Reading festival round-up day three: Radiohead, Vampire Weekend, the xx

The carnage is all around, but that doesn't stop Thom Yorke and co from pulling out the stops (or Deadmau5 from packing out the Dance stage)

There are some things you expect Thom Yorke to say when he arrives on stage. Perhaps he'll start with an abstract word puzzle, or maybe some paranoid yelping. Whatever your guess, shouting "Wassssup" wouldn't be among them.

If a bizarre revival of a Budweiser advert circa 2002 wasn't weird enough, Radiohead then began their headlining slot at Reading 2009 with Creep, a song they play as often as Johnny Greenwood wheels out his hen's teeth xylophone.

Perhaps Radiohead's intro shouldn't have surprised so much; final days at festivals often descend into looser, less predictable affairs. Certainly, by day three the Reading site looks more like the set from Apocalypse Now than anything resembling a musical gathering (only with, like, dodgy burger vans and teenage lads in leotards rather than helicopters and napalm).

Long before Yorke and co arrive onsite, much-raved-about London gang The xx are trying to instil a sense of calm into the mayhem. Their sound - essentially a sonic recreation of London at 4am - shouldn't translate in a field of hungover punters, but there's something mesmerising about Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim's vocals that makes the whole thing remarkably soothing. The question remains, however, quite why their label chose to hand out loads of X-shaped cardboard flyers beforehand, encouraging the crowd to turn them into pointy frisbees. Trying to lose yourself in ice-cool minimalist pop isn't that easy when you're at constant risk of being blinded.

More accustomed to final day carnage are those filling the Dance Stage. Colarado electro nuts 3Oh!3 turn the place into a daft disco before the afternoon has even really begun. Later on, you can't get anywhere near Deadmau5. No doubt it was fun if you were down the front of the tent gurning your jaw off, but half the crowd have to make do with standing about five miles behind nearest the burger van - probably not the optimal position for a set of banging progressive house.

The phrase most dreaded at any music festival is "Now we're going to play some new material", and this year's Reading was not exempt - Jamie T, Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend all used their slots to air fresh tracks. Thankfully, Vampire Weekend's new stuff sounds instantly catchy, and builds on - rather than deserts - the Gracelands template their fans love them for. Not that their set was all about the music - out in the crowd there were frequent attempts by those dressed as furry animals/superheros/teenage-boys-in-leotards to make human pyramids.

A quick dash to Golden Silvers revealed that True Romance is far from their only great tune, and extra marks for finding a star in singer Gwilym Gold: not only does he give off the same detached cool as Terry Hall, but he also went to school with our very own Rosie Swash.

It is, of course, a blot on Radiohead's copy book that they didn't attend sixth form with Rosie, but they played a tremendous set all the same. Rumours that this would be a hardcore fan-only affair were blown out of the water with Creep, but there's plenty for the faithful, including two new songs (the recently leaked My Twisted Words and another which remains untitled).

That the band can make a track as uncommercial as, say, 15 Step work on the big stage, is testament to their mastery of the stadium-sized show. That they can make said tracks fit seamlessly with the more anthemic likes of Karma Police or Just is, quite frankly, astounding. The crowd may have been dazed and confused by this third day, but Radiohead made sure they left Reading punters with a bang not a whimper. Wassssup, indeed.


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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