Festival Review: Reading 2015 - Day 1

by SeanAtkinson
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on 29 August 2015 in Features

Reading Festival is about many things, friends, the drinking, general debauchery, but ultimately it revolves around the music. Fields full of revellers slowly woke up to shake the wear and tear of the previous night off and prepare for the upcoming day of music. Headlined by Mumford & Sons, the weather started as it meant to go on. Such was some attendees enthusiasm for the day that a line of people snaked around the corner at the entrance gate. They were soon let in and the music began.

Starting our day off were Philadelphia four piece The Districts making a return appearance with a new album under their belt. Making the step up to the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage, they played with a confidence and tightness that far belies their respective ages. The songs are fine, but there's not much to distinguish them from bands playing music similar to theirs. That said, highlights from their set include A Flourish and a Spoil number 'Peaches', capped off with a frenetic finish. They play as if their instruments are attached to their bodies, flailing around mercilessly without ever looking like missing a note. There is potential there and they are the perfect remedy to the early afternoon fatigue being suffered.

Next up are Castleton two piece Drenge, who are a three piece in the live arena. Making their festival debut years ago on the Festival Republic stage, they've moved up a stage year on year, where they find themselves making their Main Stage debut. If there was any notion that they may be overawed by occasion it's quickly swept away. Opening with 'Running Wild', they crowd at the front of the stage is spellbound from the beginning. The mosh pits start here and don't finish until the last note of usual set closer 'Let's Pretend' rings out. In the middle we find a mixture of tracks from their self titled debut and 2015 release 'Undertow' including the brilliant 'Bloodsports' and recent single 'We Can Do What We Want'. It's a testament to not only the bands progression but the platform for growth at the festival.

It's a quick dash back to the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage for the Brooklyn born Parquet Courts. Newly signed to Rough Trade, they're not strangers to the festival but newcomers to their stage. Kicking off their set with 'Bodies Made Of', they showcase tracks from their scattered release history so far. The crowd quickly goes a little bit crazy, with the biggest response coming to the one two of 'Master of My Craft' and 'Borrowed Time'. They once again prove themselves to be one of the best around at what they do, showcasing an intelligence and inventiveness in their music that the vast majority of other guitars-bass-drums bands simply do not have.

They're followed up by emo pioneers American Football. Reforming in the last year to much fanfare, this appears have been overestimated as they stage swallows them up slightly. The crowd is small but dedicated, and perhaps they would've been better suited to the Lock Up or Festival Republic stages. That said, that doesn't bother them and they play masterfully. It's a joy to hear the guitars duelling against each other, and wonderful to see the passion on the faces of the band. Some bands could be criticised for an insincere reunion, but based on American Football, they certainly aren't one.

There's no rest for the wicked, and the punk rock duo of The Smith Street Band and The Menzingers on the Lock Up Stage are next. The Smith Street Band play extremely honest and well crafted music and it's obvious how much it means to the band. The crowd are more than happy to reciprocate this, with arms and legs flailing everywhere as they sing every word back. The Menzingers garner a similar reaction. During their opening numbers the crowd sings back but stands still. By the time they've played second album song 'Good Things' the tent is well and truly alive. From there out its chaos, the band sound as tight and vibrant as they always have and finish strongly with 'In Remission'.

Alt-J take this evenings sub headline slot as a band that have been touted as potential headliners. It's a shame then that they didn't stake much of a claim in the parts that I saw. They have a back catalogue of very impressive songs, 'Matilda' sounded majestic and 'Something Good' as intriguing a song as ever, but the newer material sounds out of sync and they lack a stage presence. By no means should they be ruled out, they have proven to be one of the most innovative bands in Britain and provide a satisfactory warm up to tonight's headliners.

Before Mumford & Sons take to the stage, it's a quick dash across to the Festival Republic stage to take in Alvvays. I won't mention the detour I took when I found myself wondering why Run The Jewels were running so late (I was at the wrong stage). I eventually made it to the right stage and as the Canadian five piece were running a little late, I caught the full set. After seven hours standing up it can all get a bit tiring but for the half an hour Alvvays were on stage it didn't cross my mind. They played a number of songs from their self titled debut as well as a couple of very promising newer songs. Finishing with 'Archie, Marry Me', they're a band you could happily watch play for hours on end, although I'm not sure how happy they would be about that.

With that, it's finally time for the main act of the day, London's Mumford & Sons. Undoubtedly one of the biggest bands in the world, they're a fitting band to open proceedings at one of the biggest festivals in the world. Opening with 'Snake Eyes' from the recently released Wilder Mind, it's clear their newly inherited plugged in sound is a seamless transition. 'Little Lion Man' arrives shortly after and the crowd is most definitely on board. The only criticism you could have is that it came too early. The rest of the set spans all three albums, although the biggest reactions are reserved for those from the debut, songs such as 'The Cave' and 'Roll Away Your Stone' receiving big reactions. That's not to say the newer songs don't go down well, they do, and the likes of 'Ditmas' sounds incredible in a festival setting. The band wrap it up just shy of two hours and you cannot fault them. It's a confident set, full of huge songs and a band that exudes passion. Though it isn't a set that will go down in festival history, it's a set that kicked off the first night of Reading Festival just fine.



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