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Reading Festival 2009: Rated!


United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Alex Fahey | 02 September 2009

Overall - 6/10
On paper Reading 2009 had all the hallmarks of a classic: Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead both secured on festival exclusives, Kings Of Leon - arguably the biggest band on the planet right now – headlining on the Friday and even the mighty Prodigy having to settle for a penultimate slot.

But with abominable sound levels on the main stage, the same shortcomings in the event are becoming an all too familiar storyline. Fans put up with the dreadful volume at Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2007; they kicked off a little more when Rage Against The Machine and The Killers whimpered from the speakers last year, but for those stood to the right of the stage or under the sound desk for Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys or The Prodigy, the barely audible big name shows are surely a reason for a full on mutiny. For a festival sold on its line-up, it’s a shame that poor sound and no-thrills entertainment still remain its defining features.

Luckily, away from the main stage, Reading is its own beast and it can still be proud to call itself the greatest rock weekender on the planet. Tightly packed, sweaty tents inspire fantastic performances and exceptional shows from the likes of Lethal Bizzle, Faith No More, The Maccabees and Anti Flag.

Getting There and Back - 8/10

The location of the site is a fifteen minute walk from Reading train station, which is a mere 25 minutes from London Paddington. The train station itself is served by a continuous shuttle bus service that drops revellers off closer to the site.

The parking is ample and signs for the site are clearly visible from Reading town centre as well as electronic signposting from the M4.

The Site – 7/10

Unlike its northern counterpart the Reading site is exceptionally flat, making it easy to navigate between the different stages, but the arena is small and with Festival Republic being granted permission for another 10,000 people this year there are several bottlenecks.

That said, the NME Tent has been moved to allow more space for the flow of people and that particular bottleneck, although not completely remedied, has been vastly improved.

Seemingly deliberately placed catering trailers seem to absorb the sound between the Lock Up and Radio 1/NME Stages and prevent overspill from either stage disrupting the another.

A mention must also go the Festival Republic stage; hidden to the side of the site behind a looming bramble bush it seems like a festival all of its own.

Atmosphere - 6/10

The early closure of the arena means that the atmosphere grows like the pub closing times of old, with revellers gradually (well, not all) building themselves up to an 11:30 finish. Beer is emphatically consumed and as a result its partner in crime – nudity - makes more than enough appearances during the weekend.

With the heavier rock fraternity missing from this year’s line-up – think Metallica, Iron Maiden etc – the aggressive, but in all the right ways, metal fans are gone from the crowd. In their place are a slew of teenagers in school leaver’s hoodies making things aggressive in a much more edgy manner. Morons open circle pits near the back of the crowds instead of the front and lightweight underage drinkers can be found picking fights in the tents.

During the music, the energy of the crowd is felt most in the smaller tents with circle pits cropping up for anything more than 90 bpm. The only time festival-goers appear to sit down and absorb the atmosphere is when they’re so sozzled that keeping their head upright is an issue, let alone their whole body.

Music
Click the links below for full stage-by-stage reviews:

Main Stage: top ten bands

Radio 1/NME Stage: top ten bands

Lock Up Stage: top ten bands



Random Events

Strongbow Man

Do you want a novel way of demonstrating just how much you’ve drunk? Then use the empty Strongbow boxes to create body armour and accompanying sledgehammer – it’s to slay arch-enemy Fosters man obviously.

Don’t Lock Up
To the hammered teenager who managed to get on top of the Lock Up tent: your audience is waiting, you can do anything and you’ll get famed recognition from your admirers down below. Oh, you’ve exposed your tiny willy. Best come back down then…

Festival Medical Services

Just a small shout out to the Festival Medical Services team who provide doctors, nurses, paramedics, first aiders and other trained medical and administrative personnel to Reading. VF didn’t need you this year, but keep up the great work!

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wrote on Wednesday 2 September :

every year someone moans about something. What you people out there don't realise is that here in sound system land there are noise levels to be adhered to - every five minutes some idiot from the local council with a noise level meter they dont know how to work or understand comes over and tells us all to 'turn it down' with the inevitable backlash from the public. This is what you get when you put on a festival in the middle of a town - or is Reading a city? Whatever it is, we are stuck with the noise level issue. In the old days, we used to put up big racks of speakers either side of the stage and blast it as much as we could. No complaints then.Blame Brussels and the EU. I was there, thought Radiohead were a bit quiet but i still enjoyed it. Reading is Reading, end of. theres no other festival like it, whether you are a punter or a worker.

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