THE loud music of the night before is still ringing in people’s ears, but there is no rest for the wicked at Reading Festival. Sunlight warms tents as it rises in the morning, driving festival goers out of their sleeping bags. In the search for breakfast you come across numerous establishments offering a special Reading Festival breakfast, all filled with the tired bodies and boots that jumped for Paramore the previous night.
Some breakfast offerings are more special than others, as one particular establishment switched from its usual curry house menu to a cooked breakfast. Regardless of the fact they deep fried the sausages, it served a purpose and once again festival goers were ready to rock on. When the festival reopened it was time for some exploration. Having found a favourite spot in front of the main stage, (against the water-giving barrier by the way!) it was prime time for discovering the other stages. Walking past the Festival Republic stage, the sound of a powerful female vocalist drew festival attendees into the tent. Even if you weren’t familiar with tracks from Nico Vega, you couldn’t help but eventually join in with the chorus of their songs. It was an energised performance that suited its Reading Festival venue well.
At Radio 1’s NME stage it was the second half of Lower Than Atlantis‘ set that saw a large audience, consisting of those standing in the tent and many who were relaxing on the grass, enjoying the music from afar. But as the crowd parted after Lower Than Atlantis, a number of festival goers swarmed the NME tent in search of a good place to stand for Cage The Elephant. It was an effort that paid off for many. The American band had the audience engaged from the start of their performance; their reputation certainly exceeded them as Cage The Elephant delivered an energised set. Frontman and lead singer Matt Shultz must have caused the production team a lot of stress as he, on numerous occasions, approached the audience and jumped onto it. But the fans loved it and beckoned him for more, Matt was more than happy to please.
The group isn’t all about the reckless entertainment however, and they did produce music that the wider audience could thoroughly enjoy. Some members took it upon themselves to create a mosh pit in the midst of a crowd, if nothing else it shows the high about of enthusiasm and energy that Cage the Elephant installed in the crowd. Of course, for those who could not see the group in much detail from their position, there were large screens broadcasting the on-stage action. While that information isn’t ground-breaking, it did allow the audience to get a good look at the keyboard player’s jumper. Sporting a red jumper with Mickey Mouse on the front, it was a look I’m sure many students can appreciate.
Later in the afternoon we felt it was time to return to the main stage, in preparation for the big Reading Festival day 2 acts Jake Bugg and Arctic Monkeys; but before there were any signs of bugs or monkeys, we enjoyed being entertained by dragons. No, not any mystical beasts. In the run up to the Saturday night headliners at Reading, Imagine Dragons took to the stage.
After releasing popular tracks like ‘Demons’ and ‘On Top Of The World’ there were high, yet relaxed, expectations for Imagine Dragons. When they did play the well-known songs the group had the audience in the palm of their hand, singing, waving and dancing along. But this wasn’t always the case. Unfortunately the songs that audience members weren’t very familiar with played to slightly deaf ears and the great atmosphere was lost. It felt like the band took a while to warm up, but as soon as they did with a hit record, the set returned to its pre-heating stage. Inconsistent would summarise the main stage set very well, when the crowd were behind the band it was great and at other times it was pleasant.
When the time came for Jake Bugg to host the Reading Festival main stage, people believed they knew what to expect. They were right, but so very wrong at the same time. Yes, Jake Bugg is a fairly quiet performer, only making 3 different utterances during his set. While I expected such a reserved nature to leave a sense of lacking, it felt entirely appropriate against the music being played.
Although Jake Bugg isn’t a man of many words, his attentive song writing left nothing that needed to be said. No introductions necessary, Jake simply did what he does best, which is performing the beautiful tunes he created. The crowds were mellowed out as they fell silent to listen to the dulcet tunes and animated when Jake turned things up a melodic notch. The large stage and audience would normally make such a performance look small and timid, but due to his great talent, Jake Bugg made it feel as relaxed as any other performance and brought the crowd into his personal arena.
A similar style was taken on by the headliner act that all fans had been waiting for, Arctic Monkeys. The band’s lead singer Alex Turner, for that night, was the epitome of cool despite the chaos that ensued around him. When an act is surrounded by so much hype as Arctic Monkeys were on Saturday, it is inevitable that the crowd becomes mayhem. The crowd closest to the band were piling in, almost as if the last can of beer on earth was buried under the stage. Perhaps there was a secret hidden to most, but in any case it created more gaps further back for other people to squeeze into and resulted in a heavily packed crowd.
From the safety of the regular water station spot, I was relatively undisturbed, but many fans were being pulled over the barrier by security and instructed to walk along to the end. The reason for their attendee selection was unclear, with theories ranging from the drunk to the disorderly, but the number of people being extracted was uncountable. Even the one area amongst the audience, which normally seemed calm and controlled, was taken over by the tension and excitement that Arctic Monkeys installed in Reading Festival. As Alex gave an occasional brief introduction, you knew you were in store for another one of the band’s popular tracks like ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ And ‘R U Mine?’. The gelled back hair and subtle swing of his hips completed the ‘too cool for school’ image that the band portrays, making the performance, image and sound unite in an air of effortless cool. Very little could be further from the energised, uncontrollable mood of the audience who simply could not get enough of the group.
Missed Day One? Click here to read what Gabrielle Linnet made of Friday at Reading Festival, including how Paramore avoided a technical hitch to produce an amazing performance.
Don’t forget to pick up the first issue of The Spark when it arrives on campus on Friday 19 September.