Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Reading Festival 1998

In a year that has signalled the death of the music industry, and been blighted by a stream of cancelled gigs and festivals, what hope is there that the spirit can live on at Reading, the last bastion of indie, and traditional finale of the festival season? However bleak the verdict so far, the search for a pulse must continue, even if it involves carrying out a stomach by-pass on Tiny Ultrasound and personally giving Rick Witter the kiss of life.

Friday sees a good showing from the Chemikal Underground contingent, with label bosses the Delgados leading the way. By ditching the frantic thrashings of their earlier recordings, they no longer resemble a Pavement karaoke act, and their deliciously serene fuzz-pop ramblings ease away the discomfort of having spent a couple of hours in a sleeping bag which had foolishly been left unzipped during a particularly cold night.

While the festival-loathing Rocket from the Crypt infiltrate the main stage to present their rock'n'roll revival revue, and ensure that a few more conscripts join Speedo's Army with another melee of anthemic maelstroms and odes to the cosmetics industry, an explosion of over-active follicles signals the arrival of Grandaddy over on the second stage. Mixing the subtle strains of Sparklehorse with the art-rock noise of Pavement, Modesto's finest show us what skaters are actually capable of when they finally ditch their wheels in favour of six strings, as the sublime 'Summer Here Kids' sets the mood for the entire festival.

The weirdness continues with Yo La Tengo who, after an opening keyboard salvo which sends people running from the tent muttering nasty things about the Doors, launch into an entirely audience-hostile set, building on five minute intros of droning feedback, instrument swapping and dual-drumming, and offer us the first of this weekend's Beach Boys covers as 'Little Honda' is given the distortion treatment until it sounds like the Mary Chain have made a surprise appearance.

Arab Strap appear to be very much out of place during daylight hours, but Aidan soon proves that whatever concoction he's been drinking, darkness isn't a necessary ingredient, and the confines of the Maker tent provides the atmosphere required to stop this particular rambling, shouty drunk bloke sounding like any other tramp you could find stumbling around Kings Cross at night. The once fantastic Kenickie prove that maybe there is something to this bratpop thing, as their new found maturity and extra years strip away the energy that had previously made them so vital, giving them the time to watch Saturday Night Fever once too often, and until the girls finally girls resemble B*witched disappearing up John Travolta's arse.

It's left for Johnny X to redeem some credibility as he and Aidan amble back on-stage to further augment the (instru)mental as anything Mogwai during the carpet bombing onslaught of 'Mogwai Fear Satan'. Unfortunately, the newer songs don't have the same impact, and although the more recognisable likes of 'Helicon' and 'Rollerball' lay waste to your eardrums in the required manner, the set fails to reach the stellar heights of which we know that they are capable.

Scott4 provide a premature end to the day with their lo-fi country krautrock hip-hop blues thrilling the devoted few in a tent full of pathetic, whining little Gomez fans. When the summer has been blighted by desperate fashion victims willing to believe that the wild west look is a good idea, Scott Blixen is welcome proof that a stetson can look cool, if only the wearer has the style sufficient to carry it off. Surrounded by his entourage of assorted guitarists, keyboard players and a bemused-looking old bloke on pedal steel, Scott offers a punishing, relentless thrashing to the Gomez fans, with 'Your Kingdom To Dust' and 'Deutsche LP Record' leading to the climatic 'You Set The Scene', during which the band valiantly spend five minutes ignoring the soundman's best efforts to get them to leave the stage, leaving your correspondent's head buzzing as he stumbles off to bed.