Lostprophets – Reading Festival

By paul

Reading Festival
Friday 28 August ? Sunday 30 August, 2009
Little John?s Farm, Richfield Avenue, Reading

Day 1: Friday 28 August

Mike Patton surveys the crowd with a smile one part cheeky, one part evil manipulative bastard. His returning band has just thrown the ?Eastenders? theme tune twice into the set. It?s quite bizarre. But hold on, it?s taken 12 hours to get to this point, so let?s rewind a little.

As noon strikes Punktastic has a little business to attend in the form of some history making. Today the Reading festival is to be opened by a little band from the UK DIY punk scene. Without a doubt it?s the biggest moment in the seven year lifespan of SONIC BOOM SIX (4.5/5) but the band manages to take it all in stride, albeit a somewhat slippery one. With the heavens well and truly open the band very deliberately eases into ?Welcome To The City of Thieves? before ripping through 30 minutes of trademark genre-bending. A horde of fans are treated to the likes of ?Strange Transformations? and ?Meanwhile Back In the Real World? before any lunchtime cobwebs are well and truly blown away, for fans and the curious alike, by ?Piggy In the Middle?. There?s a moment when singer Laila K flips her head back, a gesture of joy, amazement and wonder. It?s a split second that sums the band up entirely; surprised, grateful but tackling the task at hand, and certainly no awe-struck Bambi eyes on show. Consider this the sound of that glass ceiling well and truly being smashed to smithereens.

Understandably the Lock Up stage is going to selfishly take up a lot of PT?s time over these first two days. The gloomy, support ridden tent may hold a few thousand but it?s deceptively small. It?ll be hard to fathom how it?s not going to chronically overspill this weekend. Two things are apparent from the set THE GHOST OF A THOUSAND (2.5/5) plays: (1) the sound, a muddied mess that fails to fill the tent, doesn?t nearly do the band justice, and (2) in terms of audience numbers the band is criminally low down on the bill. Maybe it?s coverage from that Gallows tour, or maybe it?s a sentiment of UK pride, but the tent is heaving (they?ll be a lot of bands playing to wide open spaces later). The limitations mean it?s not the performance it could be, but it?s worthwhile nonetheless.

Better sound greets THE FLATLINERS (2.5/5) but so does a smaller audience. It doesn?t stop the Canadian outfit from handing out some good ol? punk rock splattered with the odd ska infused moment. The band admits to being a little out of depth or at least surprised at the inclusion, but extremely pleased to be thrown the opportunity. It?s a sentiment that?s doing the rounds today.

The RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS (3/5) proves to be a very welcome addition to the bill. The band?s style of punk rock is performed with such fervour that it?s sure to win over more than a few fans. Not to be confined to the stage, frontman Mike Wiebe climbs support cables and security barriers, enters the crowd and generally has a manic time. And all of this with a heavily bandaged broken hand. Fittingly gritty performance.

Jordan Pundik?s t-shirt reads: ?Punk pop?s not dead?. PT doesn?t stay for many at the main stage but the sentiment seems to be proven by NEW FOUND GLORY (3/5) and a crowd that laps up the likes of ?Failure?s Not Flattering? and a cover of ?Kiss Me?. The Florida quintet has pulled enough punters to make this look rewarding enough.

A few more bodies have made it into the Lock Up for FAKE PROBLEMS (3./5), a band that deserves to blow-up in the same way as The Gaslight Anthem. Playing a set heavy on this year?s release, ?It?s Great To Be Alive?, the Florida quartet is impressive with Chris Farren?s vocals, sounding even more rustic and harsh live (?My throat feels sore for that guy,? one PT associate sympathises), making for a quality performance. Here?s hoping an October tour with Frank Turner will catapult the band onwards and upwards.

By the time STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO (3.5/5) takes to the stage to perform a brand of skacore that is a little more traditional, a little more adult, the tent is chocker. To be fair though it?s pissing down a proper storm outside and people are looking for any kind of respite. Whether it?s the confused faces on the drowned rat looking fashionistas or the fact that Streetlight works so much better as a festival band, this performance ranks as one of the band?s best. No doubt there are people here that want to see the band (and seemingly a lot of them) so it?s not just the inclement weather. And besides, not everybody makes for a hasty exit when those rays start to shine through again.

