The diamond-voiced Phil McMinn, of The Winchell Riots, tells Tim Hughes why it feels so good to be playing Reading Festival... again!

NEXT weekend some of the world’s biggest bands line-up to play Britain’s longest-running festival of rock.

Reading Festival has a legendary reputation and being picked to play it is a landmark moment for any band – and an honour only bestowed on the very best.

Reading has long been the Bank Holiday weekend destination of choice for Oxford rock fans, but relatively few of our bands get to play the hallowed acres of Little John’s Farm. Fewer still get asked to do it twice.

That is why one East Oxford singer this week looks like the cat who got the cream.

Phil McMinn of The Winchell Riots represents Oxford on the festival’s BBC Introducing stage on the Sunday – a huge honour for a band well on the way to achieving cult status. For frontman Phil, from Catherine Street, the invitation is doubly sweet, as he previously played the festival with his band’s former incarnation – Fell City Girl.

Like every act on the bill, The Winchell Riots will also play Reading’s sister festival in Leeds.

“To get your band’s name on the festivals’s iconic yellow poster is something everyone looks forward to. And to be on there twice is really exciting,” says Phil, who modestly describes his alternately sweeping and heart-stopping music as simply “pop”.

“Now we can join the likes of Dave Grohl and Liam Gallagher.”

He adds: “Reading is the biggest thing we have ever done. It’s slightly overwhelming and the call to play came completely out of the blue.”

It is six years since Phil’s skyscraping Fell City Girl set silenced the famously rowdy Reading crowds. And he said he can’t wait to return, alongside bass player Rich Leicester and ex-Fell City Girl drummer (and fellow former Brookes student) James Pamphlion – aka Shrek.

One member who won’t be there, however, is guitarist Nathan Allsworth, who quit the band just before they were picked to play.

His place is taken by Michael Weatherburn of The Half Rabbits.

“We were worrking so hard to get where we wanted, and then that happened,” says Phil.

“But, it’s probably good for the band, and might force us to take things in a different direction. I was already inclined to move to a more acoustic sound.

“It’s been liberating and might see us operating a rotating open door policy – and even getting some string-players in. For now, though, we’ll be winging it a bit.”

The set will give the band, who take their name from a chapter in the Phillip Roth novel The Plot Against America, a suitably large space to exercise their expansive line of post-rock.

While lesser bands may flinch at the prospect of playing for Reading’s traditionally unforgiving crowd, Phil takes it in his stride. But then few artists have been on such a roller coaster ride as he and James, who have been signed – and dropped – by Sony, headlined the city’s now legendary Zodiac three times, played Cornbury and Truck, been championed on national radio, and even shared a stage with Girls Aloud and Status Quo for a Children in Need gig at RAF Brize Norton, before breaking up, taking a collective breather, and returning with a new band.

And Phil is perfectly happy to remain “technically unsigned”.

“We are always asked if we are looking for a record deal, but, having previously been signed, I couldn’t think of anything worse,” he says.

“I think we’ve been permanantly out of step anyway,” he adds, “But then I hate nothing more than bands which sound like what’s current. It makes me sick!”

Set highlights will inevitably include live favourites Red Square and Kandahar Road, and material from this year’s Figure 8s EP, produced by Dan Austin (Doves/Cherry Ghost/ Massive Attack).

“We are now on line-up number three,” Phil says philosophically.

“It’s funny how things come at certain times. You could call it karma; there’s certainly some force at work. But our reward is so well deserved.”

* Winchell Riots play Reading Festival on August 28. Readingfestival .com for details. They also play a warm-up show at The Cellar, Oxford on August 25. Tickets are £5 from

Support comes from Gunning For Tamar and Vixens.