Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins

And so to the moment most people never thought that they would see - the return of Smashing Pumpkins. Perhaps, to the purist, not the ideal way to see them, with no James Iha and no D'Arcy Wretzky. On the other hand, it has the advantage that, beyond dispute, this is Corgan's show and he and only he can be faulted if something goes wrong.

Not, of course, that indie rock's most legendary egomaniac would see it like that. He must be happy tonight, though, because he's smiling. Heck, he even jokes with the crowd, describing first English and then American girls as sluts, then suggesting that the benefit of being 'alternative' is that you can say things like that. He's not wrong and a hugely partisan crowd lap it up.

I guess there were three things that were inevitable about this show. The first is that there would be a fair smattering of songs from new album "Zeitgeist", and indeed there are, including drumthumping recent single "Tarantula". The second is that Billy would, at some point, indulge in some frenetic fretvvanking and, like a teenager alone in a bedroom, he does, with messy frequency. And the third? Well, that he wouldn't play half the songs that you wanted him to - and he pretty well doesn't.

It would be churlish to complain, though. We still get "Stand Inside Your Love", a "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" that includes an audience singalong that even Corgan is forced to concede is "not bad at all". There's a sublime, solo, acoustic rendition of "1979", an elegant "Tonight, Tonight" and the whole thing rounds off in the perfect way with "Cherub Rock". I am sated.

Nine Inch Nails

And so to the last two acts of the day. What better, as the sun goes down and the liver starts to flag, than a good dose of old fashioned industrial rock. And Uncle Trent doesn't disappoint us, blasting us back into life with classics such as "March Of The Pigs" and "Head Like A Hole", intermingled with a selection of tracks from new album "Year Zero" - possibly the most mainstream one they have made, although that isn't hard where NIN are concerned.

Reznor himself doesn't say a lot, pausing occasionally to thank the audience, perhaps reasoning that more talking means less time for abusing guitars and electronic implements, but perhaps also conscious of not repeating his poorly-timed attack on Billy Corgan.

The set ends, of course, with "Hurt" - but done stylishly. As "Head Like A Hole" reaches its climax in an orgy of feedback and instrument trashing, members of the audience start to drift away. They miss the lights dimming until there is just one spot focused on Reznor, alone at a keyboard. It is the perfect ending to a nearly perfect show.


Electing to see a big chunk of Gallows makes it absolutely impossible to get inside the crammed tent where CSS are playing. But you don't need to know what happens. Great music, an excitable and charismatic performance from Lovefoxx and, yes, she still sings "Alala" from the middle of the moshpit.


Most of the time, the schedulers at these festivals get it right. But whoever arranged for Gallows, CSS and Nine Inch Nails to be on at the same time as one another deserves locking in a room with Frank Carter, Trent Reznor and Lovefoxx at their angriest. Not that you need to get that close to Gallows to hear them. The self-titled world's loudest band can be heard loud and clear from a long way away, despite apparently turning the volume down.

One of the great things about Gallows, as a 17th century criminal never said, is that they have a fine sense of what punk is actually about. Their sense of history means that they know that the best and most successful punk bands of the 70s had a certain degree of musicality. Don't believe me? Go listen to the Pistols, the Damned, the Banshees or any other of the punk bands whose reputation endures today, then compare them to the bands who have rarely been heard of since. You see what I mean? Rhythm and melody - exactly what Gallows have in spades.

So, whilst it's scary to think that Carter might be getting this worked up, despite not taking anything stronger than a nice cup of tea, it is important to remember that the other four band members are just as vital as him. Without the understanding between them, the likes of "Abandon Ship" and "Will Someone Shoot That F*cking Snake" would not be the classics that they are here.

Charlotte Hatherley

Hmm. Now then, what does this remind me of? Charlotte Hatherley, plus three male musicians and a very lazy analogy with her former band - you know, the ones that headlined the second stage the other night.

