Friday, 12 August 2011

Top 10 bands I’m anticipating seeing at Reading Festival

I’m currently writing this from a cafĂ© in the village of New Quay, Wales; the only place I can find with free Wi-Fi, and it’s been open since Saturday. The connection’s quite bad, but from what I am getting from back home I’m probably better off here for now, safe from the riots that have been happening across the country. I’m going to be at this year’s Reading Festival in a couple of weeks, as I’ve probably already mentioned, so I’ve decided to compile the top 10 bands I’m most looking forward to experiencing there. I was at first reluctant because I thought a report after I came back would be better, but I need something to do here, so here it is. The order is in how much I’m looking forward to seeing each group based on my experience of their studio output, and will probably change once I’ve actually been to the festival.

Note that line-ups for both Reading and Leeds festivals are nearly identical, the differences being Reading’s Friday will be Leeds’ Saturday, Reading’s Saturday will be Leeds’ Sunday, and Reading’s Sunday will be Leeds’ Friday. Also the Strokes and Pulp will switch times for Leeds, and there may also be minor differences I’m not aware of, so plan ahead if you’re going to Leeds. Of course if you are you’ll probably already be aware of these differences. I’ll only post Reading’s (approximate) times as that’s the festival I’m going to be at.

10. Metronomy
When?: Friday 26th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: Brighton dance project of Joseph Mount. Reading’s Friday will be the only one with the Dance stage, which will feature such great artists as SBTRKT, Cold Cave and Mount Kimbie, and I’ll likely spend a lot of time there. Metronomy just about pips them to the post in terms of priority. Their album The English Riviera released earlier in the year was pretty entertaining, and I hope they match its quality with their live set, given I see it.
Sounds like: Mostly like other UK non-subculture dance projects, for the most part, like Hot Chip or Friendly Fires (the latter are also incidentally playing on the main stage on the Sunday). Around half of their songs also show a casiotone influence which doesn’t sound too bad. Also reminds me of Passion Pit.
Song I hope they play: "The Bay"

9. Interpol
When?: Sunday 28th August
Where?: Main Stage
Who?: Modern post-punk band who made almost as big an impact as the Strokes did. In fact much of Reading and Leeds this year seems to revolve around bands celebrating ten years of something. However Interpol’s ultra-modern sound helps them sound essential and timeless. Much like the Strokes they’ve wavered a little as they’ve stepped further away from their debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, but manage to stay on top with quality songwriting, production and delivery. Recently they’ve been working with cult director David Lynch, so the set’s visual effects will hopefully be off-the-wall.
Sounds like: Joy Division is usually seen as the key influence, certainly Paul Banks' baritone vocals bear more than a similarity to Ian Curtis’. The post-punk guitar stabs draw as much from the book of Wire and Gang of Four.
Song I hope they play: "Obstacle 1"

8. 2 Many DJ’s
When?: Sunday 28th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: The side project of Belgian rock group Soulwax, who have been playing this spiel since the late 1990s. There are a few reasons why I’m choosing these over main stage headliners Muse. For one getting to the main stage at that time would be disastrous and I’d probably get a terrible view. Secondly Muse are playing their unfamiliar 2001 album Origin of Symmetry in full for whatever reason, and not being much of a Muse fan anyway I’d probably be less than impressed. 2 Many DJ’s on the other hand are the foremost exponents of a genre coming out of the early 2000s known as bastard pop, one that throws seemingly unconnected songs together to create something danceable and apparently shameful. Having recently got my hands on As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt 2, I can tell you it is a lot of fun.
Sounds like: Ever wanted to hear the Stooges’ "I Wanna be Your Dog" over Salt-N-Pepa’s "Push It"? Skee-Lo’s "I Wish" over the Breeders’ "Cannonball"? Destiny’s Child’s "Independent Women Part 1" over 10cc’s "Dreadlock Holiday"? Of course you have! That was from a set ten years ago though, so it’ll be exciting to hear what they have in store now.
Song I hope they play: N/A, sort of

7. The National
When?: Saturday 27th August
Where?: Main Stage
Who?: Having enjoyed something of a popularity boost recently, due to the release of High Violet last year, Ohio's The National have found themselves in the unlikely spot of the Reading Festival’s main stage, warming the crowd for the Pulp/Strokes double headline sets. A field full of thousands of people doesn’t quite seem the natural place for Matt Berninger's croon or the Dessner brothers’ cavernous instrumentation, but I won’t know until I see them. With these and the two headliners Saturday should be an unforgettable night.
Sounds like: A folkier-sided Walkmen perhaps, or a gutsier Grizzly Bear? Okay I’m stumped on this one.
Song I hope they play: "Bloodbuzz Ohio"

6. The Strokes
When?: Saturday 27th August
Where?: Main Stage
Who?: New York’s foremost rock & roll revivalists, that’s who. Headlining the main stage on Saturday in support of their latest album Angles no less. Though like most people there I hope they stick to the classics and don’t dig too deep into that album. Across their four albums they have enough quality tunes to make up a killer set, and being one of this festivals’ big four they’re expected by many to deliver the goods. And despite my thoughts on that last album, Julian Casablancas and co. are definitely going to keep me entertained, easily worthy headliners.
Sounds like: A modern twist of the 70s CBGB and Max’s Kansas City bands from their native city that made them so popular. Listening to their influence on any modern guitar band since ought to be evidence of their popularity and respect.
Song I hope they play: "Hard to Explain"

