Friday, 29 August 2014

Reading Festival 22-23-24/08/2014

I'm not gonna write this like a normal review; examining and cross-examining all of the acts I saw in this, the best weekend of my life, because that would take the fun out of things. At festivals, I think one of the best things to do is to have fun, make friends and investigate new bands you've never thought to listen to before, all things of which I did a lot of. 
However, as I have this review blog, when it came to bands I loved and had seen before, or bands that I had (usually inaccurate) preconceptions about, I thought it would be much more beneficial for you for me to talk about things that I feel I am an expert in the field of. Am I an expert of dance music? No. 100% not. So am I reviewing any of the (snippets of) dance songs I discovered this weekend, while running from the NME/BBC Radio 1 stage to the main stage? No. Do I feel as though I'm an expert in rock music? Hell yes. So that's what you'll be getting from this review. Now you know this, it feels like time to jump in, so let's start with... 


First up was the highly anticipated 'global debut' (actually the third global show, but a festival debut is pretty decent boasting too) of ex-My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way. With the release of 'Action Cat' just two months ago, many of the songs featured in the set were unknown, but that didn't make it any less fun or any less compelling. Gerard Way is a frontman and a half; charismatic, charming and filled with boundless energy. Wearing the blue suit instantly recognisable from the recently released 'Hesitant Alien' album artwork, the crowd in the well-filled tent were automatically bouncing along to the opening notes of 'Bureau', followed by the singalong 'Action Cat'. His third song (which I've since found out was titled 'Zero Zero' was captivating and it's not often you see a crowd so enthralled with unknown songs. Breaking it up with 'Millions', the track that started the rumour mill about a solo project so many months ago, is a stroke of genius, keeping the crowd interested throughout 'Juarez', 'Drugstore Perfume' and 'Get The Gang Together', which featured Gerard screaming like a man possessed, exuding everything that made My Chemical Romance so spectacular. The lyrics to 'No Shows' were released last week and despite that being relatively recently fans were already singing along as though the album had been released. Finishing the set up with The Jesus and Mary Chain cover 'Snakedriver' might have seemed like an odd move, but I think it puts a nice comma in the sentence that is Gerard Way's new chapter. And with US shows in October just announced and the promise of UK shows in November, we'll be seeing more of Gerard Way soon, and that can never be a bad thing.

After a bit of a wander about and some encounters with bands I've been meaning to check out, I arrived at main stage to see Deaf Havana who, sadly, just didn't seem to be in best form today. Their headline show at Oxford in April was absolutely superb but today James Veck-Gilodi seemed to be struggling through the songs, making '22', 'Boston Square' and 'Anemophobia' seemed strained and messy which was a real shame.

Contrastingly, after running across field to Mallory Knox I couldn't have been more pleased. Arriving in the tent for my personal favourite 'Wake Up' I was surprised and proud to see such an amazing crowd reaction for the band who were main stage openers last year. With 'Asymmetry' coming out in just two months time I was expecting a good mix of new and old material and I wasn't disappointed, with the set consisting of 'Death Rattle', '1949', 'Hello' and 'Lighthouse', dispersed with new song 'The Remedy' and recent release 'QOD II'. When I saw Mallory Knox at Slam Dunk in May I felt a little disillusioned, with them not really living up to my expectations, but give them time to have a break and a stage like this and they certainly do shine. With their upcoming November tour featuring support from Frnkiero and the cellabration it was already worth checking out, but if you're only going for Frank, please stick around for an amazing performance by Mallory Knox.

Following Mallory Knox, with another run across the field, I arrived at Jimmy Eat World's main stage set in the middle of 'Praise Chorus'. With their second set, headlining the Lock Up Stage later in the day, rumoured to be the tenth anniversary playback of the 'Futures' album in full, I wasn't sure what to expect from this set, but I saw a brilliant mix of the best of an underrated band. For most of the set (comprised of 'My Best Theory', 'Big Casino', 'Chase This Light', 'Let It Happen', 'I Will Steal You Back' and 'Authority Song') there was little to none crowd reaction, but finishing up with two fan favourites, 'Sweetness' and 'The Middle' saw people running to the stage to dance to songs they would have been craving to hear live ten years ago. Jimmy Eat World might be one of the most experienced bands on the bill today, but they're definitely not one of the most disappointing.

The same can be said for Glaswegian rockers Twin Atlantic. After (yet another) trek back up to the NME/BBC Radio 1 tent, I managed to hear the end of 'Free', followed by the beautifully soul-touching acoustic 'Crash Land'. 'Make A Beast Of Myself' had the entire crowd singing along, mimicking vocalist Sam McTrusty's accent on the word 'universe' proving how much the fans care about this band. Wrapping up with 'Heart and Soul', the first single from their recently released third album 'The Great Divide' (which went into the UK Official Album Charts in a brilliant sixth position) was predictable but memorable and I will definitely be catching these guys again.

Next up were Enter Shikari who, sadly, were not having a great day. Due to distortion and mic problems, it just wasn't their finest house. With drummer Rob Rolfe wearing a 'Love Syria' shirt and singer Rou Reynolds focusing on educating and inspiring the crowd to 'Say no to homophobia. No to sexism and misogyny. No to the slimy 1% who own 50% of the world's money', the music side of things is just lacking. 'Sorry, You're Not A Winner' evokes the expected crowd response of clapping and chanting along and 'Arguing With Thermometers' makes people go crazy, but other than that the set seems odd and unrecognisable. But this could have just been the distortion and mic problems, with sound fluctuating between loud and quiet and an inability to make out which song was being played at points throughout the set, as I've never seen a bad Shikari show.