Actually, it isn't that lazy an analogy. You see, if the Ash boys were missing Charlotte's sense of melody, well, Charlotte's missing having another songwriter or two to bounce off of. That's the peril of deciding to go solo. Suddenly, it is just you, your ideas and you stand or fall by what you make of them. There's nothing particularly bad about her own material, but it is all a bit samey. In fact, it is something of a relief when she throws in a cover of XTC's "This Is Pop"*, just for the difference in sound.

(*thanks to Belle for spotting this for me)


As befits their recent Kerrang award for Best British Band, Lostprophets get the top British billing on what is the traditional rock evening at Reading. For some reason, though, they seem strangely muted. Maybe they are already used to being higher up the bill than this. Even so, in their tenth year, you would expect Ian Watkins & Co to put in more than they do here. Despite the frenetic "4:AM Forever" and the classic "Last Train Home", you got the distinct feeling that they would rather have been somewhere else.

Fall Out Boy

I'm still bemused as to why Fall Out Boy are so popular. They've not written a half decent song since "Sugar, We're Going Down" and in Patrick Stump they have a frontman with even less charisma than his surname.

Such is Pete Wentz's ego that he'll never admit that FOB are a busted flush, but the fact that they play no fewer than four cover versions this evening suggests that even they know that their back catalogue isn't up to much. And if that wasn't enough to annoy their fans - and boy were they complaining - they chose tracks by the likes of Akon and Huey Lewis and the News. "The Power Of Love" as performed by shouty twentysomethings, anyone? Nope, didn't think so.


After the frenetic efforts of Funeral For A Friend, it is almost a relief to escape into a cool tent and the gentle electronic melodies of Maps, the nom de chanson of James Chapman. Mercury nominated he may be, but this is just a little too much of a comedown.

It is partly because Chapman simply doesn't have enough interesting songs. He played the singles "It Will Find You" and "You Don't Know Her Name", but you'd be hard pushed to tell them apart. The other problem is that Chapman has all of the stage presence of a dead cod. Audience engagement is minimal and you get the feeling that most people are only here to get out of the sun.

Funeral For A Friend

There is something about my deep dark sense of humour that is tickled by the thought that I'm seeing FFAF play on a huge stage on a bright and sunny afternoon. If it was ever inappropriate for a band, it is for this lot. Everything about them screams night-time in small, sweaty places, tiny arenas with condensation dripping from the low ceilings.

You can almost sense that the band themselves don't believe it. Technical problems seem to bedevil their set, but however hard they try, however partisan the crowd is, you can't feel the same way about "She Drove Me To Daytime Television" or "Juneau" at this time of day. Some bands just can't escape the dark side.

The Maccabees

There are plenty of reasons to hate the Maccabees. That, had he not been encouraged by the band's lead guitarist Felix to do so, Jack Penate might never have made a record, is just one of them. That rhythm guitarist Hugo White for some reason thinks it is cool to be on stage in a hoodie is another. And this is before we even mention that, in Orlando, Hugo, Felix and Rupert, they have the least rock and roll names of any band ever.

None of which tells you anything about their music, or this show. One has to be fair and say that they have turned into very polished performers who have a finely tuned sense of how to build a show and work a crowd. Musically, most of their songs are still nothing special, yet they are certainly way below The Pigeon Detectives in the Skiver Scale of Bands Who Should Be ASBO'd From Ever Making Another Record. In fact, some of their songs display glimpses of rare songwriting talent. "Precious Time" and "About Your Dress" are comparable to anything that, say, The Killers did at the same stage in their careers. And I defy any other band to write a song about a leisure centre - "Latchmere" - and make it sound like a love song.

Operator Please

How scary is this? When my wife first came to Reading in 1991, none of Operator Please had been born. This doesn't mean that the relative youth of Amandah Wilkinson and her cohorts should count against them. They may not be old enough to buy a drink here, but that doesn't mean they can't reduce the Carling tent to a sweaty gurgling mass of happiness, thanks to wildly infectious numbers such as "Just A Song About Ping Pong" - already a big hit in their native Australia. Whether they will live up to Perez Hilton billing them as the ubiquitous 'next big thing', but this is a fine start.

