Reading Festival 2004 Review – Part III

The Carling and Dance Stages share a common eclecticism that can provide pleasant surprises and shocks to the system. Seemingly home to everything this year from country and western, psychedelic folk, pure punk, garage, disco punk crossovers and scratching beat poets. The lucky few that manage to cram themselves into the smallest tents on site could have seen some of the following…

Soundtrack Of Our Lives created a brilliant atmosphere; the seemingly mental and rotund Scandinavian in a monkish frock that fronts an otherwise young and brash band of rockers had the crowd in the palm of his hands. This was no doubt helped by the legions of his countrymen that populated the tent. Expect to see a video of the performance somewhere soon as a cameraman was always in close attendance. They were a real treat for me, especially as I admit to only being there to get in position for The Kills.

Soundtrack Of Our Lives CD’s from Amazon

The Kills are a New York boy/girl punk rock duo who were simply outstanding. They had the attitude, the sound and the passion (which was overflowing towards the end of the set). Every number was a crowd pleaser and their set, like everything truly enjoyable, seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. A big cheer to the DJ’s who kept the crowd warmed up with, amongst others, songs by another fantastic New York duo ‘Mommy and Daddy’ while we were waiting.

The Kills

The Kills CD’s from Amazon

Back in time and down the running order come Agent Blue. They were, and I’m being charitable here, rubbish. Probably did not help that the lead singer appeared to be completely mashed on god knows what. Faring far better in the musical and sobriety stakes were The 45’s; mostly I remember dancing a lot to these guys. They had bags of energy, were willing the crowd to party along with them and dealt out some killer tunes.

The Living Things

I was expecting more from The Living Things. Not that it was a bad set, they do have an excellent album and they did all the great tracks from it; they just failed to take the crowd with them. The Living Things appear to want to be an amalgam of the Sex Pistols, the Rolling Stones and the Velvet underground. They may get there, but not quite yet.

Despite looking like the result of a bomb going off in a dressing up box; Pink Grease made music of startling averageness. I was expecting some real punk fury and an assault of brash noise. What I heard was more like some art school misfits who really want to make guitar pop but really like the weird image.

Leila Moss of The Duke Sprit

Sounding a little like Blondie but with balls, The Duke Spirit were determined to win over the crowd. At least Leila Moss, the lead singer, was. The rest of the band sounded great but were workmanlike and were dwarfed on stage by the showmanship of Ms. Moss. Speaking of showmanship, TV On The Radio – Who make a collection of strange noises and hail from New York – needs some. They took about 10 minutes to get going with the first number by which time I, and many others around me, had got bored. This is a shame as their album is really quite fine.

TV On The Radio

Having toured with The White Stripes recently, which may go some way to explain the otherwise inexplicable inclusion of an unashamedly country and western band, Blanche were amazing. It was very odd to hear this kind of music at Reading but they were very entertaining and much dancing erupted from the kids all around. Not faring quite so well in the C&W stakes were the more blues-tinged Sons & Daughters from Glasgow. They didn’t manage to convey the raw power of their recordings into the live set, leaving me feeling a bit disappointed.

More unusualness was to come from Devandra Banhart – A hippie form San Francisco. As unlikely an addition to the line up as Blanche but still pulled a considerable crowd of bemused youth. He was extremely good, but annoyingly sat cross legged on stage so only the front row could see him. My annoyance aside, it was a great set with some very moving songs.

‘Clinic A’ (or possibly ‘B’)
First up for me on the Dance Stage were Clinic. Clinic are two dominatrix air hostesses (known as ‘Clinic A’ ands ‘B’) and a DJ. They created a brand of dispassionate europop that was pleasing and threatened to erupt at any moment into an anthem. This didn’t happen while I was there. Shame.

Far more impressive was the beat poetry and scratching of Buck 65. His songs were stories, some rants and some spirited tales, that were delivered in an almost preacher style. He had the Dance tent, me included, in his thrall throughout his set.

A more experimental experience was provided by Fingathing – A DJ, a double bass and an animator combining their skills. The driving bass lines combined with the rapid-fire scratching created some incredible sounds; the effect was enhanced by the live video editing fed to the screens. I can see it wouldn’t be to everyone’s tastes but I loved it.

Radio 4 were up there for the best band of the festival. They got the dance tent going by sheer force of will and all was smiles and dancing. They blew the tent away with some hits from ‘Gotham!’ before working in some equally great new material from their new album.

Radio 4

Death From Above’s LCD Soundsystem, the Disco/punk outfit from New York were sadly beset by what seemed to be technical and vocal troubles such that they came over as a pale shadow of what they can reportedly be. I will be looking for a chance to catch them again to feel the full force of their show, I hope.

Karen from Roger

Finally, from my perspective, I leave you with Roger. They come from Manchester (I believe) and managed to make every song sound a lot like New Order circa ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, but with a girl singing occasionally. As I quite like old New Order, I thought they were top!

Until next year, have fun…


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