Pictures by Dijana Capan / DVision Images / http://www.dvision-images.com
“If you wanna dance, now’s your chance.”
So saying, Valeras’ bass player & vocalist Rose dared festival-goers to defy the Bronte-esque downpour and enjoy themselves.
Read on for five things you missed by staying home in the warm.
1. The rain.
Something was blowing in the wind, but it sure as hell wasn’t Bob Dylan. No, this was the sound of a thousand plastic ponchos rustling under bruised skies – a sight more arguably English than that of windbreakers and cagoules on an overcast beach in Morecombe.
But while the driving rain drove many away in…droves, others didn’t care. The main stage monitors were awash with twirling brollies as the ghost of Gene Kelly flitted through the audience, and the adversarial conditions fostered a sense of unity amongst those who remained. Never before have I had so many conversations with random strangers that began with “Does my hair still look OK?”
An especial shout-out is due to local act Saltwater Sun for considerably brightening the day with their shoegaze/indie/garage-rock set – you deserve to have this band in your life, and luckily for you they’re on your doorstep.
2. Rap on the main stage…
J-Hus delivered a stirring and politically-charged set, fusing musical genres with great versatility. He was preceded by Krept & Konan, who received a rapturous response from the (potentially more receptive) youth crowd – with extended call & responses throughout.
But you couldn’t miss the sudden departure of a few other audience members – who perhaps harbor fond memories of the days when Thin Lizzie were headlining. Seemingly, not everyone took the lyrical references to youthful cats and unwrapping Christmas presents at innocent face-value (“one more sexist slur and I would’ve got up there and hit ‘em!” an angry crowd member tells me as she storms away. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding).
3. …and Valeras on the Introducing Stage.
Performing simultaneously with the Main Stage hip-hop acts, Reading-based Valeras got a much more positive reaction – when was the last time you heard someone screaming “I’m your biggest fan!” without shame during a song?
I don’t blame them. I’ve watched some of the greatest musicians in the world – PiL, Jah Wobble, Madness, Motorhead – and this band are better. I will go on record here and say that Valeras will be huge in the very near future.
It’s customary when writing about “new bands” to draw comparisons with more established acts, in order to help the reader “hear” their music. I cannot do this with Valeras as they have a genuinely new sound, and to draw comparisons would only play down how unique it is. Given that they gig heavily in Berkshire, I would strongly recommend you go hear it for yourself – now, before they command £60 tickets for every gig they play.
But to give you a sense of what you missed – a line of four guitars framing a drummer; five people who mixed sincerity, passion and humour; and songs that (to paraphrase Alan Bennett) make you feel as if someone’s reached out and taken your hand on a cold and stormy day.
4. Kings of Leon and the Pop contingent
Kings of Leon capped a day that featured The Vaccines and The Courteeners. Sadly it wasn’t my body temperature that was on fire, but they made up for that with a sterling song about pyrotechnics and love (I think that’s what it’s about?)
With the Main Stage arena finally near-capacity, this was arguably the one time that Reading Festival felt like Reading Festival. As hit followed hit, the audience swelled, the darkness fell away, and someone hoisted a Union Jack flag into the air. I could’ve cried – it felt like a real sign of unity and coming-together-despite-it-all.
The wind caught it; it billowed, and flapped, and then collapsed on itself.
But no-one noticed. It was their last chance to dance at Reading Festival 2018, and the audience – young and old, rockers and rappers – embraced it, and each other, like long-lost lovers.
5. Realising you can go home and talk about it now.
And that’s that – people slink away from their abandoned tents like men from guilty trysts; optimistic folk try striking up conversations with come-downers in the taxi ranks; and the inevitable discussions about whether Melvin Benn’s Reading Festival “is really rock anymore” resume.
Personally, I don’t care what label people slap on it – any festival that gives a leg-up to local bands while celebrating a diverse range of established ones seems pretty unbeatable to me…
…though it’d be even better if someone came to their senses and stuck Marillion on the line-up next year. Seriously – I’ve been waiting 35 years.