New Young Pony Club

I am now going to do something very brave indeed. I am going to criticise a woman's clothing. Specifically, I'm going to criticise that of Tahita Bulmer, NYPC's tiny and engaging frontwoman. I have no problem with what she was wearing - long white t-shirt, white mini-skirt - but had she realised that she was going to be wearing it on a stage? I'll not go into all of the gory details; suffice to say that some teenage boys in the front rows got a view which made them very happy indeed.

All of which somewhat detracted from the music of NYPC, which can best be described as being CSS at a slightly slower pace. There's nothing particularly new or exciting about what they do, it is undemanding and perfect for a hot summer afternoon. "Ice Cream" closes the set today and is greeted with no small amount of rapture, but in fact "The Bomb" and "Get Lucky" are far better songs and slightly wasted by coming early on in the set.

One other interesting fact. Despite being the current darlings of the music press, NYPC pull in a smaller crowd than the much-maligned Hadouken! It's nice to know that not everyone believes what they read in the papers.


You can almost write the headlines now: “Hadouken! In ‘Not Rubbish’ Shock”. If one band has polarised the music press over the past twelve months, it is this lot. Treated to their wares on disc, they become the band you love to hate, a simple question of whether you can stand their melding of rock and rap and, if so, for how long. It seems that it is acceptable for the likes of Linkin Park to nick from the streets of LA, but unacceptable for James Smith and co to take the grime out of London.

On the other hand, it has to be said that Hadouken! are a much better act when Smith sings, rather than rapping. He can get away with it on occasion, but even this convert would have to admit that a full 40 minutes of it would be very wearing. Indeed, sub-Streets numbers like “Tuning In” already sound tired. Instead, it is the new songs like “Declaration” that really stand out, both because Smith has a surprisingly good voice and because they retain all of the energy and enthusiasm of the old numbers, nothing being sacrificed in the move forward. I am, it must be said, pleasantly surprised.

Pull Tiger Tail

Another band which I last reviewed only three months ago and another demonstration of how much things can change in that short time. In the case of Pull Tiger Tail, the significant difference between now and May is that they simply seem to have calmed down a bit. Back then, they were all over the place. Cues were missed (or, at best, barely reached) and everything seemed to be geared to the style of the performance rather than the content of it.

Today, things are different. Whether it is the earliness of the hour, the effects of a day off or whatever, this is a much better show. Songs which previously skittered off into chaotic nothingness are now tight and controlled. Recent single “Hurricanes” is simply beautiful, whilst “Mr 100%” and “Let’s Lightning” really do sound like classics in the making. Top marks to Marcus, Davo and Jack for working out where they were going wrong and putting it right. Now all they need to do is to sort out the execrable production that has marred their recent releases…

Late Of The Pier

It’s a strange malaise, this one. If you give a young man a keyboard, why does he want to turn into Pennie Automatic? The number of Pennie impersonators swells daily, all of them trying – and failing – to take over the crown of indie’s favourite manic munchkin.

LOTP have their own imitator in Red Dog Consuela. He’s possibly the least impressive of the lot, appearing to have little actual musical ability above and beyond being able to fire off samples at the correct moment, but his manic dancing has a joy all of it’s own, a Bez for the modern generation.

Except that he is more than just that. He’s a very important part of this band’s sound. Without him, this would be a very ordinary band. With him, they become something special. Weird noises filter through a sound which is at the gentle, almost poppy, end of indie rave. Singer/guitarist Samuel Dust at plays a piece of wooden fencing on the brilliantly named single “The Bears Are Coming” – a song which also features a sound so insane, it can only be the noise of Sweep having an orgasm. That moment alone makes this one of my favourite shows of the weekend.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Draw closer, children, because I am going to say something so thoroughly heretical that you won’t believe your ears. I can assure you that it is true, though. You see, as a live band, Red Hot Chili Peppers simply aren’t much good.

