Reading Festival

Reading Festival

Reading Festival is the longest-running popular music festival still in existence in the UK. It takes place on the August bank holiday weekend every year and is held at Little John’s Farm on Richfield Avenue in Reading.

It started its life as the National Jazz Festival in 1961 before turning its attention specifically to rock, metal and punk actin 1971. Until the 1990s, it saw a variety of different acts grace its stage, including The Ramones, The Jam and Penetration.

However, it was the 1990s which saw the festival really blossom. One of Reading’s most legendary performances has to be Nirvana’s show in 1992. Nirvana had played Reading the year before in 1991, but for their 1992 headline slot, they really upped the ante. Cobain came on sitting in a wheelchair and dressed in a hospital robe. This was after his mental health had been under speculation in the run-up to the show. Another interesting fact is that Kurt Cobain opens his rendition of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ with the introductory chords from Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’, thus mocking critics who had argues that Cobain’s alt-rock-anthem mimicked Boston’s single. Unfortunately, this was to be Nirvana’s last UK show, but the performance has been preserved for posterity by a DVD release of the set.

Reading Festival added its sister-festival in Leeds to the UK scene in 1999, making the combined capacity of the franchise at over 100 000. This was due to the claim that the Reading site had become too small to handle demand. Leeds Fest’, as it is affectionately known, is now a fully-fledged festival in its own right, but holds a few-thousand fewer people. Nevertheless, Leeds Festival’s crowds have been known for their lively character and bands still always get a very warm reception, especially those from Yorkshire and Lancashire. The Arctic Monkey’s set at Leeds in 2005 has gone down as legend: The Monkey’s, whose reputation was still largely confined to The North, received the largest crowd of any unsigned band in UK history, more than twice filling out the capacity of the NME tent.

Ever since Reading and Leeds have gone from strength to strength. In the last decade, they have seen the likes of The Cure, The Libertines, The Strokes, The Prodigy, Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters take headline slots whilst many emerging bands such as The Vaccines, Klaxons, Two Door Cinema Club took their music to a wider audience. Last year, future stars Palma Violets wowed audiences with their brand of aggressive garage rock, not seen since The Libertines, and are set to blow up in the next year.

Whatever happens, we can be sure of one thing. Reading will always put on a good show and, here at Guitar Lessons Reading, we can’t wait for next year’s line up.

Photography: Christian Bertrand

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