Led by the electric orange-colored tresses of Hayley Williams, Franklin, TN punkers Paramore got a sun-drenched Saturday (Aug. 25) off to a hot start. Sharp rock bits from Young Knives and Pigeon Detectives kept the momentum going while fellow troublemakers the View only sustained Reading’s potent rock’n’roll mix. Leave it to UNKLE to cool things off … er, slightly.
Paramore: First up on the Main Stage on Saturday was the female-fronted pop punkers Paramore (“Femo” anyone?). Singer Hayley Williams, the flame-haired bundle of energy, exhorted the crowd to punch the air, show off their best dance moves and, in one slightly embarrassing moment scream the title of the band’s latest LP, Riot!, to the heavens. They’re definitely a well-drilled live unit — so slick and efficient!
Young Knives: It was odd being in a crowded, darkened tent in the middle of blazing, sunshine-y afternoon. It disorientates slightly, and The Young Knives do much to add to the effect. Their jittery, art-rock sound came complete with falsetto, Futureheads-style vocal harmonies, and in songs like the wonderfully sinister “Loughborough Suicide” combined to great, lop-sided affect. They were great fun between songs too, taking huge delight in lying through their teeth to the audience. Between telling the crowd that that this is their last ever gig and that they just flew back from a Lithuanian Thrash Festival (this one could be true, who knows?), this off-kilter ambience lulled a crowd made up in equal parts of interestingly hair-cutted hipster types and sunburnt youth.
Pigeon Detectives: The Radio 1 Tent was bursting at the seams with packs of sweaty boys leaping up and down with their arms around each other. Pigeon Detectives was the first must-see band for a huge swathe of Reading punters it seems, and they delivered bigtime. Singer Matt Bowman was a classic, rabble-rousing frontman, tossing bottles of water into the audience, getting the crowd to a have a nice-sit down for a couple of minutes, and generally employing the kind of shameless showmanship not seen round this parts since we all went ‘wobbly’ over Ricky Wilson a couple of years back. A particular highlight was the false ending during a thunderous “Take Her Back.” The band stopped on a dime as Bowman cried “Goodnight Reading,” and they trooped off only to run back onstage seconds later to take up the song again in exactly the same place. When they eventually made their exit, the applause was the loudest I’ve heard all weekend. Job done.
UNKLE: UNKLE made us wait for ages in a crowd thick with a heavy fug of sweat and marijuana smoke. When they finally arrived onstage, they stood impassively in front of a huge bank of TV screens. There are about 50 of them, too. Sadly, none of them seem to be any of the superstar guest vocalists rumored to be joining them tonight. There was a tangible sense of disappointment in the crowd, which the band’s new, guitar driven sound does little to dissipate until the opening chords of the glorious, genuinely beautiful “Reign” (sans Ian Brown, sadly). Unfortunately it is at this point that I have to sprint over to the Radio 1 stage to catch the second half of….
The View: A little bit Arctic Monkeys, a little bit Libertines, a little bit ska and a lot jaunty “She’s Electric”-style Oasis, the View was not, perhaps, the most original band of the weekend — but they more than made up for it in energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the cause. Predictably, after a year that has seen them rise to the top at a dizzying rate, the View Army was out in full force, with the chants of ‘The View, The View, The View are on Fire” booming lustily around the arena from the off.
Highlights included a ska-inflected cover of Squeeze’s “Up the Junction” and the mass sing-along-inspired “Same Jeans” with the crowd almost completely drowning out the band. There was a sense of connection with the View and their audience that perhaps hasn’t been seen since the early days of the Libertines, and it was exciting just to be part of it.