READING FESTIVAL – Evening Standard, 28 Aug 2012

I’ve long admired the grit and commitment of Reading Festival goers, who have no healing fields, children’s yurts or tacked-on literary events to distract them but must dedicate themselves fully to watching band after heavy band. Apart from the appearance of new railway sheds to the right and the current availability of halloumi, it has been ever thus.

This year felt particularly nostalgic at the only major British music festival alongside Glastonbury to have been running continuously for decades. At the ’79-themed bar, the logo of The Cure — this year’s Friday headliners — could be seen.

The weekend was closed in a flurry of fireworks by Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters — the erstwhile Nirvana drummer returning on the 20th anniversary of his old band’s now legendary headline set. He dedicated new song These Days to his former bandmates Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic and offered an energetic summary of his post-Nirvana career over a 26-song set.

Elsewhere, more old favourites popped up. Kaiser Chiefs were forced to rely on past glories after diminishing sales in recent years but singer Ricky Wilson still worked the crowd (and the cameramen) with considerable style, and I Predict a Riot continued to produce the riotous results he desired.

On Saturday, Green Day, perhaps the definitive Reading band as the chief influence on all the other pop-punk bands on every bill, showed up for a surprise 11am set in the main tent. The show was so popular that most were forced to watch it on the big screens by the outdoor stage.

NOFX, less commercially successful punk veterans who have long found an enthusiastic welcome in Reading, appeared in spin-off form as bassist Fat Mike’s covers band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Their supercharged covers of Paul Simon, John Denver and Elton John, like a punk rock wedding band, made them a singalong highlight.

It wasn’t all backwards looking, though. New buzz acts such as Alt-J, Jake Bugg and Django Django all appeared, while the bewitching electronica of SBTRKT proved there’s a healthy appetite for dancier fare here too. Some may make history off their own back here in the future.