This has been the first time I go to Reading Festival, and I´m sure this will not be the last one… it´s really worth.

    The gigs began early in the morning, at 11:30 am and ended by 23:30 pm, and there were 4 stages working at the same time, although one of them was the dance stage, so it was very difficult to see all the concerts.

    Another feature is that you can find less people at non-english bands, like the american ones above all.

    I preferred to enjoy new bands at the small stages, because these gigs are more special, more familiar, and there are less people so you can reach the first row.

    On Friday, just when I got the place, I went right onto the small stage, and I enjoyed the melodic, fragile and smart pop of a brand new band called The Motorhomes, with only a released single. This stage was very interesting this first day: I also spent a good time with the sweet and rebel Chicks´ pop, although they had some sound problems at first, but their charming attitude conquered me at once. Marine Research sounded really fine, and made a great pop gig, with their delicious  melodies, singing the songs of their brand new album "Songs From The Gulf Stream" released on K records. I finally missed Black Box Recorder, as it was at the same time that Stereolab, but it didn´t mind, as I had been listening to them the previous night in London, at a church called Union Chapel, a special place supporting Smog, but I prefer Black Box Recorder´s great songs, that sounded different at this place, even better than on CD, creating suggestive atmospheres that wraped me around.

    Before going to the medium stage, I took a look at the dance one, as Cuba were playing there, and they really surprised me, because they were a real band, with drums, bass, guitars, a woman singer, keyboards,… and their music was excellent! But there were only a few people.

    The best stage this day was the medium stage. The Paradise Motels were the first ones on this stage, but I could not see them neither this day nor the previous night just with Black Box Recorder and Smog. Bellatrix played after them, but they didn´t surprise me. It´s a band lined-up only with girls, that sounded a bit commercial. After them, Clinic went up onto the stage. The first ones at surprising me were Add N To X, which used their analogic synthesizers as they were distorsioned guitars, and they showed that a band using only old analogic apparatus can sound just like a rock band. After them, Bis made a great gig, very intense and energetic, and they made all the people dance with their eurodisco sound. The stage was crowded of people. Puressence are a band with a lot of fans there who supported them, and they sounded good, but they didn´t surprised me as other bands, like Guided By Voices, for example, who felt comfortable on the stage and did their best. I missed The Fall, because I could not enter the place, as it was very crowded. But after them, I would not leave this stage, because I could not miss the last three bands: Stereolab, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Elastica.

    Stereolab wraped me around with the atmosphere they create in each gig, and made a great show. They sounded quite good and showed their best set of songs. After them, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion came out on the stage with all their energy and bringing blues up to date. And the last one this day would be Elastica, who hadn´t played in England for three years. The band had had some changes, and Pulp´s Jarvis Cocker was there on the stage, at one side. He could not miss Elastica´s come back. They played an intense gig, not mising their hits from their great debut album, and some songs from their brand new EP, released only just a few days ago. They had to play some bises.

    At the main stage there was a great chart this day, but I missed some of the best bands, such as The Chemical Brothers and The Charlatans, as I had seen them 3 weeks before on Benicassim Festival. I didn´t like Reef. I saw Space again, but I only liked some songs. Apollo 440 were terribly upset, and I only could hear a pair of Echo & The Bunnymen´s songs, but I liked them. I only heard this day at this stage The Dandy Warhols and Gene.

    The Dandy Warhols were very kind and grateful with the english press. Gene staged on next, and they had a good gig, but too short. They played almost all their hits.

    On Saturday was another day full of surprising bands. Very soon in the morning, I was astonished by another band at "Carling Premier" stage, called Rocking Horses, with a girl as their singer, and I could only hear their last song, but they conquered me with their naive attitude. After them, another brand new band from Iceland, called Silt, with their energetic but melodic pop, reminded me to bands like Weezer. I could not leave this stage, as I liked all the bands. The next ones were Venini, formed by ex-Pulp´s Russell Senior on the guitar, an Debbie Lime on the voice, but I didn´t like her voice. Quasi played next, an only two-people band: a girl who plays drums, Janet Weiss (and she does the same in Sleater-Kinney, who had played some hours before that same day at the main stage) and Sam Coombes, who plays keyboards and sings. He turned the sound of his piano into a distorsioned guitar, but despite being only two members, they sounded as a real whole band. I liked them a lot. In the evening, when I got back from other stages, I could see a The Verve´s good copy, called Witness (they´re even from Wigan too), but despite their similar style, and above all, their similar voice to Richard Aschroft, they had real good songs. The Webb Brothers played next, and I liked them quite a lot, reminding me to a mix of bands like Super Furry Animals and the most psychedelic The Beatles, adding some pleasant choruses to their great songs. The Delgados had some sound problems, and I think they had a better gig at Benicassim Festival three weeks ago. And Cinerama were just nice! They sounded really fine an made me dream with their songs.