Nipping back to the main stage for a quick blast of FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND (4/5), it?s worth lamenting on the fate of the band. Six years ago the Welsh outfit was tipped as the hottest prospect in music. ?Casually Dressed?? delivered and the band marched up the festival pecking order. With subsequent albums not really enjoying that level of critical acclaim, the band commodity has slipped a little, but today quintet hits it out of the park. Despite a rain delay the likes of ?Juneau? and ?Streetcar? are raucously good, whilst ?Escape Artists Never Die? sounds better than it ever did at Donington in 2003.

Choosing to watch the DEFTONES (3/5) over The Aggrolites is perhaps the toughest decision of the festival. Sacramento?s finest metallers win out due to the fact that The Aggolites got a review earlier this month, and this particular writer hasn?t seen the Deftones in a good couple of years. It?s a strange performance though. On one hand it?s packed with tracks from ?White Pony? (nearly a decade old!) and ?Around the Fur? (more than a decade old!), which is a good thing. On the other it seems a little, well, odd. Perhaps it?s the absence of bassist Chi Cheng (currently recovering from a coma) or the ?transition? period the band seems to be in (finished album ?Eros? has now been scrapped to accommodate a new release), but it doesn?t feel as intense nor vital as past shows. It just doesn?t hold the attention like it ordinarily would. Still, ?Nosebleed? is one hell of an ear-shatterer regardless of conditions.

Speaking of odd, there?s something very odd about seeing LEFTOVER CRACK (3/5) play the Reading fest. Okay, that?s an understatement. It?s downright confusing to see Leftover Crack play the commercial hub that is this festival. And that?s for band, press and punter alike. Stza Crack makes constant reference to ?not knowing what this is all about?, claiming that ?it?s a long way from the piss stained alleys of Camden Town and the Underworld?. On stage the band?s gruff, crusty punk makes for a nice change of pace, impressing a hardcore fan base whilst turning others away in disgust. You can?t beat that reaction.

There?s a lot more interest for the BOUNCING SOULS (3/5) which, let?s face it, is to be expected for a band celebrating twenty years. As performances go the band tears through, soaking up the adoration being flung at it. For fans it?s nothing short of epic. For anyone not as keenly schooled it?s steady rather than exemplary. ?Gasoline? sounds pretty vital regardless of your background though.

For a second set of the day, ALEXISONFIRE (4/5) has dragged along every single person that watched them on the main stage earlier and piled them into the Lock Up tent. At least that?s how it feels. For the first time today the tent is packed beyond capacity with bodies spilling out around barriers, food and merch stalls, and some unsuspecting foot traffic. This goes a long way to generating a sense of atmosphere. Looking around every mouth seems to be singing along to this relentless barrage of a performance, that seems to mostly shy away from new record, ?Old Crows/Young Cardinals? (we do get a couple of offerings). It?s a shame because that album has pretty much blown all past releases out of the water. Still, that?s only a minor niggle as the band truly delivers an energetically enhanced piledriver of a set. Big, brash and blisteringly good.

PT only catches 15 minutes or so of ANTI-FLAG (4/5) but it?s apparent, even in such a small period of time, that the Pittsburgh natives are delivering an ?A game? performance. Often selecting a surprising (read: very obscure) setlist, the quartet is delivering hits tonight, and the crowd is lapping it up. A cover of ?Should I Stay Or Should I Go?? lures a few unsuspectors into the tent (if a festival isn?t time for a Clash cover then when is?), and the following audience participation drum orchestra proves a highlight. It?s also good to see Chris #2 performing his own material as well, following a rash of guest appearances today. Say what you like about the politicking, but Anti-Flag has all the necessary tools to be a fantastic festival band. That?s why the band keeps getting asked back.

