How do you celebrate graduating to the Reading main stage? If you’re Sports Team, you hire a blimp, write a mobile number on the side of it which doesn’t actually work, then stick it in front of one of the main screens. It’s definitely ‘a look’, especially when combined with Alex Rice’s clip-on bowtie and dungarees.
Walking on to ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’, the band don’t waste time, slamming straight into opener ‘Fishing’ – only trouble is, the guitars are completely inaudible. After a few minutes of giving Oli Dewdney’s bass some time to shine, the sound is finally sorted and the party can begin in earnest. The crowd alternate between mosh pits, crowd surfers and sitting on the ground pretending to row a big boat (because of course).
Throughout the set it’s clear that Sports Team have absolutely earned their spot, with the contrast in crowd size and energy compared to 2019’s set on the Festival Republic stage a sight to behold. Ben Mack’s hair has also had an upgrade, half dyed blonde, half black, with an orange stripe down the middle.
New track ‘God’s Own Country’ leads into early hit ‘Margate’, with Alex pulling out a harmonica for the latter and somehow avoiding alienating half of the crowd in the process. By the time ‘The Races’ rolls around he’s going one better, crawling around on the stage as if he’s at an ill-fated fashion shoot, pulling down a strap of his dungarees to reveal a nipple, despite the pre-watershed timeslot.
“I’m going to try something different and play guitar,” he says between tracks, taking Rob’s guitar and immediately being told it’s out of tune. That’s that plan scrapped then. Instead the double whammy of ‘Kutcher’ and ‘Stanton’ follow, with Rice climbing amp stacks, spinning the mic stand and leaping into the crowd. As he’s buoyed back to the front on a sea of hands wearing an Elmo bucket hat someone has given him, the set comes to a close.
Alex often claims that Sports Team are ‘the best live band in the world’. Much as we hate to see him proved right, today’s set was pretty bloody special.