BLOG: Where has R&L’s spirit of heavy metal disappeared?

'Reading has lost its way, investing, as it does, in line-ups that are safe and commercially viable. It needs to find its roots again.'

So, a fraction of the Reading and Leeds line-up has been leaked. But – rock and metal fans – don’t get too excited. If you’re still holding out for a return to the festival’s golden age of good, clean, heavy-metal fun, think again. By and large, the bill is predominantly bloated with indie has-beens. Really, is anyone still bothered about the likes of The Strokes, Pulp, The Pigeon Detectives, Interpol, Panic! At the Disco or Taking Back Sunday? For years these bands (and plenty others) have persisted on the Reading treadmill to the point of tedium. For Christ sake, where’s the fresh blood?

Yet, admittedly, the bill is dotted with deliciously loud acts capable of tearing the roof off: the Deftones, Muse, Jane’s Addiction, The Joy Formidable, plus the welcome return of Canadian punk-duo Death From Above 1979 are all scintillating prospects. However, this modicum of rock/metal pedigree is in the minority. Moreover, there’s nary a balls-out, metal band to be spoken of, save the Deftones and Bring Me the Horizon. Which in turn begs the question: Where has Reading’s time-honoured spirit of heavy metal disappeared?

The festival’s origins flow deeply in the same gene pool that produced long hair, testosterone, spliffs and Eddie Van Halen. Pitching camp permanently at Richfield Avenue, Reading in 1971, and inspired by events in America, the festival proceeded to build its reputation on the solid achievements of prog-rock, blues and heavy metal acts. Throughout the seventies, large hordes flocked to see the decade’s popular outfits, some of which included AC/DC, Aerosmith, Rory Gallagher, Hawkwind and Judas Priest. Later, the festival felt the explosion of punk, with Sham 69, The Jam and The Ramones making both famous and infamous appearances – reportedly, in 1978, Sham 69’s bassist was bottled and, after a dreadful set, the band were jeered off.  Clear evidence of the legendary heavy metal mentality that has manifested itself in the fabric of the festival throughout the years: vacuous brat-pop duo Daphne and Celeste were bottled off by angry metallers after just two songs in 2000; while rapper 50 Cent fled from a small hurricane of bottles in 2004.

During the 1980’s, the festival suffered a slump. In 1988, took a dreadful turn commercially, alienating its audience by heading in a mainstream direction. Dominated by the likes of Bonnie Tyler and Meat Loaf, the festival experienced a backlash from its faithful, and ensuing recriminations eventually saw the ousting of original festival promoter, Harold Pendleton. Pendleton was succeeded by Mean Fiddler, who broadened the festival’s appeal during the next few decades, blending Brit-Pop, indie and electronica, as well as heavier elements, in the mix.

Famously, Sunday was appointed the official day of metal, and during the noughties, there was a resurgence in purveyors of loud, angry, sweaty music. For many, it was an exciting place to be again. Crowds in recent years have been treated to breathtakingly memorable – and at times absurd – displays of ear-damaging madness: Dillinger Escape Plan (whose lead singer Greg Puciato made an artistic statement by shitting in a bag and throwing into the crowd), Slipknot, Metallica, Mastodon, Iron Maiden plus many more are all responsible for history-making sets.

But, alas, those days are but distant memories. Reading has lost its way, investing, as it does, in line-ups that are safe and commercially viable. It needs to find its roots again. I am sure I am not the only out there would love to see Reading return to its former heavy metal glory.