And so, to the absolutely cavernous NME/Radio1 tent. Say what you like about Billy Talent (a very worthy Lock Up headliner) and Kings of Leon (cough), in this writer?s eye there is only one true headliner tonight. After 12 years FAITH NO MORE (5/5) returns with pomp and ferociousness galore. From the red draped backdrop to the colour-coordinated Mike Patton, everything is seeped in expectation. It only takes a melodica intro and ?From Out of Nowhere? for all expectation to be met, and then surpassed.

Should PT be covering a bunch of 90?s dinosaurs? Well, in short, yes. All that needs to be said is that this band has oft been forgotten and its influence grossly underestimated. The chances are Patton and co. in some way influenced your favourite band. If they didn?t, they probably influenced the bands that influenced your favourite band.

Coming on stage fashionably late (and thus resulting in a breached curfew), the band mixes brutal force and metal driven rock with moments best described as cool, calm and collected (?Easy? still stands as the best cover ever). It?s a fantastically solid 90 minutes of musical expression, an intricate tapestry of experimental noise. There?s minimal small talk, just Patton goading the crowd on like a true bastard (that?s always been his eccentric way). ?Epic? proves, well, epic, standing up as one of the all time great songs. It?s the set highlight deceptively slipped in to the middle of a set that?s bang-bang with hits, memories and just damn fine musicianship. The atmosphere in the air hanger sized tent surpasses anything else before it.

It may not be punk rock but the core of Faith No More is about as punk as it gets. Patton does it his way, at times with sheer bloody mindedness, sometimes with covert intention. Nobody ever told him or his band how to do things. That?s why headlining the second stage on this Friday night is the real headliner slot!

Day 2: Saturday 29 August

So, with day two comes a checklist of two: (1) sit down more than yesterday (the Reading ground is deceptively hard and lumpy, not at all good for the ankles), and (2) catch both sets by The Bronx! This is important because, well, The Bronx are pretty good, aren?t they?

Phase A of part 2 is easy: EL MARIACHI BRONX (4.5/5) (The Bronx?s Mexican alter ego) gently lulls the main stage early birds into the day. It should reek of gimmick, but really doesn?t. Sure, a PT associate maintains that the cast of a Robert Rodriguez film will appear any minute now, but ultimately this proves to be the perfect laid back start to proceedings. Matt Caughthran and co., complete with charro outfits, seem genuinely surprised by the number of people frequenting the dustbowl in front of them. All in all it?s a perfect festival set, more homage than pisstake. Different, in a good way.

Over to the Lock Up tent (base of the bulk of operations today) and POLAR BEAR CLUB (2.5/5) is putting on a note perfect, clinically proficient set of melodic hardcore cum punk rock. Anybody that saw the Rochester, NY outfit on tour with The Gaslight Anthem earlier this year will be testament to how proficient the band can be. Today though, it?s hard to fully appreciate the performance; it?s just a little too close to midday. In a dark, sweaty club these guys will own.

CHUCK RAGAN (5/5) on the other hand has the perfect sound for this time of day. Joined on stage by a five-strong posse (including a fiddle player looking like he?s just arrived from the 1860 Confederate army), there?s a big band feel to the former Hot Water Music man?s set. Ragan?s gruff vocals sound perfect alongside acoustic guitar, fiddle, bass, keys and a pedal steel guitar! The Southern sound comes across live even better than it does on record. It may only be two in the afternoon but this subtle, gentle performance may just be the set of the day.

It should be too early. A WLHELM SCREAM (4/5) should face the same limitations as Polar Bear Club, but the band is oozing too much energy to let this one slide by. Seriously, there?s so much intensity in the New England quintet that you can?t help but think there may be a few too many orange Smarties on the rider. Add to this temperament a band that is so incredibly tight it?d take an industrial sized crowbar to wedge it apart and you have the reason that this is a band?s band. Forcefully solid beginning to end.

