Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Hot Chip, The Sunshine Underground, Franz Ferdinand - GIITTV@CARLING WEEKEND: READING FESTIVAL 2006

James McDonald 05/09/2006

Friday: The day began far too early considering the alcohol consumption of the night before, however, undeterred, I made my way promptly to the Lockup Stage to catch Send More Paramedics on recommendation of a good friend. That friend has since been deleted from my phonebook. 'Zombiecore' isn't a genre I've come across before, and judging by this brief sample, one I'd care not to encounter again. The mess that was their set was only matched by their terrible Halloween costumes and singer 'xUndeadx' (I'd love to meet his parents) requests for 'fresh brains'. It's bands like this that make Dawn Of The Dead that extra bit scary, for all the wrong reasons 1/5. So then, to my second shock of the day; Panic! At The Disco's lowly cover of Radiohead classic 'Karma Police'. I guess the phrase, 'If something's worth doing, it's worth doing right' doesn't translate too well across the pond. Although credit is due to Brendon for recovering after being floored by a bottle between the eyes. Cheer up emo kids 2/5.

So after a relatively poor start to the festival, I was in need of a pick-up, and seeing as the campsite was drier than Alan Carr's wit, I headed to the main stage for The Subways, (probably one of the best decisions I'd made within the last 24 hours.) The fresh faced rockers blitzed through a breathtaking set of now 'classic' material, and some very promising new songs ('California' being the one to watch out for next year). Afterwards I was left wondering I ever took 'Young For Eternity' out my CD player 5/5.

After being subjected to Fall Out Boy (just, no, 1/5) during my cue for the most expensive nachos I've ever consumed, I hastily made my way to the Carling Stage to see The Sunshine Underground. Despite being a band I rate very highly, their set did little to reinforce my opinions, with only new single 'Put You In Your Place' standing out from an otherwise mediocre performance 3/5. No fear however, as I managed to duck out early to catch The Mystery Jets, who seemed to excel with tracks such as 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis' and 'Half In Love With Elizabeth' winning over a sizeable crowd (as if they needed winning over). Destined to be bigger than ever if the new album lives up to these kind of live performances 4/5.

As the sun began to lower over the first day of this year's festival, my excitement grew over seeing a band I've adored for a number of years now. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs took to the stage with a commanding performance of glorious new single 'Cheated Hearts', and continued to delight with Karen-O's ever present theatrical behaviour bringing smiles all round. However, as was the case with Yourcodenameis: milo last year, I was left a little disappointed by the set overall, which mostly sounded weak and at times quite messy. They did, however, play one of my all time favourite tracks 'Y Control', which was probably the most memorable moment of my day, 3/5.

So, with the colourful storm that was Karen-O and the other Yeahs over, it was then to the dirty word that is the Kaiser Chiefs. Despite the poor press and utter resentment from the 'new-wave indie crowd', the lads put in a sound performance, with epics such as 'I Predict A Riot' and 'Oh My God' being perfectly suited to such a large crowd. Also sampling new material in their set, the band did well to hold the audience, and with songs like 'High Rise', proving that they're set to be around for a lot longer than some had hoped 4/5.

So finally to what this festival is all about- the headliners, and despite some disagreement, Franz Ferdinand did well to argue their case that they were best suited for the slot. A very well planned and rehearsed performance, including an amazing backdrop of disfigured ra-ra girls, earned them good brownie points with the crowd. Unfortunately, the songs themselves were poorly delivered, with many a wrong note and missed chord resulting in a messy end to the day (no more so than during the climax of 9 drummers on the stage, which didn't result in the epic noise the band had hoped; more the question of exactly when would the speakers blow?). Praise be the next time they ask, 'Do You Want To?' 2/5

Saturday: Saturday, as always, was full of promise as far as the line-up was concerned, a view shared by many as it was revealed double the number of people attended today as opposed to yesterday (how much of that is credited to The Monkey's appearance I'll leave to your judgement.) Unfortunately, the day started late for me, as I spent the morning reporting a stolen bag to the hopeless met. pol. I did however manage to catch the last few tunes by Wolfmother, who, after I was reluctant to believe the hype, blew my socks right of in true rock and roll fashion. A perfect wake-up call if ever there were one 4/5.

Then to the NME stage, to catch Milburn, a watered down version of that other Sheffield band everyone had been talking about that morning. Their set lacked ideas and flair, with only fringe tune 'Cheshire Cat Smile' bringing any form of entertainment to a poor turnout 2/5. At least I was able to get perfect position for the fantastic Be Your Own Pet, who's garage-punk was electric to witness live, with special mention to 'Fuuuuun', a song which could only be truly appreciated in such surroundings 4/5.

After fleeing the tent before The Automatic were due on, I was lucky enough to see the majority of The Futureheads. I was unsure as to whether they'd be able to pull off a main stage slot, especially after their sparkling performance on the NME last year, however they played reasonably well, with a carefully calculated blend of material new and old. 'News And Tributes' in my view is a very underrated album, and the lack of crowd interest during songs from the album (even in smash hit 'Skip To The End') made the show nothing more than ordinary 3/5. Next up Dirty Pretty Things, who, even with Carl sporting a sling for the set, impressed with aptly mucky and rough indie-rock. The pinnacle, however, was undoubtedly their 'cover' of Libs classic 'I Get Along', but with the songs DPT have in their fast growing arsenal, they really don't need to revisit those days of old 4/5.

