In the grounds of Reading’s historical Abbey Ruins the heat is dense and standing still is tiring. The audience sit on the sidelines of the half destroyed walls to avoid the sun. The festival teams with a leisurely pulse, children are carried by their owners, armed with wrap-around headphones.

At the main stage Oxford’s August List ignore official advice and dance through the health warning, playing folk rock songs that almost bow into sounding like Anglo-French avant-pop stars Stereolab before converging back on choruses that distinguish themselves from the motions of Krautrock.

I get a sour beer that I don’t understand and give it to my friend.

On the smaller second stage Kah’nya, a Zimbabweian singer, now based in Reading plays solo. She confidently considers her culture shock, the voice of the state at every station, employing her to see it, say it, sort it. Before closing she plays a cover song, saying if you don’t know this one then you must have been living under a rock. I didn’t know the song.

I fill up my water bottle and return to the main stage.

Next Band Of Hope channel Lloyd Cole and folk crooners alike. The slide guitar walks in backwards, the textures know one another. Assured of its own assuredness it shrugs off its country highs. They finish with a rendition of Take the Skinhead Bowling.

I have the greatest cappuccino of my life from Anonymous Coffee.

Ben Marwood is already playing on the second stage. He performs a song featuring all the numbers of pi. It was a challenge he set himself after twenty years and more of writing and performing live. Gotta keep it fresh. If the artist becomes bored how long until the listener follows suit?

I say hello to a man who was at yesterday’s opening night of the festival and can’t stop smiling.

On the main stage the Madalitso Band sit comfortably. On their first UK tour, a sound based around a homemade instrument: the babatone. Calm, calm, calm, minimalist pop, so gentle it appears first as memory.

I eat one of my homemade sandwiches and look at the corner window of Reading prison.

Pale Blue Eyes cruise through lofty cathedral indie rock. If Bruce Springsteen was born to stroll he would sound like Pale Blue Eyes. Arpeggio synths pulse and if I close my eyes I can see the heart monitor in a pale blue hospital but where are the eyes?

I buy a cold beer.

Then Jeffery Lewis sings between notes, lauded ambassador for the anti-folk scene that sounds impossibly American in this site of Henry VIII’s biggest strop. His track observing the unavoidable pain of life may have been of some comfort to anyone living through the king’s deadly reign: ‘Ow, shit, fuck that hurt’, sing the band.

I have a packet of crisps and stand with one hand on my hip like a hungry teapot.

Los Bitcho’s music grows and struts to become more than the sum of its parts as the sun goes down. The band are yet to release a record that distils their dance rock into a tonic that matches the high definition, full colour expanse of their live show. Is such a thing possible? Probably not, but one silly face – a tongue poked out – from the frontwoman triggers a false instance of déjà vu. A flashback to a skunk fuelled teenage afternoon playing Guitar Hero with my mate Mikey. I had imagined a guitar hero sequence at the Abbey Ruins before this festival over fifteen years before, before the festival existed, a dream of a world to come. Strange.

I get a nice lager called First Impressions and I think about how I’ve always struggled to feel anything when listening to The Strokes.

Zihad Al-Samman on the second stage is a one man circus. Track two sees him start again a total of three times, struggling with a monitor that doesn’t want to share his own music with him. He asks the audience to get their phones out and shine their torches in the air. We oblige. Manufactured consent. Noam Chomskey writes very well about this matter but now is not the time for this avenue of thinking.

I get another beer and lose my friends and bump into festival organiser Dave who seems calm for a man with a walkie talkie at a festival.

All in black, BC Camplight arrives on stage with his band. He doesn’t like to overstate things but tonight will be legendary, he tells the crowd. The constellation of synthesisers, piano, saxophone and guitar takes shape against the purple light cast against the ruins. A lineup of unruly songs, covering the breadth of his career, marks a songwriter who has measured his own psyche with many instruments. A stern helmsman taking us downstream into relentless self-doubt, chimed with neat arrangements like a siren song beckoning listeners to the window ledge where the view is delightful but the fall is fatal. The night is hollowed out and any residue jouissance is metered out to indie-rave classic ‘I’m Desperate.’

A fine festival in a not too fine town. I grew up there. I can say it. All to Dave and the team. If it felt a bit like a dream that’s because there were no horrendous queues or extortionately priced cans of Red Stripe to wake me up. Tickets are available for next year and I’ll be there and I generally hate going out. That’s it. That’s the truth. Anything else would be superfluous.

Article by Patrick Malone

Keep up to date with all new content on Joyzine via our

Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mailing List





Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: