rage Issue 5 - Reading rocked out
"Following a disagreement with the police over security issues, this years Reading music festival may have to be cancelled.." it said on the 9 0'clock news. Naaaaaahhhhhh. The rage team were undetterd, as the annual muddied, indie beerfest got underway, we were there from start to close, and you won't find a more comprehensive, thought provoking and humorous review of this years 'happening' near the M4 anywhere. So click and be damned....for Friday for Saturday or for Sunday or even read the whole lot !!
Ahhh...smoke wafts over the atmosphere, and the distinct smell of burning plastic-coated beer containers enters your body. Dust balls the size of small houses drift by. Relax, it's The Reading Festival, a celebration of indie music. Since it was transformed from a tired, underattended, monsters of rock style affair, The Reading Festival has never looked back. This year is no different.
At last, the festival free of dreaded Britpop, mostly speaking. Yes, this year's Reading is like the old days where a planeload of overpaid Americans fly in to bolster the bill as they spend a few lucrative weeks travelling between European fields full of the equally confused but less mobile.Like Beck for instance, whose competent parody of late Sixties blues-rock sounds awfully apt lost in a windy field on an industrial estate. Beck Hanson must have played plenty of these events, as he throws himself about the stage, a vision in ochre, as if born to it. Pity someone yelled 'Get on with it Chesney!' in a quiet moment.'
Beck arrives fresh from his Lollapolooza jaunt, which is in effect a touring mini Reading that covers the whole of America, allowing 12 year olds to see their MTV idols in safety. No burning drinking vessels there, as most of the venues have seats. Spending time with the likes of Pavement, Sonic Youth, and has taken it's effect on Beck. Instead of drifting further down the path of a style free waster, he has completely reformed his image. He is dressed in almost co-ordinating orange and also has bleached highlights in his hair. Not the obvious image of a loser. He moves around a lot more than he did last year too, with a demented dance that takes him round the whole of the stage. The highlights are the crowd pleasing Loser and wonderful Beercan. He concludes with a keyboard solo which he plays high above his head. American pre-pubescents may enjoy this type of behaviour but the gimmick hardened Reading crowd are going to need a little more before they get carried along by this sort of behaviour.
It's time to leave the knowing irony department (USA) to view the knowing irony department (Euro) in the form of Swedens Whale. Refreshingly absurd in tone, the kids sure do love it. Pay for me sees the boys in the band hollering backing vocals all in a line Oasis style, while singer Elisabeth does her worst. However Eurodog was surely a pisstake of conformist youth, so why is everyone clapping along with their hands in the air?
Teenage Fanclub have also just returned from a long American tour supporting Weezer. "Good evening audience, are you having a good time?" they enquire in a very slow laboured manner. Hey, you're back in Britain now. We can understand your Scottish accents. Teenage Fanclub sound tired, like they've had to listen to Weezer every night for a few weeks, which is the truth of their US jaunt. Still, their worst is better than most bands best, and songs as terrific as Dont Look Back and Neil Jung are hard to damage, and there's always the grey haired roadie in a sports jacket to enjoy, not least as he attacks the shaker at the start of Sparky's Dream. His piano playing is quite something too. There seem to be too many songs from the deservedly underrated Thirteen album, but hearing the mighty Verisimilitude, possibly the first song in pop history to achieve what it proposes, makes it all worthwhile. Musically they are a joy, playing tracks from their entire back catalogue. They share the singing, though you'd have trouble distinguishing between the different vocalists and, anyway, it's the tunes that matter. The leisurely delights of What You Do To Me top a stunning performance. Everyone is relaxed. The Fanclub announce that there is a Birthday in their ranks and the crowd sing Happy Birthday on masse. The fact that these days most Teenage Fanclub performances involve an announcement of a Birthday even though there generally isn't one, does not detract from the occasion. The Fanclub are wonderful.
Hole arrive on stage and everybody is expecting something big to happen. Since Kurt's suicide, Courtney Love has been walking a tightrope, trying to maintain the high public profile of Hole while trying to avoid the people who see her merely as a cartoon character. At a Lollapalooza show last month someone threw a bullet on stage and, understandably, Courtney walked off. She is treated as someone who can be continually abused but will always get up and carry on unscathed. A circus act here to be laughed at. Blah...Hole...blah...motherfucker...blah...blow job...blah...was she asking for it?...blah...show you my what?...blah...one day you will ache like I ache...don't take the purple acid...(alright I made up that bit)...fuck you... If you've seen Courtney Love's professional catharsis show before, you can be certain that tonights set was the same just not as good. Roll up, roll up and watch her fall apart!
