Well, it’s finally here.
After weeks of waiting and numerous ‘leaks’ (queue bad vegetable patch / plumbing joke), we finally have the Reading and Leeds festival line up.
And I am extremely pleased to say it is a very pleasant surprise. The headliners are no curve ball, with The Cure, Kasabian and Foo Fighters being the names on everybody’s lips for a long while, but it is the so called ‘undercard’ that is the real announcement here. Bands like Bullet For My Valentine and Coheed and Cambria I suspect will shock and please many, whilst still retaining many stalwarts of the festival such as Enter Shikari and You Me At Six.
The thing that strikes most on first inspection is the balance. This is, in my opinion, by far the most balanced of line ups we have seen from Reading and Leeds in the last decade. Acts ranging from Cancer Bats, to Crystal Castles to Mystery Jets all gracing the hallowed main stage, represent a line up that will have at least three of four acts to suit the majority of the festivals different and discerning ears.
Not only this, but it represents a step in the right direction for the event. Far too easily in recent years have people been able to complain about the festivals tendency to move away from Reading’s metal roots into more indie and generally mainstream territory, but there can be no doubt this year has done some towards quelling those rumblings.
The most exciting act on that line up for me personally has to be Bullet For My Valentine. Maybe I haven’t been keeping up with the rumour mill, but I hadn’t heard their name and Reading mentioned in the same breath in the build up to this announcement, so there announcement has brought a very welcome sense of anticipation.
It is also great to see an act like Pulled Apart By Horses’ hard work on the lower stages over the years rewarded, making the step gradually from BBC Introducing a few years ago to this opening slot on main. The new album, Tough Love, lived up to the hype and excitement generated off the back of the debut, and the boys from Leeds will surely follow up that release with a storming opening to Sunday main stage.
But I wonder if the two everyone will be talking about when the weekend is over and done will be Justice and At The Drive-In.
At The Drive-In’s status as post hardcore forefathers and legends will do no harm to the festivals ticket sales, and since their reformation they are arguably one of the hottest tickets on the planet. This combined with their reputation for energetic live shows and universal critical acclaim surely makes them dead certs for a gloriously successful performance. The Grammy award winning duo Justice also tick many boxes, huge record sales coupled with hits like Genesis and D.A.N.C.E . hopefully promising another NME headline set to remember.
This leads me to the inevitable down side to any festival announcement; the disappointments. All festivals have them, no matter how strong the line up, and Reading if of course no exception.
Having seen Paramore sub Blink-182 in 2010, I feel safe in saying that they do not deserve such a high slot at a festival like Reading. A relatively poor live act (Hayley’s voice simply does not cut it in such an environment) and feeling a little weak compared to the inspired booking of The Black Keys and contemporary favourite Florence, I wonder if those two hours on Friday evening may be the time for a bit of relaxation at the tent.
And I surely cannot be the only person who feels like Foster the People have not done enough to earn a sub headline spot on the NME? Enough said on that one really.
Finally, the last but most certainly not the least contentious issue, The Cure. Are they really big enough in this day and age to headline Reading Festival? The short answer for me; no. They are not contemporary enough, and the relatively young audience Reading caters to demand big contemporary headliners. Reformations just about fit the bill, justifying Blink’s booking, but simply grabbing a few old members isn’t enough. I can’t deny phenomenal record sales The Cure have to their name, but they have been banging around for an awfully long time, and have little to show for it since the averagely received 4:13 Dream. Hell, a lot of my friends didn’t know who The Cure were until rumours for Reading popped up, and I think that is a testament to the fact that Festival Republic simply miss the younger demographic entirely with their booking.
In essence, the line up is a good one; any line up that exceeds expectations can be considered that. A few arguable bookings, but no clangers, and in the end, that has to be a success eh? At least we aren’t looking at another year of Bloc Party subbing the main stage, or a rehash of previous line ups, we are looking at something relatively fresh, but with enough old faces to keep everybody comfortable.
All in all, a job well done Festival Republic.