Later on in the day, the second Jimmy Eat World set was revealed to be the highly anticipated 'Futures' in full, showing a much better reaction from the crowd that was mostly comprised of hardcore Jimmy fans. Sadly, I only caught the beginning of the show, as I was beyond excited to see Paramore, but they seemed to be performing better than they did in their earlier set.

Before I even start writing about Paramore, I'm gonna be completely honest and say this is going to be biased. Paramore have been one of my favourite bands for as long as I can remember and I've never managed to catch any of their live shows. So I obviously found their performance completely flawless. I'm sure you've already heard about the sound issues during 'Ignorance' and the acappella performance of 'The Only Exception', but those issues just made the show a once in a lifetime experience. Yes, it was a shame that the headline set that should have been an absolute triumph was riddled with issues, but it just showed what professionals Paramore is comprised of. Instead of taking a break, leaving the crowd booing and unhappy, they carried on despite the fact that everything was against them, and they battled through and came out on top. Anyone who has ever accused vocalist Hayley Williams of lip-syncing could completely eat their words, because her vocal performance was completely on form and utterly free of pitching issues. I've already admitted that I'm completely biased, but I like to think it was rightly so. All of my preconceptions about Paramore were absolutely confirmed. They truly are one of the best bands on the planet.

Still Into You
That's What You Get
For A Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic
The Only Exception
Last Hope
Brick By Boring Brick
Misery Business
Let The Flames Begin
Part II
Ain't It Fun

On the other hand, fellow co-headliners Queens Of The Stone Age just weren't Reading material. Playing their most popular song, 'No One Knows', second in their set caused a large chunk of the crowd to flood away to other stages, or to even leave the festival early. Singer Josh Homme seemed too introverted and melancholy after the absorbing stage presence of Hayley, making the set feel long and boring. It feels like they are a band much more suited for a headline slot at Download or Sonisphere. While most people were doubting Paramore's suitability as a headline act, it seems that people should have been worrying about Queens of The Stone Age's ability much more. Without even thanking the crowd or saying goodnight the set ended rather abruptly, making the conclusion of Friday night rather anti-climactic.


The first band I had previous knowledge of on the Saturday were Lonely The Brave, who played at Warped Tour UK back in November and performed on BBC Radio 1 Rocks back in June. Their set at Warped Tour was pretty forgettable and they were completely overshadowed at Radio 1 Rocks by the other superb bands who were performing in that week (namely Of Mice and Men, Mallory Knox and Lower Than Atlantis). And no matter how much I wanted Reading to tell a different story, it was just much of the same. The start of the set seemed stronger than usual, with vocalist David Jakes communicating with the crowd and proving his soaring vocals are something that sets them apart from the rest of the upcoming British rock scene, but after ten minutes every song in the set sounded exactly the same. Maybe, when they have a few albums under their belt, they'll have more of a variety, but at this current time they really aren't living up to their potential.

A band who were living up to their potential are American Authors, best known for song of the summer 'Best Day Of My Life', who absolutely smashed their first UK festival appearance. A lot of the songs were relatively unknown but that didn't stop the crowd from bouncing along at every opportunity, showing that these guys really are ones to watch.

Running from American Authors over to the BBC Introducing stage for their secret set, it was an utter disappointment to approach the tent and discover Jake Bugg wailing out his so-called 'hit songs'. For a secret set the crowd turn out was appalling and I wasn't about to add to it, leaving immediately to catch the end of Royal Blood's set (who, despite being a band I'd never listened to before, blew me away).

Next up, Lower Than Atlantis, who have been throwing out hits left, right and centre in the lead-up to their self-titled album release next month. The set started off much the same as any Lower Than Atlantis set; 'If The World Was To End', 'Love Someone Else' and 'Motorway of Life' evoking the same usual, amazing singalongs, followed by 'Marilyn's Mansion' which seemed like an odd choice for a festival but got everyone moving more than I expected it would. 'Deadliest Catch' kept the tempo up and continued the throwback to older tunes, followed by 'Another Sad Song', with the lyrics "we all make mistakes from time to time, unfortunately for me, being me was mine", giving a heart-breaking look inside the head of vocalist and lyricist Mike Duce. Following this touching moment with 'English Kids In America' perfectly exemplifies the development that the band have gone through in the last three years, with 'Beech Like The Tree' inserted between the new songs, meaning that 'Here We Go' closed their set. This was a complete triumph for a band who have gone from strength to strength and can only get stronger. If Lower Than Atlantis are performing at Reading Festival next year, they need to be on main stage and they need to be pretty high up on the bill; it's only what they deserve.

If The World Was To End
Love Someone Else
Motorway of Life
Marilyn's Mansion
Deadliest Catch
Another Sad Song
English Kids In America
Beech Like The Tree
Here We Go

Following Lower Than Atlantis, over on main stage, were The Hives. I've only ever known two songs by The Hives; 'Tick Tick BOOM' and 'Hate To Say I Told You So', so I didn't have any expectations from their live performance, but it was the weirdest thing I've ever experienced. Period. At the halfway point in 'Tick Tick BOOM' all of the members froze on stage for a good minute or two, while ninjas swapped members guitars. Singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist got all of the crowd sitting down, shouting "Don't stand up, I'll tell you when to stand up! I said sit down, don't take a picture!" before taking a selfie with a fan and running further and further out into the crowd, with a worried security guard tailing him the entire way. The banter was impeccable ("Everybody shut up for a while!") and despite the fact that it was completely bizarre and one of the most random things I've ever witnessed, I'm not gonna be forgetting The Hives live show any time soon.

