Headlined by Rage Against the Machine, The Killers, Metallica. I also saw The Enemy, Biffy Clyro, Taking Back Sunday, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Queens of the Stone Age, Anti-Flag, The Fratellis, Serj Tankian, Dizzee Rascal, The Automatic, Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong, Bloc Party, The Raconteurs, We Are Scientists, Editors, The Subways, Lightspeed Champion, Feeder, Plain White T’s, Dropkick Murphys, Tenacious D, Crystal Castles and Adam Hills.
I had survived Download 2008. There was no way that I was waiting another year to go to a weekend festival, and Reading Festival 2008 was ideal. It had an unusual line-up, due to two legendary heavy acts (RATM and Metallica) and one indie pop-rock act (The Killers). I tagged along with college buddies Emma and Sam, and some of their friends. Emma and Sam had bought themselves a ridiculously huge tent which had several “bedrooms” which were meant to accommodate three people. They had got it for themselves, but much to Emma’s irritation, Sam invited everyone in our group inside when there was a downpour. I also met up with a couple of old school friends who I hadn’t seen in years.
I was a bit disappointed by Serj Tankian, not because he was bad. He wasn’t, but as I loved System of a Down, it felt like something was missing. Well, System of a Down for a start. Instead we got his solo project backing band – F.C.C., or The Flying Cunts of Chaos. At least we got my favourite Tankian solo track, which due to my love affair with profanity is unsurprisingly ‘Beethoven’s Cunt’ (He opened with an additional acapella intro “When I look into your beautiful ass, it reminds me of Beethoven’s little CUNT!”).
I will also never forget the amazing entrance by Rage Against the Machine. They appeared under a spotlight, in a line, wearing Guantanamo-style jumpsuits and bags on their heads, and performed ‘Bombtrack’ with their faces covered. That was the most ecstatic that I had ever seen a festival crowd. RATM were another band who I actually didn’t know that much about at the time, but I was drawn in instantly. Everyone was united in ranting about George Dubya Bush.
Being far more ‘indie’, Saturday was probably the most dull day of the three. The Raconteurs weren’t much fun when you got past the novelty of the fact that Jack White was onstage. Headliners The Killers didn’t even seem to want to be there, and not even the “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier” chant of ‘All the Things That I Have Done’ got anywhere near the reaction that RATM had done the day before.
Bloc Party on the other hand, were absolutely fantastic, and they looked as though they were having a whale of a time. Kele Okereke was ecstatic as he began singing ‘Mercury’. And of course, things are instantly ten times better when there are lasers, as there were during ‘Flux’ (which opened with a section of Prince’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’.
This was the day during which a couple of bands were notoriously booed at the BBC Introducing stage. Around lunchtime, I saw that a huge crowd had built up there, and someone asked me “are you here for Foo Fighters?”. No I wasn’t, but I was inevitably intrigued, after it was pointed out that a group called The FF’ers were on the bill. As it turned out, it was just an indie rock group who had made a very poor choice with their band name (although the band claims now to have done it on purpose. I’m not sure I believe him…). I have to commend them for finishing their set though. I felt especially sorry for that band who followed them, because they faced an agitated crowd who gave the FF’ers the benefit of the doubt, thinking that there had been a delay. No one knew any better, because these were all unknown bands.
Later, I decided to go to the signing tent, just to say that I did, and there I met Dev Hynes, then performing as Lightspeed Champion. Once again, I knew nothing about him, and was a bit embarrassed by the few seconds of silence after I said “hi”. For better or for worse, the photo of us has been taken down from the NME website. I grimaced when I got home and saw it. He was smiling on all of the photos, except mine. He just had a miserable thousand-yard stare.
I also saw Adam Hills perform in the comedy tent, and he was brilliant. Most memorable of all was his doing a routine on the best heckles he had received, and the woman who was behind one of his examples (she crowd-surfed her artificial leg) was there – “That was me!”. Adam looked stunned.
Adam: “I want to come up and shake your hands, madam!”
Charlotte: “I don’t have any!”
Adam: “In that case, I want to give you a hug. Is that alright? And I’m gonna crowd surf my way up there!”
And he did. The MC also had a message for someone in the crowd who threw a bottle at Adam as he surfed – “whoever threw that bottle is a cunt… GET OUT THE FUCKING TENT!”.
I recall being very disappointed by Tenacious D. A two man comedy act who worked off of one another rather than with the audience, without a stage show, didn’t really work especially well on the main stage.
The most memorable part for me was when the audience thought that Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters was onstage with them, dressed as a robot during ‘The Metal’ (and to be fair, he looked a lot like him due to the facial hair). The crowd just hadn’t got the message. Dave Grohl still wasn’t at Reading Festival.