With a gap in my carefully planned schedule, I decided to hang around the main stage to catch cult-heroes Feeder, who were on top form, blasting out countless hits from their Best Of collection. It's impressive to see how far the band have come considering what they've been through, and their set brought inspiring festival moments in songs like 'Just A Day' and 'Pushing The Senses'. A surprising triumph 5/5.

There have been a few disappointing follow-up albums from the break through artists of last year so far, and today Jet offered nothing to promise a break from the trend. A tired and unimaginative set was all they had to give after being absent for so long. Let's hope it was just an 'off-day' 2/5.

So to the moment all had been waiting for. With the crowd packed in like sardines, the Arctic Monkeys took to the stage brimming with confidence, before laying the masses to wreck with a blistering rendition of 'I Bet You Look Good….'. However, it wasn't the charm and musical genius that we've come to love that shone through tonight, more the band's overwhelming arrogance (you sensed a little more than sarcasm when Alex Turner confessed, 'I thought you'd be a lot louder'.) If any band has the right to feel bigger than Jesus, currently it's these guys, however it took a lot of gloss off the well-planned set. 'Are you still there?' Alex asks. Well yes, but for how much longer? 3/5.

(Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)

Finally then to the day's headliners, Muse, who's blistering return to form in new album 'Black Holes And Revelations' was mirrored in an hour and a half of jaw dropping magnificence. Matt Bellemy confessed afterwards it was probably his best live performance to date, and the combination of epic hits and pyrotechnics won over the crowd from the first note to the distorted last. Magic 5/5.

Sunday: It was the last day (boo!) of this years saga, so I decided to catch as many bands as my ears and lungs could handle before drinking myself into a frenzy and forgetting the last 72 hours this evening. The first band of the last day were Metric, who's ecliptic noises and shining vocals promoted a good start to proceedings. So much so, I'd recommend Metric for breakfast any day 4/5. Staying with the NME stage, it was Tapes n Tapes up next. Four geeks, some dreary music, and numerous looks at my watch later; before I knew it the band had finished. Erm, so, that was that then 2/5. Now to one of my bands of the weekend. Before their set I was asking so many questions, why on this stage? Why so early? Before being left with only one- why do I care? Because as soon as the first note of Forward Russia's anthem 'Thirteen' kicked in, there was nothing else to do but be completely won over by the breath of fresh air that was their enthusiasm and energy. A brilliant set (far improved from the last time I saw them) lasting a mere 35 minutes, left everyone wanting more. A revolution if ever I saw one! 4/5. Whilst contemplating which over-priced food counter I'd spend my last fiver on, I stumbled across You Say Party! We Say Die! in the Carling tent. After 3 songs, I soon realised I should've chosen the party 2/5.

Seeking refuge from Slayer on the main stage, I managed to catch the whole of Broken Social Scene, a band I really admire. Their show wasn't too impressive to the outsider, but to those of us who knew of the band before today, it was a little piece of magic. 'Anthem For A 17 Year-Old Girl' was beautifully delivered, as was jangly hit single '7/4 Shoreline'. Relief 4/5.

So then to something completely different. Hotly tipped Klaxons packed out the Carling tent with a full scale rave of glow sticks and ski jackets. Those who weren't lucky enough to squeeze in paced the perimeter, dressed up in luminous face paint and 70s jogging suits. It's nice to follow a trend, right? 3/5. And from one packed tent to another; with punters doing anything the could to catch a glimpse of The Kooks on the NME stage. Yours truly managed to squeeze in, and how glad I am for doing so. The atmosphere inside was electric, with huge sing-a-longs to anthems such as 'Matchbox' and 'See The World'. A band I'd always thought would only be worth seeing in a small venue (as if that'll ever happen again), now proving exactly what they can do. Damn those pesky kids 5/5.

A complete contrast on the main stage then with Placebo, who, with 'technical difficulties' and all, dredged on through a mundane hour long set (admittedly, most of which I'd missed due to the whirlwind at the NME stage). They've got the hits, they've got the talent, but the personalities? A guitar smashing climax was probably the most juxtaposed finish I've ever seen from a band 2/5. And for the last time this year: the headliners, and a confession. Don't throw me to the lions….. but at the time, with much alcohol already in my belly, I opted for Hot Chip on the Carling Stage as opposed to the heavily fancied Pearl Jam. And to be perfectly honest, I have not a single regret, because the performance was amazing- a lesson in how to create a rave-atmosphere before even stepping on stage. The band paced themselves, teasing the listener with patient build ups (one songs being completely drowned out by excitable chants of 'turn it up! Turn it up!' from the crowd), before delivering melodic dance masterpieces in the forms of 'Colours' and 'Over And Over'. The rave of the weekend, possibly the band of the weekend, talk about ending on a high! 5/5.