Words by Lois Plummer, Entertainment Editor for The Spark.
The hottest day of Reading Festival was enjoyed by many with friends and an ice cream in hand. The sweat, dust and sunburn simply couldn’t diminish the spirits of music-lovers from around the world. As another day of dancing and legendary headliners commenced, we at The Spark tore into the arena and got a taste of the full rock and roll experience.
Punk’s Not Dead
1) The Distillers
Riot grrrl – the underground feminist punk movement of the 1990s – redefined the male-dominated tunnel vision of rock music. Brody Dalle, frontwoman of The Distillers, aids the long line of influential women that stress revolution and unapologetic womanhood. As an experienced band – with stylistic similarities to Hole and Joan Jett & The Runaways – they delivered a faultless set full of the same unabashed energy of the early 00s. Fan favourites like Sick Of It All and Hall Of Mirrors vitalised the Main Stage as if no time had passed at all.
2) The Story So Far
American pop-punk was seemingly popular among the RandL line-up of 2019. Avid listeners looked no further than the BBC Radio 1 Stage which hosted California’s-own The Story So Far. Long-standing fans were treated to cult-classic anthems like Roam, casting the crowd back to a time when their bedrooms were covered in Tumblr quotes and Kurt Cobain posters. Full of teenage nostalgia and flavourful new music from their 2018 album – Proper Dose – their set was both an invigorating and sentimental homage to punk rock.
Enter FIDLAR: the soundtrack to every skate kid’s coming-of-age movie montage. These Californian beach goth rockers symbolise a Dazed and Confused summer that screams teenage angst. Brazen guitar riffs and garage band vocals reverberated around The Pit – serving fan favourites like Stoked & Broke – as well as hits from the latest album, Almost Free.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Frank Carter is undeniably one of the most beloved frontmen in rock music, up there with Billie Joe Armstrong and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182. His band’s sets are renowned for their thrill-seeking energy and lyrical honesty that strikes like a thunderbolt to the heart. What fans at Reading certainly didn’t expect to see was a four-year-old girl on stage with noise-cancelling headphones introducing the next song. Revealed as Carter’s daughter, this surprising but touching show of rockstar fatherhood warmed the hearts of the crowd.
As if we couldn’t love him enough already, Carter also delivered a tribute to women in the audience and across the world. Acknowledging the threateningly real realities of women – he commented on misogyny and sexual assault – and gave an inspiring speech to the crowd.
“This is your chance to crowd-surf without fear of being touched inappropriately. We’re going to have a women-only mosh pit right here. We want you to know that this is a safe space for women. And this is a fight against misogyny which is the reality for a lot of females.”
The Big Firework Finale: Foo Fighters
As 8pm neared on Sunday evening, the crowd migrated to the Main Stage like moths to a flame. We all knew that we were about to witness one of the most prestigious bands in the history of rock music, but no one could prepare for what was about to come.
A stage illuminated in red was accompanied by a familiar eerie melody – the famous intro to The Pretender – fans melting into an anthem of cinematic proportions.
Every song on their setlist was an invitation for the crowd to scream their guts out. Unafraid to play lesser known songs from their first album like For All The Cows – the atomic display of reputable rock catered to fans both old and new – anatomising a distinguishable and seemingly faultless body of work.
Contrary to the morbidity and pessimistic rhetoric frequently associated with rock, Foo Fighters boldly represent the universality and remedial powers of the genre. “It’s times like these you learn to live again” – lyrics torn from the page of Times Like These – resonated in the hearts and souls of fans who covered the open green.
An unforgettable set that featured a tribute to The Prodigy’s Keith Flint – the Gallagher brothers pictured on Taylor Hawkins’ drum kit – not to mention frontman Dave Grohl’s incredible sense of humour.
Teasing fans with guitar chords reminiscent of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit – in which Grohl played drums for the band – no one could possibly anticipate what was to happen next.
Somehow, the musician pulled off a live ‘rick-roll’ to 60,000 people. Rick Astley – infamous for his 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up – sang along to a spruced-up heavy rock rendition of the song. Fans were both awestruck and bewildered to say the least.
And finally – the band provided a firework farewell with the emotional alt-rock anthem Everlong – closing one of the most explosive sets ever performed at Reading Festival.