Saturday, September 09, 2006

Slowdance With Commerce

Nouvelle Vague/Muse/Arctic Monkeys/TV On The Radio/Clap Your Hands Say Yeah/The Fall/The Futureheads/Be Your Own Pet/Tilly And The Wall/Milburn/Wolfmother/Serena-Maneesh, Reading Rock Festival, August 26 2006.

Two years ago, Dead Kenny wrote that if hell is other people, Reading Festival was where all the really really bad people got sent. This year's news is that Mean Fiddler have crammed another 20,000 people in approximately the same-sized arena, so yeah, hell just caught a fever. The whole farrago though does give your correspondent a glimpse into a dystopian, overcrowded future - think the city in Blade Runner but instead of flying cars there's just airships reminding us there's a new Iron Maiden CD out on Monday (28th).

First up, the Reading rollcall, and along for the ride came The Great Raimundo (whose conjuring tricks get us in for a few hours on Sunday as a bonus); his lovely assistant Deborah; Alex; Laura; Laura's sister Striga and her fella Paul.

Get into the site about 1.40pm, and head straight for the Carling Stage to catch the last 20 minutes of Serena-Maneesh. The Norwegians' noisestorm is better suited to the black heart of night rather than an early afternoon slot, but they play with enough conviction and implied menace to compensate for the daylight intrusion, the tall blonde guitarist in particular looking like a suitable girlfriend for Ghost Rider, with a dead-eyed demeanour giving the impression of someone who not only likes burning down churches but preferably when there's a christening ceremony going on. The whole dramatic display ends with the vocalist singing with a scarf wrapped around his face while the lead guitarist rubs his instrument against any object on stage he can find in a manic display of frottage industry. One thing's for sure, it's rock 'n' roll with all the danger and decadence intact, and one helluva way to get a festival experience started.

Head for a quick beer to calm the nerves and catch up on some Wolfmother on the Main Stage. Their take on Led Zep is hugely popular with drug-taking student types, but while they're listenable enough your correspondent found their impact dissipated by the size of the arena and the early time of day. Over on the Radio 1/NME stage, Milburn do enough to suggest that if the Arctic Monkeys do a Stone Roses and take five years over their sophomore record, they're competent enough to step into the breach. Then catch ten minutes of Tilly And The Wall back over in the Carling, who have just the right amount of exuberance and showmanship to draw in the curious, not to mention the tapdancing percussionist's skimpy shorts.

Maybe it's the crowds, or perhaps the beer, or a combination of the crowds and beer, but Dead Kenny is sufficiently disorientated to head into the wrong tent in search of Be Your Own Pet and find himself face-to-face with some emo (or possibly ska-core?) shit. It's a while before it sinks in that this isn't just a scheduling snafu, so by the time Dunce Kenny locates the right tent, Jemima Pearl and company are already half-way through their break-neck pulverising of their debut album material. While the set's not lacking in energy, still can't help feeling the experience would be much better in a small, hot, sweaty club.

BYOP's helter-skelter is over in time for your correspondent to catch most of The Futureheads on the main stage, who are in quite good form considering that The Young Knives' debut album has made their whole career obsolete overnight. They're tight and competent, but their set is marked by a complete absence of frissons: not dull, exactly, but certainly less than exciting. Not a big fan of The Automatic, either: but Dead Kenny does invade the mashed mosh in time to sing along to this year's daftest indie ditty 'Monster'. This allows us to a get a decent spot to catch The Fall with Mark E Smith staggering on stage near-enough on time for a set which includes a nicely shouty 'Theme From Sparta FC' and a hypnotic 'Blindness', with the singer by and large behaving himself aside from some hefty swigs of his bottled lager at regular intervals.

But it takes until Clap Your Hands Say Yeah follow on stage for the festival to really warm up. Any worries that the turn-of-the-year hype for this band was cooling are swept aside by a heaving crowd all too ready to respond to tunes from their self-titled debut as if it was a bespoke greatest hits collection. CYHSY may have one of the daftest names in the indie pantheon and a reputation built upon layers of internet buzz, but tunes like 'The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth' and 'Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood' have an instinctive appeal to your feet as the off-kilter lyrics simultaneously tickle your brain tissue. They seem like a band built to last, so we'll have to get used to getting the Clap on a regular basis from now on.

If CYHSY establish themselves as serious contenders, over on the Carling Stage TV On The Radio perform with the majesty of people who know, and know we know, that in any kind of just universe they'd be up on the main stage rubbing shoulders with Arctic Monkeys and Muse. They start the set with 'Return From Cookie Mountain' closer 'Wash The Day'; spark the most spontaneous rush of excitement of the day with 'Wolf Like Me' and finish with an imperious 'Staring At The Sun' in a breathless collision of noise; charisma; compassion and intelligence, after which everything seems like anti-climax.

