Regular readers of this Best Of The Fests blog have possibly already read my very thorough, very detailed, highly professional account of the first festival adventure of my recent British vacation: Richard "Rebel Billionaire" Branson's own V Festival, which took place August 18 & 19. (If you haven't read that blog entry, no worries--just click HERE. Enjoy.)
Anyway, don't expect such a thorough/detailed/professional report on the second big stop of the "Lyndsey Parker 2007 U.K. Tour," the following weekend's Reading Festival. No, readers, I'm sorry and semi-ashamed to report that my memories of the Reading Fest are a little, um, blurry. (Hey, did you know that beer in England contains a higher percentage of alcohol than American beer, by the way? Er, yeah, maybe that had something to do with my memory loss.)
I do remember, however, that it was uncharacteristically warm for Britain (concertgoers standing uncomfortably in their sweaty wellies probably wish they'd consulted Yahoo! Weather before setting off for the festival), causing me to forget all of Al Gore's noble teachings and instead feel indescribably thankful for this unexpected bit of global warming. I also remember I saw some pretty hot new Brit bands, too. So I'll piece together these warm 'n' beer-fuzzy memories now. A lot of these bands don't even have U.S. deals yet, so read about 'em here first and then when one of them becomes the next Coldplay you can say you heard about them ages ago, and you can feel all hipster-y and shiz.
NOTE: These artists are listed in alphabetical order solely due to my inability to accurately recall who played on which of Reading's three days...
BLOOD RED SHOES - Reading's lineup was, much to my delight, replete with loud-and-proud ladyrockers this year, and one chick that stood out for sure was this coed Brighton duo's Laura-Mary Carter, who instantly made her presence felt on the sidestage by repeatedly belting, "WOOOOO!!! WOOOOO!!! WOOOOO!!!" for about the first two minutes of her opening number. Awesome! Then she hollered, "Is anybody drunk yet? Because I am!" Ah, a woman after my own heart. Anyway, drummer Steve Ansell once described Blood Red Shoes' sound to NME as "imagine hitting your head against a wall while sucking a lollipop," and while I didn't actually test out that theory at Reading (I would've had to drink a few more beers to be persuaded to try), his description seemed fairly accurate: BRS's show was hard and aggressive, yet sweet. Wooo!!
CAJUN DANCE PARTY - With perhaps the most inappropriate band name since Barenaked Ladies (they are not Cajun, they aren't particularly dancey, and aside from their festive band-logo balloons, they aren't especially partyish), CDP probably disappointed any uninformed punters who stumbled upon their set hoping for some hot zydeco jams or a couple Neville Brothers cameos. But anyone hankering for some reckless, slightly Libertines-damaged, yet ultimately brain-clawingly catchy art-pop was no doubt quite pleased. I know I was!
DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? - Okay, either these deliciously obnoxious electro-punks have the bestest band name ever, or they have the worst name since, well, Cajun Dance Party. But hey, it takes more than--as the Brits say--a shite moniker to offend the likes of me. It even takes more than them totally messing up the words during a cover of Devo's "Whip It." Come to think of it, DIOYY?'s Devo cover was actually super-rad. But not as super-rad as their own song "Let's Make Out," the chorus of which consisted of the title being screeeeeaaaaammmmed with neck-vein-bulging, stalker-like insistency: "LET'S MAKE OUT! LET'S MAKE OUT! LET'S MAKE OUT! LET'S MAKE OUUUUUUUUUT!!!!!" I ask you, how could any girl resist such a mating call? So, does it offend me? Hell no! In fact, I'd make out with any of DIOYY? right now.
THE ENEMY - Last I checked, these next-big-thing newbies, all of whom appear to be about 12 years old, were the hottest thing in Britain since sliced haggis. Of course, I've been back from my U.K. trip for five days now, and given the massive hype turnover in the British music press, they could have become has-beens some time between the moment my plane left Heathrow and when it touched down at LAX. But given the crazy Beatlemania-style reception they got at Reading, these nearly riot-inducing lad rockers--with their Gallagher brother haircuts and everyman anthems about crappy life in crappy towns--could be the long-searched-for "next Oasis." As long as they never record an album like Standing On The Shoulder [sic] Of Giants, they should be fine.
FOALS - I hate math. I am also not that athletically inclined. But oddly, I like this Oxford quintet's song "Mathletics." Yes, usually the oxymoronic catchphrase "math rock" sends me running to the nearest set of steak knives to plunge deep into my ear canals...which to me has always seemed like a more pleasant prospect than listening to an 11-minute wankathon by some group of John McEntire/Jim O'Rourke-associated noodlers. But Foals, I like. A lot. It doesn't add up, huh? (Sorry, I couldn't resist).
KATE NASH - I can't say much about this lovely lass's gig because it was so overpacked, I simply could not shoehorn myself into the ridiculously small tent where she was playing without risking getting involved in some sort of Who-in-Cincinnati-style stampede. (Apparently she was booked into a sidestage slot weeks earlier, before her debut album Made Of Bricks came out of nowhere and shot to #1 in Britain. D'oh!) Even worse, I couldn't even get close enough to the video screen outside the tent to see or hear the itsiest bit of her hype-laden performance. Oh well. But I've seen photos of her and I can tell you she is as cute as the cutest button to button, and I've heard her music and I know she has a sweet-as-Cadbury voice and soul-baring lyrics that would maybe even make her #1 MySpace buddy, Lily Allen, blanch a bit. So, is Kate the new Lily Allen? Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with the current Lily Allen that needs replacing or upgrading, but I nevertheless think Kate is "one to watch," as we like to say in the biz.