5. Fucked Up
When?: Sunday 28th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: Canadian punks fronted by man-mountain Pink Eyes, or Father Damien Abraham, who sound pretty much as their name suggests. After their 2008 album The Chemistry of Common Life wowed critics they returned earlier this year with the un-punk 78-minute rock opera David Comes to Life, a sure-fire Album of the Year contender. I missed the opportunity to see them on tour with Iceage a few months ago, a mistake which I hope to redeem myself on at Reading.
Sounds like: Very melodic as far as punk rock goes. I don’t think a Foo Fighters comparison is too out of place. Though your ears (and possibly eyes) will undoubtedly be drawn to Pink Eyes’ presence, his volcanic grumble and roar being the main live attraction. Just forget about your previous experience of "rock opera".
Song I hope they play: "Turn the Season"

When?: Saturday 27th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: OFWGKTA, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, or Odd Future are a group of rappers, skaters, producers and music video directors from California, USA. They rose to the height of white indie popularity back in February when leader Tyler, the Creator released his self-directed video for "Yonkers", and they’ve been inescapable since. Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that their set will be one of the most energetic of the festival, and as I sit more on the side of like than hate there’s no excuse for me not to be there. The noticeable lack of black music and musicians means this might be one of my few chances to enjoy such music during the weekend, albeit not in the traditional mould. Probably not the cultural revolution some thought they were going to be (ask anyone on the street who they are and you certainly won’t hear them say the next Wu-Tang) nevertheless they have one of the most loyal fanbases around, and are sure to draw a crowd.
Sounds like: The Wu-Tang Clan connection comes from the size of the group, with at least a dozen or so members. The rhymes have the dark humour and shock of Eminem circa The Marshall Mathers LP, though Tyler’s dark voice is his own. Their energy has also been compared to hardcore punk groups such as Black Flag and Fugazi.
Song I hope they play: "French!"

3. The Horrors
When?: Friday 26th August
Where?: Festival Republic Stage
Who?: At first they were perceived as nothing short of a fashion statement when they arrived in 2006, being hyped as NME’s next big thing, a clearly 80s goth image, appearances in TV shows like "The Mighty Boosh", a Chris Cunningham-directed video right off the bat ("Sheena Is a Parasite"), and names like Faris Rotter and Joshua von Grimm meant that even I ignored them until recently, with the release of their third album Skying, which I’m very impressed with. It’s a shame it’s taken me this long, I hear 2009’s Primary Colours was very good. It earned them a Mercury Music Prize nomination and proved they had added substance to match their style. Thankfully I’ll be forgiven for my sins when I’m baptised in the river of their headline performance at the Festival Republic Stage on the Friday.
Sounds like: A continuation of the psychedelically-looking New Romantic bands of the 80s, like the Psychedelic Furs and the Cure, who in turn owe a lot to Syd Barrett. And to all those who think the Horrors sound in any way like Simple Minds, they don’t.
Song I hope they play: "Still Life"

2. Pulp
When?: Saturday 27th August
Where?: Main Stage
Who?: If I envy the Leeds incarnation for anything, it’s that Pulp follow the Strokes, whereas it’s the opposite order for Reading. Both bands are probably equal in their contribution to rock & roll history, so it’s arguably a fair decision to co-headline the two, but I reckon that Pulp will manage to steal the limelight from under the Strokes’ noses. Last year they announced their comeback with a string of festival dates, the ones already crossed off leaving behind nothing but glowing reports: Isle of Wight, Primavera Sound, and their surprise set at Glastonbury almost upstaged Radiohead’s. Overlooked during their time between the two warring Britpop titans Oasis and Blur, Pulp nevertheless carved their own niche into the musical landscape of 90s Britain with their politically charged smash albums Different Class and This Is Hardcore, despite beginning their career in 1983. Given today’s political climate, they’ve returned at just the right time.
Sounds like: Pretty much what you’d expect from a typical British indie band in terms of sound. They stick out from the competition with their superior songwriting and lyricism, courtesy of Jarvis Cocker, one of rock’s greatest and most theatrical frontmen. Best of luck following them, Casablancas.
Song I hope they play: "Sorted for E’s and Whizz"

1. Death From Above 1979
When?: Sunday 28th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: Another recently reunited band, DFA1979 almost broke Austin, TX’s SXSW Festival earlier this year when they played their first gig together since 2005, such was the rush to experience the power of their thunderous rawk. Like many garage rock bands, they create a huge sound despite being a two-piece: Sebastien Grainger covers drums and vocals, and Jesse Keeler handles bass and occasionally keyboards. They only released one studio album during their first lifetime, yet if anything has salvaged this holiday’s terrible weather, it’s staying in and playing You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine over and over. Originally simply known as Death From Above, the 1979 came about from James Murphy politely asking them to change their name (to avoid confusion with his DFA label, which also stands for Death From Above). He did them a favour.
Sounds like: I’ve heard them described as dance-metal before; although that’s kind of ridiculous, it gives an idea of the combination of incredible volume and slinky, tight grooves they achieve. Think about where the Black Keys and Lightning Bolt overlap, that’s as close of an analogy I can give.
Song I hope they play: "Blood on Our Hands"

And you can expect the report on how I actually found the festival’s artists to follow when I come back, around Tuesday 30th-Wednesday 31st August. I’ll come up with another format for that. That’ll explain both why there haven’t been any updates in the past week or the weekend Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August. Hope to post some reviews in the near future.

There are just as many I’m looking forward to seeing that didn’t make the list, and I’ll try to visit as many as possible to give you my best experience of the festival. I’m partially writing from memory as well, what with my currently limited internet access. There probably won’t be any photos when I’m there unfortunately. I’m a really bad photographer anyway.

If anyone has been to either the Reading or Leeds festivals before, are planning on going this year, or have seen any of these bands live before, I would like to hear, this being my first time and everything.