New Found Glory, The Bronx, The Menzingers and more kick off this year’s summer festival inside a packed, sweaty tent…
THE BOTS BLEW IT The Bots are a real buzz band right now, and today’s set is a chance to see if they really live up to the hype. Sadly, they fail to do so. Technical difficulties eat into 10 minutes of their half hour set, and by the time they eventually get started, half of the tent has bailed. They do nothing to try and salvage the situation either, plodding unenthusiastically through their remaining time like two mates jamming in their bedroom. You’d think arena tours supporting Deftones and Blur would’ve primed these potential stars for any stage, but this time out they don’t deliver. Shame.
**THE MENZINGERS LOOK LIKE FUTURE HEADLINERS **The Menzingers don’t fuck about when it comes to soundcheck. They’re in and out of there in a matter of minutes, and still manage to be one of the best sounding bands of the day. They’re also a fine example of everything a punk rock band should be, and they’ve got some great songs to match. They get things rolling with I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anywhere, which has punters flocking to the tent like flies to the half-eaten burgers everywhere, and we begin to witness the first real singalongs of the weekend. From here, the Pennsylvanian punks blaze through anthems like The Obituaries with precision and finesse, even sliding in a cheeky Bouncing Souls cover before exiting the stage to rapturous applause. They could easily headline The Lock Up next time around.
HARDCORE STILL HAS A HOME HERE You often get ‘true’ rock, punk and metal fans moaning about how Reading has watered down its guitar driven acts in recent years, but the festival has always striven to reflect the times. But that’s fine, because alternative music thrives in the underground and the fact that the circle pits start up before Iowa hardcore outfit Modern Life Is War even play a note is all the proof you need that the genre still has a home at Reading and Leeds. By the time their beat-downs do kick in practically the whole tent is a circle pit, and for the next 30 minutes, the passion from both the band and the fans is undeniable. Raising Accounts of Restless Ghosts is a highlight, but the entire set is punishing perfection from start to finish.
TWO SETS ARE BETTER THAN ONE After opening the main stage at this year’s Reading festival as Mariachi El Bronx, The Bronx coolly stroll onto the Lock Up sipping Coronas, and prove once again why they’re one of the best live bands around. You have to admire the musicianship from a group of guys that can effectively pull off playing traditional mariachi music as well as being one of the most ferocious punk rock acts on the planet – and you won’t find a more charming, entertaining and gifted frontman and singer than Matt Caughthran. Most bands wait until the final song of the set to go down to the barrier and break that fourth wall, but he’s crowd surfing whilst singing by song three, and he makes damn sure everyone else is having just as much fun as he is. The Bronx always rip it live, and today’s second set is no exception.
TEENAGE KICKS ARE HARD TO BEAT As day turns into night, the Lock Up is wall-to-wall with parents, kids, teenagers and young adults alike, waiting for Canadian pop-rock party starters Simple Plan to do what they do best: namely start the party. The branded beach balls, sea of mobiles-as-lighters and slow-paced ballads are a world way from the punk rock assault of The Bronx, and there might be those who argue that the band don’t really belong on this stage to begin with. Yet the fervour with the audience sing along to the Plan’s hits is irrefutable. Their set is a celebration in every sense of the word, and a poignant reminder of how exciting those early festival experiences are. If your first festival isn’t your favourite then you’re doing something wrong, because festivals are, always have been, and always will be for the kids.
POP PUNK IS NOT DEAD The last time New Found Glory played the Lock Up was 2007, and according to guitarist Chad Gilbert the band were offered the main stage again this year, but they requested to return to the stage where it all started. “Tonight is your night”, he tells the immeasurable crowd gathered, and is as much theirs as it is NFG’s, who play a flawless, tight and triumphant set of pop punk classics that bring the first day of Reading festival to a close in epic fashion. A legendary set from a now legendary band.