LATE OF THE PIER - This band is so hip it hurts. It hurts just to write about them, knowing I will never be as hip as them--not even if I employ a round-the-clock fleet of personal stylists and spend the rest of my days hanging out with Kate Moss and the MisShapes crew. They're so impossibly, disgustingly hip, I want to hate them. But I cannot hate, I must appreciate. Because LOTP's super-hip disco/thrash/punk is simply hot hot hot, as in hotter than a thousand uncharacteristically hot Reading Festival suns. Damn you, LOTP!
LETHAL BIZZLE - Meet the new Dizzee Rascal! Not heard of the old Dizzee Rascal? That's OK. It's also fine if you've never heard of Wiley, Bizzle's grime-scene rival. Just pick the Bizzle side of that feud and move on. Because crossover king Lethal Bizzle has collaborated with Pete Doherty, toured with the Enemy, and sampled the Streets, and he packed his Reading tent show with a sweaty crowd of Kate Nash-y proportions. That's good enough for me!
LITTLE MAN TATE - How have I not heard of LMT before? They've been around since 2005, which means I've missed out on two years when I could have been gleefully pogoing around my living room to their shouty, stop-starty, infectious-as-leprosy powerpop. I think I sort of made up for those two lost years with all my field-dancing during their Reading set, though. Yes, I am a total sucker for any song with Buzzcockian whoa-ohs and bop-bops and yeah-yeahs in them, and it seemed like every LMT song had a monosyllabic, onomatopoeic chorus than propelled my beer-cup-filled fist straight into the air. You know, these guys have a song called "Man I Hate Your Band." But I will never, ever utter those words to Little Man Tate. Not unless it's on my favorite holiday, Opposite Day.
THE LONG BLONDES - I saw these guys (and girls) at Reading a couple years ago, on a sidestage, but this year these sharp and stylish new wavers graduated to the main stage, where they most definitely belonged. Certainly frontvixen Kate Jackson--a pencil-skirted (and incidentally, brunette) femme fatale even foxier than the Charlie's Angel who shares her name--proved she is destined for superstardom, as a connection was made (as the similarly fierce and foxy Elastica would say) with her audience straight away. Yes, when this luscious Jackson declared, "I just want to be your sweetheart!" in her best Transvision Vamp wail, many males in the audience--and some females, including myself--seemed all too eager to oblige. Yep, I admit I have a bit of a girl-crush on Kate. She's hawt.
OPERATOR PLEASE - These guys aren't English, they're Australian--but the Oz population is made up of British convicts' descendants, and Operator Please were one of Reading's raddest attractions, so they deserve a mention here amid all the buzzy Brits. Operator Please are all teenagers (some of them even needed to have chaperones with them at Reading--so cute I can't stand it!); they wear blinding bright colors that would make even the Klaxons reach for their sunglasses; their singles are cheerful enough to make the Polyphonic Spree sound like Joy Division; and they have killer song titles like "Just A Song About Ping Pong." And their bio says: "We like lots of things from kitties to cheese, but most of all we love each other." Awwww. All reasons why, if you're looking for a new favorite band, you could do worse than Operator Please.
PATRICK WOLF - There was possibly no bigger star of the entire festival than this proudly prancing peacock of a performer. Taking the sidestage (WHY, oh WHY was he on the side stage?) resplendent in a sequin-studded bolero, scarlet kneesocks, his trademark lederhosen (to borrow a phrase from Tim Gunn, Patrick makes it work), and retina-scaldingly fluorescent Ziggy Stardust coiffure, this glitter god easily upstaged shirtless headliner Johnny Borrell of Razorlight. And keep in mind, Razorlight's concurrent set was taking place on the opposite end of the field, seemingly about three miles away, on the main stage. Yes, that's how far Patrick's star power radiated. May Patrick return to Reading next year, on the main stage where he belongs.
REVEREND & THE MAKERS - Man, what the frig is in that Sheffield water supply? Everyone bitches about what a gray, bleak, all-around sucky place it is, but the northern England city that spawned the aforementioned Little Man Tate and Long Blondes--not to mention Brit darlings Arctic Monkeys (and, back in the day, Pulp and fricking DEF LEPPARD)--can't be all that sucky. The Reverend (aka John McClure) is another Sheffield superstar, one with an especially prestigious pedigree because his former band 1984 reportedly inspired his friend, Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, to pen the line "dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984" from "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor." Being mythologized in a Monkeys song can certainly raise fans' expectations, but luckily the Rev lived up to the myth when his indie-funktastic Makers backed him at Reading. In fact, it wasn't long before the charismatically cult-leader-esque Rev got his audience to chant, "Get bored, get stupid!" in unison, and it was not boring or stupid in the least.
THE TEENAGERS - These guys aren't English either. They're from France, as the Coneheads might say. But they live in London now and have penned perhaps the all-time funniest, most disturbing ode to Anglo-American sexual relations, "Homecoming." I can't mention nearly any of "Homecoming"'s lyrics because they are positively dripping with Franco filth, and you know, Yahoo! is a nice family-friendly site and all. I can tell you that the main, repeated word in the song's chorus begins with, um, the letter C. I can also paraphrase, and tell you that this not-for-faint-of-heart techno ditty is a he said/she said duet about a vacation fling between a British tourist and a flighty Yank chick with a Valley Girl accent. Suffice it to say that "he" and "she" have very different memories about their "romance." As someone who's personally dated a couple of Brit men, I kinda-sorta cringed when I heard this tune. But then I laughed and laughed and laughed, and all was well. And I don't think it was just the beer that gave me the giggles. "Homecoming" is true twisted genius!
Alrighty, I think that's it. I'm probably forgetting a few artists (sorry!!), but this blog still contains a pretty good list to kickstart your import-record-shopping. While you're doing that, I'll be lying on my sofa, procrastinating unpacking my suitcase full of Top Shop purchases and trying to will myself to spontaneously grow a new liver. Cheers!