10 Reading And Leeds Festival Sets You Should Have Been At

22 August 2016, 15:44 | Updated: 22 August 2016, 15:46

Nirvana Kurt Cobain Live December 1993

If you had a musical TARDIS, you should set the controls for these unforgettable moments in the history of the double-headed festival that returns on the Bank Holiday weekend.

1991: The "other" Nirvana set.

The grunge overlords famously headlined Reading in 1992, but connoisseurs claim that the band's set the previous year was the one to catch. A mere month before Nevermind was released, they performed on Friday afternoon just before shoegaze also-rans Chapterhouse as part of a bill that included Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop and Dinosaur Jr. The trio threw in a helping of new tracks, including the soon-to-be-colossal Smells Like Teen Spirit. Check out Big Dave Grohl's hilarious 'tween song banter at 9.00, just before they play the BIGGEST SONG OF THE DECADE)

1993: Blur invent Britpop and nobody notices.

At the time Blur headlined the Melody Maker stage on the Saturday night during the 1993 festival, they were still getting over from the critical backlash that had accompanied their debut album Leisure. Their second LP, Modern Life Is Rubbish, had come out several months previously and their preoccupation with Britain and British things was starting to take hold in the post-grunge era. Their defiant set at Reading included an early outing for the title track of their next album: Parklife. Sadly, there's no footage, but here are Albarn and Coxon doing "For Tomorrow" at the Radio X Great X-Pectations gig at Finbsury Park a couple of months earlier.

1994: Manic Street Preachers become a trio

'94 was a turbulent year for the Manics. In July, guitarist Richey Edwards was sent to rehab over alcohol addiction and problems with self-harm. Rumours that the band were about the split were rife, but the others performed at Reading as a trio instead of cancelling. Their defiant set included a cover of Nirvana's Pennyroyal Tea as a tribute to the late Kurt Cobain. It was soon to become a permanent set-up when Richey disappeared the next year.  Check out JDB's luxurious locks on this clip. Monsieur!

1994: Courtney Love exorcises the ghost of Kurt Cobain (not literally)

A mere four months after Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home, Courtney made her first public appearance after his death by performing onstage at Reading. During an unforgettable set, a tearful Love was seen adopting a "crucifixion" pose and blasting out selections from the latest Hole album Live Through This. John Peel wrote: "The band teetered on the edge of chaos, generating a tension which I cannot remember having felt before from any stage."

1996: Underworld upstage The Stone Roses

Talk about the zeitgeist - while The Stone Roses were headlining the main stage and effectively winding up the first phase of their career (they went on hiatus not long after), clued-up types were at the second stage. There, they could watch Underworld perform Born Slippy, which had become an anthem after being included on the Trainspotting soundtrack earlier that year.

2010: The Libertines reunite despite the odds

The long-running animosity between Pete Doherty and Carl Barat mean that a reunion of the much-loved band was unlikely, but Reading and Leeds made them an offer they couldn't refuse. They hedged their bets by appearing on the bill below headliners Arcade Fire and the audience's expectations ranged from "hopeful" to "will they turn up?". They did and proved they still had the fire.

2000: Daphne And Celeste get bottled off

Long after the memory of their brief, fleeting career in pop music is lost to the ages, human beings will still gather round the campfire and ask each other: "Do you remember when Daphne And Celeste got bottled off at Reading?" And everyone will nod, sagely. And one, particularly bright young child will ask: "Did the bottles have wee-wee in them?". And the leader of the tribe will say: "Yes. Yes, they did."


1995: Dave Grohl proves himself with Foo Fighters

If you weren't enjoying Bjork headline the main stage performing selections from her Post album, you may well have been watching Dave Grohl step out from behind the drum kit and play his second UK show as a Foo Fighter on the second stage. Incredibly, we were still wondering whether Big Dave had the chops to be a frontman - we were shown in no uncertain terms that he DID. (YOU MIGHT NEED TO TURN THE SOUND UP ON THIS VIDEO, IT'S OFF A HISSY VHS)

2005: Arctic Monkeys conquer the world by stealth

Alex Turner and co hadn't even released their debut single I Bet The You Look Good On The Dancefloor when they played the new bands stage at the festivals in 2005. Sandwiched between Radio X favourites Mystery Jets and the late, lamented Dogs, the buzz around the band was huge and the tent was packed out. "Don't believe the hype, Reading," said Alex Turner, but many did.

2002: Jack White joins The Strokes onstage

The scene: Casablancas launches into New York City Cops, after the crowd have sung Happy Birthday to him. The song rocks. Who walks onto the stage and joins in? ONLY JACK FREAKIN' WHITE, THAT'S WHO. Scientists have officially named this as one of the Top 100 coolest moments in history.