Reading Festival, Berkshire

The band of brothers threw an Oasis-style tantrum at Reading Festival, but Chipmunk and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs made their mark
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The Independent Culture

The Reading campsite awakens on a sunny Saturday morning to a glorious weekend in British musical history. Not due to the line-up – one of the weakest in my 23 years of attending the festival – but because of the breaking news that Oasis have finally done the decent thing and ended their 15-year tyranny. There's a post-Gallagher void now, and the stage is set for another band to step up and unite the Stella-swilling masses.

One bunch of gobby Mancs already touted as the New Oasis are The Courteeners, whose set climaxes with a wordless "oo-oo-oo", like baboons in the zoo. (So, don't rule them out.) Spookily, they're followed by the Old Oasis in the person of Ian Brown, who issues the request "let's get wriggling!" like a hobo asking for 20p in Piccadilly Gardens. A predicament which, he says, would be the only way he'd consider a Stone Roses reunion, not that he's above throwing in a perfunctory "Fool's Gold" to placate baggy nostalgists.

Arctic Monkeys are obvious favourites. They've already attracted the right fan base: the IQ of the field palpably falls during the build-up to their set. But the newly-longhaired Alex Turner seems to freeze like a rabbit in the spotlights, and their psychedelic skiffle is left sounding very small.

You can rule out Friday's headliners, Kings of Leon, who are probably not much longer for this world. Caleb Followill reacts to a perceived lukewarm reception by throwing a hissy fit, ranting graceless profanities, raising a middle finger to the crowd, smashing his instruments and storming off. "We know you're sick of Kings of Leon, so for all those who don't give a fuck about us, I understand. But we've worked hard to be here. We're the goddamn Kings of Leon, so fuck you!" And he's still bitching about it in Leeds the next night. Petulant behaviour from brother-based bands? Must be contagious.

The art of onstage banter is dying, anyway. Someone needs to tell Kele Okereke of Bloc Party that you should only ask questions which will elicit a simple yes or no, and that "What kind of weekend have you had?" will cause a confused "woooh-grumble-grumble..."

The ideal-world candidates for the New Oasis are headlining the NME/Radio 1 tent. It doesn't matter that Glasvegas now have the budget for an Elvis '68 Comeback Special-style lightbulb sign. It doesn't matter that they're using confetti cannons at the big finale. And it doesn't matter how much James Allan paid for his customised Marilyn Monroe biker jacket. What matters is that, when he follows the self-excoriating "It's My Own Cheating Heart" by thumping the place where his heart ought to be, ours are already thumping. Tonight they channel the spirit of Ellie Greenwich, deliver a rendition of "Geraldine" that should be played to every knee-jerk Mail reader who used the Baby P case as a stick to beat social workers, and end with "Daddy's Gone", which, as well as becoming an anthem for a nation of divorce kids, is the most-sung song around the field long after Glasvegas have left the stage.

I reviewed Patrick Wolf recently, so I shan't dwell on him long, except to say that a rock festival needs more skinny, arty, flamboyant, bisexual scaffold-scaling superheroes who can play the violin and sing simultaneously, and vomit involuntarily during their own intros. Wolf is out-dressed only by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who comes on as a giant packet of sweets, or a prawn, depending on who you ask.

The biggest talking point of the weekend, along with Kings of Leon's toys-pram jettison, is the surprise appearance of a supergroup in the tent. Them Crooked Vultures are a power trio comprising Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age). They sound pretty much as you'd expect a bunch of millionaires with a Foo Fighters/ QOTSA/Led Zep/Nirvana pedigree thrashing around for a laugh.

No one has any idea what Alice Glass of Crystal Castles is shrieking about, but it's clearly something very important to her, judging by the urgency, intensity and energy she puts into fronting the elegant froideur of their Antarctic rave-noir, crowd-surfing and brandishing a hand-held strobe while that Proboscis guy holds the fort.

A strange bit of scheduling sees a Sunday lunchtime rhyme-off between Lethal Bizzle in the NME/Radio 1 tent and Chipmunk in the dance tent, meaning Brit-hop fans have to choose. The former samples Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", the latter Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" (aided by DJ Ironik). The former namechecks YouTube, the latter Facebook. The former starts up an "oggy oggy" chant, the latter gets everyone going "aay, ohh". You pays your money ... and, for me, Chipmunk – freestyling with the speed and hunger of a young Dizzee – edges it.

Spare a thought for Ghent boys Das Pop, who have come all the way from Belgium to play just three songs before being scuppered by a power cut. But even they have a better time of it than The Prodigy, who have drawn the short straw and fall foul of council noise limits (and a 12mph wind), and are drowned out by chants of "turn it up!". I'm standing only a few yards from the speaker stack, but I've heard louder car stereos. "Are you still fucking here?!" asks Keith Flint. I was about to ask him the same thing.

Radiohead, astonishingly, open their festival-closing slot with a crowd-pleasing "Creep", and scatter other hits ("Karma Police", "Street Spirit", "Paranoid Android") into a set that many fans consider the best they've seen. Not everyone's a convert – sweary Aussie comic Brendon Burns gets the biggest cheer of the weekend by calling them "whining c-words" – and their banner at the merch stall about sustainable sources is supremely irritating, but fair play to them for comprehending the role of a Reading headline act.

Look and learn, Kings of Leon.

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