Hot Milk have not had much luck with schedules this summer. At Download Pilot they were the second band to play, meaning a fair chunk of their would-be audience were dealing with the traffic surrounding the site. And today, at Reading Festival 2021, they’ve got the graveyard slot.
The first band to open the Main Stage on the Sunday is always going to struggle to drum up much in the way of a crowd or excitement. Dragging yourself to the arena on day three for midday is always going to be an ask. In recent years, the festival has used this slot to give rapidly-rising punk bands a chance on the biggest platform available, and most just about struggle through.
Hot Milk, however, were born for this.
They’ve played a couple of stadium shows with Foo Fighters, which probably helps on days like today, but Hot Milk have always been a confident bunch. Never ones to stick to expectations, they carry themselves with a strict ‘do-whatever-the-fuck-you-want’ vibe. They made a name for themselves with the syrupy punk of ‘Are You Feeling Alive?’ but today’s set takes in moments of stadium rock, SoundCloud rap and anarchic punk. It’s driven by attitude, but they’re always inviting.
They charge onto the Main Stage West to the post-hardcore infused ‘What Happens When I’m Dead’, complete with Hannah Mee having her Slash moment, before the big sugary pop of ‘Wide Awake’. Elsewhere a new arena-baiting track inspires circle pits, crowd surfers and friends clambering onto each other’s shoulders, the audience taking the instruction to “pretend it’s your favourite song” to heart.
‘Candy Coated Lies’ starts with Mee promising that “we’re going to show you why they call it a Hot Milk Party,” before a cry of “eat the rich”. The unfurling emo of ‘I Think I Hate Myself’ is dedicated to “anyone who ever hated themselves. You’re not alone in that ever, ever, ever. Trust me,” and towards the end of the set, Mee dives into the front row turning the theatrical snarl of ‘Glass Spiders’ into an explosive moment of community. Rage, chaos, togetherness, Hot Milk champion it all.
When it comes time to leave the stage one song later, there’s a sense that no one wants it to end. “It’s been a shit couple of years,” starts Jim Shaw before the self-empowerment pop of ‘Awful Ever After’, his voice on the verge of giving out (“it’s not COVID, I promise”). “I hope it gets better,” he adds and as if on cue, the sun comes out. One more small victory to finish off a set of ultimate triumph. Welcome to the world of Hot Milk.