Back over to the NME/BBC Radio 1 stage and it's time for one of my all time favourite bands, Don Broco. Starting off with a partially acoustic 'Yeah Man', before exploding into fan favourite 'Thug Workout', singer Rob Damiani was quick to establish "I don't want anyone getting squashed, take care of each other alright!" and while the push-up squad might not have been out in full force today there were still a hell of a lot of people who turned out to see this magnificent performance. Despite the fact that the microphone disconnected quite early into the set, the crowd carried them through the issues meaning that everything was resolved before it became a nuisance. The problem was fixed before they jumped into 'The Whole Truth', following it up with a new song that includes everything we've learnt to love in a Don Broco song; woah-oh singalongs and drummer Matt Donnelly performing backing vocals. The rest of the set comprised of everything you'd expect from Don Broco: 'Priorities', 'Fancy Dress', 'Let's Go Back To School' (with a pre-song call out to Lonely The Brave, Marmozets and Lower Than Atlantis for being with them in the school of upcoming rock), 'Actors', finishing with 'You Wanna Know', the song that had been out for less than a week last time they played at Reading Festival. If you haven't heard of Don Broco you need to check them out right now, as they've been announced as the headliner for the Kerrang! Tour 2015 and their new album is going to be absolutely fantastic.

Yeah Man
Thug Workout
The Whole Truth
New Song
Fancy Dress
Let's Go Back To School
You Wanna Know

Both Foster The People and Imagine Dragons did rather predictable set closers; the former finishing with their biggest two hits 'Pumped Up Kicks' and 'Don't Stop (Color On The Walls)' and the latter performing the extended version of 'Radioactive' that has become well known on the festival circuit in the last year.

I was excited about seeing Issues and was not disappointed, even with only knowing a couple of the songs they played. The sing-along for 'King Of Amarillo' was a brilliant show of how they are quickly growing to have a huge fanbase and, with the announcement that they're supporting Bring Me The Horizon on their debut show at Wembley Arena, that fanbase is only going to get larger.

Jake Bugg and Arctic Monkeys are both acts that I would never have willingly gone to see out of a festival environment, so I was extremely hesitant about attending either during Saturday night. But with no one else to see, that's exactly where I ended up. Jake Bugg and his wailing vocal had not improved from his earlier acoustic set, much to my dismay, so fighting through bleeding ears I hung around for the end of his set before taking a break to go and listen to Band of Skulls, who played the uplifting and catchy as hell tune 'I Know What I Am' which cheered me up immensely. Arctic Monkeys were, surprisingly, better than Jake, playing a lot of songs that I actually recognised: 'Do I Wanna Know?', 'Arabella', 'Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair' and, my personal favourite, 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor'. Despite the fact that I absolutely detest the band I can't discredit from their ability to headline a festival of this stature, even though it absolutely pains me to say that it was a pretty decent set.

But there was no way I was staying for the rest of it, because that would have meant missing Of Mice and Men. And that was just not happening. Kicking off with 'Public Service Announcement', the opening track from newest full length 'Restoring Force', showed screamer Austin Carlile bursting into action and the high energy lasted through the rest of their fifty minute set. Since the release of 'Restoring Force' back in January I've been saying it's one of the best albums I've ever heard, and that doesn't change in a live environment. The set was flecked with older songs, such as 'OG Loko' and 'The Depths', but the majority was comprised of their new release, with 'Feels Like Forever', 'Bones Exposed', 'Would You Still Be There?' and 'You're Not Alone' all included in the set. Newest addition to the band, Aaron Pauley, proved how invaluable he is with his spectacular vocal performance and showed everyone that this might be a heavy band but they can have their emotional moments. With this being their first time playing Reading festival it was brilliant to see such a great crowd reaction and these guys are definitely one of the biggest cross-over bands from this genre into the mainstream. If they aren't back at Reading festival in the future, it'll only be because they're too busy headlining Download or Sonisphere.


Opening main stage on the Sunday were The Story So Far, a band I didn't have much previous knowledge of but had always intended to listen to, who put on a great performance and had a good crowd turnout for such an early band on the final day of the festival. With the recent stunt that Parker Cannon pulled on Warped tour (if you don't know what I'm talking about check it out) everyone had been talking about this band and they were definitely worth arriving early to experience. Despite the fact that I didn't know any of the songs I still had a very enjoyable time, and with Parker saying "Thank you for supporting us when we sucked! Well... We still suck," it shows that this band have got a long way to go before the understand the talent that they possess.

Next up, Emily's Army on the Lock Up stage. Drummer Joey Armstrong, son of Green Day's legendary singer Billie Joe Armstrong, is the reason that most people know about this band but they aren't as similar as I had expected. You can definitely see the influence, don't get me wrong, but there are also vibes from The Beach Boys which make Emily's Army an amazing combination. Again, I didn't know any of the songs (apart from their cover of 'Dancing On My Own' by Robyn) so I can't really assess whether they lived up to their songs in a live environment, but the show was fun and absorbing so I can't really fault it anyway.

I checked in on Tonight Alive for two songs: 'What Are You So Scared Of?' and 'Listening'. Quite frankly, I wish I hadn't bothered. After the show at Oxford I was feeling so much more enamored with Tonight Alive, because I'd never really managed to see the appeal that's caused such a huge fan base growth so quickly for them. At their Oxford show Jenna McDougall seemed so down to earth, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but walking around stage in yellow jumpsuit trousers and a humongous hat paired with dreadlocked hair, it was just so far removed from that performance. Before anyone starts ranting, I don't judge musicians ability on their looks, it was just one of the many reasons I was confused by this sudden alteration. Her voice seemed shrill and off pitch and it just didn't live up to what I'd seen only five days before. One of the reasons I could see the appeal of Tonight Alive was because of how normal and easy to relate to they seemed to be, but that's completely changed now.

