Reading Festival - 25, 26, 27 August 2006 (Part 2)

Saturday

Having survived Fridays deluge of rain, and the usual things like the medieval food and toilets. I had expected Saturday's visit to the site to resemble that of World War 1 trenches, "all mud and shit", however a short blast of the sun after midday and we were set up for more Rock N Roll action. Only one small problem there though, as there wasn't a hell of a lot of rocking and rolling going on. Finding a decent band to watch was a bit of a needle in a haystack scenario, so the first band to grace these ears on Saturday were actually Wolfmother (at around 2 o'clock) over on the main stage.

Now Wolfmother are a strange entity, a 3-piece a'la Cream, who sound like Sabbath meets Zeppelin and come from Australia? But, putting comparisons aside for a minute, their take on this 60's/70's prog hybrid does get some much deserved crowd response and "Dimension", "Woman" and "Colossal" do set your hairs standing on end, mainly due to the shear size of the riffs hurtling outwards from the speakers. It did get a bit "Heep" in a few places but the now returning warm sunshine seemed to only add to the vibe and kept everyone happy.

What followed next was basically 5 hours of Indie split by a very good performance from The Fall over at The NME tent. Having never seen Mark E. Smith live I guess this must have been nothing more than a run of the mill performance with no on stage riots or anything. But it must have been a much better 45 minutes than being shackled with the likes of "Dirty Pretty Things" or "The Spinto Band". It was also during these 5 baron hours that death by festival burger was contemplated, but in the end the joy of knowing I'll never be as boring as the people in these bands was enough to keep me from ending it all and going for a "double death burger". One thing I have to say is that, if "The Automatic" are the only thing the press see as the future of UK music then we are all fucked, condemned to Kaiser Chiefs lite bands for the next few years…. God.

So, finally at around 7:30 "Jet" took the stage at the NME tent for what I hoped would have been a gallant return after writing and recording the follow up to the great debut album "Get Born". How wrong can I be? Things started OK with "Get What You Need" but it quickly disintegrated into new song city, with each song seemingly rolling into one another. The new direction seems all mid tempo ballads a'la Oasis rather than the AC/DC rifferama of old. So I for one will be giving new album "Shine On" a pretty wide berth on this showing.

First visit to the Lock Up stage today saw the first proper old school punk bands in the shape of "Millencolin" and "Anti-Flag". "Millencolin" deliver a well-paced set of street punk that the crowd loved, but with the continued sound problems in this tent just left me tapping my feet. "Anti-Flag" on the other hand were simply awesome, possibly even my band of the weekend. Hitting the stage running and continuing at sprint pace for the whole 50 minutes, what I thought would be lame assed pop punk actually was a great antidote to all the Indie twaddle suffered throughout the day. Calls to arms in the shape of "Turncoat" and "Fuck Police Brutality" gets the pit spinning and this reviewer smiling.

So to conclude Saturday, did I watch Muse? Did I fuck; "The Raconteurs" are more of a draw for me and seeing Brendan Benson, Jack White and 2 of The Greenhornes on one stage playing songs from the mildly entertaining "Broken Boy Soldiers" is a fitting way to ease myself into slumber, ready for the traditional Reading day of metal.

Sunday

An early start today, mainly due to the sun shining directly in my eyes at some ungodly hour, and this meant walking to the Festival site in good time for "Mastodon". But not before a nice piece of comedy on the Oxford Road involving me, my wife and what must have been a lay preacher. Said gentleman of the cloth confronted us with a big "Good Morning" only to see his gaze twist towards my Venom "Welcome To Hell" T shirt and his smile drop a little South of Heaven. CLASSIC.

When we do finally get to the site it's amazing how few of the Indie kids are around and "Mastodon" are already on the Main stage and the sound is falling foul of a swirling festival early morning breeze. With a much smaller than expected audience this new school thrash gets an avid yet somewhat diluted response.

"Killswitch Engage" on the other hand are out for the kill, the breeze had now dropped and the standard bearers for "Generation Heavy" ripped up a storm. Imagine the sound of an aircraft taking off with much profanity; a "DIO" cover in the shape of "Holy Diver" and you can imagine pretty much what KSE sounded like. Special mention should go to frontman Howard Jones who added a very melodic edge to this sonic barrage and also to the band in general for reintroducing the "C Word" into onstage banter. Much respect.

At this point in the day I had 2 life-changing events, not only was I able to meet my all-time heroes of Thrash namely "Slayer", but I also queued for 1 hour without complaining more than possibly 200 times. Fuck those anger management classes must be paying off (Tommy Saxondale watch out) or perhaps it was having "Dresden Dolls" serenade us with their "Piano Goth" from the NME tent that helped calm me. Yup, after 20 years of following Mr Araya and Co., and seeing them god knows how many times I was going to get to meet them whatever it took. And this stay of endurance was rewarded with 3 members (Dave Lombardo obviously was too much of a drummer to meet the people) signing some of my CD booklets and exchanging banter over my growingly popular Venom shirt. It was a pleasure to meet 3 seemingly amiable guys, now lets just hope they forget this niceness and shred on stage.

Back to the main stage then and homeboys "Bullet For My Valentine", for what seems like the 10th time this week that I've seen them. (In fact it's only the 8th) No intro tape this time so no Download set reprisals, and in fact slipping in debut EP track "No Control" alongside more well known numbers such as "Four Words" seemed to work well. I did however still have stars in my eyes at this point from my Slayer encounter so it all flew by way too quick without me paying that much attention. Sorry lads.

And finally on the Main stage the band I really had wanted to see all weekend, "Slayer".

Probably not every Glitziners cup of tea, but I couldn't help letting out a celebratory yelp of approval as Slayer took the stage to the strains of "South Of Heaven", Dave Lombardo was now safely behind the kit and trashing his way through the likes of "War Ensemble" and "Post Mortem". There were a few older guys around us going absolutely bananas, by the time "God Hates Us All" and finally "Raining Blood" were unveiled, Slayer just seemed to have that effect on people. With no "Angel of Death" and only "Cult" played from the blistering new album "Christ Illusion" I was left wanting much more, shame then that "My Chemical Romance" come along and spoiled it all. In fairness to Gerard Way he did have a rant at Tory rag The Daily Mail for some Emo cult story they ran recently, but MCR are the same as a million other bands right now, passionless and will be gone in 15 minutes.

Which brought the weekend almost to a conclusion with "Placebo", having never been a fan of this band and seeing Brian Molko with a freshly shaved head finally coming to terms with what we've all known for years, strangely seemed to endear them a little. But that is soon lost as soon as he started his "Geddy Lee" like singing. "Placebo" undoubtedly had a legion of fans around me hanging on every word and in "Nancy Boy" and "Bitter End" they have some quality tunes delivered with prog like efficiency, but it's that underlying "Rush" vibe that loses me every time.

As the festival drew to a close with Pearl Jam on the Main Stage (no thanks) I chose "Soulwax performing Nite Versions in the Dance Tent. Quality Dance/Electro pop from the brothers Dewaele that saw the "doved up" amongst the Reading audience rejoicing like Grunge had never happened and the second summer of love was still in mid flow.

And with that fitting end to a gloriously enjoyable weekend we made our way back out onto Oxford Road for the last time in 2006. Like I said earlier I don't know what it is about Reading, but yet again with the weakest line up in years…… "I loves it"

Johnny H