Normally festival mornings mean a slow stumble past the portaloos before rummaging in your change for an overpriced bacon bap, but on Saturday morning, we skipped the breakfast and headed straight for the NME tent with the other eager beavers to catch the festival premiere of Gerard Way. Having headlined the festival with My Chemical Romance 3 years prior, he seemed genuinely chuffed to be back, costumed as always in a sharp blue suit that set off his cartoon character red hair. It seems solo life has set him free – the ‘sorry you don't know any of these songs, but you're going to love them anyway' quip is delivered with the sort of humour you never would have gotten at an MCR show. ‘Action Cat’ gets a few heads bopping, but it’s ‘Zero Zero’, heavily indebted to Brit Pop, that is the real star of the show.
Fellow newbies to the festival scene, Girlsondrugs only formed in February but are already attracting critical plaudits and a set on the BBC Introducing Stage, testament to their of-the-minute sound. Like Alunageorge if they were skulking around after dark instead of throwing arms up in the club, they’re sultry, sharp and oh-so-sassy. Ones to watch.
Subtelty is not the aim of the game for Japanese Metalcore outfit CrossFaith, but then again, they are on the main stage. Their energetic set is as obnoxiously fun as always, but the driving rain pushes casual fans away in search of much needed refuge. Let’s face it: moshpits aren’t that bad ass when everyone is fumbling for their regatta.
CrossFaiths loss is Southern’s gain, who play in the nearby Festival Republic tent and draw a crowd so large that singer Tom is forced to humorous praise the rain for the turnout. However, even after the rain dwindles, the Southern siblings retain the majority of the audience for the simple matter that they’re brilliant: melding their Belfast via Liverpool heritage to create a modern blues psych sound that is halfway between The Kooks and The Black keys but more likeable that either. An early bid for new discovery of the weekend.
You always know you're onto a winner when people sing your riffs back at you rather than your lyrics, so Drenge must be pinching themselves right about now. Circle pits aplenty compliment their romp through the majority of their debut record, as well as a new, very Nirvana track which whets appetites for the Castletown brothers return. Ending with an incredible rendition of ‘Let's Pretend’ that seems to go on forever but not long enough at the same time, they have the NME/BBC Radio 1 Tent eating out of their little mischievous palms.
For all the day trippers who missed the Blink 182 party the night before, The Front Bottoms plug the void of outsider emo in the Lock Up Tent, inciting a devoted following befitting of their cult status. Whilst the first time we watched them (supporting Brand New) felt a little like a Tom Delonge tribute act, they’re inherently more inviting second time round now when the songs are familiar. By the end of their set, I’m left feeling 14 again and ready to take over the local high school in with my nerd-gone-good underdog triumph montage.
Nerdiness plagues the dance moves of the majority of the turnout for AlunaGeorge – we’re talking some seriously overzealous twerking and slut drops from those certainly odd enough to know better. However, we can’t blame them too much – Aluna Francis is looking fab as ever and her honey smooth vocals are perfect for a bit of an afternoon boogie, especially to songs now this familiar - even the guy next to me in a madchester bucket hat and round glasses is hollering ‘Just boys, White boys’ in a broad northern accent with no irony whatsoever.
It always seems to rain when Vampire Weekend play Reading & Leeds, which might be why the normally snappy dressed Ezra Koenig is sporting a particularly casual Nike tracksuit. Despite their brilliance as a band, their set comes off as laid back as his choice of attire, delivered with very few smiles and only a degree of heartfelt stage chat. Luckily, the songs make up for it – ‘Holiday’, ‘Walcott’ and ‘A Punk’ were built for the British summertime, getting the mud flying and underage boobs flashing on the main stage screens. With a world exclusive of ‘California English Part 2’ sweetening the deal, I’m willing to forgive them for being a bit knackered this end of touring season.
What a difference two years makes for SBTRKT. In this same tent in 2012, you could barely get near the fringes, and now we walk into the tent with ease. Despite a newly remixed version of massive hit ‘Wildfire’ and a somewhat terrifying new inflatable marking out his stage presence, the lack of guest vocalists from the debut record renders the set a little like a glorified DJ slot, and people leave in droves after one or two songs. An exclamation of ‘How you doing Reading Festival?!’ does little to help his People who stay for newer material are treated to cameos from Emily Warpaint and Ezra vampire weekend, but as he finishes off on ‘Right Thing To Do’, the tent has more than half emptied and it seems that the newer atmospherics have failed to inspire.
Fuelled up on Chinese noodles and canned cosmopolitans, Queens Of The Stone Age’s set comes as something of a understated triumph.‘Sick Sick Sick’ sounds particularly feral under the darkening clouds and 'Make It Wit Chu' ensures that my inexplicable crush on Josh Homme remains intact. There’s no denying that they’re a formidable live act, but it feels a little like going through the motions and we find ourselves wishing we had could have a nip of the tequila Homme is necking to get the party properly started.
Thank god then, for Paramore’s Queen of The iPhone Age, Hayley Williams. People questioned their position as headliners, but by the end of catchier-than-a-festival-cold opener ‘Still Into You’, the chorus screamed back at them is louder than anything aimed at QOTSA, and she is visibly energised by their enthusiasm. High kicking, pacing and writhing around with not a note out of place, she is professionalism personified. With a history of in band spats, trials and tribulations, this headline position clearly means a great deal to them, and by the time she rallies the misguided and disaffected on new album highlight ‘Part 2’, the tear tracks are visible down her face. Paramore are a band who really mean it, and it is this which is the true key to their unstoppable rise. By the time they 'take us to church' for ‘Ain’t It Fun’ (aka pop punk song of the decade), we're all well and truly won over. Welcome to the head table.