See the end of the Arctic Monkeys set and the beginning of the Muse show while your correspondent tries to track down his erstwhile inebriated compadres as the darkness descends. Not the greatest Arctic Monkeys enthusiast in the world, but their new single is growing on me and they put in a creditable show in front of an increasingly drunken audience seemingly split 50:50 between rabid fans and grumpy naysayers. Muse are pretty dependable as spectacular stage headliners and they sounded in good form before Dead Kenny finally tracks down his friends in the Carling Tent where we reacquaint ourselves with the sultry bossanova chic of Nouvelle Vague. They may be a glorified covers band and certainly don't have the same rock cachet as Muse or The Raconteurs (who are apparently playing up a storm over on the Radio 1/NME Stage) but their good-natured kitsch provides a relaxing and intimate show to help chill Dead Kenny's wellington boots.

The whistling hook of Peter Bjorn and John's 'Young Folks' draws us into the Comedy/Cabaret stage, which helps remind us that Tilly And The Wall are due back on again for a midnight show. Manage to catch the full set this time, with 'Nights Of The Living Dead' a suitable anthem for this zombie hour. This is followed by some retro burlesque malarkey, 50s style striptease which is presumably back in vogue with the Bettie Page biopic recently out in cinemas, but seemed to succeed only in irritating, boring and excluding. So it's more beers, then we all head back to Chez Raimundo and reflect upon a day that's a triumph of content and company over format and planning.


Anonymous Russ L said...

I doubt Capdown were the 'emo shit' you found yourself face to face with. Unless they've had a musical about-turn of proportions unprecedented, I doubt that very much indeed.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Russ, you sound like a man who knows what he's talking about, in truth I didn't stick around to listen to too much of it, but it certainly wasn't BYOP and 'emo' would be nearest musical comparison I would make so unless I was even more inebriated than I recall perhaps they moved the lineup around?

5:58 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Having checked out their MySpace page, still think it might have been them...Dead Kenny clearly doesn't know the difference between 'ska-core' and 'emo'. It all sounds like overwrought shouty young men in long shirts to me...perhaps it's a sign of old age that your formally trustworthy webmaster can no longer distinguish between yoof subcultures?

Take it you're a Capdown fan, Russ, but based on what I've heard on their site, still glad I waded back through the crowds for BYOP.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Dead Kenny (aka Cowardly Custard)has now decided to delete the reference to Capdown to be on the safe side. No point in antagonising skacore fans (a small minority of whom are no doubt longshort-wearing mentalists)unnecessarily by referring to them as 'emo' and revealing my subcultural ignorance.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Russ L said...

Ah, now he's coming over all "What's a Beatle?"

Capdown are shouty, yes. Angsty, too. Long-shirted and baggy trousered, certainly. They are also full of energy, with very memorable songs and some of the best sax-a-mo-phone blowing parts in all of this here popular music.

No reason why you have to like them, of course, but the (implied) idiom-based criticism is something that demeans us all.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Whoa there! Demeans us all? That's a bit harsh, Russ!

Did Dead Kenny use dismissive shorthand without due care and attention to the myriad distinctions between shouty subculture genres? Probably guilty as charged, but don't see how one person's opinion, however clumsily or maladroitly expressed, really demeans anybody.

I mean, c'mon, this is just a web site, just another jerk in a circle, nothing to take so seriously in the grand scheme of things. Nobody was going to mistake 'emo shit' as a considered, detailed critique of their whole show and it wasn't meant as one. Just a genuine gut reaction to what little I heard, which I reserve the right to express.

Point was, they weren't BYOP, didn't care for them much, but turned out to be my own fault for stumbling into the wrong tent, and so got out of there pretty fast.

If other people like Capdown as much as you Russ, and to be fair they seem to, I'm sure this minor reference (since mostly excised) will not be even a blip on their landscape. PV readership on a sunny weekend is negligible at best.

So time to concentrate on the really serious issues, like the woeful state of West Ham's setpiece defending on Sunday, now that's been troubling me all day.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Another serious issue that should be troubling you: what IS up with Carlos Tevez's neck (such as it is)?

Enjoyable Reading report, BTW. And I don't like Capdown either.

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Russ L said...

You disappoint me, Kenneth. Only a habitual demeaner-of-us-all would read a comment about an opinion of a band demeaning-us-all without the levity clearly intended. I feel demeaned by this.

Also by your continual insistence on painting me as "whoo graaah you knocked Capdown' fan type person. That's more upsetting than any insult towards any given band (although not quite as upsetting as all the demeaning a-goin' on).

6:01 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Ah, Levity. I'm always failing to recognise Levity.

'Dead Kenny, you're an ignorant bashtard, to be sure' is what he often says to me between swigs of Guiness down me local.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Russ L said...

Hadn't he used to be president of Israel?

6:57 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Well, you might have a point there, because he has unilaterally declared his favourite corner of the bar as his territory and regularly launches beermats at the landlord come chucking-out time.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Russ L said...

You've set me thinking about this, now, and after some thought I've decided that 'Lev' actually is the greatest given name a man could have.

If I had a son, I would obtain for him a flat, open stretch of grass to run about on. It truly would be a Lev L playing field.

7:26 AM  
Blogger throughsilver said...

Funny thing is that, while reading this, 'Seeing Double At The Triple Rock' by NOFX came on my random playage. And yes, I am well aware I'm the only one who could possibly find that 'funny'.

Lev's a good name. Dunno if I prefer it to Zaza, though.

I had a boss called Hughbon Condor once...

1:31 AM  

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