Courtney gives as much as she gets, but while her abusers revel in the attention they receive, Courtney is being pushed further towards the abyss. She opens her show by offering a finger, for swivelling purposes, to someone who's managed to upset her before the first song has even started. From then on, it's just a matter of time before the next person manages to provoke a response. Musically, Hole are superb. They would probably have been a hugely popular band without Courtney's on and off stage antics and the Cobain link. Songs such as Doll Parts, Jennifer's Body and Violet were always going to be greeted with open arms by journalists and fans alike. Watching them performed live is still an exhilarating experience without Courtney's performances. As it is this year I've seen Ms Loves upper thigh more often than the Queens head, and she still hasnt written a new song. They might have the worlds finest female musician in the lineup, but drummer Patty Schemel can't be expected to carry Courtney forever.
It must be remembered though, that it's still Courtney that people have come to see. There was a recent analysis on the loss of popularity of a company based on losing one member e.g. Microsoft losing Bill Gates or Virgin losing Richard Branson. If Hole were a publicly owned company and Courtney Love left, the shares would plummet. And Courtney is pretty much public property already, whether it's her manipulation of the press or her tirades against anyone within earshot during performances. Today she's after the security " Hey, you give them fucking water". Conveniently she ignores the fact that they've spent the whole afternoon handing out water. Then she's after someone else " You make a fuss that guy'll give you a blow job". She often abuses individual journalists that she recognises from the stage, referring to derogatory articles that she has committed to memory. Today she is too far away to distinguish faces, so she tries to wind up everyone by announcing "Blur won't make it in America.... it'll be Elastica". (So, watch out Elastica, you are now Official Friends of Courtney, just like Amanda Drinks Cabinet. We all know what that means for your complexion. Here's a joke- who has uncles called Brad, Billy and Trent? Frances Bean Cobain.) Everyone cheers, which is not especially surprising. She could have said that Shed 7 would make it in America and she'd have produced a positive response.
At the end of the set, Courtney sets about destroying the stage. Guitars fly, the drum kit is pulled over and a monitor enters the photopit. She is carried, sobbing, from the stage, by her roadies. It's all great entertainment for the crowd but how long can she maintain this sort of intensity before she does some sort of permanent damage to herself, if she hasn't done so already, and how long will it be before there is a portaloo on stage for Hole gigs?
Green Day greet the crowd with "Hello Cleveland". Their brand of punk, almost twenty years after it's conception, has sold nine million copies of their current album Dookie, which is no bad thing as far as they're concerned. And if Oasis can sound like The Beatles and Blur sound like The Kinks, what's wrong with sounding like 1Stiff Little Fingers? Both on and off stage they give the impression that they're here to enjoy themselves. They play their fast, catchy, energetic tunes with a compelling urgency despite acting as if the don't care what anyone thinks. We know that they do care though, these people are parents after all. Basketcase, their massive single, stands head and shoulders above the rest of the set even though those at the front seem happy to leap around to every tune that they provide. How many copies their new album will sell is anybody's guess.
Marion are as breathless as ever, like they're about to disturb their form teachers fag break , telling him something he really doesn't want to know. Sneak rock I suppose, they really are the definition of a sixth form band. Stereolab were delightfully relentless as ever, with a harder edge than usual, and producing their most complex work yet. But not that complex thankfully. Smashing Pumpkins, the rock band its okay to think are okay, were well, okay. The oddly shaped Billy Corgan, who clearly didn't take a lot of exercise as a child, is one of the worst singers in the history of bad singing and heavy metal, but when the band are gunning hard you can almost forget that he's going to come back in and ruin it. They had pretty lights as well.
