By Rebecca Bush
I hopped on a Big Green Coach to cover this year’s Reading Festival, it was a whole 21 years since I last attended so I knew it was going to be a whole new experience!
Reading has expanded over the years and is now attended by over 100,000 festival goers, everywhere you look as you approach the town centre are huge crowds of people carrying tents and backpacks making their pilgrimage to the site. I joined the hordes and hopped on the boat up the Thames and set up my home for the weekend in guest camping. Despite it being Thursday and bands not playing until Friday the air is buzzing with excitement and the festival feels very much in full swing. Despite several line-up changes and disappointment surrounding Maneskin cancelling their appearance and headliners Rage Against The Machine being replaced by The 1975, the mood is still high. With secret sets, comedy greats and a great weather forecast, there was still plenty to be excited about.
This year’s line-up offers many exciting and diverse prospects and I start my day at the Festival Republic stage for LA rockers Beauty School Drop Out and what a start! These guys’ energy is off the charts they have personality in spades and despite their early set time of 12.30, they have gathered a decent sized and very enthusiastic crowd. They waste no time connecting with their audience and everyone is totally captivated. I’d say their first UK appearance is a definite success and there is clearly a great buzz around them. After their set, they come out front and greet the many fans wanting to say hi and take pictures, really humble and appreciative which is always wonderful to see.
Buzzing from my first shoot of the weekend I took a wander around to soak up the atmosphere and take it in. It is certainly a far cry from the Reading of 21 years ago and the music although eclectic still has shifted to more mainstream and less rock/alternative oriented. These genres are still well represented of course but aren’t the focus of the festival so much. This feels very much like a party festival, the relief of exams done and dusted laced with freedom and mischief and hair well and truly let down!
Today Festival Republic stage was a great place to be and a lot of my highlights came from here next being Witch Fever who have also gathered a sizeable crowd and deservedly so! The four piece from Manchester go HARD and heavy and as their name suggests create quite the magic concoction. Their performance was full of power, purpose and determination and quite frankly kicked arse!!
Not only is today dominated by the Festival Republic but also women of the music scene, with stellar performances all round others include Ohio’s Scene Queen with her very own sub-genre ‘Bimbocore’ taking no prisoners and Queen Millz on the Radio 1 Extra stage all Getting the weekend off to a phenomenal start.
Last big highlight for me for Friday and back to the trusty Festival Republic stage were Brighton band As It Is, bringing some hard emo punk vibes and thoroughly shaking the whole tent to its core. A very successful first day indeed.
Saturday was slightly more geared towards the heavier rock side of things across many of the stages including Wargasm, Poppy, Enter Shikari, Cassyette and of course Main Stage West headliners Bring Me The Horizon to name a few. First band on the Festival Republic stage for me today are firm favourites, Static Dress. These Yorkshire lads have been causing quite a stir on the music scene in the last couple of years and today was no different a killer performance from all four members they were on top form and will only continue to rise.
On the other end of the spectrum were some stunning pop acts such as one of the weekend’s biggest draws Maddison Beer, I practically had to fight my way into the BBC Dance tent to shoot this one. Madison had this crowd in the palm of her hand and she appeared to be genuinely bowled over by the overwhelming response as she made the stage her own. It was an effortless performance very much enjoyed by all. Festival goers today were that familiar brand of a little worse for wear, plenty of after sun and hair of the dog required but still in good spirits and fully enjoying the sunshine. There seemed to be a significant increase in numbers on Saturday the crowds were certainly larger for most stages.
I was lucky enough to be able to photograph one of my absolute favourites of the weekend on Main Stage West and that was the wonderful Poppy. Such a genuinely unique and authentic performer her sweet aesthetic combined with the power behind her voice is really something to marvel at those are some impressive pipes she has on her and her entire stage presence is mesmerising. The crowd are instantly singing along and rocking out to opener ‘Concrete’ and she has everyone’s full attention throughout her set.
Today wasn’t without hiccups however, Enter Shikari are known for their political standing and beliefs but during an impassioned speech regarding the current state of affairs surrounding energy they suffered an unfortunate cut in power which stopped them in their tracks – an unfortunate technical hitch or censorship at its finest? You decide. An otherwise outstanding set from the Hertfordshire foursome saw one of the weekend’s biggest crowds so far. As the sun set on another day at Reading the hordes were definitely getting rowdier all ready to take on Sunday with full force.
Sunday was an absolutely crazy day for talent I barely caught my breath between bands exhausting but so much fun! I took time to check out the BBC Introducing stage and there were some great acts including London lads Boy Bleach with a mix of punk and pop and some super catchy anthemic songs high energy and super fun to watch. Also on the introducing stage were Welsh lovelies Panic Shack, with their witty edgy ballsy punk they looked very comfortable on stage and had a brilliant vibe that the crowd definitely lapped up. Sadly Barns Courtney seemingly disappeared off the lineup despite being advertised but there were still plenty of great acts.
Other highlights for me included Manchester band Pale Waves who put on a stellar performance, front woman and lead guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie oozes confidence and pure rock and roll energy the whole band are a well oiled machine and put on a faultless performance. Back over to the trusty Festival Republic stage for another band with a huge buzz around them are Liverpool foursome Crawlers. The tent is heaving and the air is electric as we wait for them to come on stage and without wasting a second they burst into action with single ‘Statues’ and it is all systems go! Their set is blinding fully immersing themselves and interacting with the crowd and each other and during their set much to everyone’s delight they announce a release date of October 28th for debut EP Loud Without Noise – there is an explosion of cheers at this much anticipated news which is a real credit to them and their rapidly growing fan base.
Unfortunately, Sunday was tainted when several incidents around the site including right next to me in the guest camping area stood to turn the event into a disaster zone. Fires were set ablaze and things did get out of hand which is a real shame. This aside though the music was a brilliant mix of many genres and for the most part catered to pretty much everyone. Reading 2022 was a wild ride – thank you for the music!