Reading Festival 2011 – Coda’s Best and Worst

Reading Festival 2011 was my first big music festival and it was awesome. The music is so good live, you can literally feel it in your body. The atmosphere of the camp is amazing. Me and my friends had a gimpy little joke where one of us would start going ‘bzzzzzzzzzzzzz’ then someone else would ask ‘hmmm what was that?’ (and look really perplexed), then the buzzer would reply ‘o it was just me BUZZIN’!!’ Goony, I know, but it’s really true of the whole camp and arena. There were so many highlights, the roars on Thursday night, befriending weird strangers (some whack Welsh men who had a gazebo, stereo and a fire, somewhat strategically befriended by us), the first bite of a ridiculously overpriced food after starving all day, sitting down on a muddy chair after struggling through treacle-thick mud for what seems like miles… And of course the amazing live music.

Declan: For me personally my highlight has to be Friday night music: Metronomy, Noah and the Whale and White Lies really did it for me. The cool bass player for Metronomy, Benga, had rhythm and funk in abundance – I remember his dancing at the beginning of The Bay and just thinking ‘he’s the epitome of cool’. Noah and the Whale’s sing along to Bohemian Rhapsody was brill and White Lies were sososo good all the way through! I didn’t really want to see any of the late acts so thought I’d end the night on a high and went back to camp and had an ace, and much appreciated, fire with the Welshies.

Lowlights are undoubtedly toilet related. Be it the almost unbearable need to take a dump or being hit in the face by a mist of noxious, vapourised piss as you walk into the Camp Site toilets (undeniably the scummiest toilets ever known to man). Or the experience of coming across of the biggest, most unnatural (in size, colour, texture and smell) poo you have ever seen in your life… toilet-ing was always dire.

Sarah: Well, Declan has already spoken about quite possibly the best 50 minutes of my weekend: Noah and the Whale’s performance. They are one of my favourite bands, and it was the first time I’d seen them live, and, despite my anxieties, they did not fail to impress. In fact, they were overwhelming. But another one of my main highlights has to be, dare I say it… Muse. Muse were the final act of the weekend, and honestly, they were the perfect way to end it. The sun had set, the crowd had gathered and, despite only knowing a few of their songs, I was absolutely blown away. Not just by the massive fireballs blowing up from the stage, or the set, lights and camerawork, but the band members themselves were just extraordinary. I’ve never really considered myself a Muse fan and, if I’m honest, usually scrutinised those who were. But the atmosphere of that last night was just incredible, and although Muse’s music isn’t going to be something blasting out of my speakers daily, I am incredibly happy I had the chance to see them live.

My main lowlight, which seemed to take over both my weekend and my wallet, was the ridiculous overpricing of food and drink within the arena. Now, I know that many people managed to sneak things into the arena, but you don’t expect to have to pay £2-3 for a bottle of water. Which normally wasn’t even cold! Even if I had snuck in some water (which would have been a bit lame next to everyone else sneaking in alcohol, but hypothetically…), by about mid afternoon I would have drank all of it and still been forced to buy some more water to just keep hydrated. Ridiculous. Also, it was really annoying to have secured yourself a good place in the crowd that wasn’t near enough the front to be passed water by the stewards, but was far enough forward that it was pretty annoying to have to leave it to get water, knowing you probably wouldn’t get back there. Gutting.

Oscar: HIGHLIGHT – PULP were the best thing about Reading, and this years Glastonbury and most likely the whole festival season for that matter. They are the last remaining truly great British band, they have the festival anthems, Disco 2000 and Common People – massive sing-a-long songs. Opening with arguably their best song – Do You Remember The First Time got the crowd going – such a beautiful song. The entrance was incredible, the P U L P neon lettering flashing on built up the anticipation and the showmanship and pure brilliance of Jarvis Cocker (seen below) is unmatched in the twenty-first century. They are too me an unmatched live outfit, only The Flaming Lips have ever come close to topping them. They made Reading Festival brilliant – and it was probably one of their last gigs ever, if you haven’t seen them you must be filled with a deep regret that will no doubt linger for the rest of your life. THE HORRORS proved that their third album Skying  is the equal best album of the last four years along with I Had The Blues… by Bombay… Still Life, Moving Further Away and Sea Within A Sea proved to be highlights in the most compact crowd off the festival, it was mental. The Horrors have just got better and better over the years and put on a absolutely quality show. They are a must see live band.