At this point, some of you will think that I am being unduly harsh and that I ought to mention the sound problems which bedevilled this set, and so I should. What happened was that, after an extended jam by Flea, Chad Smith and John Frusciante, Anthony Keidis came onstage, launched into “Don’t Stop”, jumped on a cable and accidentally cut the sound to his own microphone. This caused confusion for the rest of the band, a certain amount of booing from the audience, and the sound to become damped and unbalanced.

For about four songs.

The thing is, for the rest of the two hour set, the sound was exactly as it should have been. Which only served to highlight the two main problems with the Chilis as a live act. The first of these is the one which has bedevilled at least half of their studio albums as well – too much Flea. We all know that you can play bass, mate, but why have you not learned that bass solos, or indeed anything which focuses mainly on you, is incredibly boring for anyone but you?

The second is the bigger problem, though. Whisper it very softly indeed, but Keidis just isn’t that good a singer. There’s no range or depth to his voice at all, let alone projection. That bit in “Dani California” where he roars “Califooooooooooorniaaaaaaaa rest in peace”? Doesn’t happen live. He’s in tune and that’s about the best you can say.

All of which makes for a rather dull couple of hours. So dull, in fact, that a friend sent me a text saying “Yawn”. He was in the mosh pit at the time.

The Arcade Fire

This is all rather sad. A couple of years ago, the Arcade Fire were the band flying higher than any other. Their debut album, “Funeral”, had garnered the sort of critical acclaim even the likes of Muse can only dream of, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne were the new golden couple of rock and everyone who mattered was drooling over their eccentric live performances.

Now, not only has second album “Neon Bible” proved to be a bit of a damp squib, but rumours are rife that the band will split after this tour. In which case, it saddens me to say that, if this really is their penultimate UK show, it is a little bit disappointing.

Part of that disappointment is, I am sure, due to the expectation. After all, when you have been told several hundred times that you have to see a particular act, you anticipate something a bit special. Another part of it may, indeed, be a sense of ennui on the part of the performers, because this show seems to lack some of the fabled energy of a classic Arctic Fire set. Yes, we get the odd bit of random behaviour. Certainly instruments get swapped between the band members with rare abandon. And there can be no doubt that Butler is prepared to suffer for his art – witness the strapping on his hands needed to endure the mandolin strumming on “Keep The Car Running”.

The simple fact is, though, that the songs from the new album cannot stand up to those from the first one. For every “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” or “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” there’s a “No Cars Go” or “Black Mirror” simply struggling to keep up. Indeed, the fact that they end with a run of four songs from “Funeral”, including the superb closing couplet of “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Wake Up” indicates that, just maybe, this is a band who don’t believe they can move on any more.

The Twang

You have to feel slightly sorry for the Twang. Any band who are lauded by the NME must surely know that it is only a matter of time before the same magazine is shouting even more loudly about how rubbish they are. Not many go from one state to the other within a matter of days, but this is exactly what happened to the Twang earlier this year. One week they were being praised for their attitude and energetic live shows, the next they were being kicked into the gutter for turning in a debut album that was merely thought to be passable.

Let it be said at the outset, though, that this is no sympathy review. The Twang are a young band with a limited range of material, not all of it terribly good. What they do have, though, are a number of very good songs and they ally this to an ability to manipulate an audience which belies their experience. In fact, there is something almost charming about singer Phil Etheridge's embarrassment when he introduces the wrong song. Any radio listener will be familiar with debut single "Wide Awake" and current single "Two Lovers" demonstrates their more tender side, but it is songs like "Push The Ghost" and "Ice Creame Sundae" which truly demonstrate the breadth of their range. Maybe it doesn't translate well to record, but it doesn't mean that the latent talent isn't there. Don't write the Twang off just yet, there's far more to them than the music press would have you believe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dinosaur Jr

Why are Dinosaur Jr playing in a tent at tea time? This is history coming alive. This should be out there, on the biggest stage possible, for everyone to see. Cobain is dead, Tad are no more, Pixies are on a lifetime reunion tour, only Dinosaur Jr, only J, Lou and Murph, are still out there making new music and putting on scintillating live shows like this one. How can you say that you will die happy if you have never heard them play "Freakscene" live, or even the greatest cover version ever, "Just Like Heaven"? How?