Another thing that completely changed was my opinion of The Neighbourhood. Don't get me wrong, I adore The Neighbourhood. I don't think I can explain how much, or why, but something about this band just absolutely grabbed me. Their full length album, 'I Love You', is one of the smoothest debuts I've heard since 'A Fever You Can't Sweat Out' by Panic! At The Disco hit the shelves back in 2005, but I just didn't expect it to translate to a live performance. I always felt that the album was slightly auto-tuned... I don't know if it actually was, but on 'Sweater Weather' especially you can definitely hear an effect. So despite the fact that The Neighbourhood are one of my favourite bands at the moment, I was absolutely terrified about seeing them live. But all of my fears were completely dissipated. 'WDYWFM?' saw people flooding into the tent at a speed that I hadn't witnessed since the performance by Gerard Way, 'Jealou$y' was well recognised despite the fact that it wasn't on their full length release, while finishing up with 'Sweater Weather' (introduced with the no fuss statement of "We're gonna do the sweater one,") and 'Afraid' was both predictable but perfectly executed.

Going from The Neighbourhood back over to main stage, I finally got to witness live the new Young Guns song that I left during their performance at Gloucester Guildhall. They performed the two new, previously unheard, songs (since revealed to be titled 'Memento Mori' and 'Rising Up', according to the BBC 1 setlist) one after the other which was an amazingly ballsy move for a festival set, following them with well-known crowd favourites 'Towers (On My Way)', 'Dearly Departed', 'You Are Not (Lonely)' and 'Bones'. Young Guns always perform without fault and I can't wait to see them again in the Wembley Arena environment in December, supporting Bring Me The Horizon (alongside Sleepwave and Issues, whose Reading set I reviewed earlier).

After the disappointing secret set on Saturday, I didn't get my hopes up for the secret set on Sunday, but I was pleasantly surprised when You Me At Six walked out on the stage. I've always been an advocate for them releasing an acoustic album (or at least another acoustic EP) following 'The Acoustic Sessions' they released in conjunction with Banquet Records for Record Store Day 2011, so an entire acoustic set was like heaven for me. On the one hand, I did find it frustrating that all of the songs were taken from their most recent album, 'Cavalier Youth', which I think is the least impressive album they've created, but it was good to hear newer songs arranged in a different manner. The set was only five songs long: 'Lived A Lie', 'Fresh Start Fever', 'Cold Night', 'Wild Ones' and 'Room To Breathe', but it was one of the most beautiful and unmissable moments of the weekend, so you should probably go and watch it, or order the special edition of 'Cavalier Youth', out in October.

Due to staying at the You Me At Six acoustic for a little bit too long, I did miss the beginning of Papa Roach (but a reliable source has informed me that I only missed 'Infest', as I arrived for the end of 'Between Angels and Insects') but the rest of their set was pretty impressive. I'm gonna be honest and admit that I haven't listened to much Papa Roach since the release of 'Metamorphosis', so I didn't know 'Where Did The Angels Go' or 'Burn', but watching the energy that vocalist Jacoby Shaddix was putting into the entire performance really made me want to catch up on their recent releases. 'Forever' was an unexpected inclusion in the set list, made all the more enjoyable for that, but 'Scars' was an anti-climax, with backing vocalist Jerry Horton completely over-powering Jacoby, making the moment less heartbreaking and more irritating. The only recent song that I recognised was 'Kick In The Teeth' (due to it being completely over played on Kerrang! in the weeks following its release) but it had a much better atmosphere live. I didn't know 'Silence Is The Enemy' or 'Still Swinging' but watching Jacoby running up and down the barrier in front of the crowd, randomly jumping on them or high-fiving them, was an experience I don't think I'll ever forget. With a brief interlude to pick out people in the crowd (among them someone carrying a large... erm... male instrument) Jacoby gave a quick impromptu cover of 'All Star' by Smashmouth after seeing someone dressed in a Shrek mask, declaring "Ugh, I hate that song, that shit makes me wanna throw up. I hate you Shrek," followed by '...To Be Loved', 'Getting Away With Murder' and the popular, anthemic 'Last Resort'. If there was such a thing as not liking Papa Roach, any doubters in the crowd would have been converted with this set.

I didn't catch all of Neck Deep, but it's better than I've ever managed before (having missed them two times already) and I was pleasantly surprised. I'm not such a fan of the new pop-punk resurgence, filled with more punk than pop, but having heard such amazing things about Neck Deep and seeing their supremely fast growth in America over the last year I was eager to see them in a live environment. I wasn't disappointed. 'Losing Teeth' and 'Crushing Grief (No Remedy)' were extremely well executed and even though I didn't know many of their songs I had an all round good time. Breaking up their set for a quick run over to Sleeping With Sirens (I was desperate to hear 'If You Can't Hang', don't judge) I managed to get back just after 'A Part Of Me' started and it was great to hear such a good singalong for the homecoming heroes. With the Intercontinental Championships tour next February, Neck Deep are cementing their name as the best band in British pop punk and I don't think anyone is surprised.

Back to Sleeping With Sirens for the very last word of 'Congratulations', I will admit I was fangirling just a little bit. I've been a fan since the acoustic EP 'If You Were A Movie This Would Be Your Soundtrack' and seeing them live feels like it's been a long time coming, even if it's been just over two years. Playing 'Here We Go' followed by 'Low' proved to be a slow procession into the set, with 'Trophy Father's Trophy Son' and 'Tally It Up, Settle The Score' proving, in my opinion, that 'Let's Cheers To This' was a much better release for the band. Squealer (well, with that high pitched vocal can you really call him anything else?) Kellin Quinn was superb, hitting notes that I had no idea existed, but breaking up a fast paced and fairly heavy set with the acoustic rendition of 'With Ears To See and Eyes To Hear' (following the hilarious "I like your giant cock, thank you for bringing that with you!") was a stroke of genius, showing everyone that this band aren't just popular due to the astonishingly high vocals; they genuinely do have substance. This was proved even further with the arrival of new song 'Kick Me', with it's repetition of 'Shit, shit, shit' easy to remember and catchy as hell. Wrapping up with 'Do It Now, Remember It Later' and, the only song performed from their first album, 'If I'm James Dean, You're Audrey Hepburn' shows why this band are so far up on main stage and will be so much further up next year.

