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Sunday, 25 August, 2002, 20:43 GMT 21:43 UK
New bands help Reading rock
The crowd enjoyed mixed weather

The Reading Festival began in Friday's glorious sunshine, with The Dandy Warhols on the main stage doing their best to persuade people to stop sunbathing and start stomping with hits like Bohemian Like You.

Over in the Boutique tent, electronica exponents Ladytron hammed it up Kraftwerk style, as two robotic ladies dressed in black muttered deadpan over a backing of analogue bleeps, bloops and beats.

A musical continent away, and with all the musical power of a latter-day Nirvana, The Vines blew their crowd away with a gutsy, devil-may-care set featuring tracks from their recently released debut record.

Somehow we found our way through the damp, grass-scented melee back to the main stage for one of the classier bands on show - Pulp.

Muse were epic in the rain
Jarvis Cocker, ever the entertainer, leaped atop the feedback amps and gave a "best of" set, designed to highlight the band's forthcoming best of album.

As Aphex Twin - crazily - was to play the Boutique stage at the same time as The Strokes played the main, we had a tough choice.

And The Strokes were, surprisingly, less than inspiring at the end of an opening day characterised by disappointment and saved only by a couple of spirited performances.

As if sensing that the Reading Festival needed a boot up its collective backside, Saturday's bands took things to a higher dimension, starting with Andrew WK.

Stage energy

"It's not stupid, it's not corny, we're just having some fun," growled the long-haired rocker, dressed more for advertising Gap than for gaining street cred with the rock kids.

He bounced about the stage, abuzz with energy, and clearly having decided that the audience were too far away, he dived into them, causing the security staff some alarm.

Elsewhere, on the Evening Session stage, another pile of new rockers were bringing the house down with similar techniques.

Goldfinger's front man managed not only to dive into his audience and survive, but threw his guitar at them as well, as a small lady handed out pamphlets about becoming a vegan.

Suddenly, I was at a festival.

Ash played despite their recent bus crash
Inexplicably, one of the best bands of the day were half way down the running order.

The Hives are a band who know exactly how to milk an audience, as lead singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist strutted about the stage like a peacock, climbed the scaffolding, spun his mic about and made self-aggrandizing jokes.

Main Offender in particular set the crowd alight as far back as the sound stage, as smaller members of the audience ran from the crush.

Like The Strokes and The Vines, this bunch of Swedes specialise in short, sharp bursts of music, often lasting less than two minutes, and they went down a treat.

Later we were treated to the sight of Ash, who survived a bus crash a week ago and appeared somewhat intact - despite the bassist sporting a neck brace.

Frontman Tim Wheeler told the audience of his joy at being back from America, "where nobody knew who we were".

Oh Yeah was a highlight, much jumping going on, but the plaudits were saved for Burn Baby Burn, an Ash standard if ever there was one. It was good to see them back - and in one piece.

Rock opera

And then, as if in expectation of darker and moodier things, the heavens once again did their best to spoil a good day. And on came Muse.

Matthew Bellamy, a cross between Edward Scissorhands and Gareth Gates, howled at the firmament and his transfixed audience alike as the Muse rock opera swung into action.

It was epic stuff, and despite the rain, set us up nicely for much-anticipated headliners The Foo Fighters.

From the start they were incendiary. Dave Grohl is a survivor from years spent in Nirvana, and the passion, energy and urgency of his performance was a delight for any music fan - rock or otherwise - to watch.

A long set was hugely appreciated by the audience - and The Foo Fighters had well and truly set the stage for the final day at the Reading Festival 2002.






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