Admittedly, there's an element of age and experience to all this. Time has mellowed them, there's no onstage fighting anymore (Lou Barlow even makes a joke of it at one point) and they avoid the more difficult, atonal, feedback laden music of their early years. J's impressive grey mane at times makes him look like a guitar playing Fraggle, but that is the only sign of aging. History tells us that this reunion won't last long, so I ask again - how?

The Pigeon Detectives


Rarely have a band made me so angry as the Pigeon Detectives. They are boring, derivative, unoriginal, talentless and generally hopeless. They try and ultimately fail to make up for these manifest disadvantages by charging about the stage like a small child in a temper tantrum. They have one song, which they repeat monotonously for 40 minutes, to the point where you want to rip off your own ears and force them around the ever open mouth of supremely annoying frontman Matt Bowman.

I'm not going to write any more. I don't want this lot to have the oxygen of publicity. In fact, I don't even want them to have the oxygen of oxygen.

The Young Knives

Only one thing stops the Young Knives' "Weekends And Bleak Days (Hot Summer)" from being the most perfect moment of the entire weekend, and that's the fact that they are playing it in a tent. This isn't such a bad thing, as it means we all get to swelter nicely on a day so warm that even Henry and House Of Lords have discarded their trademark knitted tank tops, but no-one gets sunburnt as we are royally entertained by a set which is part new numbers, part old standards. After all, not many bands can boast a debut album containing four classic singles and even fewer would have the confidence to toss two of them off withing the first ten minutes. But "The Decision" and "Here Comes The Rumour Mill" (arguably their best track of all) are duly dispatched and this leaves us to enjoy new numbers such as "Terra Firma" and "Counters", all of which are of equally high standard. By the time we reach "She's Attracted To", everyone is hot, sweaty, dehydrated and exhilarated. You wouldn't want it any other way.

Nine Black Alps

Two years ago, 9BA were the rising stars of indie rock. They released an epic, slow burning, album named "Everything Is", and then vanished. Few thought they would be heard of again, but now they are back, playing a mid-afternoon set on an inappropriately sunny day and, hell, they are way better than they were before.

From the opening bars of "Just Friends" to the dying embers of "Shot Down", we are taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, into which new tracks such as "Burn Faster" and "Heavier Than Water" slip seamlessly and amid which "Unsatisfied" provides a stunning highlight. A truly classic festival moment.

Good Shoes

Arguably the most partisan crowd of the weekend is to be found in front of the Radio 1/NME stage. It is difficult to believe that Good Shoes can have coverted any new fans this afternoon, because everyone in there seems to be a devotee already.

It is easy to understand why. Good Shoes play pleasant, undemanding indie of a type which has also given careers to Mumm-Ra, The Dykeenies and even GoodBooks. Of course, they are the only band of their type from Morden, so they have a song called "Morden", just to make sure that you know who you are watching. But there is something undeniably appealing in such a no frills approach and set closer "All In My Head" is a sharp and punchy number far better than many things that will be heard on this stage over the course of the weekend.

Eagles Of Death Metal

There are some things you can get away with saying to a festival crowd and some things you can't. And there are some things which you might be able to get away with, depending upon who you are. To this extent, and for possibly the first time in their short career, E0fDM become victims of their own success, for such has been the hype around Josh Homme's third band that, when they say that this is the biggest crowd they have ever played, not a single person believes them.