If You Can't Hang
Here We Go
Trophy Father's Trophy Son
Tally It Up, Settle The Score
Scene 5: With Ears To See and Eyes To Hear
Kick Me
Do It Now, Remember It Later
If I'm James Dean, You're Audrey Hepburn

Following Sleeping With Sirens on main stage were A Day To Remember. I've only ever seen them once, acoustically, so I had literally no idea what to expect from a live performance. I will admit, after the album 'Homesick', I kinda gave up with A Day To Remember. I don't know why, it just seemed to happen. Starting off with 'The Downfall Of Us All' automatically had me hooked, as it was one of the best songs on that album, but I lost my focus again throughout '2nd Sucks' and 'Right Back At It Again', meaning that even the triumph that was 'I'm Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?' didn't completely redeem the set in my mind. Honestly, I'd written them off completely, with 'Why Walk On Water When We've Got Boats' seeming an odd fit to the set and 'All Signs Point To Lauderdale' sounding so much like so many other songs I've heard recently. However, my mind completely changed when they played 'If It Means A Lot To You'. It's the song that, I think, is clearly the best song A Day To Remember have ever written. Following it up with 'Homesick' was a stroke of genius, with frontman Jeremy McKinnon zorbing across the crowd and making sure that everyone was having an amazing time. He's amazingly charismatic and his stage presence is completely absorbing (get it, cause he was zorbing?...) and it's undeniable what an amazing live band they really are. I still wasn't sure on 'End Of Me', so the new songs are going to take some time to get used to, but 'Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're The Nail' was so completely them that it's easy to see the influences from their earlier albums are still very much in play now.  'All I Want' caused one of the biggest singalongs of the weekend, by far, while finishing with 'The Plot To Bomb The Panhandle' was unexpected and more exciting because of that.

The Downfall Of Us All
2nd Sucks
Right Back At It Again
I'm Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?
Why Walk On Water When We've Got Boats
All Signs Point To Lauderdale
If It Means A Lot To You
End Of Me
Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're The Nail
All I Want
The Plot To Bomb The Panhandle

I don't know enough about The Kooks to form a solid opinion, but if you want a nice nostalgia trip with a bit of recent pop chucked in they're a safe bet. With favourites 'Naive', 'Seaside' and 'She Moves In Her Own Way' scattered about the set and newest singles 'Around Town' and 'Down' at the beginning of the set, there was nothing really missing from this performance (apart from what I believed, apparently wrongly, was their biggest hit 'Always Where I Need To Be') and it seemed pretty well done even though I had nothing to really base an opinion on.

Having missed the surprise guest appearance from Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low, the end of You Me At Six's set was much the same as any You Me At Six set; all the songs sound pretty good but they just don't get me excited anymore because of the fact that the conclusion is always so predictable. Playing 'Room To Breathe', their newest release, along with 'Bite My Tongue' and 'Lived A Lie', there was nothing that shocked me, which meant it was a pretty average set to wander along to. I'm glad I saw the acoustic set, because it was something unique, but if You Me At Six don't shake up their set list a bit more before the co-headline tour with All Time Low I'm going to be majorly disappointed.

Talking of disappointed, that's exactly what I was with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Or rather, I was disappointed with the crowd's reaction to them. If you go to a festival and there are bands/acts you don't want to see, just don't go along! Even if it means you aren't close enough to your idols during their set, just don't put yourself through the torture. From where I was stood, Macklemore was putting on an amazing performance; he ran through all of his major hits (namely 'Thrift Shop', 'Same Love' and 'Can't Hold Us') in the first half of his set, while also giving us a listen to his new hit 'Arrow', but when they showed the crowd on the screen more than half of the people at the front just had no interest at all, which really bugged me. I'm not the biggest Macklemore fan. I only know the names of a few songs (to be precise, four songs; the four I just talked about) but I know that when you go to a festival you go to have a laugh and to have some fun and if you can't dance along to 'Thrift Shop', I don't know what you can dance along to. I would have stayed for more of the set if I hadn't been such a big letlive. fan (and I still only managed to catch their last song) because it was a massive laugh and it was a very entertaining set, one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend to be precise.

Following my (brief) attendance of letlive.'s set, I skedaddled across to the Festival Republic stage to watch Mayday Parade, a band who have never managed to succeed in the mainstream but still have rather a dedicated fan following. No discredit to them, but it was a predictable set. Having seen and reviewed them back in February, it's now six months later and I have nothing different to say. Frontman Derek Sanders was still lovable and energetic, but there's still no spark that will grant them the success they've been working hard towards for nearly a decade.

When You See My Friends
Jamie All Over
Three Cheers For Five Years
12 Through 15
Black Cat
Oh Well, Oh Well

Next, with another predictable set closer, were The 1975, who finished with their massive hits 'Chocolate' and 'Sex'. Vocalist Matt Healy seemed squeakier than usual, but no-one really cared at the end of the night; a good song to dance to is a good song to dance to, with or without vocal issues.