But the interesting stuff, the bands who weren't listening to voices telling them they were going to be bigger than Blur, were topping the indie hell that was the Carlsberg tent on Friday night. Prolapse, later called the band of the weekend from the main stage by Pavement, were extraordinary. A tall gangly Scotsman and a small pretty woman berate each other while four men with guitars and drums clatter like the Fall or Sonic Youth at their best. It's like the National Lottery gone punk, with Turner and Kennedy pogoing into each other. It's like driving round the M25 on truckers speed. It's bloody great entertainment. Someone throws a plaster cast. Are they healed or broken? Bristol's Flying Saucer Attack are the closing act, looking terrified at their UK debut, and sounding it for the first couple of numbers. Some poor sod has shut his eyes to enter the dream state their music engenders in many. It must be like trying to nap with the removal men in. But they settle down, tearing extraordinary noises out of guitars and living up to their reputation. Otherworldly sounds made human by fear. Whatever happened to My Bloody Valentine anyway?
This year the small Melody Maker stage has a few differences. On the positive side there is a wheelchair location next to the mixing desk which has a ramp allowing access to the disabled. A positive, reasonably expensive move for which Vince Power, the festival organiser, should be given credit. On the more negative side, a large part of the tent boundary, which is normally free, has been blocked off, restricting viewing positions. Access in and out of the tent is also limited to the sides of the tent.
Arriving in time to see Weknowwhereyoulive, a band which consists of ex-members of The Wonderstuff and Eat. Unremarkably, they sound exactly like a cross between The Wonderstuff and Eat. It's fast, bass and drum dominated music with Ange as the enthusiastic front person. In typical Ange style he is wearing a skirt (or kilt) and repeats most of the lines four or five times becoming more and more frenzied as he does so. Towards the end of the set he sings a little of Roll With It and In The Country accompanied with a reasonable impression of the accents and movements involved with being a singer in Blur or Oasis. "I see the future right here before me" he screams six or seven times. That's not what most of the audience appeared to be thinking though.
Ohio's Guided By Voices have released more albums than the combined total of everybody else playing on this stage today. Despite this, today is their first ever UK performance. They haven't put themselves out for the occasion. The lead singer is wearing a ripped jacket, not very becoming for a teacher in his late thirties. They play a set which consists of short, immediate songs which often feature quick twenty second thrash outs. If they are old enough to know that extended thrash outs are dull or they are too old to keep them going for much longer is debatable. One of them is wearing sunglasses on stage which is strange because he's not old enough to be a member of the Jesus And Mary Chain. They are entertaining enough though, and I'm already looking forward their quick return to our shores.
The arrival of Gene on stage produces mass adulation from the large crowd who've gathered to see them. They play Haunted By You and the crowd goes mad, Martin Rossiter has them eating out of his hand. He tests the water by rubbishing Blur and Oasis in the same sentence and gets away with it. "Remember, it's not about who gets to number one, it's about songs." he adds to another positive response. During London Can Wait the crowd spontaneously starts to clap along and by the time they reach Olympian someone is holding his torch up as a lighter. There are two overly staged encores between which the crowd cheer and chant. Gene, it would appear, have the won the hearts of Reading.
Time for bed!!!
Embassyare due to play between 11.00 and 11.30 and amazingly manage to complete their set with time to spare. Enough time to ensure that I miss their entire set.
"Let's here a big Phoenix cheer for Heavy Stereo" announces the compare, it must be a bit early for him too. Heavy Stereo are another Creation signing who play big fuzzy guitars and have nasal style vocal. Between songs they make rushed, uninformative comments which lessen the effect of the confident strut that they parade as they play. "This is the one that let us on Top Of The Pops" announces Gem before Sleep Freak, but there are plenty of other songs here as good as their debut. If Creation find a little time between hyping Oasis singles there could well be a big future for them
Puressence, a Manchester band, have some well developed sounds which singer, James Mudiczki, sings to with a rather high pitched voice. A note for future Reading bands, dry ice used at noon fails to add any mystery or interest to a set.
Nashville born James Hall is given the task of opening Saturday's proceedings on the main stage. He plays the guitar,the trumpet and wails. The drawn-out tunes are held together by solid bass lines which effortlessly blend one song into the next, like a long jam session. They vary from the slow and melodic to the loud and noisy, almost Henry Rollins territory. There are, naturally, a lot of jazz style riffs involved, especially when the trumpet is introduced. James Hall doesn't find the vacant atmosphere of a large venue conducive to his style, and climbs down from the stage so that he can relate on a more individual level. He sings, accompanied by a lonely beat on the side of a drum. It's moving stuff. As he leaves the stage he speaks with a broad Tennessee accent. "Ma name is James Haall ladies and gentlemen. Stay around for Skuunk Anansie naaw". So we did.
