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Reading Festival has long been one that I've been waiting to check off my list. Last year I spent a day at Leeds Festival, and expected a similar feel here. However, the layouts were totally different, not to mention the weather. The festival was blessed with amazing sunshine and clear blue skies (much to the delight of the slushy stalls).
Upon our first entrance into the arena, we were immediately alarmed by its scale. For a festival with 7 stages, they are located extremely close together. Having said that, only the Main Stage and the BBC Introducing stage are open, the rest are found in tents, limiting the overspill of noise, although, with the variety of rides, some of the sounds just melted together
This close proximity allowed the ability to walk from one stage to the next more quickly than I had ever experienced at a festival before... earlier on in the day when the arena was quiet. However, as the arena got busier, more so on Saturday and Sunday, moving from stage to stage became a monumental task. Frequently throughout the day, there would be an influx of people surging through from all directions at the same time, making maneuvring through a real challenge, especially when factoring in the ridiculous lines at some of the food places that acted as human barriers.
We decided to make the most of the weather on our first day in the arena, and explore the area. The plethora of food and refreshment options was impressive and the arena felt the least busy on this day. Some of the musical highlights during the day on Thursday were Circa Waves and Two Door Cinema Club, whose Fifa hits were well received as always.
The headliners of the first night, Kasabian, had a lot to live up to. I'm sure many in attendance, such as myself, were blown away by their emphatic Glastonbury performance a few years back, so they certainly had a strong reputation for great live gigs to live up to. Although this performance didn't quite reach the same heights of that, it was incredibly enjoyable nonetheless.
Stand-out hits included the instantly recognisable 'Club Foot', 'Shoot the Runner' and 'L.S.F.'. However, the audience were clearly all eagerly awaiting 'Fire'. It was the final song on the night, played right at the very end of a three song encore. As soon as the opening chords were played, flares began to illuminate the crowd, lighting up one at a time, a truly remarkable scene from a distance.
Saturday evening hosted the artist that I was most looking forward to see: Eminem. I had seen him at Wembley Stadium in 2014 and was particularly impressed by his energy and showmanship. We entered the front pit on the left-hand side of the stage as Korn finished their set, and awaited Major Lazer very close to the stage to be met with what could only be described as chaos. I suspect the majority had entered the crowd early to gain a good position for the headliner much like ourselves, but the type of music that Major Lazer produces spawned anarchy in the crowd. The pushing was as extreme as I have ever experienced in a crowd with over an hour of non-stop uncomfortably, with waves of people falling like dominoes in all directions. This continued long after his set whilst people attempted to get closer to the stage.
However, as the Detroit rapper's headline slot loomed, the crowd began to calm. The people's anticipation was met by the realisation that they were about to witness one of the all-time greats of the genre. Then the background track stops. The curtain falls. The fans begin to scream, and then a pause. Suddenly the rapper emerges from the right hand side of the stage, along with his hypeman, Denaun Porter from the left, and the instantly recognisable beat of 'Square Dance' begins. From then on, it was 100 minutes of hip hop bliss.
The setlist was jam packed with hits, as well as less well-known album tracks, a perfect blend for the diehards and casual listeners. Songs from all of Eminem's solo albums from The Slim Shady LP, to the most recent 'Marshall Mathers LP 2' featured. Scattered throughout the set were gems such as 'Kill You', 'Stan', 'Til I Collapse', 'Just Don't Give a Fuck' and 'Sing For the Moment'. Towards the end was also a medley of the classics 'My Name is', 'The Real Slim Shady' and 'Without Me', and as always, an encore of the Oscar-winning 'Lose Yourself'.
His energy was as good as it was the last time I saw him and the crowd interaction possibly better. The guest, although not Dr Dre this time, but instead Royce da 5"9, was exciting for fans who were familiar with the Bad Meets Evil project. Overall, the performance was, in my opinion, the best of the festival.
The final day of Reading Festival 2017 was a scorcher. The sun shone all day long and put the festival goers in good spirits, despite the inevitability of their journey back home close ahead.
One of the biggest talking points of the day was the set of one Oasis frontman, Liam Gallagher. However, I'll come back to this as there was something quite exciting going on earlier on in the day, unbeknown to the thousands of fans who flocked to see popular grime artist Giggs. As though his set was not pleasing the crowd enough, he managed to bring out one of the biggest artists on the planet in Drake. Word must have gotten out as, at one point, being at the back of the crowd, I saw a surge of people sprinting to the main stage from all directions. Drake joined Giggs to perform this year's 'KMT', causing quite a bit of commotion in the crowd to say the least.
We moved on from the Main Stage to the NME stage (after consuming a wonderful Thai Green Curry), and awaited the German outfit, Milky Chance. I have to say, although unfamiliar with much of their work, they produced one of the most enjoyable sets of the weekend, with a phenomenal, relaxed, but highly involved crowd atmosphere, making them one of my surprise highlights of the weekend.
Now back to Liam Gallagher. We waited a while in the front pit to see him perform up close, and he emerged looking as Mancunian as ever with his shaved head, parka and shades. Cue 'Rock n Roll Star'. Oasis bliss. Even better yet, this was followed up by one of my favourites, 'Morning Glory', which was tremendous to witness and hear live. Gallagher then performed new, surprisingly good single, 'Wall of Glass, and the crowd excitement had not yet faded. Having said this, as the set went on, Oasis songs became scarcer, and the Liam Gallagher solo work, unknown to most, became more prominent. It picked up at points, for example, songs such as 'Slide Away' and 'D'you Know What I Mean' were enjoyable, as well as, of course, the best crowd participation of the weekend with the 'Wonderwall' closer, but the unknown solo songs definitely negatively affected the excitement of the crowd, and resulted in people standing silently, waiting for the next Oasis belter.
Reading Festival 2017 was a great weekend, and even when there is nobody playing that interests you, the plethora of stages often results in stumbling upon a band/artist that you have never previously heard. For example, we stumbled upon The Pretty Reckless, whom I possessed no prior knowledge of, and they put on a set that I was glad I didn't miss. Failing that, if you choose wisely, there is also some great food up for grabs.