For some reason there?s an influx of ?unknowers? into the Lock Up for the arrival of returning UK legends, SNUFF (4.5/5). Sure, the expected old punkers have made it here but there?s more than a few with that ?village idiot? look on their face. What?s more, they stay! This has to be down to the party-down/don?t give a damn attitude the band plays with. Don?t expect a grown-up Snuff, this is strictly the party animal that saw off the 80?s and 90?s. ?Nick Northern?; ?I Know What You Want?; ?Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads??; and a cover of ?Soul Limbo? (that?s the cricket song to you) are all present and accounted for. No obscurities here. Just good ol? fashioned Snuff. And then there?s ?Arsehole?. Even the unknowers rejoice to this potty-mouth golden oldie. Too good to miss!

There?s an itch to nip over to the NME/Radio1 stage to check on the ?super secret special guests?, but it?s not quite irritating enough to give up the opportunity to see how the new SET YOUR GOALS (3/5) material sounds in a live setting. [For those of you wondering, a reliable source informs that THEM CROOKED VULTURES proves to be very, very good, with a certain Mr. Dave Grohl looking particularly happy back behind the kit]. Apparently the sound engineer does nip off for a sneak peak because the dual vocals during Set Your Goals? set just don?t sound right. If one sounds good, the other is indecipherable, and vice versa. Quite frankly it?s a tad annoying. The throng at the front doesn?t seem to mind though, happily partaking in the biggest circle pit of the day. Without a doubt the new material has freshened up that ?Mutiny? setlist, with ?Our Ethos? really standing out. Polar Bear Club frontman Jimmy Stadt aptly takes over the Hayley Williams parts on ?The Few That Remain? (cue a series of unhappy departures from the tent: seriously, did you spend 30 minutes just waiting for a glimpse of Hayley? Really? Sad), which actually proves just as enjoyable. All in all it?s a good set marred by the sound issues.

RIVAL SCHOOLS (1/5) just don?t do it. Heralded by some as the second coming today the band seems practically stagnant compared to their peers, almost unimaginative and uninspiring. Most likely it?s personal opinion but it?s hard to see the point of waiting out ?Used for Glue?. Some in the tent do. Others, well, quite simply don?t.

Did someone say that ska was dead? Well, for the second day in a row the Lock Up is chocker for a ska band. Streetlight Manifesto yesterday may have got an assist from the weather but the MAD CADDIES (3.5/5) don?t need any such favours. The tent is bustling more so than any point earlier today. On top of that the Santa Barbara natives are sounding more than a little decent. Like Streetlight yesterday it seems the band excels in a festival environment. ?Drinking for 11? sounds brilliant, whilst ?Monkeys? isn?t nearly as obnoxious as it sometimes proves.

A quick catch-up: legs have been rested (it?s an easy task when you spend the day in near enough the same spot) and now it?s time to fully achieve task two. THE BRONX [Regular] (4.5/5) is just about the polar opposite of the mariachi incarnation as is imaginable. Sweaty, intense and delivering a barrage of an offensive, the LA quintet is essentially a bastion of punk rock. Whether it?s ?White Guilt? and ?They Will Kill Us All? from the back catalogue, or ?Past Lives? and the gloriously nasty ?Knifeman? from last year?s third self-titled offering, everything sounds gritty, brutal and oh so vital. The tent may not be packed out but those here make one hell of an effort in terms of crowdsurfing (for which Caughthran reprimands the rough security, who on this stage have been pretty poor all weekend). Furiously good stuff only criminally under-attended. Now, try picking between the two sets.

For a brief 20 minutes this writer wants to feel 14 again. Over to the main stage then where THE PRODIGY (3.5/5) is putting on a light show to rival ?Close Encounters?. ?Out of Space?/?Smack My Bitch Up? double header. Nice.

Having never really batted an eyelid at THURSDAY (3/5) it comes as quite a surprise to see how proficient and talented the New Jersey outfit is. Incredibly tight and highly proficient, it does however seem a little too pristine. Still, there?s plenty in the Lock Up lapping up the post-hardcore on offer. That?s a lot of people until?

?RISE AGAINST (4.5/5) rips the tent a new one with the opening two pronged attack that is ?Collapse (Post Amerika)? and ?State of the Union?. That?s when the crowd really goes off. There?re people hanging from the support straps as well as revellers on shoulders. It?s manic, and it?s compressed. The tent sides are fit for bursting. Anyone looking for a way from the main stage to the NME/Radio1 stage had better find another route.

