Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Round-up: Reading Festival 2011

Swamp-like conditions and motorway misery weren't going to stop the fun for thousands of visitors to Reading for the annual Bank Holiday festival washout - not that the hordes are known for their fondness for soap.


The event

According to one reviewer Reading is recognised as the festival which creates the most buzz due to its prestigious position at the climax of the outdoor season.

The festival traditionally represents the most democratic side of the music world offering a diverse and eclectic range of critically acclaimed contemporary music. However with shifts in music-buying trends organisers are increasingly encouraging a shift of emphasis away from the music towards the glamourised lifestyles of personalities and celebrity culture.

Celebrity strife is catnip to PR-obsessed tabloids - this year their focus was grabbed by a twitterstorm instigated as part of the Gallagher brothers' rivalry after Noel's latest project Beady Eye left Liam feeling out of the spotlight. Mike Skinner's on-stage announcement that The Streets are disbanding after live and chart success (as he pursues an acting career) was another attention-grabbing moment.

Exciting newcomers Viva Brother clearly aren't convinced by the theatrics of the headliners, describing the 'incredible' live show of Muse as "a polished turd".

Intimate backstage gigs for lucky prize-winners, VIPs and industry power players recreate the sense of exclusivity - We Are The Ocean were chosen by music industry social network Flowd for one promotion as an effective means of marketing premium merchandise on a highly-touted act.

Meanwhile local promoters Mechanical Republic were aggrieved only two bands from the surrounding area were in the line-up. They decided to organise a rival warm-up festival where talented groups including Circus Sands and Sleep Room could showcase themselves "instead of walking around the town with their hands in their pockets, kicking dirt up in to the air and feeling sorry for themselves."

RCRDLBL suggests the size of the festival may be off-putting to even energetic music lovers due to the difficulty in sampling more than a small fraction of performances. They get round this problem by selecting a 13-track recommended playlist - beauties each and every single one of them!



Curmudgeonly cartoonist Len can't keep up: he describes "a load of identikit whiny voiced nu-folk indie kids" corralled in "the middle of a field next to an industrial estate in Reading, breathing in smoke from a thousand fires fuelled by waxy paper beer cups" as the reason why he no longer attends.

Which may offer partial explanation why ticket sales were not as strong as in previous years - indeed this was the first time the event was not sold out in a long time and forums were advertising the £150 weekend tickets for sale at £80 throughout the lead-up week, despite official announcements to the contrary a month earlier.

For ActionAid's Kerstin Twachtmann the festival is a perrenial opportunity to raise the profile of the 'Bollocks to Poverty' Campaign and 'put hunger in the headlines'. A laudable aim, but this blog suggests she may want to look again at her methods if she's more interested in actual results rather than promoting the platform provided by the event.

Sadly for non-festival goers like Timbo he hadn't realised the bank-holiday is the time when revellers descend on the town 'in denim mini-skirts and jazzy wellies' (what, even the boys?), creating an atmosphere where anything goes - he worried about the safety of his bicycle being used as an ad-hoc form of transport from the town centre to the Rivermead location.

Vigilance is always advised, but he should be reassured as authorities celebrated a fall in the level of crime from 327 to 152 reports compared to last year after Police were granted use of dispersal orders to move on large groups of rowdy people.


The main event

YouFest collects a selection of videos for your enjoyment.



Drownedinsound publishes a selection of photos to give a sense of the event  (day 1, day 2, day 3).

Photographer Rene Ehrhardt makes the most of his free ticket to give a more in-depth view of the whole festival going experience, while one overseas visitor creates a photo narrative of the Reading Festival from a more personal perspective.

Paul Driscoll was another who jetted over from Boston to escape Hurricane Irene, but was blown away by the poignancy of a decade-and-a-half old song and the ability of a 'sassy-assed' northern oddball to seduce a crowd.

According to one mainstream review Jarvis Cocker was definitely a standout on Saturday, but The Strokes disappointed.

Peter Smith declares Muse a worthy headline act, while name-dropping Panic at the Disco, Twin Atlantic, Flogging Molly, Cage the ELephant and Little Comets among a selection of promising bands to emerge from what he says was 'another very good Reading Festival'.

Elsewhere the last-minute cancellation of Jane's Addiction left hardcore fans disappointed, while wonkyninja was impressed by Murkage's performance on the Introducing stage and says big things can be expected from them after a few of their 'warm-up riddims' showed some spark. The Joy Formidible are another group who've successfully used the festival circuit as a springboard and can look forward to a rosy future.

David Hayter scores the Friday setlist as he writes up a fullsome review, noting "those who've complained that Reading has moved away from its artistic roots towards more populist fare" will find themselves well catered-for away from the main stage where infectious enthusiasm isn't smothered by commercialism, though  the professional pageantry delivers on cue what no real art-form can.

For the rest of the crowd it was all about sampling the rock-n-roll sensibility in a very English - and sensible - way.

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Previous Reading Festivals

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