“It’s cold in the muthafucka,” Travis Scott growls, and the guy’s not wrong. As though the gammon gods of Reading ’98 have conspired to wash all this not-on-my-watch hip-hop off the streets of Richfield Avenue, the heavens open over Kanye’s most celebrated producer protégé, the air turns icy and Reading shows trap-hop its coldest shoulder.
Yet Scott of this festival Antarctic will not be disheartened. Bounding on to a kitsch ‘80s theme park ad for his latest album ‘Astroworld’ and ironic recorded thunderclaps, he launches into ‘STARGAZING’ like he’s in the hottest club in Houston, piling his frantic auto-tuned R&B raps over the crepuscular amphetabeats of DJ Chase B and only pausing to admire Reading’s scenic mosh pits forming. He knows he’s at the vanguard of R&L 2018’s concerted urban invasion, and he’s not about to let the side drown.
By the time he’s raced through ‘Astroworld’’s opening trio of ‘STARGAZING’, ‘CAROUSEL’ and ‘SICKO MODE’, the day’s biggest and most enthusiastic crowd has assembled, the rain starts easing off and Scott sets about owning Reading’s next generation. ‘Mamacita’, from 2014’s ‘Days Before Rodeo’, finds Chase hoisted on a gigantic DJ cube screening footage of flaming horses, while the menacing ‘way back’ sees Scott backed by a video army of action figure Travises, clearly learning from Kanye’s startling visual aesthetic as much as his studio wizardry.
Snippet covers of 2 Chainz’ ‘4AM’ – basically Belzebub’s booty call – and Trippie Redd’s ‘Dark Knight Dummo’ drive the set darker with their torrents of brimstone beats, and things reach dank depths with ‘through the late night’, a long, dark cut of the soul. But Travis has plenty of show-rousers up his hoodie sleeve. Just as his T Pain-meets-R Kelly schtick starts to get formulaic, he gets the crowd to leap in the air to a Game Of Thrones style fanfare, gets surprisingly romantic about a “porn star… on Addy” during ‘90210’, throws out some upbeat summer vibes on a cover of Miguel’s ‘Sky Walker’ and indulges in a few trap ditties, ‘biebs in the trap’ and ‘pick up the phone’.
Crowd favourites like ‘Antidote’ and ‘goosebumps’ start to make Reading Festival sound like a suburban meat market, and even after a truncated set it’s clear that a whole day of Travis Scotts would feel like being ear-fucked by a gonorrhea-riddled Magaluf Weekender rep by the end. But as a symbol of R&L’s new era of inclusivity and broadmindedness, he’s a damned sight better than Bullet For My Valentine again.