Not, of course, that Homme is here. He's always been content to leave the live element of EofDM to his long-time friend and collaborator Jesse Hughes. Which means that, in fact, all that Hughes' announcement does is draw attention to the fact that Homme isn't here. Which, for most of the crowd, is a bit like going to see Motorhead and finding that Lemmy isn't playing. Try as they might, Hughes and co cannot make an impression on the crowd, not helped by the fact that they're peddling some pretty indifferent songs (if English girls were as anodyne as the song of that name, the entire race would die out) and that Hughes has almost not stage presence whatsoever. Avoid.

Does It Offend You, Yeah?

DIOYY? are a four piece who describe themselves as sounding like an arcade machine thrown into a lake, or a ZX Spectrum in a prison shower. Although I'm wondering how they know what these things sound like, I have to concede that they are probably not wrong. A combination of thudding drums, wailing keyboards, guitar, bass and a cynically abused vocoder, they respond well to the dubious task of warming up the dance tent on a Saturday lunchtime. New single "Let's Make Out" thunders across several hundred hangovers and provokes dancing, not wincing. And you have to admire any band with the balls to call a song "We Are Rockstars" before they've even grazed the Top 40.


Seeing Ash in their post-Charlotte incarnation is like taking a trip back in time. Almost ten years, in fact. Which is not necessarily a good thing. Charlotte Hatherley joined the band when they were in crisis. Album "Nu-Clear Sounds" had failed to build upon the fun and youthful enthusiasm of "1977", fans were restless at the change to a new, less conventional sound and their record company were distinctly unimpressed. Enter Charlotte to give the band not only a focal point for teenage boys everywhere, but a sense of melody, some light and shade in their otherwise thrashy sound.

So, without Charlotte, guess what is missing? Come on, do I need to draw a diagram? Set opener "Lose Control" could be any Ash song from their first 5 years, whilst "Burn Baby Burn", for so long a highlight of any Ash show, becomes a stripped down dirge which even an audience singalong cannot save. Full credit to Tim, Mark and Rick for setting off back out on their own again, but they are going to have to work hard at putting the joie de vivre back into their music if they are to retain the fans they have made in the last few years. It'll sicken you to know this, but they are still only 30, which means there is still hope that they can make this work.

Brand New

Please, please, please tell me what the point of this fucking awful pustule on the face of modern rock is? There is nothing new, original or indeed talented in what they do. Playing loud thrashy guitar music and shouting over the top of it is SO 1980s that it beggars belief that anyone is trying to do it now. And they dress like charity shop rejects.

No-one ever did this music better than Napalm Death and even they went bankrupt. Brand New? More like Old Crap.

The Subways

In which we prove that a year is a long time, yet not a very long time at all. It's been a full 12 months since Billy, Josh and Mary-Charlotte were last here. It's almost THREE YEARS since debut album "Young For Eternity" came out. Yet that has still been too short a time to write any new songs, apparently. What we get today is basically the same set as last year, rejigged.

And yet something is different. Following Enter Shikari should be a tough gig, but The Subways don't seem fazed by it at all. The Lunn brothers are both bare-torsoed, whilst the future Mrs Lunn sports a sharp new haircut and a shiny silver dress that combine to make her look like a sexy stormtrooper. Their set is powerful and punchy, where last year's was flacid and overwrought. Working with Butch Vig has not only beefed up the new tracks, "California" and "Shake Shake", it has given new impetus to songs such as "Rock And Roll Queen" and "Oh Yeah". If this is a taster of things to come, the future for the Subways looks as bright as Mary-Charlotte's dress.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Enter Shikari

Eeek! There's an angry man bouncing on a trampoline and shouting at me! Then again, you'd be a bit cross if your parents had named you Roughton Reynold, so perhaps we should forgive him.

