9 things we learned at Reading festival 2017

Marmozets at Reading festival
(Image: © Jen O'Neill)

As the last notes of Reading and Leeds ring in the ears of thousands across the UK, festival season 2017 draws to a close. We’ve seen some of the biggest bands in the world destroy fields across rural England and for the mostpart the sun has shone throughout, which is as confusing as it is brilliant. And as we made our way to Reading for the Saturday (because our livers couldn’t take three days), this is what we remembered come Sunday morning.

PVRIS fail to connect

This one is weird. As the sun was blasting onto the main stage in the early afternoon, all eyes were on Lynn Gunn and co. to deliver a weekend-owning set of popstastic anthems and infectious hooks, the likes of which Little John’s Farm has never seen. We know they’ve got some bangers in the arsenal, but something just isn’t clicking today. The sound is hollow and the minimal amount of stage banter from Lynn sounds like she’s simply going through the motions. The newer songs from latest album All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell miss the target, and while closer My House is still a knock-out, it’s too little too late, leaving the field feeling a little flat and frustrated at what could have been so much more.

Zeal & Ardor are something special

Last year on The Pit stage, a disappointingly small crowd watched The Dillinger Escape Plan’s final Reading performance. This year, Zeal & Ardor have drawn a bigger crowd, yet the tent is still far from full. But no matter, as the chaingang-via-black-metallers deliver a defiant set, starting a (sort of) mosh pit down front, and connecting with the Reading crowd on a far more meaningful and intelligent level than the majority of bands this weekend. This is nowhere near mainstream, but it’s inspired, and the more unconventional bands on a festival bill the better.

Marmozets could headline this thing

A few days prior to their set on the second stage at Reading festival, we witnessed Marmozets’ blistering comeback show at the Borderline in London. That was to a hundred or so people – this is to thousands. The marquee tent is packed as the Yorkshire punks rip through the biggest hitters on the debut album alongside a handful of new material that sees them destined for loftier heights. The deafening reaction to Why Do You Hate Me? and Is It Horrible is more than most main stage bands will manage, and you can only assume that when the second album drops it’s just going to send bigger crowds into spasm. Marmozets headlining Leeds is the homecoming we all want to see.

(Image: © Jen O'Neill)

The world needs Frank Carter

Frank Carter has been coming to Reading and Leeds for a looooong time. First in Gallows, then Pure Love, and now with The Rattlesnakes, this is his home away from home, and Reading knows it. Receiving a hero’s welcome, the rather dapper frontman dances and hurls himself around the stage and into the crowd at any given opportunity. It’s impossible to take your eyes off him, even when you’re screaming along to Lullaby like a maniac. His parting message is one of equality and inclusivity, dedicating the final song to all the women in the audience, urging them to crowdsurf in a safe space, free from fear of groping and grabbing. It’s pure positivity in the tent, something we need more of in music and beyond.

(Image: © Jen O'Neill)

At The Drive In should have stayed at home

Oh dear :(

You can’t fuck with a Korn festival set

Here To Stay? Sure. Got The Life? You bet. Falling Away From Me? Uh-huh. Blind? You better believe it. It’s safe to say that Korn don’t do bad festival sets and the form they’ve been on for the past two years only solidifies this statement. The Bakersfield veterans careen through the 12-song setlist at a rate of knots, cramming as much into the hour as possible, reminding even the non-metalheads in attendance just what an absolute choon Freak On A Leash is. It’s just a little disappointing that a large number of people gathered at the main stage are obviously just waiting for Major Lazer.

(Image: © Michelle Roberts)

The main stage sound is wobbly

It’s hard to get sound right on big outdoor stages, especially in the UK with our love for wind, but throughout the day the levels just don’t match. Either it’s so quiet you can hear the people three rows behind you complaining about it being quiet or the bass is so loud you feel like your eyes are going to burst. You can barely hear Eminem’s vocals throughout his set which is, kinda what he’s known for.

Eminem has a weird setlist

Whatever you think of Eminem, he’s written some of the biggest hip-hop songs in history and in his day was more of a rockstar than anyone in our scene today. And at various points throughout his mammoth headline set he proves it. From Rap God to White America to Criminal to Stan, it’s a greatest hits of Marshall Mathers… which unfortunately loses focus. It doesn’t help that the sound is shonky throughout, but every time the set gathers some momentum, it stalls, reverting to a song only half the crowd know or an unnecessary guest verse when we’d much rather he belted out Just Lose It. That said, the final five songs might be the most fun 15 minutes we’ve ever had in a field.

There’s just not enough heavy music

It’s a selfish argument but one we feel needs addressing. Reading and Leeds has had a longstanding relationship with rock music, and even though it has become more mainstream in recent years, there’s still been a ‘heavy day’ for folk like us. This year, just two heavy bands (Korn and Architects) made it on to the main stage across all three days, while the vast majority of guitar music was bundled into The Pit and the Lock Up. And shout out to those guys for three days of rock, punk and metal for the masses, but we shouldn’t be content with just one stage. Rock and metal music built this festival and now we’re being shunned down the bill to make room for Two Door Cinema Club in 2017. Amity Affliction, While She Sleeps, Gnarwolves – all these band could kill on the main stage, but their art is being shunned to make way for Rat Boy. It doesn’t matter how vibrant and interesting rock and metal has been over the past 18 months, it feels like we’re an afterthought. Still, The Pit was great.

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