Skunk Anansie put on the same show that has made them regulars on festival rosters. Front person, Skin, leaps around the stage, alternating his performance by shouting during the loud bits and then shouting during the quiet bits too. A crowd has appeared from nowhere to watch them so they must doing something that people want to hear. Which is more than can be said for Little Axe. They are not outcasts from the Doddington festival as their name suggests but a funk/dub/thang. They play incredibly long tunes with occasional lyrics thrown in for good measure. Rather dull.
Newport trio 60 ft Dolls just don't seem to improve, every song still sounds like an introduction that never quite gets going. Somehow I doubt Green Day are quaking in their boots. Someone heckles Corduroy with the immortal 'PLAY SOMETHING YOU'RE FUCKING GOOD AT!' Like what, pray? Table tennis? Scrabble?
Corduroy are the archetypal good-time band no one's having a good-time to. But compared to the dreaded Shed Seven they are the greatest thing in recorded history. This band really are the absolute nadir of British pop 1995, designed by computer to appeal to the unimaginative, they are the aural equivalent of ditchdigging. Terrible songs like the one that sounds like Cud with no sense of humour, and the one that sounds like the youth club band murdering Suede drone on in the background and I feel myself aging a decade in half an hour. If Blur and Oasis are our Beatles and Stones, then this lot aren't even in Hermans Hermits league.
A fat twelve year old in an Offspring T-shirt wanders by, generating a debate as to exactly what he's the offspring of. Blue whales? Then it's Throwing Muses, not usually a band associated with a good time in a field, more a bad time in a darkened room. Kristin Hersh's new short haircut makes her look a bit like that awful Irish woman with the voice that sounds worse than a dentist's drill from the Crapberries, though thankfully she's singing more like Patti Smith these days. This is certainly a good thing, but the Muses are simply a power trio, bulldozing their way through every song. Yellow Gun is unrecognizable from this years catchy single , and tracks from the first album, a classic of teen angst, fare no better. They play great, but they're just too good to be subtle. Some nerves might help.
Bluetones are the latest in a line of 'next big things', and they must have a fair chance, holding their own in a packed tent, and generally conveying an air of all round competence, both vocally and instrumentally. They also sound just like Squeeze. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, but it sure as hell ain't an interesting thing, and as the singer drawls 'Are you blue?' I can't help thinking it sounds like 'Are you Bored?' Yep, next please.
The not so newly reformed Snuff play their energetic romp which hasn't changed much since they decided to try to hit the big time again. Hey, at the moment any one who can hold a guitar is allowed on Top Of The Pops, why not Snuff? Their set is concluded with a faster than necessary version of I Think We're Alone Now, which leaves the stage clear for My Life Story.
Though American bands have dominated this year's Reading Festival, we British can hold our heads high when it comes to the festival fashions. Despite the presence of Menswear, the best dressed band here is My Life Story, even the drummer has a polo necked top on. Their flamboyant leader Jake Shillingford arrives on stage wearing a white suit and a big smile, his tongue wedged firmly in his cheek. They perform all their singles, Girl A, Girl B Boy C, Sparkle and Funny Ha Ha. They have also written some new songs, King of Kissingdom and Suited and Booted particularly standing out. Motorcade features vast volumes of paper flying around the tent courtesy of a couple of fans (electric not human). They conclude their set with the old but as yet unreleased 12 reasons. Last week they filled London's Jazz Cafe. (The fact that there are so many of them means the guest list will be larger than most, but this is no mean feat nonetheless.) I hope Jake's prediction is right, and their day is just around the corner.
For some reason the sound quality dramatically drops for Ian McCulloch's Electrafixion. We can still watch though. His haircut hasn't changed, he still clutches the microphone with both hands and he still has a tendancy to drift into other songs. The single, Zepher, stands out, but only because we know what it's supposed to sound like and can replace the inefficiencies of the mixing for ourselves.
By the time Echobelly arrive on stage the tent and all surrounding vantage points have been filled. If this reflects Echobelly's popularity, the lengths people are prepared to go to ensure that they see The Foo Fighters or the exceptionally dull set Paul Weller is currently performing are questionable. Sonya, dressed in a school uniform, is not going to miss an opportunity like this though. They run through their singles and prepare themselves for an imminent Top Of The Pops appearence.
