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The Main Stage Guide

Ranging from bands that need no introduction to young bands given their chance to shine, Reading Festival’s main stage is where the biggest crowds are to be found.  So will this year’s big names deliver the goods?  Will someone lower down the bill steal the show? Even on Reading’s biggest stage not everyone may be familiar from what may be on offer, so here is Strictly Reading’s guide to the Main Stage at 2011’s Festival.


Let’s have a look at the big names that sit at the top of the Main Stage line-up, the bands that have been given the biggest and most important slots of all. Will they be up to the challenge or are they set up for a fall?

MCR: Loved By Fans, Loathed By Pandas

My Chemical Romance 

Controversial Headliner choice My Chemical Romance have certainly been the talking point in the run up to this year’s festival, with many arguing they look out of place sat at the top of the line-up alongside seasoned stadium rockers Muse, influential indie kings The Strokes and the reunited Britpoppers Pulp. So is the criticism justified?

Only time will tell, although the band has had a less than sterling reputation as a live band in the past recent showings at this year’s T in the Park and iTunes Festival (among others) show that the band has improved and grown as a live act of late. As for the setlist expect MCR to lean heavily on new album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys while drawing occasionally from the bigger hits from the rest of their back catalogue.

Highlight of the set? The Black Parade – Their biggest single, guaranteed sing-along and possibly a track that could win the neutrals over.

For a more detailed look at My Chemical Romance look at our Article here:http://www.strictlyrandl.com/features/introducing-the-headliners-my-chemical-romance/

Jarvis Cocker: Still An Amazing Frontman, Still Looks Like A Geography Teacher


Headliners at Leeds and playing underneath The Strokes at Reading, you can expect 90s Britpop band Pulp to deliver with plenty of energy and plenty of great songs. Having played numerous shows already this year from the Isle of Wight festival to a secret slot at Glastonbury, they have been getting glowing live reviews. Jarvis Cocker and co have really mixed it up in terms of song choices over the tour so a real career spanning set is likely to be in store for all.

Reunited Pulp produced a more refreshing, interesting and less bland take on making music during the 90 Britpop era and are sure to grip everyone’s attention. Songs packed with Energy and Melodies are a perfect fit for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds. If one question is to be asked it’s that you wonder if the festival’s generally younger audience will take to Pulp in the same way as they’ve been at other shows this year.

Highlight of the Set? Common People – Who doesn’t know the words to this right? Massive single of the 90s which will get a huge reception.

The Strokes: If Festivals Were Fashion Shoots, They'd Headline Every Year

The Strokes

New York indie rock band The Strokes could not possibly find a festival with a better musical fit than at Reading and Leeds. A band that directly influenced an indie rock revival in the UK, leaving a trail of great (and not so great) bands counting them as an influence.

Returning to England with a new album in tow The Strokes are likely to roll out some new songs amongst the big hits. Of late looked like they’ve been going through the motions a little and not enjoying life as a touring band, a lacklustre performance earlier in the year at Radio 1’s Big Weekend being an example. We can only hope that they deliver the raw rock and roll enthral they’re capable of.

Highlight of the Set? Last Night – Huge single that pushed them in to the spotlight and remains a modern day classic.

For a more detailed look at The Strokes, go to our article here: http://www.strictlyrandl.com/features/introducing-the-headliners-the-strokes/



Returning to R&L to headline for the 2nd time, Muse have a massive live reputation to live up to. The band will look to fill their 2 hour set with a full run through of 2001’s Origin of Symmetry to celebrate it’s 10th anniversary, as well as some big singles.

Now at the end of their touring cycle for newest album The Resistance they’re looking to do something different before heading back to the studio in September, this includes bringing a stage show designed especially for Reading and Leeds as well as dusting down tracks from Origin of Symmetry that haven’t been played in years. You feel a certain weight of expectancy on the band with their massive live reputation and with them being experienced Festival/Stadium Headliners. Muse are a band that rarely disappoint and this year’s set at R&L is going to be unmissable.

Highlight of the Set? Hyper Music – You really have to pick a song from Origin of Symmetry to be a highlight and Hyper Music is going to be special, being a song that has not been played since the band finished the touring cycle for Origin of Symmetry.

For a more detailed look at Muse, go to our article here:  http://www.strictlyrandl.com/features/introducing-the-headliners-muse/

 Seasoned Veterans

Even outside the big names at the top of the bill there are always a few acts that have been around the block a few times to add their weight to the Main Stage line-up. This year is not different so here’s our pick of the seasoned veterans.

Madness: I would Say They Look Ridiculous Doing This At Their Age, But They Always Looked Ridiculous.


2 Tone/Ska legends who are set to play a mid-afternoon slot on the Main Stage will find themselves in the perfect setting. Let’s hope the weather matches the sunny upbeat mood of Madness, who will undoubtedly get the crowd skanking along. Sure to be a set filled with nothing but hits, and there’s plenty of them. There is no doubt that whoever I in the vicinity will leave with a massive smile on their face.