    This day I didn´t like the medium stage as much as the day before. I didn´t like bands such as Fungus or Ten Benson. But on the other side, I enjoyed very much My Life Story´s gig: it was wonderful, vibrant, sounding epic accompanied by a string quartet and a wind section. Six By Seven developed their particular psychedelia very slowly, creating a progressive and intense spiral of sound which wraped us all around… Symposium, after them, were crushing; it was impossible to try to reach the first rows, as great amounts of people remained jumping and dancing all over the powerful gig, even in one song, Madness´ singer Suggs went up onto the stage to sing a song with them. 3 Colours Red made their last gig, as after it they would split as a band. This would not be my favourite gig.

    On Saturday it would be the best day at the main stage, even I could not arrive on time to see Atari Teenage Riot, and even though there were some bands I didn´t like very much, such as Sleater-Kinney, or Beth Orton; I couldn´t stand this last one as she seemed, I mean she was, a boring folk-singer. I neither liked Fun Lovin´ Criminals nor Catatonia, who seemed too commercial, and even close to Spice Girls. But on the other side, I could enjoy very much with Sebadoh and Pavement, who were very pleasant and kind, making real efforts to please the british audience. But the nice surprise of the evening were The Divine Comedy; Neil Hannon was very talkative and charming with his fans, offering us the best of their albums, and playing even Portishead´ All Mine. The last ones that night were Blur, who made a great gig, with all the people singing their hits, and playing almost all their singles during nearly two hours. They even had to play bises twice. Damon Albarn was very friendly and was accompanied by a string and wind section,…

    The last day was different. I was not interested in the main stage, as there would play bands such as Pitchshifter, Feeder, Sick Of It All, The Offspring, Terrorvision, Backyard Babies, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so on… then I only would hear something from the main stage on my way from one little stage to the other, but I have to recognize that I enjoyed some minutes with Terrorvision, The Offspring and Red Hot Chili Peppers. This day was a bit different, because the dance stage also changed. It turned into the Vans Warped Tour, where bands as Pennywise, Ice T, Hepcat or Suicidal Tendencies would play all day.

    Although I missed the first bands playing in the morning, as I entered a record market, just when I entered the place I went straight to the medium stage to see The Auteurs, as I´m a great fan of them, and it was the first time I saw them live, and I enjoyed very much their gig, but they wouldn´t play Showgirl, my favourite song. After them, the american Fountains Of Wayne would play nicely, showing that they felt very comfortable at this Festival. They sounded fine and made us sing all their hits from their first album, and some from the last one. After them, Arab Strap also made a great gig, trying to take us into their sick and tense atmospheres.

    I went to the small stage to see Younger Younger 28´s, and they seemed too comical for me, and I didn´t like them. But on the other side, I liked Dark Star (much better than three weeks before at Benicásim´s Festival) and Subcircus, who had great songs with some strange glam touch, and other songs not so good, but the real surprise of this small stage this day would be Cornelius, an authentic japanese pop band, with a great attitude and with nice pop songs.

    After them I went back into the medium stage, where I could see Flaming Lips, who I enjoyed very much. It was one of my favourite gigs all over the festival. A pleasant surprise I didn´t expect. I got astonished from the very first moment and until the last one, and I thought it was too short. They reminded me to Mercury Rev, and on the stage, Wayne performed a different character in each song. The show was like a theatre performance, with different characters that Wayne himself would perform, helped by some puppets, which sang with him some songs. There was a big screen on the stage, where strange psychedelic images were shot during some songs, like Wayne singing with his face covered in blood, and sometimes there was a drummer on the screen, who didn´t exist on the stage although he did sound. Mansun would play last, and met a lot of their teen fans, who would not stop jumping, shaking and singing their songs all over the gig. I only enjoyed some songs.

© Rafa Skam