Fresh from success at the previous night's Kerrang! awards, a very drunk Enter Shikari bring their brutal clash of heavy metal and techno to Reading's second stage and they are shockingly good. Each aural assault seems louder, more chaotic and yet - curiously - more melodic than the first. "Return to Energizer" is tossed out early in the set and is followed soon after by "Johnny Sniper", by which time it seems impossible that Reynold could bounce any more. But, like Tigger, it seems impossible to unbounce him. Not only that, the bouncing is infectious and by the time the hilarious "OK, Time For Plan B" closes the evening, it's him, the rest of the band and most of the audience who are throwing themselves around like idiots. Who needs a Plan B when your Plan A is this good?

Maximo Park

Where to begin? I've written so much about Maximo Park in the last 12 months that I'm running out of ways to describe just how good a live act they are. Despite only being allocated a criminally short 35 minutes, they cram in more highlights than most bands could manage in 2 hours. "Our Velocity", "Books From Boxes", "Going Missing", "Apply Some Pressure" - it's almost a greatest hits set, only the lumbering "The Unshockable" stopping it short of bite-sized perfection. I can't say this often enough: Go See This Band!

Jimmy Eat World

A confession. I've been wanting to see Jimmy Eat World for years and I never expected 4pm in Reading to be the time and place where I eventually did. Sadly, though, this was something of a disappointment. Things started promisingly with a crowd singalong to "Bleed American" and "The Middle" was such a brilliant closer that I was still singing it three days later, but everything inbetween just sagged. It is easy to see why - the band were also playing the Lock Up stage that evening - but this was going too far towards tailoring the set to the more mainstream audience. There's nothing wrong with challenging your audience a little bit and this show went nowhere close to doing so.

The Gossip

OK. To some people this is going to sound like heresy, but I have to say this. THE GOSSIP ARE NOT VERY GOOD.

Having a larger than life singer with a fantastic voice is a huge advantage, but The Gossip totally waste it by having such fucking dull songs. Take out "Standing in the Way of Control" and - at a pinch - "Jealous Girls" and you're left with very, very little indeed.

Then there is the Beth Ditto problem. The girl is turning into a caricature, the fat lesbian who takes her clothes off on stage. She's got personality, she's got a great sense of humour and she's got a voice 99% of the population would die for. Quite why she is wasting her time on this crap is beyond me.

Blood Red Shoes

Shockingly, it is only three months since I last reviewed Stephen and Laura-Mary. I say 'shockingly' because strewth, don't kids grow up fast nowadays? In place of May's slightly fey teenagers, whose set went all over the place in their enthusiasm for it, there's a duo as tight as any around at the moment. There's also a fan base large enough to crowd out Reading's Carling Tent and they sing along with every word, even new single "I Wish I Was Someone Better'.

It's lazy to make a White Stripes comparison, because the two bands are entirely different, but inevitably the whole boy/girl/guitar/drums invites it; suffice to say that, however excited you were the first time you heard Jack and Meg, that's at the very least how excited you should be by these two.

Manchester Orchestra

Nothing to do with the famous Halle, but five guys from Atlanta, Georgia. The comparison isn't entirely false, though, as they attempt to fuse emo angst with the epic guitar sound of, say, Muse without the bombast or even Band Of Susans. Unfortunately, they don't yet have anything to offer which goes beyond the pleasant but undistinguished. This means that the most interesting part of their set is when the sound of Gogol Bordello on the main stage interferes with theirs, creating a mad mash-up of gypsy punk and wailing guitars.

The Long Blondes

This weekend, Skiver's Gigs celebrates its first birthday, so it is only appropriate - if entirely coincidental - that we go back to where we began, with the Long Blondes. Being one of the first acts on the main stage of any festival is hard, but when you are on so early that the video screens aren't working yet is doubly hard. It's fair to say that the band look utterly lost on the vast stage, but this doesn't prevent them thrashing their way through 'Lust in the Movies', 'Seperated By Motorways' and 'Giddy Stratospheres' before most people have begun lunch. Yes, Kate Jackson is dressed like a secretary who nipped out for an hour and, yes, Emma Chaplin remains more ornament than musician, but this is a vastly improved performance on 12 months ago, certainly worth risking indigestion for.