The Chicago quartet has gotten big, real big, and with it has really honed a live show to the state of near perfection. It?s not all that surprising then to see that people who haven?t visited the Lock Up at all this weekend have ventured over for a look-see. Understandably tonight?s set is crammed with tracks from the past three albums, with the strongest focus being on last year?s ?Appeal to Reason?. Tim McIlrath, adorned all in black, leads the crowd through monster track after monster track. ?Prayer of the Refugee?; ?Give It All?; and ?Audience of One? all manage sound bigger with the injection of thousands of screaming fanatics. It?s enough to make you punch the sky in delight.

With a set time of just one hour the band elects to drop the usual acoustic interlude (?Swing Life Away?; ?Hero of War?) which, whilst some will breathe a sigh of relief, does actually feel as though a dynamic is missing. It?s the only criticism that can be made of what is an immaculate set. Saturday, and with it this year?s Lock Up stage, closes with one hell of a punch in the air, a true shot in the arm for punk rock.

Day 3: Saturday 29 August

It?s only when you scour the schedule on Sunday that you realise just how much the Lock Up stage spoils you. A fine-toothed comb struggles to find too many morsels worth reporting on during the daytime today. It?d be easy to clamour for a three day stage, but really, when you think about it, Festival Republic is trying to cater for a hell of a lot of different punters (whether it?s successfully doing so will be left to you to decide) so it?s only fair to share and share alike. Besides, this evening?s line-up on the NME/Radio1 stage is pretty Punktastic friendly. So, let?s be glad the Lock Up isn?t still the solitary day.

With no particular plan, Punktastic stops by the Main Stage to check out KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES (2/5). The Cardiff quintet does its thing, but in all honesty it?s a little bit languid and there?s a sense you don?t really have any better a feel for the band after 30 minutes than you did beforehand. Midway through the crowd picks up, which assists a little, and ?Give Me What I Want? has a fair few young girls shrieking along. It?s not that the band does anything wrong, it?s just a little difficult to appreciate this lunchtime.

Wandering aimlessly and dipping into the odd tent here and there doesn?t really prove that fruitful. IN CASE OF FIRE (colour coordinated); TITUS ANDRONICUS (beardy); NOAH & THE WHALE (lacking whale!); and LETHAL BIZZLE (whoa, that?s a lot of people watching a man say his name over and over again) are all probably alright if that?s your sort of thing, although it?s worth noting Bizzle sounds superior on recording.

THE LIVING END (3/5) however is pretty damn decent. The Melbourne trio has a cult following here at Reading which makes for a very good crowd. The inflatable kangaroo in the pit really looks to be enjoying things. At times the band is reminiscent of 90?s Green Day, only more serious and with a psychobilly edge. It?s good, fun stuff (where else will you see a man near riding a double bass today), which makes it a shame to leave early, but the troubadour is a calling.

With the NME/Radio1 stage certifiably over subscribed, the days when FRANK TURNER (4.5/5) played to 50ish people in Camden?s Purple Turtle, or even less in those arse end of nowhere towns (here?s to you, Luton) have been etched in the annals of folklore. A stratospheric rise isn?t even the phrase. Opening with ?I Knew Prufrock?? and backed by a full band, Turner provides his now trademark show from the off; witty, charming, and rammed full of fantastic songs by the boatload. ?The Real Damage? has a subject matter that will be all too pertinent come the end of the festival; ?Photosynthesis? was built for Reading sing-alongs; and if there?s a more emotional song than ?Long Live the Queen? it hasn?t surfaced yet. Turner is genius. Simple as. Oh, and an extra 30 minutes wouldn?t go amiss.

The next 3 « hours are spent, well, not watching bands. The crux of the afternoon seems to be spent ?critiquing? the fashion sense of festival goers like only a person above a certain age can do. Let?s refer to this as pipe and slippers time.