There are even more people trying to enjoy The Foo Fighters than there were for Echobelly. Some people have taken vantage points were they can hear but not see, others can see but not hear. Those that can do both are risking being squashed to a pulp. Apparently, The Foo Fighters were given the opportunity to play the main stage instead of Tricky and turned it down. Nice one. The set is a stop start affair as the security staff try to remove crushed people and convince others, who don't want to suffer the same fate, from climbing tent poles. The performance is wonderful and everyone still on their feet at the end leaves sweaty but smiling.
In the Carlsberg tent Scarfo could well be the next Bivouac, or they could stay good. Time will tell. Pusherman are that latest variation, Crowasis, as their twin frontmen lead an effective if not overly likeable trad rock outfit. And back on the main stage Tricky at last turns it on in a field. It's the third time I've seen him at a festival this year, and at last he's loud and to the point without losing any of his wonky appeal. So Now You're Retro finally sounds like the unreleasable Michael Jackson outtake it always threatened to be, and Black Steel rocks without sounding tinny. Lovely.
Boo Radleys have surely reached a crossroads in their career. After their most successful year yet, sparked by the much loved/loathed Wake Up Boo single, they really have to find their own style or perish. Upcoming single Sad,so Lonely is a frankly feeble foray into areas even the Charlatans would have doubts about, and they seem less pleased to play The Hit than the crowd are to hear it. That's the problem with cynical, unprincipled attempts at milking the pop kids. If it works it haunts you forever. As for the rest, we've been to the Sgt. Pepper phase, so I guess we're somewhere in the weak McCartney solo stuff now. I used to really like this band.
Drugstore are a disappointment too, sounding tired after a seven week American jaunt. But not as tired as the mob are of hearing Isobel Monteiro recount dull stories of their meet-and-greet odyssey. Good God woman, these kids would cut off their fingers for seven weeks of free US travel, beer and food gratis, so don't moan about it. It's hardly a strain meeting insincere people. It's what most people do every day of their lives. And who wants to know if you saw some geezer on the streets of DC, you're from Brazil, it's hardly news to you. Blah, blah. Actually Drugstore are just off the pace, strictly earthbound tonight, and playing plenty of as yet unresolved new songs, including one that Isobel forced the boys to learn only yesterday. Myself, I could happily have waited a few weeks to hear it. She should have let them sleep a couple more days.
Paul Weller is the guvnor of British festivals. He was playing Reading back when the Rockers were fighting the Mods were fighting the Teddy Boys and Danny Baker was asking 'Just how long can this sordid field survive?' Well, longer than your hair Dan, and Weller still seems born to it. I can hardly say this was an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime sort of showing but the tight four piece band kept things moving, showing the versatility Pearl Jam would lack with Neil Young the next night, and the likes of Sunflower and You Do Something to me really register with the crowd. It's a mystery how guitarist Steve Craddock can be so good in this set-up and yet so shit in the hopeless Ocean Colour Scene, but I guess OCS don't have a top drummer like Steve White to keep it together. Later the ghost of Jerry Garcia turns up on slide, and Mike Dixon of 'Brookside' tickles the ivories. I may have been distracted by then but at least two thirds of this was surprisingly excellent.
At first I'm just a little Bjored with Bjork, as she seems to hold back from the desire of the more mature half of the audience (the rest are getting within fifty yards of the Foo Fighters in the tent) to get into the bacchanal that makes up their average Saturday night. After all, a woman in a pink frock with an accordionist alongside is hardly a potent headline combination. And the set just seems to drag, all the slow ones from the album that no one seems to have bought yet, a bit of drum , an occasional sequence, some organ work in the plastic palm trees that make up the stage set. But Violently Happy ends the set tumultuously, and an encore sees Big Time Sensuality turned into a scat hymn, as everyone waits with bated breath for the bass drum to come in. It never does, and we're all left gobsmacked at her audacity, and amazing vocal skill, it has to be said. It was stunning. It's So Quiet showed just how swinging you can get with a drumkit, an accordion and an organ, and then it all ended with a huge firework display. But we'd already had the fireworks. Eerie.
