The final day of Reading 2019 is all about that rock’n’roll in all its glory. First up are Milk Teeth. Unashamedly outspoken, they appear onstage with protest statements adorning their equipment, shirts, flags and, of course, the big screens. Sans drummer Oli Holbrook – his spot being filled by a stand-in, along with two flag bearers-cum-backing-singers-cum-dancers – it’s all-out warfare for all that is good and right in the world. Dedicating newest cut ‘Stain’ to Boris Johnson, who is “a stain on our country”, on a day that is set to be surrounded by punks and rockers ready to stand up for what’s right, there’s no better start than Milk Teeth.
SWMRS weren’t meant to be playing Reading’s main stage. Pull-outs from elsewhere on the bill have thrust them into a deserved slot on the festival’s biggest platform, and they’re not planning on letting it slip by. Expanded to a six-piece, they’re still as infectious as ever, but with a depth that more than fills the field ahead of them. It’s not just the music that’s the message here, though. SWMRS represent something altogether more interesting; a generation of music fans striving to make the world around them better. There are small ways – ‘Miley’ remains a calling card for those who have no time for the Real Music bullshit of the past – but massive ones, too. A lengthy break to call out assault at shows isn’t just a case of going through the motions; it’s reflective of the community they’ve created around their band. That’s all in addition to a collection of exceptionally effective bangers. From opener ‘Palm Trees’ through to raucous closer ‘Lose Lose Lose’, SWMRS belong.
The Faim’s ascent is already looking pretty damn assured, but as they take to Reading’s de-facto second stage, they’re still more than willing to prove they’ve got what it takes. A rock band with ambitions above the norm, they’ve got the pedigree to suggest big things. Recent single ‘Humans’ in particular sounds like a band pushing at the edges of the mainstream consciousness. With a debut album still to come out of the blocks, they’re already in pole position for a significant upgrade very soon indeed.
It’s 30 degrees, and we are sweaty, Dear Reader. We’re not just mentioning that for sympathy, we’re setting the scene for Hot Milk, a band whose lead vocalist, Hannah, has opted to wear a black boiler suit. That doesn’t stop her leaping on stage and immediately calling for the crowd to riot.
A lot of bands boast about being great live, but for Hot Milk, the boast isn’t in vain. “Wakey wakey!” shouts bassist Tom Paton as he jumps into the crowd, held upright by the audience as he continues to play. After a brief break to complain about just how sweaty they are, they dive right back in, and crowd members are bouncing off of each other like pinballs. It’s a raucous start to the afternoon, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bounding out onto the stage, it’s a full-on pop-punk party with Stand Atlantic. The Aussie bunch have clearly been making some waves due to the packed out Lock Up stage, rousing singalongs and joyous bouncing.
Enter Shikari are relentless in all the best ways, and this Reading & Leeds weekend they’re aiming to do more sets across the pair of sites than anyone else. Starting with a low-key stripped-back set on the Introducing Stage, the many faces of Enter Shikari are out to play. A band that can adapt to any setting, it’s when they’re running at full steam that they become unstoppable, however.
Their main stage set during the blistering afternoon sun sees them don matching blue and black suits; they’re every part kings of the underground. Warning that they’re purveyors of “the kind of songs that would make your Dad say music was better in his day,” bursts of fire give further life to every breakdown, burst beat and frontman Rou Reynolds’ guttural growl.
Another band using their platform to spotlight global warming, there’s a giant projected image showing the earth’s changing temperatures, with each year defined during a behemoth outing of ‘Juggernauts’, followed by a quickfire onslaught featuring ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’, ‘You’re Not Getting Any Sleep Tonight’, ‘The Last Garrison’ and ‘…Meltdown’.
Saving the best till last, their final set at Reading is on The Pit; an all-out frenzy, it’s utter anarchy. As Sunday’s setting sun pours through the tent, silhouetting Rou, the festival may be approaching its end, but the pulse is well and truly alive. Introduced as a “set of choice cuts” by bassist Chris Batten, they dish out the second-ever outing of ‘Tribalism’ (with Leeds getting the first the day before) from their 2010 b-side album of the same name.
Once again, it’s another moment to stand for something. Rou disappears, only to reappear left of the stage, hanging an Extinction Rebellion banner from the screen before the band continue ripping into their set. Rounding it all off with ‘The Appeal & Mindsweep II’ bounding into the electronic punk thrash that they do so well.
Technical issues can bring down a festival set before its even begun. That’s the problem nothing, nowhere. is having to contend with. Finally hitting the UK, long delays reduce proceedings to a capsule set. It does leave room for the lead taster of a forthcoming EP alongside blink-182’s Travis Barker, though; ‘Destruction’ positively throws sparks. It’s just a shame there’s not time for more.
Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve lost until its gone. Sure, it’s not as if we didn’t appreciate them the first time around, but there’s something special about The Distillers’ appearance on an absolutely baking Reading main stage in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Tightly packed in formation and prepared to raise the temperature even further, there’s a razor blade sharpness to their music which sits counter to so many of their peers. It’s the back end of the set, and all-time MTV 2 megabanger ‘City Of Angels’, that really takes it to boiling point, though. Packed with attitude, it’s a welcome return.
Frank Carter is a Reading institution – come rain or shine, he’ll be there. Partway through today’s set, he even tells an anecdote about attending the festival 19 years ago and seeing Foo Fighters play third from the top of the bill – conveniently, that’s exactly where he and the Rattlesnakes are now.
They make the most of it, too. Frank’s crowdsurfing by the beginning of the second song, and he doesn’t really return to the stage for much of the next 15 minutes. Dean, the guitarist, gets in on the action too, with Frank shouting across the crowd “I’ll race you!” Before diving back in himself.
It’s chaos, but it’s organised chaos. The band never miss a note and Frank’s a master of whipping the crowd into a frenzy. It might be a hundred degrees in the shade, but people are leaping about regardless. There’s a reason he’s an institution, you know.
There is no denying that Foo Fighters are every-inch a headline band; their very essence lies in giving their audience a time to remember, and tonight is no different. From the unmistakeable driving force of ‘The Pretender’ to the rousing, beyond euphoria of ‘Everlong’ and all the bits along the way – including a true Rick Roll with a teasing snippet of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ with Rick Astley, before properly launching into ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ – Dave Grohl refuses to let any momentum wane. Impressive, given their billed three-hour set time.
Foos may get slack for making a four-minute song last three times as long, and being a bit ‘Dad-rock’, but really, is there a band that have been around for as long who can still be met with near-on unanimous adoration? Reading 2019 proves the wheels on the Foo’s train are far from static.