Finally, the main event. Closing the entire three day weekend of Reading Festival is a big feat for any band and none seemed better equipped to handle it than Blink-182, what with it being their second time in five years. As with any good Blink-182 show, it did not go as smoothly as anyone had planned. Tom DeLonge was stumbling over his words more than a drunk guy attempting to get home, fumbling through intermission speaking and even getting the words to 'Always' muddled up. His pronunciation still hasn't gotten any better either, but if it had would we really have been attending a Blink-182 concert?! Again, the only word to describe the set list would be predictable with a little sprinkle of weird; no one was expecting snippets of covers or new lyrics for well known songs. But with no new album released since 'Neighborhoods', the album that filled most of their last Reading headline set, it seemed a bit premature to reinstate them at such a high degree. Don't get me wrong, this is a band I will respect eternally for birthing such a diverse and impressive range of new acts. But tonight just didn't seem to be their night. Yes, they played all of the hits (I'll insert the set list below, I don't really have any specific comments on specific songs) but they didn't seem as sharp as usual, apart from drummer Travis Barker who doesn't seem to have an off switch to his perfectionist playing. The banter seemed a bit off-kilter and just didn't flow as easily as a usual show, which made the entire experience a little bit vexing. However, it was still an amazing performance. It might seem like I'm saying a lot of negative things but out of the three closing acts that performed this weekend, Blink-182 out shined them all, without a doubt. Interacting with the crowd, getting people dancing and jumping along, it was all out party season and it definitely felt like a welcoming to a band who might have been slacking a little bit recently but still have a solid collection of fans to fall back on. The introduction to the encore seemed abrupt, with vocalist Mark Hoppus shouting "that's it, that's the end," before the band left the stage for what felt like an hour and then exploded back out with 'Violence', 'Dammit' and 'Family Reunion' (followed by a drum solo by Mark that was absolutely amazing) but with a band the size and calibre of Blink-182 they're allowed to make some oddball decisions. How many bands would play a headline set at Reading Festival and turn out the lights at the midway point to play a song called 'Happy Holidays, You Bastard' in the pitch black? Not many, which is why I believe they're one of the best headliners that could have been chosen despite vocal issues and a bunch of dud notes.

Feeling This
What's My Age Again?
The Rock Show
Up All Night
I Miss You
Wishing Well
Happy Holidays, You Bastard
Stay Together For The Kids
First Date
Easy Target
All Of This
Hybrid Moments
Man Overboard
Ghost On The Dancefloor
All The Small Things
Family Reunion

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Young Guns - Gloucester Guildhall, 20/08/14

I have a talent.
And that talent is that, no matter how early I leave and how on-time I seem to be, I always miss opening bands. 
Sadly, in the past that has been the case with both Only Rivals and Blitz Kids (missing Only Rivals opening for All Time Low in March and Blitz Kids at Slam Dunk South in May) so I was super determined not to miss either of them at this concert and I was not disappointed.
This was my second time seeing, and reviewing, Only Rivals. (The first review can be found here, if you are interested in seeing how they've developed in the last six months.) Previously, I couldn't help drawing comparisons between them and other bands; I knew they had a mixture of various bands elements shoved together, so they sounded predictable and repetitive and blended in with the rest of the scene. However, at this show they could not have been more different. Singer Stephen Arkins has more confidence and stage presence than he did previously, showing that the support slot for All Time Low and the other shows they've been busy with over the past half of a year have caused the band to grow in leaps and bounds. There was a higher percentage of communication with the crowd, another thing that was previously lacking, and it's obvious to see that the band have grown to have more faith in themselves and the songs that they have written. With another support slot on the Pop Punks Not Dead tour with New Found Glory, The Story So Far, State Champs and Candy Hearts coming up quickly in November, you can tell it's going to help Only Rivals develop even more, making me extremely excited to see what new music they will be releasing after all they've learnt from their peers and in themselves. The majority of the set was comprised of the 'Details EP' (which, by the way, is superb and definitely deserves a purchase) with just one other song slotted in, the memorable 'Arsonist' that I fell in love with first time around and still adore in the live environment now, and it was amazing to see a good crowd reaction for a fairly unknown opening band. 

Only Rivals setlist:
When I Die

Second up were Blitz Kids, a band who have been going from strength to strength since the release of Red Bull Records debut 'The Good Youth', playing slots ranging from Channel 4's Sunday Brunch to Black Sabbath's 'BST Hyde Park' show last month. With the members dancing backstage to 'Slam' by Pendulum playing before their set, you can tell the energy and excitement they exude in their live performance isn't false at all, because once they bound on to the stage the adrenaline doesn't let up through the full half an hour. The entire audience was singing along to every word of their songs, proving that this support slot was both a stroke of genius and a perfect fit. I've been eager to see Blitz Kids for months now and I was most definitely not disappointed. Joey James vocals are even more on point live, meaning that instead of being unable to live up to their recorded songs they completely surpass them in a live environment, which is very rare indeed. During the penultimate song, the potential arena-filler 'On My Own', Joey came down to the crowd making fans squeal and rush forward to grab his hand, the likes of which are usually only caused by big names such as Pete Wentz. But maybe that's the point. It's easy to draw comparisons between Blitz Kids and You Me At Six or Fall Out Boy, both bands which saw a speedy growth to chart-topping status. Not many people have realised it, and I don't even think they know it themselves yet, but Blitz Kids are soaring their way to big name status, and I can't see anything slowing the trajectory any time soon. 

