Moody rock stars, muddier teenagers and a plethora of fantastic music and comedy performers made up this year’s Reading Festival weekend.
The rain began on Thursday 26 and continued on and off through the Friday to create one of the most water-logged festivals of recent years.
Classic rock fans refused to have their spirits dampened by the rain and earnestly awaited Guns ‘n’ Roses Main Stage headlining performance on Friday evening. Unfortunately they waited far longer than anyone expected and when frontman Axl Rose waltzed on stage at 10.30pm the band were already an hour late for their advertised slot.
The heavyweight rockers, famous for hits such as ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and ‘November Rain’, had already kept fans waiting 10 years for their latest album Chinese Democracy, but once the music began the crowd’s discontent softened a little.
Despite festival management company Festival Republic allowing the band to play on for an extra half an hour, they were forced to switch of the sound system at 12.00pm to comply with Reading Borough Council’s licensing, leaving Axl mouthing along to muffled drum sounds.
Being a no-good rock and roller though Rose felt this was not the end and promptly picked up a nearby megaphone to sing along with the crowd in the most original rendition of ‘Paradise City’ in the band’s history.
Guns may have failed to capture the crowds’ imagination but across the (now sodden) grass in the Lock Up tent American pop-rockers Alkaline Trio were delivering a solid performance.
Elsewhere on the Friday Queens of the Stone Age and Lostprophets oozed energy on the Main Stage and both had the crowd singing along to their greatest hits.
Saturday brought a clash between the thumping drum and bass outfit Pendulum and the mellow radio-friendly sounds of Arcade Fire, whose latest album The Suburbs jumped to the top of the album charts last week. Both bands were well received, with the crowd chanting the haunting chorus of Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’ for hours after the music had finished.
In the midst of the battle for supremacy, NOFX showed up as a secret act on the Lock Up stage to entertain the crowd with their usual jibes, even inviting Frank Turner on to join them during their 18 minute epic song ‘The Decline,’ which they performed in full. Soon after came the band that really shone through on Saturday night: Bad Religion. The group’s 30-year-old political punk sounds united old and new fans with a fantastically diverse set delivering hit after hit.
Earlier in the afternoon The Mystery Jets hypnotised the audience with songs from their latest album Serotonin and Dizzee Rascal united rock and pop fans with his bizarre range of styles, including a rendition of his own version of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as well as his own hits ‘Bonkers’ and ‘Jus a Rascal’.
Sunday saw a departure from the usual tradition of heavy metal bands to have pop-punk kings Blink 182 closing the festival amid fans of all ages. A particular visual highlight was drummer Travis Barker’s 360 degree drum kit, which spun in all directions, leaving him upside down while he thrashed out a blistering drum solo.
Guitarist Tom Delongue fared less well as he constantly forgot lyrics and at one point got distracted when he spotted Dominic Howard, the drummer for the British rock group Muse, watching them from the side of the stage.
The Alternative Tent retained its consistently high calibre of acts this year, with Adam Bloom, Robin Ince and Russell Kane, who had only just arrived at the festival after being awarded the Edinburgh Comedy Award the previous day, all having the tent in stitches from start to finish.
Despite some typically British weather, the festival delivered a fantastic weekend of entertainment. There was some slightly over-zealous fire fighting on the final night, but generally new safety measures managed to cut down the amount of crime and dangerous gas explosions, which have tarnished the event’s reputation for years. Roll on 2011.
James Michael Parry