Reading Festival 2004 Review – Part I

The mud and persistent drizzle had set the scene for 2004’s Reading Festival but the punters were not going to let that get in the way of them having a good time. The crowds gathered in ponchos, rain macs and black bags set off by army boots, wellies, even more black bags and big drunken grins. Here are my highlights in the best order that my groggy brain can muster…

Main Stage

Goldie Lookin’ Chain kicked off the festival proper on Friday morning with their comedy rapping extravaganza.

Musically they are like a ram raid on the archives of 80’s pop topped off with their outrageous rapping. They look no less retro in trainers and cringe worthy shell suits while they strut about the stage; just like the bored kids that hang around your local shops. It really shouldn’t work, but you just can’t help loving them.
Goldie Lookin’ Chain – They’re chaving a laugh!

Buy Goldie Lookin’ Chain – Greatest Hits from Amazon

Friday night headliners The Darkness started big and just got larger. Their stage personalities and powerfully retro rock was barely contained by the stage.

The Darkness – Permission to Grandeur

Naturally, the material from ‘Permission To Land’ was better received than the new songs, but the atmosphere was never dampened. We were treated to what looked like tons of confetti showering the crowd as well as explosions, smoke, lights, flames, costume changes and not forgetting an almighty firework display to finish.

All this, as well as the charismatic Justin Hawkins working the crowd, surely cemented the reputation of The Darkness as true showmen.

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After a brief apology for having to miss the festival last year The White Stripes launch into a set list that contained no fat; it was like their music, free of frills leaving only the thrills. Jack was intense and emotional as he worked his guitars with vigour while Meg spanked her drums with equal passion. In stark contrast to Friday night the Stripes show was lit by surgical spotlights (not in the precise sense, in a medical surgery sense) and a backdrop of red and white ‘fairy lights’.

The White Stripes – less was more

As a result the show had a more intimate feel, a feat not easily pulled off on the main stage. The set list contained many, of not all of the classic tracks as well as fiery reworkings of ‘Jolene'(Dolly Parton) and ‘Maps’ (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s). The combination of all these factors made for an amazing experience that will not be forgotten.

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The much loved Libertines went down a storm with their sound of charming and righteous youth. The new songs introduced an air of melancholy and introspection that is less dynamic than the older songs. The punk rock defiance and emo sensitivity blended into a fine set.

Spirited young Texans Young Heart Attacks played their hearts out on Saturday morning. The vocal pairing of Jennifer Stephens and Chris Hodge led the band in their hard and bluesy party-time rock style. Saturday also saw the original punk rockers New York Dolls demonstrate that they can still hack it, even though a lot of their material seemed quite sedate against the hard rocking competition.

Sadly missed: I really wish I had made it to see the 5,6,7,8’s. I also failed to see Franz Ferdinand and Morrissey, who both provide an excellent live show.


Claire Moss – Claire Moss EP

Claire Moss An alternative rock female singer-songwriter with a refreshingly deep lyrical sense (surprising for someone who just turned 20), Claire Moss writes original songs with addictive melodies set to classic guitar-based rock with influences from The Who to The Pretenders to U2. Yet it sounds quite modern. Her voice is dramatic and powerful, reminiscent of Amy Lee of Evanescence, Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos, and Alanis Morissette. The guitar work is excellent and subtle. And her rhythm section is first class: Gregg Bissonette (Santana, Ringos All Starr Band) on drums and Jimmy Johnson (James Taylor, Uncle Kracker) on bass.

This is a really well thought-out EP. There’s a lot going on in each of the songs, and over several listenings I’ve continued to discover new subtleties. And the mix is quite good for an indie release. One warning: these songs will get stuck in your head when you first hear them, but it’s later in traffic or in the dark of night or sitting in class when their meaning really comes to you and you’ll shiver. I did.

All of Ms. Moss’ songs tell some sort of story. Not the “Oh baby, I miss you, I need you, when are you coming back?” submissive stuff that most of the other girls whimper about. (She’s promised to someday to record her infamous “I’m Not a Blonde”. And name names.) Time is short in this EP, so there’s a lot more serious stuff. Forget the guy-crazy junk. You won’t find it here.

Some standout songs:

Time. The Who with a chick singer address existential angst, somehow in a positive (though ironic) way. It asks the question: are you running late for everything? Wondering when you’re ever going to get a moment to breathe, or if it’s even worth wondering about?

Fan. Some Nirvana echoes here. You’re planning on having his baby, growing old with him. You’ve even picked out the wallpaper. Now if they’d only let you past security so you could meet him for the first time. “Fan” shows you what happens when you build a fantasy life only to find out you don’t know anything.

Meant It. A female Ramones song? Could be. If you’ve been really pissed off and broken up with your boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, what have you, then listen to “Meant It” first. Done in one vocal take, it sucks in and spits out all of that furious bad-breakup energy and takes it to final meltdown. It’s rumored to make most guys turn pale and act really uncomfortable. Um, that’s the point. So, listen to it and then send a copy to your ex.

Still. This song reminds me of “The Lord of The Rings”. Maybe it’s that line in the bridge, “Fight the thirst says the guard, as we walk up the hill and down, chained together, but my mind breaks free and I wander wherever I want to go…” Makes you long for the Shire. The music and her voice get you caught up in the emotion of moving on, triumphantly. A happy-ending story at last. I wonder if we can get her to promise that it’s not the only one?

All things considered, a great first effort. As shes quite young, shes going to be around for some time. I expect great things, with perhaps a bit more vocal depth that will only come with age. I especially look forward to hearing a full CDs worth of songs, as I was left wanting more.

Sara Chambers