LOW LIGHT – THE STROKES could never do anything close to the brilliance Jarvis and Pulp, yes they are a really good studio band – and probably good playing a small room. Although they could merely have seems terrible because of who they followed (that’s why Leeds may have been better for then as they played before Pulp). I do really feel sorry for them, they couldn’t ever have competed – they don’t have a front man with any charisma and is trying way too hard to seem cool and utterly failing; they don’t have any stage presence or wow factor that is needed to headline a large festival. In short they failed to show any glimpse of the band who started the rejuvenation of alternative music in a stagnant industry with 2001’s Is This It – which has to be in the top five albums of the last decade. They were so disappointing. BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB just don’t see them ever again – listen to their new album and see, oh wait on second thought DO NOT waste your time and money. They are nothing more than hotel lift music now after such an amazing debut in 2009 with I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose (if you want to listen, get this, its pretty near a masterpiece). They have fallen so far.

Nadeen: I genuienly can’t choose one highlight, it was all pretty great. My highlight from Friday was The Naked and the Famous, who just sounded pretty fantastic and I definitely enjoyed being a part of that crowd. For saturday, it was probably Pulp and the Strokes. A fair few reviews have said that Pulp totally stole the show and the Strokes were just a bit disappointing. I think Pulp played better and got the audience going a lot more, but I really enjoyed the Strokes because of the atmosphere of the crowd around me. My highlight for Sunday was Elbow, Guy Garvey’s vocals sounded brilliant and the whole group just sounded pretty perfect- it was a perfect end to such a great weekend. I also enjoyed wandering around the empty arena at about 2 in the morning and the bollocks to poverty party, both of which were fun.

My lowlight of the weekend music-wise was probably Bombay Bicycle Club. They did sound very good, and the crowd were definitely loving it but I think my expectations were a lot higher than what they were which left me disappointed. Saying that, I’m still seeing them in October because they are a pretty great band. Oh, and the other obvious lowlight was the toilet situation which was pretty gross but I think Declan has covered that in sufficient detail..

Jake: One word: MUSE. I had had the privilege of seeing Muse live 3 times (Reading 2006, Wembley 2007 and Glastonbury 2010) before I saw them again on the final day of Reading Festival. Every time they were spectacular, always living up to their “Best Live Band” status they are so often associated with. But their performance this year blew those other performances out of the water. Perhaps it was the back-to-back rendition of “Origin of Symmetry”, a masterpiece of an album, that did it – often unplayed live numbers such as “Bliss” and “Space Dementia” were incredible. Perhaps it was the electric atmosphere in the crowd that night. But something about them made for a truly magical experience, and the gig was utterly thrilling.

Also worth a mention are Pulp and The Strokes. Pulp were awesome and pumped out one crowd-pleaser after another (though the omission of “Razzmatazz” was dissapointing – it would have gone better with a little bit of Razzmatazz). The Strokes, criticised for their lack of stage presence still managed to impress me. So I wouldn’t have classed them as a headline act, but their large volume of great riffs made up for that. It was good to have a standard rock band playing for once.

Overall I thought the line-up was poor, and this is my biggest low-point of the festival. The lack of big names of the calibre seen in previous years was disappointing – but the experience as a whole and the few great bands I did see made it worth the money. This could just be down to my taste in music, though.

The only other disappointments for me were the weather and the extortionately overpriced programs. However, having camped in seemingly one of the least muddy and waterlogged camps (Red), the rain failed to ruin what was ultimately a fantastic weekend (not that it would have done anyway!).

Elena: I only went to Reading festival on the Saturday because I felt that was the best day for me music wise to enjoy.  My highlight of Reading was most of the Saturday headliners.  PULP was my favourite act of the day purely because I knew more of their songs and really got into it.  Jarvis was brilliant due to his ability to hold a crowd, whether its to let them dance to classics such as Do you remember the first time and Disco 2000 or entice people with his odder pieces.  Either way I loved PULP’s set and during my day at Reading they had the best atmosphere.  The Strokes were also really good, the only reason I didn’t rate them as highly as PULP was purely because due to needing the toilet I lost fairly good spaces near the front before their set.  Being in the crowd is definitely a big part of Reading so watching The Strokes from further away and with the distraction of food and toilets I personally didn’t enjoy them as much.  Madness was another enjoyable set because their songs allowed for dancing and singing along which I really like.  Overall, the music on Saturday was brilliant and my highlight.

However, my lowlight of Reading festival was a mix of unmusical factors such as, toilets (covered eloquently by Declan) and the cost of spending just a day there (as Sarah has also mentioned).  Another lowlight for me which was uncontrollable was the mud.  The mud getting hard meant it was a lot harder to walk around and by 2am which was the kind of time I was walking back to my house my legs felt like they were going to fall off! But oh well, all part of the festival experience! and that being said, it was certainly an experience and though it is not my first festival by far, it is certainly the biggest.  Live music festivals are the best regardless of any lowlights simply for the music.

To close, we think that the festival was amazing. The highlights easily outweigh the lowlights. And sometimes the lowlights ended up being pretty funny after all. We urge you buy a ticket for next year right now.


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