The Festival Republic Tent is back for a second year, and it’s still my favourite stage. The FR Tent brings a mix of established and emerging acts together from a wild variety of genres, and at its best, the stage takes wild risks. Many bands considered too left field or too quirky for Reading have appeared on this very stage. Some graduate to headline status (Arctic Monkeys) while some dance off over to Glastonbury (Hot Chip), but the stage is always on the cutting edge. So let’s not waste time, let’s dive in.
The Welsh soft rockers have been plying their trade for the best part of 22 years, and like Ash before them, have worked hard to please crowds across both the Main and NME Stages at Reading. This headline slot on the FR Stage feels like a natural reward for a band who have been such a loyal servant to the festival. It will also give them a chance to play to a more hardcore audience of Feeder fans, and could see the band dip into their lengthy back catalogue. We know what to expect by now: heartfelt sing-alongs and bounce along chords.
If Feeder are a vintage rock staple then Sleigh Bells are the daring new vision of rock music. Bruising riffs mixed with ADHD vocals are surrounded by relentless bombast. This duo know how to make a racket and raise eyebrows. Expect thudding basslines, wry moments of sweetness, brutal beatdowns, cheer leader chants, sawing guitar noise, feral screams, soft coos, and everything in between. Sleigh Bells are bananas!
Sunday headliners The View have survived the hype train that surrounded “Wasted Little DJs” and “Same Jeans” and have become a staple of the British rock scene. These Scotts will be the festival’s indie headliner, and will likely showcase material from 2011’s Bread And Circuses and 2012’s Cheeky For A Reason, in between all the big hits you’ve come to know and love.
Reading is The Subways home turf. In the mid-2000s the band and this festival seemed inseparable, but after a brief leave of absence Charlotte, Billy and Josh are back. Expect the usual mix of slightly hamfisted but lovingly earnest rockers. Big sing-alongs (“Oh Yeah”, “Rock ‘n’Roll Queen”) will sit alongside bruising guitar workouts (“Boys & Girls”) and the Subways will be met with little resistance from what is sure to be a hyper-active crowd.
The Futureheads (A Capella & Acoustic)
Now this could be interesting. The Futureheads are famous for their spikey and incisive brand of indie pop, and it’s hard to imagine the band recapturing that level of pointed intensity without their guitars. “Hounds Of Love” highlighted the bands acapella potential, but can you imagine “Decent Days and Night” without the ruckus?
Bright Young Things:
Niki & The Dove
Swedes are just naturally melodious right? The nation has spawned so many beautiful pop songs, and inventively quirky takes on popular culture. Niki & The Dove prefer the indie aesthetic mixing gothic howls with faye vocals and burbling and at times bombastic electronics. If you fancy a dance and a croon, these Swedish upstarts might just be the band for you.
Bombay Bicycle Club fans will be more than familiar with little Lucy Rose. This soft rock starlet delivers wonderful waning folk vocals, that recall a more naïve and less brainy Emmy The Great. “Lines” and “Middle Of The Bed” are the product of a crafty songwriter, the former in particular is an amorphous composition that at times confounds expectation.
And yes, he lives up to the name with his preposterously brilliant look. If your expecting pomposity however, you may be disappointed. Instead King Charles prefers spritely, understated and intelligent indie. Think Vampire Weekend and you’ll be on the right track. He’s not one to shy away from a saccharine melody and he’s more than happy to flirt with the cornier aspects of his character, which will enrage and enliven fans in equally measure. If you’re after a self-deprecating Jack Penate, King Charles might just be the man for you.
If King Charles was a little too zany for your tastes, you might prefer the more traditional sounds of Zulu Winter. They largely play to expectation with shimmering synths backing up a spacious array of indie riffs. Will Daunt has a knack for a sweeping hook, and the band specialize in chilly indie – think a more spacious White Lies.
Now For Something A Little Harder:
Graduating from the BBC Introducing stage are Bedford’s Don Broco. These drole rockers like to play with the quiet-loud dynamic, switching from pacey but soft verses to slamming choruses. The band sit between post-hardcore and indie, holding in their screams, and instead delivering some great ironic lines. One for punks and rockers alike.
We Are The In Crowd
Specializing in the kind of scathing pop punk that has propelled Paramore to the top of the main stage, New York’s We Are The In Crowd should go down a treat at Reading. If you like your punk buoyant and full of slick hooks and fist pumping escapist moments then this is the act for you.
Post-hardcore stars Young Guns have wasted no time making a name for themselves on the UK scene with debut album All Our Kings Are Dead and 2012’s follow up release Bones. Their sophomore LP in particular showcases the band’s ability to marry crunching breakdowns with genuinely inescapable hooks and a chin up feel.
Lower Than Atlantis
Hertfordshire’s Lower Than Atlantis were blighted by Biffy Clyro comparison for quite sometime, and while their choppy guitar rhythms, awkward twangs and soaring choruses recall the Scotts – LTA have developed their own sound across two successful albums. The all around rockers are likely to be debuting material from Changing Tune, due out in October, it will be the band’s major debut.
