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Saturday, 25 August, 2001, 01:58 GMT 02:58 UK
Rock reigns at Reading
The Reading Festival
The Reading Festival will attract 55,000 people
By the BBC's Ian Youngs and Martin Vennard in Reading

The Reading Festival has always been about rock music - preferably rock music that involves destroying your drum kit and setting fire to it on stage.

Green Day
Green Day: Kept playing while fire burnt
That is what Green Day did on the first evening of this year's event, and their anarchic act somehow felt like a rallying call to obey the rules of rock for three days - not the rules of real life.

As the drum kit, a guitar and a speaker stack went onto the impromptu bonfire, the band grabbed acoustic instruments and played on.

When Green Day finished, the fans followed the band's example and lit scores of bonfires of their own on the main stage field while waiting for headliners Travis.

The Strokes
The Strokes: New band found fans at the main stage
At the same time, unofficial fireworks were being let off in the campsite, Ash were playing to a packed Evening Session stage and heavy lights and beats were emanating from the dance tent.

Big festivals like Reading are not just a weekend away - they are another world. That is why so many people come back year after year.

More than 55,000 people are at the site - and seem to take over the whole town - for the weekend, while another 50,000 are at Reading's sister event in Leeds.

Nice weather always helps, and this year's sun has been very welcome.

Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop, 54, was one of the most energetic performers
The bands started at lunchtime, but the first must-see show of the weekend was from ultra-cool New York rockers The Strokes.

They had been moved from the Evening Session tent to the main stage so more people could catch a glimpse of their finely-tuned scruffiness, and the move was worth it - even if most people had just come out of curiosity.

They epitomise everything NYC 1976 - from the leather and attitude to the raw, punkish music.

It did seem as though they were lost in the expanses of the main stage at first, but they warmed to the crowd and the crowd eventually decided the hype is justified.

Following them was the original New York punk hero Iggy Pop, who looked like he was trying to teach the pretenders a thing or two about showmanship.

PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey: Gnawingly confessional style
With bare chest, bulging veins and wolf howls, he has lost nothing of his legendary lust for life.

First throwing his microphone stand, and then himself, into the photographers' pit, Iggy proceeded to invite members of the audience up on stage.

PJ Harvey put more energy into her voice than her stage antics - but maybe that was because it was not very easy to leap around in a black PVC skirt and bra top.

She followed Iggy on the main stage, and those who gave her their full attention were quickly drawn in by her gnawingly confessional style.

There are three other stages on site and, on one of them, bittersweet pop rockers I Am Kloot were wondering where their Next Big Thing tag had gone.

Ash: Headlined Evening Session Stage
Despite a critically acclaimed debut album, they were still playing the same stage they had been a year ago.

"Nice to see our careers have rocketed," said wry frontman Johnny Bramwell.

In the dance tent, Gary Numan proved to be one of the surprise highlights of the night and won hundreds of new fans by doing what most bands are ignoring - combining heavy rock with dark, synth beats.

Fifty yards away, former Lemonheads lead singer Evan Dando's sublime acoustic songwriting was the choice for those who did not like Numan's tunes.

One of the quieter acts on this weekend, Dando had many long-time fans in the sparsely-filled Evening Session tent captivated.

Travis's proved they could follow the heavy rockers
Ash followed and gave their main stage headline rivals a run for their money, attracting a huge crowd to hear hard hits like Submission.

But back on the main stage, Green Day were creating havoc as well as inviting a 16-year-old guitarist from the audience on stage to play with his heroes.

The fires were well and truly burning when Travis arrived - and although they did not quite set the stage alight, they were on red hot form.

Their rock credentials shone through on stage more than on CD, and they proved they are not the whining indie boys some might have thought.

The three guitarists treated the performance as an improvised acrobatics class at times, and the band rarely failed to hit the right note - both musically and emotionally.

The BBC's Alex Stanger's
10 step guide to surviving the Reading festival

Behind the beat

Clickable guide
See also:

25 Aug 01 | Music
Reading Festival: In pictures
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