The Good, The Mad and the Unexpected: the Best Acts of Reading 2014

It was rainy; it was unbearably cold at night; it was packed full of girls in unflattering shorts and losers in bandanas, but Reading Festival was the hottest weekend of music this year. Full of controversial moves such as booking Paramore and Queens of the Stone Age to headline one night, there was some doubt as to whether organisers could provide a event equal in majesty to Glastonbury, but Richfield Avenue provided a fierce fight. From old school pop punk Blink 182, to the new found hero of hip hop Macklemore, Reading and Leeds knocked out any of those doubts. So put away those boxing gloves, here are the unexpected and obvious competitors that made Reading a heavy weight.

10. Hudson Taylor

Fresh faced and folky, this Irish duo brought power and passion, albeit on the Festival Republic stage at one o’clock. Simon and Garfunkel, and Mumford and Sons are obvious ancestors of the pair but the raw shouts and pounding piano of Hudson Taylor made them a unique, hidden treasure. Dig them out Reading and put them on the NME stage next year!

9. Enter Shikari

This band are as essential to a festival as your sleeping bag. Last year saw them remixing and electrifying their tracks as Shikari Sound System, and now they’re back showcasing the heart and guts of their experimental hardcore sound. Whether the crowd were moshing, climbing into a human pyramid, or dub dancing, Shikari do not ever disappoint a spectator. Also, vocalist Rou Reynolds brought the overwhelming solidarity found only at festivals and not only made people move, but reminded them of their ability to make a movement.

8. Queens of the Stone Age

Despite following a glowing headline slot from Paramore, Josh Homme and co. did not let the fire of Friday night dim without a few fireworks. It is often found with alternative bands to be lost behind a wall of sound and distortion but Queens of the Stone Age set any noise barriers ablaze with soulful and effortless guitar riffs. This is not to suggest the Stone Age is soft. Jolts of piano and wailing guitars thrusted Richfield Avenue into Ecstasy (and alcohol, nicotine and valium) and perhaps made a mockery of the fact they shared their intoxicating time with another band.

7. Royal Blood

Everything is royal about this bloody basstastic group. With a debut album to sell and a ascension into alternative glory to keep balanced on, there was a tonne of expectations Royal Blood had to live up to. And by Rock God, they did. With a crowd screaming lyrics and jumping to intricate (yet deadly) melodies and never ending feisty drumming, any bystander would think this group to be one with a decade of albums behind them. See you on the headline slot in a few years, boys!

6. Die Antwoord

‘Weird’ doesn’t even cover it. How do you describe a set full of phallic imagery, the highest of pitched vocals, and genre defecation? Imagine Alice in Wonderland meets Skrillex and they’re both on MDMA. Regardless, the South African rave crew put Reading into overdrive, even if it was a bit frightening.

5. Hozier

Mellow, melancholy and magical; Hozier enchanted hundreds into a daze full of beautifully deep vocals. Alongside this was an array of coordinated chords and haunting split seconds of silence. Hozier not only mirrored the well produced and clean sound in his releases but enthralled the crowd with a indie take on Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’, which must be commended as covers seem to be rare at festivals.

4. Architects

Risen from The Pit, were the ever so hardcore Architects. No initial hellos or formality, the Gravediggers thundered onto the stage, ripping apart any notions of a forgettable set alongside Arctic Monkeys on the main stage. Insane and unafraid with each instrument at full blast, some would think bands of this type can be musically messy. No. One word for this slot: immaculate.

3. The Wytches

Long haired, grungy but still neat. The Wytches screamed and soared in the early hours of Sunday. With a ricocheting and supernatural guitar alongside a moody bass and unrefined drum beat; a cauldron of odd parts of rock managed to be more than real. They might not fit the specifications of a main stage act, but the innovative nature of the band is worth missing a mediocre set elsewhere.

2. Klaxons

Has there ever been a band as brilliant as Klaxons at making voice melodies as memorable as a guitar one? The Dance stage did not hear a set from as groovy and as talented as the four piece indie electronica group’s. With a plethora of tracks (that were impossible to not dance to) that ranged from their early beginnings as the band that ‘oohs’and ‘aahhs’ to their most recent stints as new rave legends it was clear that this was one of the most spectacular sets to grace Reading and Leeds.

1. Blink 182

If you start your set with a song that repeatedly tells everyone that they are the c-word, then you must know that you are either past help or you’re Blink 182. Some uttered low expectations of the band: Tom DeLonge’s vocals, their newer, less memorable work and their lack of evolution seemed to be main culprits. And some spoke of their sheer excitement to see the band they grew up listening to. Let’s face it, which words are more important? Feeling This, Always and What’s My Age Again? threw the crowd into a nostalgic frenzy full of light hearted fiery fun, paired with dirty jokes throughout. But, there was nothing whatsoever superficial and shallow about the final headline slot. The songs that made the crowd cheer and dance with fast Barker beats and unforgettable pop punk vibrations were just as resonant as the ones that stunned them into heartfelt shouts and head-bangs such as I Miss You.

It is too often said that Glastonbury is the festival. If you scanned the bookings of both Reading and  Glasto’, unaware of whose was whose, then there is a clear winner in who made more people able to see a band they liked from morning to evening. There was a clear winner who showcased the most relevant musicians and reminded us all of who inspired them. And, the winner is…