Sure to pound the life out of their drumkits and milk every lasts droning fuzzed out blur from their guitars are The Minutes. It’s not big, and it’s certainly not clever, but these guys will draw the rock and roll braggadocio out of practically any arrangement. So if you fancy some vintage stomping rock’n’roll you know where to look.
Tales From The Art House:
London’s haunting post-punk sensations may only have released a handful of recordings, but they’ve already scarred the hell out of the London scene. Sold out dates have followed them across the capital, as fans clamour for a taste of the edge and wonderfully disconcerting hiss of “Husbands”. The band’s sound is so fractious and feral, you feel as though the band could disintergrate at any moment, making them an absolute must see at Reading 2012.
Want to get trapped in a luscious and inescapable sonic mist of hushed cries and gentle croons? If so, 2:54 are the girls for you. This duo deals in gorgeous seeping gothic soundscapes, the type that hold audiences prisoner for hours. Think a hybrid of The xx and Warpaint, the latters groves and the formers gentle understatement, and you’re half way there.
The sporadically brilliant Iceage are ragged as fuck. There’s no other way to do their sound justice. Post-punk on steroids, the band hurtle downhill, instruments clanging and colliding to create bizarrely wonderful noise. In amongst the madness these Dane’s know how to write a hook and “I’m Blessed” should get everyone singing, before “Broken Bones” puts the entire tent back on edge.
The One Line Wrap Up:
Veronica Falls: If I tell you they have a single called “Found Love In A Graveyard” you’d probably have an idea how this brooding spectral outfit sound.
Bastille: Singer-songwriter vocals fight against and float above some inventive, punchy, and occasional confused arrangements to create Bastille’s fusion sound.
ALT-J: Quirky by designed, Alt-J are annoyingly clever, with fluid jazzy arrangements and surprising effective vocals – honestly try and resist “Breezeblocks” – I dare you.
We Are Augustines: Yelping grandstanding recalls Modest Mouse, but We Are Augustine’s never feel uncomfortable as they punch out their gentle arty jams.
Jeff The Brotherhood: Jeff The Brotherhood have been written great alternative anthems for a while now, and whether their irreverent (“Six Pack”) or straight laced (“Stay Up Late”) they rarely miss their target.
Fidlar: “Wake Bake Skate” sounds wild and if you want a party band who don’t have a life, job or phone then this is the proto-punk act for you.
Palma Violets: Monumentally hyped Palma Voilets have managed to keep their sound largely under wraps, but a series of enticing live performances have revealed them to be exciting and occasionally epic brooders.
O’Brother: These American rockers know how to mixed straight rock thrills with clever emotional expression.
Funeral Suits: Twee Dublin rockers try their hand at cutting social commentary but fall massively short, luckily, at their best they are capable of creating shrewd indie arrangements.
Dog Is Dead: This Nottingham five-piece waltz and jazzily float around weaving oddly spefic narratives in process, with choiral coos.
Jake Bugg: Chances are you know Nottingham retro-rocker Jake Bugg from his referential hit “Lightening Bolt” – while he prefers a vintage palette his other tracks like “Taste It” have slightly more modern production.
Oberhofer: Art house superstar Oberhofer seemed to lose his shine when his debut album was met with middling reviews, still if you like easy sing alongs and mischievous arrangements he may just win you over.
The Knux: Slamming hip hop with some retro-flourishes and a playful Southern-flow with traditional beats.
Citizens!: Alex Kapranos’ favourite new band Citizens ironically endearing indie that seethes sexily across the dancefloor.
Theme Park: Drawing slightly exaggerated comparisons to The Talking Heads, ethereal indie popsters Theme Park, know how to dance without switching their brains off.
Blood Or Whiskey: Will be bring some vintage Irish influenced punk to the FR Stage on Saturday morning.
Benjamin Leftwich Francis: is back for a second year and he still has the girls swooning with his artful acoustic heartache.
S.C.U.M.: Haunting synthed up post-punk that recalls The Horrors with a glossier veneer.
Alberta Cross: The strained vocals of folk rockers Alberta Cross is likely to divide opinion, but Petter Stakee’s tone is music to your ears, they’ll be well worth a watch.
DZ Deathrays: Sexy guitars, panting vocals, wild screams and toe tapping beats are the DZs territory – if you want to party your arse off for 30 minutes, you cannot miss this set.
TOY: The expansive ever evolving sound of Toy may have earned the band a series of Horrors’ comparisons, but beneath their brooding image lies the kind of talent and inventiveness that should help the band stand out in their own right.
Deap Valley: “Gonna Make My Own Money” is a White Stripes-ish riot with wild vocals and the kind of storming licks that should win Reading over in an instance.
The Cast Of Cheers: Funkateers The Cast Of Cheers hop from homely indie to RHCP style funk work outs effortlessly.