Reading Festival 2009 – Reading Hexagon

By paul

*Held at Little John’s Farm, Reading*

28th – 30th August 2009

Ahh, August Bank Holiday weekend. Little John?s Farm. Warm cider. Fair-weather friends. Over-priced burgers. An inevitable and inconvenient amount of rain. Oh, and of course ? the bands. It could only be Reading Festival 2009.

For three days over the last weekend in August, arguable the most important music festival in the world takes over a sizeable area of Berkshire and sees the cream of the music world throw one hell of a party. 2009 was no exception. With hundreds of artists and bands playing over the weekend, there was only ever going to be a small fraction we could cover, so here is Reading ?09 through the eyes of


A furiously wet and windy start to the weekend didn?t remotely dampen Sonic Boom Six?s(4/5) spirits, as this, their first crack on the Main Stage proved to be an impressive and predictably rowdy start to the day?s entertainment. Laila commented to me afterwards that they genuinely believed it was the best gig of their lives. It damn sure looked like it, too. Following them, Madina Lake(2.5/5) battled valiantly against the weather conditions and while they did commendably in the end, it was a struggle. The band exerted endless amounts of energy during their set, but the likes of ?Let?s Get Out Of Here? and ?House Of Cards? fell victim to the wind and the rain, producing somewhat less than dignified results.

Moving on to the Radio 1 tent, Manchester Orchestra(3/5) bode well in their early slot, with their rock and roll stylings drawing in quite a crowd. With a front man that has more beard than face, they?re an exciting act to watch live, although it becomes evident as the set continues that a large part of the crowd watching them is merely sheltering form the rain outside.

By they time the rain stopped, Alexisonfire(4/5) were underway with their first of two sets at the festival. Surprisingly, the Canadian fivesome are ultimately one of the better-sounding Main Stage bands of the day. Kicking off with ?Young Cardinals?, they breeze through a set that proves them worthy of being up on this platform two years in a row.

Funeral For A Friend(4/5) are something of a staple for this festival these days and despite a brief flash flood completely cutting the sound for about ten minutes, the band play a storming show. With their ?best of? compilation coming out next month, it?s a set for fans both new an old, with new track, ?Wrench? slotting in nicely next to the likes of ?Juneau? and ?The Art Of American Football?. These guys are professionals, and not even the worst of all possible technical faults could stop them.

The same cannot be said, for Fall Out Boy(1/5) however, who were nothing short of diabolical today ? their set was incohesive, out of tune, and generally an unpleasant experience to endure. The only point where they managed to redeem themselves was when throwing in an unexpected Journey cover, but even this sounded like a desperate cry for help from a sinking ship. It?s a shame, because when they want to be, they?re capable of putting on a great show.

Later on, Billy Talent(4/5) played to a packed out Lock Up tent and it takes but a few songs to remind anyone who?s forgotten just how polished a performance these boys put on. ?Line and Sinker? sees the band at their best, while ?Rusted From The Rain? is far more exciting live than on record. Overall, they proved themselves to be a sturdy and exhilarating headliner for a day where some struggled, and others shone.


With the sun shining gloriously, it was down to Mariachi El Bronx(4.5/5) to nurse the collective hangover of thousands at Little John?s Farm come Saturday lunchtime. Best taken with a handful of salt, The Bronx?s alter egos prove to be one of the highlights of the entire weekend, with their Mexicana sound effervescing across the arena. There?s obvious confusion on the face of several crowd members, but most lap up the novelty.

Fightstar(5/5) seem to have put their days of bottle-dodging behind them, as on this particular occasion at Reading Festival they look and sound biblically massive. They?re a band who are designed for arenas and open-air extravaganzas such as this, with ?War Machine? and ?Palahniuk?s Laughter? creating utter devastation down in the centre mosh-pit area. By the time they?re done, few people can argue they haven?t earned their keep here today. Enter Shikari(2/5) on the other hand are not having one of their best days, and despite their best efforts, stumble through an uninspired and unconvincing set.