Blitz Kids setlist: 
All I Want Is Everything
Run For Cover
Sold My Soul
Keep Swinging
On My Own

Sadly, due to an early train and a late stage time, I only managed to see five songs of Young Guns headline set, three of those being from the soon to be released, as yet untitled third album. Kicking off with recent release 'I Want Out' (which, coincidentally, had a video released today) it's obvious that Young Guns are back with a vengeance after the two year gap since the release of 'Bones'. I've seen Young Guns once before, two months before the release of 'All Our Kings Are Dead', so I wasn't expecting their new songs to get such an intense crowd reaction so immediately. The three new tracks have a stronger dance-oriented sound, which is not a negative - all bands develop and after such a great chart success with their second album it's amazing to hear such a marked difference between the songs. This is a band that is not afraid to take risks. The other two songs they played while I was still there were 'Weight of the World' and 'Stitches', both from their first album. On the one hand, it was unfortunate because it means I still haven't heard a single song from 'Bones' live, but on the other it was amazing to see the crowd singing along to these songs as no one knew them last time I saw them performed live. I'm going to be seeing Young Guns at Reading Festival, so I can't wait to see if these songs live up in a festival environment as well as they did at the intimate warm-up last night. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Tonight Alive - Oxford O2 Academy, 19/08/14

I am very good at procrastinating, so in the weeks leading up to this concert I've often thought to myself 'I will Google EMP!RE and Zoax to hear what they sound like,' and I still turned up to last nights show with literally no idea what to expect from the support bands. 
First up, EMP!RE were, sadly, rather bland. I was extremely impressed with the first couple of songs, sounding like a mixture of Skindred and The Blackout, but after a few it seemed pretty obvious that they were just recycling the same pattern and it was extremely difficult to tell one song apart from another. However, sometimes this is just an issue that happens with new, upcoming bands, so I would still suggest listening to their mini album 'Where The World Begins' so you can formulate your own opinion on the matter. Check out 'Future, Past and Present' here and keep an eye out for releases in the future, as I'm sure they'll come into their own with a bit more practice. 
Contrastingly, Zoax were absolutely spectacular. With frontman Adam Carroll putting on a live show that put Jason Aalon Butler from letlive. to shame, it was an utterly mesmerizing half an hour that I was willing not to end. Spending more time in the crowd than on the stage, with some time spent lying on the floor with half of the fans in attendance, it was an unpredictable and unbeatable performance with the velocity and ferocity of a hurricane. And when a support band utters the words 'Wanna hear a new song?' they're normally dreaded, with limp crowd participation and a general disinterest and nonchalance, but the biggest crowd reaction of the night came with the song that followed and when that happens you know you're witnessing the start of something remarkable. Zoax have something very special and, while I can't quite put my finger on it, this band needs to explode soon because they most definitely deserve it. If they aren't selling out rooms that size soon off of their own merit I will be highly shocked. Check out their Youtube channel here and if you can attend Make A Scene festival you should definitely check them out, you won't be disappointed and you won't be forgetting it for a long time. 
However, after such an amazing support band, Tonight Alive fell a little flat for me. Don't get me wrong, Jenna McDougall was charismatic and charming as ever, apologising for talking so much between songs but justifying that she felt 'comfortable' with the crowd. It was obvious to see why; so many hardcore Tonight Alive fans were in attendance, screaming along to the words ranging from recent Spiderman soundtrack hit 'The Edge' to first EP material 'Wasting Away'. Slowing it down in the middle of the set to perform tear-jerker 'Amelia' acoustically, Jenna proved that she has both the range and depth of vocal and emotion to cement success for the Australians. The majority of the set was dedicated to second album, 'The Other Side', so it will be interesting to see what they choose for their setlist at Reading and Leeds festivals respectively, whether deciding to focus the appeal to old or new fans. I'm excited to see how they fare at Reading Festival this weekend, as it is their first appearance and the vocals went a little bit sharp at times throughout last night, but this was a warm-up performance so mistakes were easy to forgive and forget with the rush of adrenaline that sustained itself throughout the set. If you haven't caught Tonight Alive live before, it's definitely something I'd recommend doing when they come back to tour with The Summer Set and Chunk! No Captain Chunk throughout November. 

The Edge
The Ocean
Don't Wish
Hell and Back
Wasting Away
What Are You So Scared Of?
The Other Side
The Fire
Lonely Girl

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

*This review will contain spoilers!*

I have a short attention span. I get bored and fidgety extremely easily. Because of this, watching films feels like running a marathon; tiring, irritating and I wish it would just end already. This means that I've had to install system when it comes to rating films and that is a running tally of how many times I think 'I am bored' or 'Please finish now' in the time period. 
For once, this tally ended on zero. 
I am extremely critical when it comes to films, particularly superhero films, but 'Guardians of the Galaxy' has something special that I can't quite put my finger on. Is it Chris Pratt, being equal parts hunky action hero and lovably awkward geek? Is it that the only piece of footage set on Earth occurs even before the iconic Marvel logo scrolls across the screen? Or is it the superhero duo of Rocket and Groot, the talking hybrid raccoon and the sentient tree-being who can only utter the same three words, "I am Groot"? I honestly don't know, but there is a spark in this film that means I'm already eager to see it again and my first showing only concluded just over three hours ago.
For a girl who pretty much despises films, this is mind-blowing. 
If you've been hiding under a rock for the last few months and have completely missed the hype surrounding this film, I'll give you a little bit of a back story. 'Guardians' follows the story of Peter Quill, a human who is abducted from Earth following the death of his mother, but this isn't a tale of a lost child attempting to get back home as the majority of the film is set twenty-six years later. Peter thrives in his new environment, stealing and dealing to gain money, but it's during the interrupted theft of an orb that all hell breaks loose. Thus causes the formation of the Guardians of the Galaxy (hence the film title) also containing Groot, Rocket, Gamora and Drax, who meet under extremely strenuous situations but form bonds that are both heart-warming and humorous.
I will admit there were times when my attention strayed, but that isn't a negative impression on the film, I'm just not that impressed by fight scenes (no matter how excellently executed they are) and the majority of the film is comprised of fighting, so this was the only issue I faced. Despite this my enjoyment of 'Guardians' was in no way lessened, because the hilarious dialogue combined with the easy to love characters made this a film that I will be recommending for years to come. 
Even better, it's appropriate for all audiences - yes, there is a fair amount of violence and some swearing (if you count a middle fingers and a "What the fu-" as swearing) but this film would still appeal so brilliantly to a younger audience as well as the intended, slightly older one. Kids will absolutely love Rocket and Groot (possibly even more than I do!) meaning that even if there is some slightly morally ambiguous content, as long as parents make sure to talk about it with their children afterwards, it will be perfect for a trip out for the whole family.  
There's one thing for sure; I'm going to be first in line when the sequel arrives. Even though that is three years away. In my opinion, most superhero flicks do not need a sequel. 'Thor 2: The Dark World' struggled and floundered when compared to the supremacy of the first film, 'The Amazing Spider-man 2' struggling with the same issues. But with the enigmatic commentary about Peter's father, coupled with the regrowth of Groot and the intrigue about who made Rocket, there are plenty of questions to be answered and a lot of different aspects that can be expanded upon. Three years away it might be, but I'm bloody excited.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

