With the Olympics now over, it seemed that Britain had very little to offer the world. However, the world could not be more wrong with one beautiful weekend in the year where tens of thousands of music lovers descend upon the town ready to rock hard. While the festival may have little notoriety globally, it has hosted some of the best bands in the world ranging from Muse, who headlined last year, to Nirvana in 1992. The line up this year continued the festival’s heritage mixing major names with the more obscure and less known creating one of the best festival experiences in Europe.

The Headliners 

While The Cure were originally met with apprehension when it was announced that they would be headlining the main stage on Friday by non-fans (including myself), it has to be said that that they put on an absolutely stellar performance. You would be a fool to say that Robert Smith was past his prime because, although he does look rather terrifying, his voice was immaculate, drifting through the enormous crowd that amassed to watch the band who last played at Reading 30 years ago. Even if you are not a fan of The Cure some of their songs such as Friday I’m In Love (how appropriate) and Boys Don’t Cry, which was played as part of their encore, are timeless classics and are sure to convert more than few into fans of The Cure. I know I certainly have.

Saturday night on the main stage is often co headlined, last year we had Pulp and The Strokes. This year it was Florence and The Machine and KasabianFlorence rose to fame with their critically acclaimed album Lungs which featured instant hits like You’ve Got The Love. While their set list failed the feature perhaps the band’s most well known track, You’ve Got The Love, the inclusion of other major numbers from Lungs like Rabbit Heart and Say My Name definitely meant that it was definitely a show not to be missed. However while Florence was enjoyable, they were all but eclipsed by the energy shown by Kasabian,who have been busy touring for their new album Velociraptor!. Winner of the Best British Band at the Brit Awards in 2010, they definitely lived up to their hype, performing a string of their anthemic tracks such as Club Foot, Fire, Underdog as well as a number of tracks from their latest album. The enthusiasm and sheer cool that Kasabian projected ensured a roaring atmosphere as well as an even more roaring crowd.

While Friday and Saturday had truly epic headliners, none came close to Sunday night and the 3 and half hour set peformed by the Foo Fighters. Last year Muse absolutely blew the crowd away with their festival closing performance and so their was a lot of anticipation in the air for what Foo could deliver. During the course of the festival many bands teased bits from Nirvana songs, leading many to believe that could be some sort of Nirvana tribute. While this dream was never realised, disappointment was a long way off because, well, it was THE Foo Fighters. Performing tracks from albums both old and new, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind about how awesome Foo were, with classics such as Learn To Fly and The Pretender accompanied by the chanting of the biggest crowd of the weekend. One of the most memorable, and poignant, moments of the Foo Fighters set was the performance of These Days , dedicated to Kurt and Krist. While some raised their eye brows in confusion, many understood why this was such a special moment for Dave Grohl who was on that very stage 20 years ago, performing with Nirvana.  As expected the Foo Fighters  delivered a show of pure musical talent and uninhibited rock.

The Best of The Rest

The beauty of Reading Festival is that there are just so many bands, old and new, well known and obscure, meaning that you can always discover something new or rekindle your love for a band you haven’t listened to in years. However due to the sheer number of bands, spread over four stages, it would impossible to see them all, let alone write about them all. There were though a number of bands who, although they weren’t headlining the main stage, still put on amazing shows.

Friday

Just a short walk from the main stage is the Festival Republic tent, home to all things indie and alternative. Two acts on Friday really stuck out- Alt-J and Lucy Rose. Quickly becoming a sensation after recently releasing their first album An Awesome Wave, Alt-J‘s fresh sound set an electric atmosphere in the tent with quasi-folk rock feel with a splash of deep bass for good measure. As for Lucy Rose, her sweet acoustic melodies had lighters swaying in the air en masse. Although her set was short, as she had to go join the rest of Bombay Bicycle Club (which she is still a member of despite her new solo career), it definitely one to remember.

The Lock-Up tent was a world away from the calm of the Festival Republic stage, showing that punk rock is definitely not dead.  One band that definitely proved that was Anti-Flag. Renowned for their anti-war activism and involvement in political protests (lead man Justin Sane played an acoustic set during the Occupy Wall St. protest), they played tracks from their more recent albums such as For Blood and Empire (a personal favourite) and  The Bright Lights of America.

Recommendations:

Alt-J- Breezeblocks

Lucy Rose- Lines

Anti Flag- The Press Corpse

Saturday

It would be fair to say that everyone was feeling a little bit worse for wear on Saturday morning. However Blood Red Shoes made sure everyone was wide awake with their garage rock-esque tracks. Although the duo from Brighton suffered from a lack of fans who could sing along with their tracks, for those who did it was definitely a memorable show. Also on the main stage was a band that within only two years and one album have shot to fame- The Vaccines. Their album,  What Would You Expect From The Vaccines?, was an instant hit and they’re looking to continue to ride the wave of success of a new album which is soon to be released. If the few tracks that they played from the album are anything to go by then The Vaccines aren’t going to be going anywhere soon.

In the NME/Radio 1 tent the synth pop trio Miike Snow performed a magical set which had fans and non fans alike dancing their hearts out. Their opening track, The Wave, was met with rapturous applause and cheering and this positivity continued throughout their set until the superb end with Animals.

Recommendations:

Blood Red Shoes- Cold OR Light It Up

The Vaccines- Norgaard

Miike Snow- The Wave

Sunday

Of all the entire weekend, I personally have think Sunday was by far the best. Not just because of the Foo Fighters but also because of the wealth of talent that was on show that day. The hip hop electro melodies of SBTRKT pulled a large crowd, dancing to the deep bass and melodic sounds of their self titled album. For fans of folk and indie pop, King Charles‘ set was immaculate and it became obvious why relatively musician has suddenly gained such notoriety.

One of the gems of Reading Festival is the BBC Introducing Stage where unsigned or undiscovered bands performed. Of the plethora of bands that performed there, none gained as much as support or were good as the nine piece Dingus Khan. Tracks such as Hospital and Kinfey Spoony were infectiously catchy. However the best act of Sunday (and for me the entire weekend) was the electro duo Justice. Tipped as the next Daft Punk, tracks such as We Are Your Friends and D.A.N.C.E had the entire crowd singing and dancing along, accompanied by the most impressive light show of the weekend. Although they shared the same time slot as the Foo Fighters,  they didn’t struggle to attract a huge number of fans.

Recommendations:

SBTRKT- Wildfire

King Charles- Mississippi Isabel

Dingus Khan- Kinfey Spoony

Justice- Civilisation OR the A Cross The Universe album

Reading Festival is tribute to great music, great bands and reminds the world that we Brits know how to party hard.

Make sure to follow Jasper on Twitter @JC_WaitWat