18:45, time to get back to the music. Riding in on a wave of success that began right here last year and absolutely sky-rocketed with that Boss aided performance at Glastonbury, THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM (3/5) should blow you away. Should. Sadly, this evening?s performance doesn?t quite reach the bar that?s been set so highly. Sure, ?The ?59 Sound? record is pillaged for songs and they sound good. There?s no disputing that ?Miles Davis and the Cool? and ?Old White Lincoln? sound exquisite and ?The ?59 Sound? song itself is hollered back at the band. It?s just Brian Fallon?s voice seems a little stretched, especially between songs (at which point he?s damn near incoherent at times). That gruff, used voice of his is the keystone of the band but worn like this it doesn?t impact as it should. Chalk it up to the band having spent so long touring this record. No more UK shows until a new album now. That?ll help.

Such is the obscenities ejaculating from GALLOWS (3.5/5) frontman, Frank Carter, there?s a suspicion that even those passing through on the nearby 19:50 Oxford-Reading First Great Western service are shielding their fragile ears. Who?d believe it, eh? Seriously though, Gallows prove to be such a different prospect with the inclusion of material from this year?s release, ?Grey Britain?. No longer the two minute blast hardcore kids from Hemel, there?s a level of musicianship that?s blown right up, mangling huge riffs with big breakdowns and a fury unrelenting. There?s definitely an increased metal aspect now, although that?s not to say that spiky kidney-punching feeling has gone. It?s a family affair tonight with Carter first introducing the band members? parents, and then dragging brother Richard for a duet on ?In the Belly of a Shark?, a sign that this show means so much to the band. You?d think that Carter might be a little happier then, instead trolling about the stage, hood up and generally quite reserved, until he breaks into song or decides to trash guitars, that is. A solid enough performance but not quite good enough to go down in the chronicles of amazing Gallows shows.

And now comes the surprise of the day: AFI (4.5/5) absolutely blow things away. It might just be the set of the day. Perhaps it?s the long lay-off, or maybe it?s that the Californian outfit has been around this block so many times it?s second nature, but whatever the reason from opener ?Girls Not Grey? to closer ?Miss Murder? everything is near enough perfect. It sounds big, it looks good and it?s hit packed. No deliberately obscure or egocentric selections here, just a bang-bang approach that sees ?The Leaving Song Pt. II?, ?Days of the Phoenix? and ?Love Like Winter? shining through. Davey Havok (complete with Bruce Campbell esque coif) wields himself about the stage, up the scaffolding and into the front row punters. All that before we?re even two songs in. This really is an unexpectedly impressive performance. Enough so that checking out new album, ?Crash Love?, when it drops in a few weeks may be essential.

There?s absolutely no doubting the credentials of LOSTPROPHETS (4/5) as a festival closer. The band?s first massive main stage festival appearance was at Donington?s Ozzfest in 2002 and, although that was a very different sounding band, notes have been taken, lessons learned, and fans snared. That?ll be why the tent is beyond full with more and more trying to seep in. That?ll also be why there?s a pit opening up outside the back of the tent!

So what do the returning Welsh heroes have in them? Well, start with a back catalogue of crowd pleasers that incites more and more hysteria with each furthering moment. Throw in some new material, prepping that ever elusive fourth album (next year, maybe?). Then, coat all this with a surprisingly incredible tightness that sees songs effortless compress into each other, although the ?Informer? segue (?a licky boom boom down?) slotted neatly into the middle of ?A Town Called Hypocrisy? flies right over most of the young heads in here, and you?re starting to get the picture. Not bad considering the band is a man down (guitarist Mike Lewis has returned to the US for the birth of a new baby).

Singer Ian Watkins asks the crowd to ?sing the words, or sing your favourite Radiohead song over the top? (alluding to tonight?s main headliner) as the band launch into ?Rooftops?, which just about edges out ?Last Train Home? and ?Shinobi Vs. Dragon Ninja? in the stakes for most lapped up performance in Lostprophets history. That is until a (cough) incendiary ?Burn Burn?, complete with Bob and Sean from The Blackout, closes out the night as well as the whole damn fine weekend in a storm of frenetic and screaming rage, of the good kind, you understand. Not bad at all.

Alex Hambleton