Reading Festival 2008: Rated!
Little John's Farm, Reading, 22-24 August
Overall – 7/10
Imagine any small town where the yoofs have nothing to do except burn bins, graffiti war memorials and vomit up a mixture of their dad's spirit cupboard and you're halfway there. Its often said that Reading Festival is all about the music and 2008 is no exception – it's all about the music until the kid's get past witching hour and they shred their conscience in a vodka-induced Lord Of The Flies campsite dystopia. Poor sound quality irked the main stage for The Killers and Bloc Party, though it proved less relevant during Rage Against The Machine's headline riot, but aside from that the teenage insurrection flew headfirst into its anarchic best.
Getting There And Back – 7/10
The train station is quite a hike from the site, but boat services running along the Thames from the town centre and campsites further a field makes it fairly simple to get to the arena – if you don't mind queuing for them. Car parking is ample; with those thrown into the White Car Park given the pleasure of crossing the newly assembled bridge that replaces last year's boat journey. Coaches from up and down the country run directly to the site, slowly shaking up those cans of cheap lager in the luggage holds below.
The Site – 5/10
The Alternative Stage and Festival Republic tent were both moved back to provide more room for the looming main stage, but other than that the site remained unchanged. The NME/Radio 1 Tent and Lock Up Stage remain too close when hoards try to filter into both of them, and the BBC Introducing Stage can be an unwelcome obstacle when trying to escape from them. Another quibble is having only one main entrance, which can create queues, especially if every single wristband is being tugged for security purposes.
Atmosphere - 8/10
As always the atmosphere was almost without fault. The alcoholic valour of teenagers allowed to be without parents for what seems to be the first time ever makes it noisy, abrasive and at it's best: contagiously brilliant. Campsite antics, however, can wear thin for anybody after four solid nights of it - throwing rubbish, crushing tents, burning anything and listening to pubescent voices shouting "bollocks" with the fury of a frustrated unich can all be crossed off the checklist by 6pm on Thursday night. In the arena, Rage's back to front bouncing crowd crushed the front rows and fans watching Pendulum nearly drag the NME tent to it's knees – just don't mistake atmosphere for annihilation.
Rage Against The Machine - 8.5/10
The political hip-rock group made it a Reading hat trick with their headline slot. The silent protest of their Guantanamo Bay boiler suits said enough without De La Rocha having to open his mouth and the stamp marks left from 'Testify' and 'Killing In The Name Of' will forever be etched in Little John's Farm ground. Would've scored higher if they were turned up loud!
Bloc Party – 7/10
With the balls to release an album with just two days notice the art-rock troupe performed an epic set which should earn them a headline slot at Reading one day. 'Hunting For Witches' and 'Banquet' sounded heroic as Kele and Co did their best to shrug off ailing sound levels.
Lethal Bizzle – 7/10
With fans lifting up the sides of the Dance Tent on Sunday to catch a glimpse of the grime star, surely organisers should rethink Bizzle's place at this festival. House Of Pain's 'Jump Around' sends the crowd crazy, but 'Pow (Forward)' is the highlight which leaves Lethal topless and glorious.
The Killers – 5/10
Sure, most people in the crowd couldn't hear them, but the Las Vegas troupe have lost the thunder which first propelled them into stardom. Tracks from b-side and rarities album 'Sawdust' were put on there for a reason – they're not good enough to make it onto their albums, so why they bore the crowd with them is anybody's guess.
Staging a shit-in
It may have been a dirty protest over RATM's low sound levels, but the gentleman (probably not the right noun) who squatted and defecated next to sound desk certainly made no more friends over the weekend.
Pikey Pete and the Pirates
Lead singer of Pete and the Pirates, erm, Pete collecting cardboard cups to get enough money back to buy a pint – pikey.
Queueing in the name of
Thousands chanted along to the final lines of Rage's set, the infamous, "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me", before patiently queueing up outside the guest and press area as their wristbands were meticulously checked.