Just how many people are in this bloody field I ask myself as it takes me fifteen minutes to traverse an area no wider than, well, a field. Mondays papers guess at 60 000, and they can't be far wrong. Reading 95 is just absurdly full by now. Admittedly a summer this good is a rarity but in the event of serious trouble what the hell would happen if the emergency services needed access. I guess it's just a victim of its own success, but it's also uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. And as the far end of the site turns into a Berkshire equivalent of the American Dustbowl, with most of the dust ending up in my beer.
From a distance, opening band, Pennywise, sound like a frantic yet articulate punk band in the mould of The Dead Kennedys. Here to educate as well as entertain. As the set moves on though, it becomes clear that they are not in the same league. Sure, they encourage stage diving, but the set is not clever enough yet. Their lack of ideas is amplified when they cover Stand By Me which, surprise surprise, increases to ten times the normal speed before it reaches the end. Radical stuff. Pennywise were to be followed by the virtually unknown Nofx, another punk band. Sadly, they look likely to remain virtually unknown as they can't play because the guitarist has damaged a finger.
Babes In Toyland have been together for years and have not compromised their music despite moving to a major label. Or, put another way, The Babes haven't moved with the times, still making the same sound they always did. It was a fine noise then but now it has been eclipsed by others. Hole spring to mind. Today most of the subtitles are blown away in the wind leaving just the very bare bones of each tune with some screaming over the top. Even a trawl through We Are A Family fails to relieve the boredom.
Pavement produce a typical set. Their quirky sound is a relief from the relentless noise of many of the other main stage acts. They have to work hard. During the set there is a power cut but this does not dampen the entertainment. They tap the stage structure and continue talking until the electricity returns. We're treated to many of the joys of their last album, Wowee Zowee, as well as the last few singles, which still manage to sound fresh.
White Zombie, upstate New Yorkers fresh from entertaining the piss throwers at Monsters of Rock , are loud, heavy and suitably stupid. Better at clearing the head than a large Bloody Mary they've come to Rock, and Rock they shall. Musically they're like a more abrasive Ministry, the Sci-Fi Metal you always hoped the future would provide. Dunno if I'd listen at home but they make perfect sense this afternoon.
The main feature of Animals That Swim used to be that the lead singer also played the drums, but he's taken a lesson from Dave Grohl and dropped himself from the percussion role. He is now free to wander the stage rather than being tied to his drum kit, and sadly he looks uncomfortable with his new found freedom. While he's singing his songs of everyday life he looks OK, despite occasionally having to hold the microphone above his upward tilted head in order to reproduce his drummers stance. It's during the non-singing parts that he's lost. The June Brides style trumpet kicks in, and he doesn't know what to do. He tries a little dance but fails to maintain it for more than a few seconds, sometimes, he wanders to the side of the stage, looks round the speakers and then wanders back. Their blend of songs mixed with stories is quite engaging and greater popularity could be just around the corner. Before then a little practise in front of the mirror, just in case Top Of The Pops do need you.
Geraldine Fibbers make a country and western sound, but all the boring instrumental parts of the songs are filled with noise. This band will be the founders of the new wave of Violent Femmes. How many other groups will follow their path is yet to be seen.
Whilst the rest of The Wonderstuff have been getting together with Eat's singer, ex-singer Miles Hunt has been working with Billy Duffy, ex-Cult, Morgan Nicholls, ex-Senseless Things and Pete Howard, Eat's old drummer, to produce Vent. They're all working hard to produce a fairly OK noise, but there is a long way to go before they reach Cult or Wonderstuff levels. Come to think about it, there's a fair amount of work to do before they reach the level of Eat.
There is a huge crowd for recent school leavers Ash. They play with a huge amount of energy and, despite their short existence have quite a few popular songs. Petrol has the crowd clapping along, recent hit Girl From Mars has them singing and their final song, Kung Fu has them leaving with a smile on their faces. That is until they realise they can't get out. The tent is blocked off at the back so it can only be exited from the sides, unfortunately this also represents the only way in. The crowd trying to get in for <Reef refuse to move back so it takes twenty minutes to escape. Thank the Lord it wasn't The Foo Fighters on next!
