Category: Festivals

Editor's PickFestivalsLive Music

‘Everybody needs to do it in their lifetime’: Reading Festival 2016.

Not new to Reading’s reputation, New Music Editor Tabitha Green visited the iconic festival to check the validity of its hype.

As a Reading first timer, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as I, half asleep, boarded my 5am train to the festival. We’ve all heard the stories about what goes on at Reading and Leeds and, upon my return, I can confirm that these stories are by no means an exaggeration. Whether festivals of this nature are for everyone is questionable, but as a lonely raver danced past my tent at 4am Monday morning, I realised that Reading festival provided me with one of the greatest weekends of my life.

Before launching into an account of day one of music, I feel that it is necessary to mention Hot Dub Time Machine, the ‘time travelling dance party’ that kicked things off by gracing the alternative stage on Thursday night. An audience made up of those from all walks of life came together to positively belt out as many classic anthems as you can think of, determined to mosh even to the likes of The Jackson 5. The buzz that DJ Tom Loud created set everyone in good stead for the weekend ahead, with high spirits from even the hungover as the sun beat down on Friday. Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls pulled in a relatively large crowd as they kicked things off on the main stage, but personally I feel that it was Spanish rockers Hinds that really got things going. As far as live bands go, Hinds definitely bring the fun; as they played a rowdy rendition of ‘Davey Crockett,’ I’m certain that there wasn’t a single person in the packed NME tent that wasn’t dancing.

Energy levels remained high throughout the day, so it is unsurprising that the colossal turnout for Boy Better Know’s main stage set turned almost lethal. The stars of the grime scene had the entire crowd jumping as soon as they began, not a lyric un-shouted. Despite the fact I ended up on the floor for a good five minutes, I have to hand it to BBK; their electric set was a weekend highlight for nearly everybody that attended. As the evening approached, the anticipation for the headline slots from Disclosure and Foals was soaring, and both proved exactly why. Before the festival, I’d been told by numerous people that seeing Disclosure was a must as their live sets are “one big party,” and one big party their set certainly was. And Foals? No description of their incredible set can do it justice. I stand by the claim that Yannis Philippakis is one of our generation’s greatest frontmen – as he demanded pits during the huge ‘Two Steps, Twice’, a state of enrapturement descended upon the crowd. Absolutely in a league of their own.

Reading Festival under Creative Commons licence Rene Passet.

Reading Festival under Creative Commons licence Rene Passet.


Reading’s Saturday was surrounded by an aura of excitement as soon as it began, just one band on everybody’s minds: the iconic Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s safe to assume that many attendees were there for that reason in particular (to the group dressed as actual Red Hot Chili Peppers, yes I’m talking about you), and the legends did not disappoint. Their explosive intro to ‘Can’t Stop’ created an atmosphere that is unlike anything I’ve previously experienced; the band had the entirety of Reading singing from the off. It wasn’t just this unbelievable headline set that made Saturday so memorable though; Sundara Karma kicked things off in style on the main stage, and up-and-comers INHEAVEN brought in one of the weekend’s best audiences over on the Festival Republic Stage – I definitely recommend listening to this punchy four piece if you haven’t already. Of course, my local favourites Slaves attracted a huge crowd both to their main stage set and to their surprise set on the BBC Introducing Stage; I may have ended up floored for the second time that weekend, but it was worth it. Finally, I must give a nod to the ever popular Courteeners – ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ is a song that will go down in history for its live brilliance, and I’m ever thankful that I was able to experience it.

By Sunday, the scuzzy Reading that we have come to know and love was in full swing. There’s something comforting about being surrounded by thousands of people equally as tired / filthy / drunk as you are, so spirits didn’t seem dampened in the slightest. Ezra Furman provided a fun packed set that only further cemented my belief that he’ll be a household name in the next year, and A$AP Rocky brought everyone out of their Sunday afternoon stupor with his constant demands for mosh pits and crowd surfers (weekend floor count: 3).

It’s Sunday evening, though, that provided me with my weekend highlights. The Vaccines played one of my favourite sets of the entire festival, reminding me exactly why they were one of the first bands I ever loved – classics such as ‘If You Wanna’ and my personal favourite ‘All In White’ had everybody positively ecstatic. I rounded things off with a high over at the NME tent; The 1975’s headline slot left me speechless. I’ve been a fan of this band for a good five years now, but their Sunday night set was above and beyond anything I’ve witnessed from them before. Not one audience member appeared as if they weren’t having the time of their lives, from the non-stop dancing to popular hits such as ‘Girls’ to the tear-stained euphoria during the stunning ‘If I Believe You.’ In all honesty, I can’t imagine a better way to have ended the weekend.

If your idea of the perfect festival is more of the flower crowns and sandals persuasion, then I think it’s safe to say that Reading and Leeds may not be for you. However, the incredible diversity of the packed lineup that resonated throughout the incredibly diverse crowd proves that this is a festival that can appeal to everyone in some sense, and I’d go as far as to say that attending is something everybody needs to do in their lifetime. I for one will definitely be attending again!

Did you attend Reading Festival this year? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments!

Cover photo: Writer’s own.

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