Sunday morning. The ground spongy, squidgy, but no longer swamped. Eyes are that much more bloodshot than on Friday morning. What I needed was a tantalising triple bill on the Radio 1 stage to jumpstart the day. Well what do you know? Sunderland garage punks The Futureheads are about to begin.
There are four of them dressed in smart-casual suits and shirts. They each have a microphone, even the drummer, and they are all determined to use them. This vocal democracy creates an abrasive concoction of The Jam, XTC and an Eastern European Military tattoo. They’re not particularly innovative, but the sheer oomph they give to songs such as Le Garage and Robot is definitely infectious.
Fun as they were, the testosterone bled onto the stage by The Futureheads had to be neutralised. It was a pleasing sight then to see quirky brother/sister band The Fiery Furnaces amble on to deliver something altogether less nasty. Eleanor Friedberger looks like a sexually frustrated Walton’s Mountain knitting obsessive, but don’t be fooled by her demure appearance: There’s something strangely Janis Joplin dangerous about her frumpish appearance and witty lyrics. Beginning with My Dog Was Lost But Now He’s Found from new album Blueberry Boat, the Furnaces gave served up some enjoyable indie-blues. They really hit their stride though with pumped-up versions of older songs. Don’t Dance Her Down and Tropical Ice-Land provide some of the most seductive bass hooks of the day and confirm that it’ll take a lot to dampen these flames.
I can see why some people find Dogs Die In Hot Cars annoying – but those people annoy me. Belting out Godhopping, perhaps the catchiest tune of the year, DDIHT get everybody smiling and bopping. I admit that there is something about this band that borders on smug ’80s pastiche. Lead Craig McIntosh introduces Celebrity Sanctum by saying “This song used to be called Heat Magazine Makes Me Feel Like A Diamond Encrusted Potato”. Yes, very droll. However, launching into Lounger, DDIHC prove they’ve got the songs to back up their cheekiness. “I get up when I like, wear anything I like” rounds things off in an appropriately rebellious-ish kinda way.
I’m glad I wandered down to the main stage early. Having been savagely pelted by warm bottles of urine, The Rasmus had thrown the timetable off-kilter by playing for only a few wee-drenched minutes. Consequently, The Streets arrived onstage an hour before schedule. Word spread like SARS through the festival that they were on, and a massive crowd assembled to see Mike Skinner: People’s Champion. Bouncing on to the apocalyptic, strings ‘n strife drama of Turn The Page, Skinner owned the stage. A few bottles whizzed up at him from braindead rock-twats at the front. Casually, Skinner picks them up, sniffs them and says “It’s alright. It’s not piss”. This is a man who knows how to win people over. Calling us “A naughty bunch of boys and girls” he tries to introduce us to the possibility of rock and dance being combined. We follow his lead and jump like wazzocks. Of course Dry Your Eyes provides the genuine ‘festival moment’ that everyone had hoped for. It soars above the Berkshire clouds while blokes and birds hug each other below. A sneaky cover of Kelis‘ Milkshake and a barnstorming rendition of Fit But You Know It and then Skinner and his brilliant backing band are off all too soon. One of the sets of the weekend.
The Pee-soaked Rasmus, as they shall henceforth be known, did me a favour. The early Streets set meant that I could power off to the Carling tent afterwards and check out The Secret Machines. The New York Times dubbed them “best live band in NY”, so it was a slight disappointment when, playing to an intrigued but subdued crowd, the engineers lost the sound on the main guitar. It rendered their potentially epic opener First Wave Down a little toothless. All drums and repetitive synth noises. However, after a few “turn it the fuck up” gestures from Ben Curtis, we’re soon back on track with a crowd-wakening Pharaoh’s Daughter. By the time they tear into the driving, brilliant Nowhere Again, they’d shown us more than a glimmer of the moonscape ambition of their music.
Amusingly, someone held up a sign for 50 Cent that said: “Listen 39p, it’s spelled in THE club!”. Clearly, the Reading crowd were not enamoured with the prospect of dancing for Shorty’s birthday. A barrage of bottles greeted the rapper who, unwisely, decided to hurl a few back. Of course this aggravated the mainly rocker crowd further and led to a new hail of missiles. At one stage, somewhat disturbingly, a camping chair narrowly missed 50 Cent’s head. To his credit, ‘Fiddy’ did eventually try and placate the crowd saying “Aren’t we all here to have fun?”, but by then the damage was done. He left to a cheer from the triumphant and belligerent mass of bottle chuckers.
Fatigued, I started to round things off for the weekend. Forgoing Green Day‘s headline set, I headed instead for UK rapper Ty in the dance tent. With a fantastic backing band, and two of the most soulful backing singers since The Supremes, Ty’s good-time, positive lyrics and desire to bring out the best in all of us removed some of the bitter taste left from the 50 Cent fiasco.
Knackered and grubby I trudged home early. In the background Green Day hurled out a version of Queen’s We Are The Champions. I didn’t feel like one; Reading rocked on without me.