Reading Festival 2011: The best bits

[Written for AllInLondon.co.uk]

The rain came down, the wellies came out and still tens of thousands of rock fans heading to Reading this bank holiday weekend – all for the pure love of music.

But with festival goers getting younger and bands becoming more mainstream, it can be harder to pick out the best music from the tunes your ears are simply more familiar with. So here is our picks of the weekend – some made an impact because they are classic brilliance, a few are simply great live and a couple just hit the Reading nail on the head (and perhaps just sounded good after a few beers).

1. Pulp
Julian Casablancas of The Strokes may be one up on ol’ Jarvis Cocker when it comes to dashing good looks, but when it comes to impressing the masses at Reading, he came a slow second. Jarvis and co’ took to the stage before the headliners on Saturday night and they were [i]so[/] good that I could practically feel the nostalgia pouring out of my ears. Common People was naturally a highlight and there was a lot of jumping during Disco 2000, but it was This Is Hardcore that stole the moment – for me anyhow.

2. My Chemical Romance (special guest: Brian May)
“This is the best thing I’ve ever said,” whispered the hardcore MCR fan next to me as Brian May entered the stage. The Queen legend joined the band for We Will Rock You and Welcome To The Black Parade during their encore – but long before Brian even came along, fans were uttering their appreciation. Gerard Way kicked things off with a valuable reminder too, “It’s amazing to be here with people who love music in a non-violent way. If you’re mad, don’t throw a punch, don’t start a fire about it, don’t shout about it. Sing, that’s the most powerful weapon you have.” Good lad.

3. Warpaint
Warpaint made their mark on the NME/Radio1 tent yesterday afternoon by oozing out some of that LA coolness the music world is slowly growing to love. The awesome foursome definitely had their female audience members going with the likes of Warpaint, Elephants and Undertow from their last album, The Fool. Good work ladies.

4. The Streets
“I [The Streets] die tonight. I’m going to leave you now, I’ve got other things to get on with and I’m getting too old,” Mike Skinner announced to a packed out NME tent as he dived into the crowd. And what a last-ever performance it was. Full of feeling (and by feeling, I mean full on fiery performing), Don’t Mug Yourself got the masses in the mood while Dry Your Eyes provided the perfect melancholy goodbye. Sniff.

5. Mona
“They absolutely killed it” – that was the word going around after Mona had taken to the stage on Friday. It seemed like the crowd went on forever if you were looking back across the tent and there was absolutely no doubt the boys have some real harcore fans out there. In fact, they were so loved that there was quite the overflow building up outside the NME/Radio 1 stage as passers by couldn’t help but stop and listen. Drawing them in, eh? Bravo to the Nashville foursome.

6. Bombay Bicycle Club
It’s a fact that the kids LOVE Bombay Bicycle Club. And the truth is there’s a little part of us older folk who love them too. The band played tracks from their new album, which is out today – including Lights Out and Shuffle and the there was an immense applause at the end of the set. Why? Because people absolutely adore them of course. I’ve always been on the fence with these guys, sometimes they completely bowl me over, other times, meh. They were definitely worth catching this time round.

7. OFWGKTA (aka Odd Future) vs. Two Door Cinema Club
Odd Future, bless them, had quite a hard feat this year at Reading. Yes, they could draw in a good crowd – but with Two Door Cinema Club playing just across the way on the main stage (and they were brilliant, FYI), it was going to be tough to keep the crowd. But by the sounds of it, they did manage it (after a slightly low-key start). Sadly though their 45-minute set (consisting of Everything That’s Yours – a highlight) was cut short due to previous over-running schedules, which probably worked out well for festival goers because they would have had time to catch the phenomenal ending to Two Door too. Bonus.

8. Muse
Knights Of Cydonia, Hysteria, Supermassive Black Hole – Muse’s closing set was absolutely phenomenal. Not only did they give their fans pretty much all of Origin Of Symmetry but they also pulled out a whole host of huge hits too. The best bit? Matt Bellamy and co’ completely nailing a cover of Nina Simone’s Feelin’ Good, which had the whole crowd singing along. Magical.

Thanks go to Hall Or Nothing PR for their hospitality.

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