Highlight of the Set? Hard to answer this time… House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love, One Step Beyond, Driving in My Car, Our House. Choose one of those!


Returning after a set hit with sound issues in 2009, and with a new album to draw from Deftones are often touted as hit or miss live, let’s hope this year is a hit after a personally disappointing set last time around.

2010 album Diamond Eyes has had it’s fair share of critical acclaim with many great songs that will work their way in to this year’s set. Deftones will provide the rare sight of credible Alternative Metal on the Main Stage in 2011, with detuned guitars and infectious groove.

Highlight of the Set? Knife Party… If they play it. Please play it. If not title track from the new album Diamond Eyes will be a great live moment for sure.

The Offspring

Many were left scratching their heads at seeing this bands name below that of 30 Seconds to Mars, the successful 90s punk outfit will probably rely on a greatest hits set of sorts in the limited time they have. As yet another band with plenty of live experience (including a headline set at Download Festival only a short few years ago) will bring a polished live show to the Main Stage of Reading and Leeds.

Highlight of the Set? Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)  -  Again SO many songs to choose from but I’m going to plump for one that will get even the casual Offspring fans engaged.

For a more detailed look at The Offspring,  go to our article here:


Big Breaks

Aside from the obvious massive names and returning bands, there are also bands being given a big break in the shape of a position on R&L’s biggest stage. A chance to win over new fans and prove they are worthy of the big stage.

The Joy Formidable

Welsh noise rock trio have been slowly climbing up festival bills and gaining fans all over the world over the past few years, and this year they will be opening the Main Stage before The Strokes and Pulp later that day.

With first full release The Big Roar finally coming out earlier this year the band are really turning heads now. A fantastic live show filled with energy and emotion (and gongs), captivating front-woman Ritzy Bryan will lead the band through what may be one of the surprising success stories of the Main Stage.

Highlight of the Set? Whirring – A song that has always been performed with incredible energy and urgency live, will be a definite highlight.

The National

Some may call this a strange choice, a band so high up the bill and doing incredibly well in America, however they haven’t quite hit the same level of success this side of the Atlantic. Will their set be a roaring success or met with mass apathy?

The American rockers have had massive critical acclaim for both newest album High Violet and preceding album Boxer. Stylistically they can be compared to a few bands that have been accepted well at R&L in the past, including fellow Main Stagers Interpol and Elbow so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t go down well. Yet again another band with the potential to surprise people.

Highlight of the Set? Blood Buzz Ohio – I’ll come clean and say I’m not the most familiar with what the band’s big songs are and what’s likely to be played, but I can imagine this being a real moment live.

Two Door Cinema Club

It’s been a big 12 months for this indie band from Northern Ireland since they played last year (drawing a massive crowd), appearing on Jools Holland, making it to Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage and lots of radio play have thrown them in to the public conscious.

Now they’re ready to take on the Main Stage at R&L with their catchy melodies and infectious beats. With only their debut album to their name expect a set heavily reliant on Tourist History, although it’s likely they might throw in one from their upcoming sophomore effort which they have already began writing. A live act that on their day could win over a few new fans on their path up the festival’s bill.

Highlight of the Set? What You Know – Brilliantly catchy and danceable tune, perfect for their mid-afternoon slot.

Best of the Rest


Jimmy Eat World

I was very close to including Jimmy Eat World in our Veterans section, with a career now spanning over 15 years this Alt Rock band have amassed a huge collection of brilliant songs.

Brilliant guitar music with it’s heard on it’s sleeve is exactly what you get with JEW, anthems and emotion. The hits will probably feature as well as songs from 2010’s Invented and from the rest of their back catalogue. Having been doing it for so long we’re bound to see a great show from the Americans.

Highlight of the Set? “The Middle” – There’s just something about this song, again you could argue it’s another modern classic. The crowd will come alive when the first few chords of The Middle strike up.


Gloomy post-punk band Interpol return to the festival once more, another returning band with a new band under their belt.

They have the potential to be a real highlight, bringing new songs from the new self-titled album as well as some strong material from the past, including the classic Turn on the Bright Lights. I think they could be another massive festival highlight in waiting if they push the right buttons on the evening.

Highlight of the Set? “The Heinrich Maneuver” – Hard to single out one song from a band I don’t really consider as a “singles band”, but I thought I’d pick one which I think will be fantastic live.


Playing just before Muse, with the memory of a triumphant Glastonbury performance fresh in their minds. It really could go either way for Elbow, they could be a very distant memory for festival goers by the time Muse take to the stage or they could make it a repeat of their incredible Glasto performance.

Emotional, atmospheric and uplifting music played by 5 down to earth guys from Manchester. They have a fantastic laid back down to earth rapport which draws you in live, so much so that they can make a festival show feel like an intimate one. They’ll probably draw mainly (if not entirely) from the last two albums, both of which drew masses of critical acclaim.

Highlight of the Set? One Day Like This – Such a fantastic song, can’t wait to hear the “So throw those curtains wide! One day like this a year’d see me right!” refrain echo around the field.



Author: david

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