Over in the Lock Up tent, Set Your Goals(3/5) are causing a bit of a stir, not least because those expecting a Hayley Williams rap cameo were sorely disappointed. Still, they managed to play the tightest I?ve yet seen them, but while the tracks taken from ?This Will Be The Death Of Us? fare well, the crowd show them only a fraction of the enthusiasm than they do for the likes of ?Mutiny? and ?Work In Progress?. Later on in the evening, it?s up to Thursday(4.5/5) to demonstrate just how to make several thousand people inside a tent go absolutely balls-out crazy. I still defy any band to invoke the emotion and crowd participation that these guys do when they crack out ?Jet Black New Year?, and ultimately, we all end up partying like it?s 1999.

It was a hard decision to make, but considering I missed them at Slam Dunk back in May, I thought it best to give The Blackout(5/5) a go for Saturday night instead of Rise Against. Playing on the tiny Festival Republic stage may have frustrated them considering they were out in the open last year, but the fraction of festival-goers here to see them most definitely got their money?s worth. Sean Smith may have let the power go to his head a little bit (at one point he orders the crowd to ?kneel down or fuck off? ? quite a few people clearly unimpressed by this do the latter), but impeccable renditions of ?This Is Why We Can?t Have Nice Things? and ?Beijing Cocktail? really do have this sweaty collective of music fans eating out of his palm.


The main arena on Sunday morning is always noticeably quieter than the two previous days as fatigue begins to set in across the campsites, but I doubt nothing prepared Broadway Calls(3.5/5) for the pathetic turn-out for their slot opening the Radio 1 Stage. When they kick into ?To The Sheets?, there?s maybe two hundred people watching them, and although the crowd does grow over the next twenty minutes or so, frustratingly, it?s not by much. Despite this, they play as if they were playing to millions, and generally do themselves proud.

Frank Turner(5/5) is the reason a lot of people dragged themselves out of their beer-soaked sleeping bags this morning. The fact that it took a good twenty minutes to get into the tent before his set is a testament to just quite how popular this young man from Winchester town has come over the last year or so. Frank Turner shows are known for their sing-along-ability, but nothing quite compares to 12,000 or so people bellowing out chorus after chorus of his songs on a Sunday afternoon. He?s one of those people who has a great power to bring people together, and by the time we?ve all exhausted our lung capacity singing out the last mantra-like lines of ?The Ballad Of Me And My Friends?, there?s a real sense of togetherness between everyone in the room. Musically flawless, and a truly humble performer, Frank?s set is sure to be a favourite for many over the weekend.

Brand New?s(0/5) set on Sunday afternoon was a testament to why we should all give up caring about this band, and give up hoping that there?s the remotest chance of them ever again doing something worthwhile. It was horrific. Setting aside the fact that they apparently refuse to play any of their fan?s favourite songs (or indeed their own biggest hits), I?ll instead focus on the fact that Jesse Lacey doesn?t even bother to try and sing anymore. Instead he opts to imitate the sounds of various dying animals through the microphone. Coupled with the fact that they?ve completely lost the slickness and professionalism that they used to bring to the stage, it was a set that fell to pieces almost before it started, and is likely to be the nail in the coffin for many fans.

In contrast, AFI(4/5) give it their absolute best on their second-to-headline slot. While Davey Havok?s vocals are something of an acquired taste, as a band they are an absolute force to be reckoned with live, with ?Miss Murder?, ?Days Of The Phoenix? and ?Leaving Song Part II? all sounding CD perfect. Havok does seem to be struggling at points during the set, but he plows on with his crowd-bothering, scaffolding-climbing antics until the very end.

Lostprophets(4.5/5) may well have been away for a while, but their performance that rounded off the weekend?s entertainment was one hell of a statement that this band are back. I mean, really back. On the handful of new tracks they aired from their upcoming record, the band sound as enormous as they have ever done, even though they played the set without rhythm guitarist Mike Lewis (he?s off attending to his newborn). Newcomer Luke Johnson looked perfectly settled behind an LP-branded drum kit, and he was able to display just how talented a sticksman he is (something he never really got to do when in Beat Union). It isn?t until you watch a headline set from this band that you realise just how many huge tunes they have and how much energy they can extract from a crowd ? something which they did brilliantly here. Whether you like them or not, Lostprophets are an undeniable, unstoppable juggernaut and their headline set this weekend was a true testament to that.

So that?s it for another year. Three days, hundreds of bands, hundreds of thousands of music fans and a hell of a lot of memories. Who were your favourite bands of the weekend? Who disappointed you? Don’t agree with our opinions? Leave your comments below and let us know.

Andy R