I'd hoped that Pullover would be the new Screeming Custard (ie the most annoying indie band in the world) but sadly, despite possessing the ace couplet 'Your body's a temple, mine's a shed, sometimes I wish I were dead' they are no more than a moderately competent Third Division outfit. In funny clothes...But not that funny. Paw are a heavy rock band from Kansas whose singer is wearing a pair of angels wings. Despite a couple of promising singles a couple of years ago their new album is disappointing and so is this. File under generic. Cast are alright, in the traditional Scouse sense of 'alright, la.' Thus they convey a feeling of warmth and friendship without being remotely out of the ordinary. Fine Time and the one which goes Alright a lot sound perfectly good. Like Squeeze in fact. You won't need to hold on to your hats. Super Furry Animals are another addition to the genre of Welsh FM Radio Rock, which now consists of two acts, them and the Pooh Sticks. The singer can't sing and I doubt that Urge Overkill would ever look so guilty whatever they'd done, but I bet they make some nice records in a years time. Buffalo Tom are a surprise delight, their often over-earnest rock really gelling today, proving the mysterious fact that American bands generally get better the more they tour, while Brits just seem to get tired.
Mudhoney's spot on the main stage is something of a mystery since all they've done recently is annoy Courtney Love and get unfashionable. And it's not hard to see why. They rock like a rock blocking a tunnel or something, all big and clumsy and just ...there, I suppose. You Got It (Keep it out of My Face) was still good, the rest was just dried faecal matter blowing in the wind, like the air in Mexico City. (Fact!) They were still preferable to Reef, the sort of thing you thought had gone out with child labour and horse drawn taxis. But just as genocide and pillage keep raising their ugly heads every few years it seems that we can never be free of mediocre British blues-based rock. Come on, World Health Organization. You've got rid of smallpox, why not this? Before Lenny Kravitz makes a comeback...Aaagh! Too late!...
Lick are a plodding, unexotic, unappealing riposte to Drugstore, but hell, minicab drivers have to do something during the day. Hugeness does not beckon.
But who would have thought Soundgarden were a big band on tonights showing. Inaudible, tuneless, and just downright drab their dullard showing had me grabbing my crotch just to check I was still alive. No such problems with the exquisitely dumb Monster Magnet, a band who won't do something imaginative if there's a stupid option on hand. Singer Dave Wyndorf looks like Tony Danza from 'Taxi' with a tache and roars like he's in fact got something to say. Tonights set veered towards serious at times, and there was just too much twiddly diddly lead guitar/ Doors-Stooges dancing with a light and mumbling/ not enough use of the word motherfucker but recent single Negasonic Teenage Warhead was truly heavy and received as such by a pointlessly dedicated crowd. Soundgarden probably own motorbikes, but I bet the Magnet know how to fix 'em. Carter USM face the unusual situation of having one member playing from a seated position after damaging his back while cleaning the bath (true!). They go down well enough, but are hardly legends in their own lifetimes, drummer or not.
There's a telling moment at the end of Neil Young's set when he's beating seven shades of shit out of his guitar, when an already disgruntled looking Mike McCreadie, guitarist in tonights star backing band Pearl Jam, decides to dump his gear all over the floor and smash up his shiny Les Paul 'axe'. He doesn't look too happy, but at centre stage Young just keeps on torturing noise out of his plank o'wood. HE DOESN'T EVEN LOOK UP! And that's because he's Neil Young, survivor of the hippy wars, punk wars, grunge wars, whatever you like, and he can keep chanking his guitar all night if he wants, because he's the man we've come to see. Hell, Neil Young plays a 1955 Gibson thats older than any member of Pearl Jam, and has doubtless seen a lot more even than them. He'd never smash that. It's a piece of American history. And at home he's got Hank Williams old acoustic sitting around his living room, which he sometimes tells guests after they've played it a while. He is cool. He can do no wrong.
And tonight he doesn't . The recent Young/PJ Mirrorball album is basically a set of jams, but Pearl Jam are better live than on the record, and that's a fine thing. Bizarre sea shanty Song X and thundering three chorder Downtown storm the crowd and a fine sluggish crack at Mr Soul is a treat. The acoustic interlude is magnificent, Young thrashing at an acoustic, his foot keeping time clearly audible, as is his stumble at one point. Needle and the Damage Done and especially Hey Hey My My can't help but summon the spirit of one Kurt Cobain, who got his first break here at Reading and quoted Young in his suicide note. Thousands hold their breath. Then it's After the Goldrush on the pump organ, an instrument so powerful the same thousands hold their bowels. Bring the band back on for Cortez the Killer and a singalong encore of Rockin' In the Free World and that's the weekend topped at the very death. Absolutely fantastic.
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