi-talented touring band, one woman in particular frequently switched between playing the violin and the trumpet, completing the live sound and adding that little something extra to take The Front Bottoms from being good, to being really bloody excellent. The set was fun and carefree, causing the widest of grins to appear on everyone’s face, and with the setlist being made up of old favourite such as ‘Twin Sized Mattress’, newer releases such as ‘Vacation Town’, and everything in between, there was something for all fans to enjoy. Having witnessed a full-length TFB headline show before, the only criticism would be that it simply ended too soon. [YB]

Back at The Pit/Lockup stage, fans of La Dispute remained patient despite the late start and welcomed the Michigan post-hardcore band with roaring cheers. Before the first song had even drawn to a close, lead singer Jordan Drayer had made his way into the crowd, urging fans to desperately yell their favourite lyrics into the microphone on his behalf. By song two a circle pit had opened that never really closed, as audience members let the music take over. Hearing La Dispute on record, you might not immediately see how Drayer’s vocals would translate well to the live show – but when supported by his talented band, it somehow works extremely well. The tones in his voice have a way of making you feel the despair along with him, evoking an empathic response that’s difficult to control and has you fully immersed in the music. Prior to leaving the stage, Drayer showed his gratitude, blowing kisses to the audience and holding his hands together, reflecting the sentiment that was clearly floating through the crowd. [YB]

Following La Dispute’s late arrival, The Used took to the same stage 30 minutes late to a much less patient crowd than greeted their predecessors. All was forgiven, however, as soon as Bert McCracken and co. launched into ‘Take It Away’, and what followed was an intense and entertaining throwback to the early 2000s, just for the “hardcore fans”. It’s clear from their performance that The Used have been doing this for 18 years, showing no signs of nerves as McCracken launched into a Shakespeare soliloquy – requesting a circle pit to go with it, a “first at Reading”, to which they obliged without hesitation. These are guys who know exactly how to put on a show and the audience was lapping it up unquestioningly, screaming along to every song and cheering at any simple statement that came out of McCracken’s mouth (including personal favourite, “Fuck Donald Trump”). Following a weird yet wonderful cover of Sixpence None The Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ the commands returned, as we were told that “there’s no one more excited than a little kid, so let’s all be little fucking kids again”, after which came a wall of death. Naturally. For ‘A Box Full of Sharp Objects’, the final song of the set, McCracken introduced Fever 333, who had played a set earlier in the day. It was an even more hectic end to what had already a hectic set, and ended the band’s return to the Reading stage as you would only ever expect from such a seasoned rock band. [YB]

If there’s one thing that you take away from seeing Nothing But Thieves, it’s how unbelievably beautiful front man, Conor Mason’s, vocals are. From start to finish, he never once falters, captivating everyone in the packed out Radio 1 tent with his mind blowing range. It seemed that the band were just as excited to be there as we were to have them, with Mason stating, “I’ve come down from the adrenaline rush and it makes me look like I’d snorted a fat line”. What that means, exactly, is still to be determined – but it sounded like he was really fucking happy with his current situation, and based on the crowd’s response, he had every right to be. The band opened the Radio 1 stage three years ago, making their way up the ranks rapidly, and they graciously thanked the crowd for their continued support – particularly this evening. The performance was epic in the true sense of the word, with NBT’s huge sound filling the tent and reaching far beyond its confines. This is a band made for the stage; whether it’s the louder, more energetic songs such as ‘Broken Machine’ or slower, sadder ones such as ‘Particles’, every performance is one to remember. Nothing But Thieves will surely only continue to grow, and it would be unsurprising if they’re headlining that same stage in only a few years. [YB]

Main stage headliners Fall Out Boy overlapped with NBT’s performance, but not to their detriment. Their place as festival headliner was questioned by many, but the Chicago four-piece more than proved themselves on Friday night. Their sound, once made for club gigs in back alleys, has now been adapted to perfectly suit the massive production that we were treated to, with even old favourites such as ‘Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down’, ‘Dance, Dance’, and ‘Saturday’ translating well to the giant stage – a clear sign of a band who’ve spent the past few years playing arenas worldwide. From fire shooting out of Pete Wentz’s bass guitar, to fireworks and confetti, to elaborate background visuals; Fall Out Boy’s presence as the final main stage act of the night was easily proven to be well deserved. The band interacted more than is usual for them during a live show too – prompting friends to clamber on each other’s shoulders during ‘Stay Frosty’, pushing us to “be you, do you as loud as you can,” and to not forget that “in 2018 things like this happen”, whilst looking happier than they ever have before.

A definite highlight was Patrick taking his place behind the grand piano to perform ‘Last of the Real Ones’ and ‘Save Rock and Roll’, both which – not for the first time – showed just how incredible his vocal capabilities have become. Patrick isn’t the only one who got to show off though, with guitarist Joe Trohman showcasing his skills during their cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’. Following entertaining middle finger visuals throughout the entirety of 2008’s ‘I Don’t Care’, and three more performances of old favourites, ‘This Ain’t a Scene’, ‘Grand Theft Autumn/Where is Your Boy’, and ‘Centuries’, Wentz closed the set with words of gratitude: “You’re our favourite people and this is our favourite place to be so thanks for having us”. The band returned to the stage for a two song encore, accompanied by more elaborate fireworks – and once again proving themselves to be more than worthy of being Reading headliners in 2018. [YB]

It was always going to be tough playing at the same time as the main stage headliner, but though the Radio 1 tent was only partially full, London based Wolf Alice persisted to put on a show full of energy for the fans that showed up. Front woman Ellie Rowsell has a voice that could knock you over with the sheer force of it, her powerful screams and comparatively sweet tones impressing the crowd from start to finish. The talent that oozed from the whole band made the half filled tent even more disappointing, as they most definitely deserved more recognition for the show they put on. For the final part of the set, Rowsell encouraged the crowd to sing along with her: “it’s easy, there’s no words in the chorus. It goes something like *insert unintelligible noises here*”. Of course, it didn’t sound at all like that when the chorus finally kicked in, and what came out of her mouth was far cooler and more beautiful. In fact, Wolf Alice are just a very cool band, acting as living proof that women belong in the rock scene just as much as any guy. The entire set was fierce, and as the band bid us farewell with a cry of, “thank you so much, fucking hell”, day one had finally drawn to a close for Punktastic. And what a finale it was. [YB]