Friday 26 August

2011’s Reading festival was full of mud. Impossibly sticky mud. But that didn’t matter one jot to everyone who were determined to see out the Bank Holiday Weekend in Berkshire with countless awesome, and some not so awesome, bands. With thousands of brightly-coloured My Chemical Romance fans heading to the main stage on mass, I decided to stay around some of the smaller stages and see what they had to offer. Up first on the BBC Introducing Stage were Heart-Ships, a band that fell somewhere between The National and The Coral, but with some more pompous moments thrown in for good measure. Due to the position of the stage right in front of the entrance, they managed to gain themselves quite a crowd, with everyone clapping along by the end of the set. In fact, the Introducing Stage was impressive today – Bristol’s The Bronze Medal’s songs of fragile beauty and heartbreak brought to mind ‘Midnight Organ Fight’-era Frightened Rabbit, and the post-pop of Reading locals A Genuine Freakshow translated to the festival stage very well.

Of the bigger acts on Friday, Patrick Wolf played a ‘Lupercalia’-heavy set to a surprisingly sparse Radio 1 tent, but those who were there were treated. Patrick, dressed in a skinny footprint-laden suit, certainly looked the part, and his finale of ‘The Magic Position’ followed by ‘The City’ was one of the most uplifting of the weekend. A quick dash over to see The Antlers play the majority of ‘Burst Apart’ followed, and although it would have been nice to hear some of ‘Hospice’, the songs like ‘Putting The Dog To Sleep’ are so powerful, you can almost forgive them. One man who didn’t ignore his back catalogue was Tom Vek. Arriving on stage looking far smarter and far more confident than when I last him six years ago, he played all the singles from ‘We Have Sound’ and the ‘Leisure Seizure’ tracks were going down just as well with a crowd that proved once and for all that it is possible, and actually quite enjoyable, to dance in wellies.

Saturday 27 August

It’s safe to assume the sheer loudness of The Joy Formidable, who are now festival veterans, dusted the cobwebs off the camper’s hangovers. With Ritzy’s metamorphic changes from sweetness to insanity, it was a shame they only had half an hour, but they deserved the chance to shine on the main stage. Grouplove were reliably joyous, upbeat and infectious in how much they enjoyed their set. With the songs from their album already feeling familiar to many in the crowd, it’s always a delight to see them in all their dancing and bouncing glory. Bass player, and lone Brit in the band, Sean also mentioned how delighted he was to finally repay the favour from when his Dad and siblings took him to Reading as a kid, and this helped ensure everyone went mad for the likes of ‘Tongue Tied’ and ‘Colours’.

I finally made it to the main stage for The National, an odd billing as they didn’t really feel like a ‘Reading band’ especially playing third from the top of the bill. This was shown by some of the lack of interest from the idiots in the crowd, but those that did listen were in for a treat. With the band seemingly aware of this, they joked and dedicated Abel to the person who was carrying an inflatable ‘Alligator’ (“You probably don’t even know what that means”), they soldiered through their set with Matt Berninger getting increasingly frustrated with a broken microphone, and letting out some brilliant hardcore screams, before heading off into the midst of the audience, and security, to sing ‘Terrible Love’. He made it halfway to the sound desk. Pulp were on form as usual, although as Jarvis Cocker duly noted, it was likely the majority of people watching them weren’t even born when they first played the festival in 1994. An even younger crowd barged to the front for The Strokes, and surprisingly the songs from ‘Angles’ seemed to go down better than the old classics. Coming on late and starting a little sludgily, things moved up a gear when Jarvis joined them on stage to perform a cover of The Cars’ ‘Just What I Needed’ and then with the curfew fast approaching, things moved up a gear and those of us of a certain age realised why we fell in love with this band 10 years ago at the same site.

Sunday 28 August

Deciding to make a rare visit to the Lock Up stage, I started the day with the refreshing high-energy pop-punk of Brighton’s Fighting Fiction. With a steady fanbase already building, they seemed genuinely thrilled at playing at the festival and gave a heartfelt thanks to the stage’s curator Mike Davies. Later in the day, a completely rammed Festival Republic Stage saw Little Comets play an energetic and fun set that mixed The Maccabees and Bombay Bicycle Club’s fervent moments. They finished with ‘Dancing Song’ - which saw the band drumming on pots and pans that were hanging above them. Fight Like Apes entered the stage saying they couldn’t play due to having a sore throat, a reference to a certain cancellation the day before, but they blasted through their set, destroyed some instruments, came into the crowd – all the kind of things that have made them such a thrilling festival band.

Frank Turner’s not-so-secret set on the Lock Up stage was one of the real highlights of the weekend, a man with a real love for the festival, the majority of his set was made of earlier material. Finishing with a cover of Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’, that included his best Freddie Mercury impression, he returned to the stage for an encore of ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’, he didn’t need a microphone such was the vociferous response from the crowd. On their final tour, The Streets had the whole of the Radio 1 tent, and some outside, “rocking”, as Mike Skinner kept saying. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, making everyone sit down and a significant number of blokes taking their tops off when he did. With half of The Music making up his backing band, there was a danceable-indie undercurrent in his current live set. Finishing with ‘Going Through Hell’ and pulling a mooney as he left the stage, the man will be missed. After this, it was up to Peter Doherty to close my weekend in a packed tent. He walked on looking healthy in suit and hat, and went straight into ‘Time For Heroes’, after this, he played a mixture of songs from The Libertines, Babyshambles and unheard solo material. Not saying a single word throughout his hour-long set, he let his music do the talking, although some dancers joined him on stage for a powerful performance of ‘What Katie Did’. And that was Reading 2011 over, it was hard work at times with the conditions and plenty of idiots, but the performances of the bands made it all worthwhile.