Reading 2012 Top Ten

My favourite acts of Reading 2012, in rough order of preference from 10 to 1 (in no way far less detailed than the EOTR ‘top ten’ due to alcohol intake).

10.          Star Fucking Hipsters (Fri)

Along with The Cast of Cheers, the best band name at this year’s festival.

Conveniently, this punk supergroup of sorts were also very good.  Playing to a busy Lock-Up Tent on Friday afternoon, the band rolled out a bracing set of New York punk sat somewhere between the bouncy fun of Fat Wreck Chords output and generally spikier lyrical content of Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label (they have recorded for both).  The band clearly enjoyed themselves and an infectious, smiley, approach throughout the set very much endeared them to an attentive crowd.

9.            Billy Talent (Sat)

Another Lock-Up act and one of my friend Tommo’s favourite bands.  Canadian band Billy Talent were a lot of fun.  Their sound combines a broad range of influences – from punk, through post-hardcore, emo, ska and indie – with a greater depth of subject matter than most peers, similar in some ways to the likes of Bad Religion.  Marginally unnerving that the singer speaks in exactly the same affected voice that he sings with.

8.            Cancer Bats (Fri)

Cancer Bats polarized opinion somewhat amongst our group and were for some ‘a bit much’ so early on the Friday.  I loved them, especially the hardcore version of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage.  Reading’s main stage, year by year, is increasingly devoid of heavier acts – giving way to the ‘hip’ – and Cancer Bats countered that trend beautifully.

7.            Mastodon (Sat)

Continuing in the vein of Cancer Bats, Mastodon brought a refreshing weight of noise to an otherwise fairly mainstream Radio 1 tent.  I couldn’t name a song (regrettably there was no outing for the recent Flaming Lips cover from Record Store Day) but it certainly felt good.

6.            Graham Coxon (Fri)

I am not, it should be said, the world’s biggest Blur fan.  I am however a fan of Graham Coxon’s solo output, which always appears to be something of a release for the Buzzcocks fan in him that is never quite let out on record with Albarn and co…

The most impressive thing with Coxon is him being so at ease with a guitar – ridiculously so.  If one were able to mute the gig I’m sure the assumption would be that very little at all was going on, when in fact he is generating waves of psychedelic noise filling out perfect little pop songs.

5.            Mark Lanegan Band (Sun)

The crowd was sadly very small for someone of Lanegan’s stature and heritage with arguably one of the best voices of the last twenty five years.  He is though very much the type of artist on the periphery of Reading line-ups these days with few early nineties acts ever getting a look in, however good they might be (Dinosaur Jr have faced similar issues here in recent years).

In spite of the modest audience though, Lanegan and band treated us to a terrifically dark and brooding set of material from across recent solo albums.  There was typically little engagement between songs, simply a seeming rise in volume and intensity with each track.  Finishing with a stunning ‘Methamphetamine Blues’ from Bubblegum, I know he’s attracted a few new followers from across my friends and I am sure a good few other folks.

4.            Me First & the Gimme Gimmes (Sun)

I have wanted to see Me First & the Gimme Gimmes for a long time.  For those unaware, the Gimmes are a US punk supergroup – catering specifically in punk covers of very much non-punk songs from the worlds of popular music and theatre.

I was thrilled when they were announced in the Lock-Up Tent on the Sunday night.  Slight annoyance at a clash with the Foo Fighters’ headline slot was reduced when it became apparent they would provide a welcome break from the Foos’ three hour set (I love the Foos and I love Grohl, but three hours is too long).

The hour or so’s set was tremendous fun and tongue-in-cheek to the end, performed in front of a small but committed crowd.  John Denver, Elton John, Judy Garland, INXS and R.Kelly never sounded so good at the end of three days of dangerously high alcohol consumption.

3.            Toy (Sun)

Toy had been recommended by a number of friends from a variety of quarters – the collective description distilled down to something like ‘Krauty Psychey Noisy Shoegaze’.  Which sounded great.

And it was.  They made a lovely noise, a really lovely noise.  Reading definitely needs more shoegaze.  See my End of the Road 2012 favourites for more thoughts on the band.

Off to see them at Heaven in October and very much looking forward to it.

2.            Joy Formidable (Sun)

A fifth year in a row for Ritzy and co., by all accounts at the request of celebrity fan D. Grohl esq, playing later in the day.  The Welsh trio have become one of my favourites in my recent years, making big expansive pop songs which live invariably break down into bigger extended walls of noise.

Last year they did a more than admirable job of opening the main stage on the Saturday (which must be the worst slot to play at the Festival, after everyone has overdone it on the Friday) but it was good to see them back in the confines of a tent.  The set was great – what now feel like ‘classics’ from the first album alongside some lovely new material from the second – currently in production.

I reckon we’ll see a sixth straight year at Reading next year, much higher up the bill.

1.            At the Drive-In (Sat)

AtD-I were the band I was most looking forward to at Reading, by some distance.  I am a big fan but had never seen them.  I’ve seen follow-up project Mars Volta, including a thrilling 45min, 2 song, set at Reading maybe ten years ago, but never thought I’d get the chance to see Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez in this incarnation.

There was a degree of risk to the whole thing.  Only recently reformed, they are a volatile outfit and I imagine it wasn’t out of the question the gig wouldn’t happen.  I’m so pleased it did.  They were amazing and everything I could have possibly hoped for – driving, screaming, noise melded with huge tunes and rhythms in structures loosely similar to songs.

I love this band so much.


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