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The unthinkable has finally happened in 2019; we’re forecast an entirely rain-free Reading. The sun bares down on dusty grass, the air smells of GCSE commiserations and first beers are flowing as No Rome packs out the Festival Republic stage at the ungodly hour of 1:40. For someone who rose rather drastically to fame through having Matty Healy (cue screaming) feature on his track ‘Narcissist’, half the crowd know a surprising amount of words to his other material, as the other half look completely indifferent as to what’s on stage as they shade from the beating sun.
Twin Atlantic take to the Main Stage not long after, making their triumphant return as Reading and Leeds veterans. Arriving to the jarring sounds of Charlie Chaplin’s final speech from ‘The Great Dictator’, Sam McTrusty struts around the stage as they bash their way through a set complete with old and new material, from the crowd-pleasing ‘Make A Beast of Myself’ to their debut of new song ‘Volcano’.
Setting the bar for the rest of the pop acts at the festival, Charli XCX throws herself around the Main Stage with sweat dripping from her pristinely styled hair. Despite the mass exodus after Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, the song that shot Charli to internet pop sensation status, the crowd is the wildest so far today. She holds her own on a stage that could easily swallow a solo performer running through hits like ‘Blame It On Your Love’ and ‘Boys’.
Taking the mid-2000s pop rock reigns from Twin Atlantic, You Me At Six bounce about the main stage with Josh Franceschi sporting a jacket emblazoned with ‘Go Vegan’. Running through tracks from 2010’s Hold Me Down all the way up to last week’s single ‘What’s It Like’, their performance falls short of the other acts that have taken the stage so far today, leaving old fans satiated but unlikely to convert anyone new.
The BBC Introducing stage is always a hive of activity at Reading, having played host to names like Spector, Marmozets and Don Broco in the past, and this year’s lineup is no different. Continuing the succession of exciting new bands is BlackWaters, a four-piece from Sheffield. Pulling one of the biggest crowds of the day at the stage, their infectious punk mix seeps through the crowd.
Do Nothing shout and swagger their way through an impressive set prior to BlackWaters, filled with alternative anthems caught between twisted punk and cocksure new wave. Besuited and verbose, the group prove that they are perhaps the alternative scene’s Favourite New Thing.
Royal Blood’s rise to fame was meteoric and well documented, going from forming in 2011 to winning the Best British Group Award at the BRITs in 2015, their two-man show gained them notoriety as every Dad’s new favourite rock band. “But how do they make that sound with JUST two instruments? Crazy.”
It’s bizarre that they’re still playing support headlines slots five years later off the back of the success of their first album, when the second was largely an unimaginative reincarnation of the first, but here they are. Mike Kerr’s lovely sparkly trousers are the star of the show as the setlist starts to sound like one tremendously long song, leaving everyone ready for the more varied music style of The 1975.
Finally, welcome to the main stage the self-proclaimed “best band in the entire fucking world, The 1975.”
Not one to shy away from a bit of attention, Matty Healy and co breeze their way through a set bursting with political angst and self-indulgence. The enigmatic frontman slides from one end of the stage to the other, chain-smoking cigarettes and babbling about climate change between tracks about love, lust, acceptance and addiction.
The band make their live debut of ‘People’, a thrashy, controversial new track that seems to mark the beginning of a new, active and environmentally conscious 1975, it sets a rather odd tone for the rest of the set, being something of a complete anomaly in their back catalogue. Screams of ‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’ jolt the field in to life, before it settles back down to the more dulcet tones of ‘She’s American’ and ‘It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You’.
It’s more than a headline show, it’s a movement. All their merch available today is up-cycled material from previous eras, so as to not succumb to the fast fashion scene and contribute to the slow, painful demise of our beautiful planet. They take time in the career-defining set to play the latest rendition of ‘The 1975’ featuring a speech from young protester Greta Thunberg and addresses the hot water they got themselves into last week when he kissed a boy during their Dubai show.
Whether ignorant or just blissfully unaware of the potential repercussions of his privileged actions, he supports the decision saying that “It’s not us that need to change, it’s the world”, which is evidently a lot easier in the Matty Healy bubble than it is in the United Arab Emirates.
He tears between endearing arrogance and faux modesty, almost akin to a diagnosed narcissist, as they end they rip through everything from an unexpected rendition of ‘The City’ to the beautiful ‘Somebody Else’ and ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’.
Climaxing on ‘Sex’ and ‘The Sound’, his rag doll demeanour has the crowd in the palm of his smoke-stained hands, hanging on every word from his red wine stained lips.
This music may not change the world, as they’re so desperately trying to convey, but it could well inspire the new generation of Reading to give it a good stab. All they need to do is wake up! Wake up! Wake up!
More about: Reading Festival