'The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared' by Jonas Jonasson

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'The Hundred-Year-Old Man' is not a book that I would normally read, so I'm not sure what drew me towards it in the first place, but overall I was rather entertained by the writing style, even though I found it a bit of a difficult read. 
If you haven't already read this book, it tells the story of centenarian Allan Karlsson, a man who decides to run away from his nursing home on the morning of his 100th birthday, minutes before he is to be fetched to attend his birthday party. After escaping and heading towards the bus station, Allan meets a young man, agrees to look after his suitcase while he relieves himself in the tiny bathroom stall then spontaneously takes the suitcase, along with the 50 million crowns nestled inside, causing mischief and mayhem to ensue.
The majority of the book is not actually dedicated to the developing story of Allan escaping, but is actually retrospective, recapping all of the crazy events he's been involved in during his hundred years. These recaps range from his experiences in a psychiatric hospital while he was younger to inadvertently creating the atomic bomb that was used in the fatal Hiroshima attack in 1945. 
Sadly, I found the recapping of the past adventures much more interesting than the development of the situation with the stolen suitcase. The recaps all managed to squeeze so much information into a short section and I couldn't really predict where they were going, meaning they were both educational and entertaining, but the bulk of the story contained twists and turns that weren't so much surprising as spottable. Lovable hot-dog stand manager Benny going from being a chauffeur to being a partner-in-crime was obvious from the moment they met him, as were the deaths of the two criminals who were attempting to retrieve the money to please their boss. The twists that weren't predictable were downright ludicrous, as shown in the meeting between Bosse Baddy and the Boss, who just happened to be ex-colleagues and therefore dissolved the tension filled confrontation immediately.
However, I'm unsure if this is because of the original writing or due to the translation. The original version was written in pure Swedish, meaning that some of the charm and humour could have been dissipated during the translating process. The reviews included in the blurb claim "an incredibly funny story," "dynamite comedy," and "hilarious," but come from Aftonbladet, Le Figaro and Corriere della Sera respectively, which could mean that the comedy was literally lost in translation as I didn't find the book humourous at all. 
Don't get me wrong, the visual image of a hundred year old man climbing out of his window and going on a killing spree should be gut-wrenchingly funny, but I just can't find the humour in the writing (excluding one amazing quote from the French President De Gaulle, who exclaims "Ugh! Damn and blast! [but in French]." which makes me laugh for the bracketed addition more than anything else). If anything, this book just seems to contain the moral that the elderly, while both doddering and harmless, can pack a punch if they need to, so you shouldn't allow old age to be a synonym for weak and helpless. 
The only thing I found even slightly laughable was the sheer incompetence of Chief Inspector Göran Aronsson, who is equal parts stupid and over-confident, exemplified perfectly when a tip gets called in with a sighting of the old man only for Aronsson to completely ignore it, due to "years of experience [teaching him] to distinguish between good and bad tips," before later being "forced to admit to himself that he had wrongly dismissed this tip the day before." While his ability to admit his mistake redeems him slightly,  I still think the whole situation could have been resolved much faster with a more thorough police investigation. Also, if you think you're confronting a triple-murderer, please don't let them go and make you coffee.
Contrastingly, the retrospective chapters were extremely fixating and I found them easy to devour compared to the slow and sluggish pace with which I plodded through the developing plot line. I'm very similar to Allan, in that I'd rather keep myself out of both religious and political debates, so a lot of the descriptions of communist and socialist regimes went straight over my head, but because I felt as though that allowed me to empathise with Allan even further this could perhaps be the reason these chapters stood out as more intriguing.
Furthermore, the addition of Ni Wayan Laksmi (aka Amanda) brightened my attitude towards the book drastically. I'm a woman, so I love books that have a decent amount of female characters, but the fact that 'The Hundred-Year Old Man' only had two females who had a significant focus upon them was a bit of a disappointment. I absolutely love feisty, no-holds-barred The Beauty, don't get me wrong, but past her back story and the confrontation of the criminals she is harbouring on her farm her character is a background character at best, while being definitely the least important of the crew. However, Amanda actually gets a decent focus on her for a large section of the retrospective writing. Despite her being aggravatingly idiotic I found it refreshing having another female in the mix, even though the way she was represented as a successful female politician who had no idea what she was doing really irritated me. The Beauty is single and lonely and lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere, but as soon as we have a female character with a husband and a successful career she has to be an idiot and become such a high-profile politician off of complete flukes and bribery.
Alas, that's an argument to save for another time. 
Even with these issues, I still powered through and managed to complete the novel. At times, it filled me with the urge to pull my hair out more than I've ever felt the need to before, but in the end it wasn't actually all that bad. I think this is a book that you really need to read in chunks (in the middle of the book I was reading a few pages at a time and I became equal parts frustrated and confused) but if you have the time to sit down and read a good 50-100 pages at a time you'll get a lot more satisfaction. The ending is satisfactory, however I would suggest skipping the epilogue because it just creates so many more questions that we will never get answered which is in equal parts pointless and overtly frustrating.