LIVE: Reading Festival 2021 – Friday

By Yasmin Brown

Dust off your bucket hats and unearth your favourite pot of biodegradable glitter because after two long years away, Reading Festival and its northern counterpart are back from the grave. With a lineup that saw more changes than the bar has poured pints over the years, it was finally confirmed and frankly, it was a belter (thank you, Gerry Cinnamon). The rain kindly held off, and with a new set up of two main stages, there was even more talent to be found in the confines of Richfield Avenue in 2021. From a surprise set from Frank Carter to a last minute appearance from You Me At Six, this year’s Reading Fest really was everything we’d hoped for and more.

Words: Yasmin Brown; Images: Tash Greene

Demob Happy

For Punktastic, the day eases in gently with the wonderful Demob Happy. It’s an early slot on the main stage, but this indie rock three-piece easily pull in a decent crowd regardless, the sun threatening to break through the clouds with the promise of a wonderful weekend ahead. While it starts off slow, the band works hard to pick up the energy, taking their own and throwing it back at the audience until something sticks. And finally it does, making for a perfect start to our first Reading Festival in two whole years and as the band plays out its final notes, it’s impossible not to let the excitement of everything that’s left to come bubble up inside. We are absolutely ready to go.

Bad Nerves

The moment Bad Nerves take to The Lock Up stage, what has, up until now, been a mostly empty tent becomes a lot more cosy as passers by overhear the band and make a run to catch whatever is going on inside. The fun punk sound that’s floating around, drawing in crowds is the Essex five-piece – rough, raw and ready to take on their slot at the return of Reading Fest. The band are met with boundless energy from the crowd, a true reflection of what’s on stage as front man Bobby Nerves leaps around excitedly for the endlelssly raucus 30-minute set. It might be early in the day, and Bad Nerves may still be working to pick up a bigger following, but if today is anything to go by we’ll be seeing a lot more of these guys and we are anything but mad about it.

Sea Girls 

Sea Girls are a band we’ve been following since 2018 when their festivals slots sometimes saw no more than a handful of casual fans turning up to see what all the fuss was about. It’s even more amazing, then, that just three years later, their early afternoon set on the main stage at Reading Fest sees an endless sea of not-so-casual fans turn up long before the band even takes to the stage. Front man Henry Camamile puts it simply mid-way through the set: “This is so special”. And it really, really is. As they make their way through their setlist of hits, the crowd all but drowns out Camamile, arms in air, spilling beer as they show Sea Girls just how loved they are. And it’s so deserved, too. From flawless vocals, to perfectly executed catchy riffs, to diving into the crowd, Sea Girls are just an all round great band. Today is a “dream come true”, but we don’t doubt for a second that there are more dreams to be realised for Sea Girls in the not-too-distant future.


Question: is there a single festival bill on which you won’t find the mighty Wargasm this year? Answer: Absolutely not. And with good reason.
Seemingly appearing out of thin air, this nu-metal / rap duo is everywhere this summer, and Reading Fest is no exception. From the moment they take to the stage, a mosh pit immediately forms as the crowd happily emulates the energy and movement of both Milkie Way and Sam Matlock. The pair are vocally powerful and characteristically charismatic, making every performance a joy to be a part of, not least ‘Your Patron Saints’ which saw the craziest crowd involvement of the whole set at Way’s request, resulting in the much coveted approval: “You did not disappoint me, Reading”. Well, Wargasm, you didn’t disappoint us, either, and we’re excited to see what else you have to show us.

Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes

It simply wouldn’t be Reading Festival without a few surprise appearances, and to our delight one of those just happens to be from the mighty Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. Word has already spread far and wide before Carter and his cronies take to the stage, and the Lock Up tent is rammed in anticipation of seeing the king himself. After a headline slot at the Download Pilot earlier in the year, this more intimate setting feels particularly special, not just to us but apparently to Carter himself. We’re not even one full song in before he propels himself into the crowd – a crowd that happily grapples aimlessly in the hope of making contact with their hero. And what can be better than a surprise appearance other than a surprise appearance with a surprise appearance? That’s exactly what happens here as Cassyette joins for ‘Off With Her Head’ and Lynks, donned head to toe in a spiky morph suit, leaps around to ‘Go Get a Tattoo’ – two incredible additions to what is already a mind-blowing set. While he may not have the theatrics of a main stage performer, today’s surprise performance feels just as complete as ever – if not more so – a sentiment that is clearly shared by everyone in attendance.

Nova Twins

Oh Nova Twins, we couldn’t possibly imagine loving you more and yet here we are today, our heart already full and now ready to burst. Despite the half full tent, this duo puts on a massive show, from the sick instrumental intro to the unique vocals and everything in between. It’s the pair’s second festival back and they have no reservations as they tackle their very first Reading and Leeds festivals – much to the delight of their devoted fans at the front of the crowd. The rest of the tent remains reserved for a while, slowly working up the energy until they can’t help but mirror the excitement on stage. With hits like ‘Taxi’ and ‘Bassline Bitch’ making the setlist, fans are able to experience the full potential of Nova Twins’ talent here today and there’s not a disappointed face to be found until the realisation hits that the 30-minute slot has gone far too quickly once more.


Women are ruling the rock genre at the moment, and few are making more of an impact than Yonaka’s Theresa Jarvis. Strutting on stage like she owns it – which for now, she does – her powerhouse vocals fill The Lock Up tent as she and her fellow bandmates are backed by a homemade backdrop which lights up intermittently in time with a celestial backing track. It’s an apt start to the set given that Yonaka shows are known to feel like a religious experience and sets the tone perfectly ahead of the phenomenal show to come. It’s here in the live environment that Yonaka really thrive, the attitude coming from all band members tangible and the talent inexplicable. Met with nothing but sheer joy from those in attendance, it’s clear that this band are making waves in the industry and now that they have the opportunity to put themselves in front of new, unsuspecting crowds once again, it’s only a matter of time before they continue on the sharp upwards trajectory they were experiencing pre-Covid. This is just the start.


Perhaps the most unexpectedly brilliant performance of the day comes in the form of North Carolina’s Ashnikko. Rocking electric blue hair and surrounded by giant pink teddy bears, her electro pop-rock pulls in a crowd that almost doesn’t fit in the tent and incite singalongs that can be heard far beyond their confines. This woman has brought the troops and they will not stop screaming; a testament to her incredibly catchy music, there’s simply not a casual fan to be found here. Her personality radiates off her and only makes her already fun performance even more perfect, so much so that you barely notice just how much she relies on a backing track – in fact, this just makes it feel like even more of a dance party, particularly with the sometimes trippy lighting and the way she relentlessly hypes up the crowd. Closing with ‘Daisy’, Ashnikko admits she’s crazy but that we like it and goddamn, do we like it.

Boston Manor

There must be nothing worse than being offered a near headline slot only to find out that you clash with the mighty Stormzy. Unless, of course, you’re also forced to start your set obscenely late, leaving you with 22 minutes to let off some steam and make an impression. This is exactly the situation that Boston Manor find themselves in this evening and for a band that never usually struggle to pull in the masses, it’s clear that a combination of the unlucky clash and the late start has impacted attendance tonight. That said, this is Boston Manor and they are a band that never waste an opportunity – however small it may be. The set is cut down to just six songs, rather than the nine that would be played the following night at Leeds Festival, and within those six songs is nothing but carnage and desperation… in the best way. Almost as if the shortened set time ignites something even brighter in both the band and the crowd, fans find themselves utterly exhausted by the exertion required to scream the lyrics, form a circle pit and crowdsurf relentlessly over the 22 minutes we have to play with, and on stage, drums are hit harder, riffs played more furiously and words screamed more aggressively. It might not have been the set we’d all hoped for, but it was the hand we were dealt, and we’ll be damned if we’re going to waste it.