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Cherwell Festival Guide II- Reading and Leeds

Reading and Leeds aspire to a swagger they have never quite achieved. Whilst Glastonbury increasingly comes across like a once-hip uncle desperately trying to stay relevant, Reading/Leeds have all the rock-and-roll attitude of a 17-year-old rebel  trying to pick up girls in his mum’s Vauxhall Corsa without getting hair-gel on her seat covers. Catering neither to the heavy rock market, the mainstream pop-rock market, the experimental rock market, Reading/Leeds always feel faintly pointless.

Location ★★☆☆☆

As the name suggests, these festivals are held in Reading and Leeds, which is a shame. At least they’re both quite convenient on the motorway.

Headliners ★★☆☆☆

The Arctic Monkeys are still OK, probably, but in your heart of hearts you’ll know that seeing them now will never compare to seeing them around the time that Favourite Worst Nightmare came out. Quite why anyone bothers booking the execrable Blink-182 in 2014 is a complete mystery, but the ever-reliable Queens of the Stone Age will ensure that the Friday night, at least, is alive with their timeless riff-lead racket. Macklemore is playing too, but never mind.

Mid-card ★☆☆☆☆

Pusha T’s sparse raps about coke and death are remorseless and brilliant. We Are Scientists are presumablyproducing the same irreverent post-punk racket they were in 2007, the last time anyone checked. And there’s always a chance that Jake Bugg might be struck by lightning before August. But these are the only real highlights. Acts like Paramore and Enter Shikari rely on the devoted support of an ever-dwindling fanbase, and have little to offer that isn’t overwrought and passé. The likes of Courteeners and Warpaint do not even have the benefit of screaming 15-year-old fangirls to mask the sound of their wallpaper rock music. As increasingly seems to happen at rock festivals, the festival organisers have turned to dance music in a half-hearted attempt to stay relevant, to but to no avail. From the pointless unpleasantness of Borgore to the turgid deep house of Ben Pearce, there is nothing on offer here not available in far more abundance elsewhere.

Hidden gems  ★★☆☆☆

As always there are one or two highlights at the bottom of the pile. These include Gesaffelstein playing murkily abrasive techno, the endlessly inventive noise-pop of The Pains Of Being Pure at Heart, and the uncompromising grime assault of Newham Generals. Unfortunately they are drowned by a pile of slush, from the mopey garage-rock of Drenge to the whiney metalcore of Crossfaith (imagine being in a band that not only aspired to sound like Slipknot, but also failed to do so). One of these two stars is earned by La Dispute, the post-hardcore experimentalists who make screamo with far more intellect, nous and technical ingenuity than half the rest of the bill put together.

USPs ★☆☆☆☆

When a festival proudly announces as a WORLD EXCLUSIVE that My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way is performing his first ever solo show, it’s time to slowly back towards the exit without making any sudden movements.

Should I go? ★★☆☆☆

It could be worse: they’re not T4 on the Beach by any stretch of the imagination. Osfest, the leading music festival in my home county of Shropshire, was last year headlined by JLS, James Arthur, The Enemy and The Pigeon Detectives. At Reading/Leeds, there are a few of decent acts buried amongst the crap. But it hardly seems worth the effort of rooting through reams of clapped-out guitar bands to unearth these nuggets, especially when you’ll be surrounded by 16-year-old knobheads who remind you all too uncomfortably of your slightly younger self.

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