The annual Reading & Leeds Festival is the oldest and (if we’re talking dual sites) biggest music festival that the UK has to offer, and throughout the majority of its years it has managed to maintain a predominantly, though not exclusively, rock focused bill year in and year out.
Though, let’s be honest, that’s been slowly altering and changing over time, especially in the past couple of years, instead trying to keep to where the music landscape seems to be going whilst also trying to ensure as many audiences are catered for as possible. Whether you’re after a rock, metal, pop, or hip-hop fix, you’ll no doubt be covered.
For this year, we made our way to the secondary, and the little bit smaller Leeds site of the festival for Saturday’s dose of acts, topped off with a main stage headline slot from Fall Out Boy.
WATERPARKS – 6/10
Bolstered on the main stage with a colourful backdrop with their name and a tag-line that reads “God’s favorite boy band”, Texan pop-rock trio Waterparks have bagged themselves a pretty hefty spot on the line-up despite the infancy of their career. Their radio-bothering built hooks and cuts like ‘Blonde’, ‘Royal’, and ‘Crave’ bring some bounce and vibrancy nice and early, even if it does get a little bit sickly.
POST MALONE – 7/10
Since he was announced to be confirmed on the bill, Post Malone’s popularity has sky rocketed, and unsurprisingly he turns out to be one of the most anticipated names on the festival line-up this year. As soon as he takes to the stage, the crowd roars and he pounces into set opener ‘Too Young’. Despite his young age and the massive size of the stage, he takes control of it and the crowd like it’s his own.
Malone’s style and persona relates to and brings in fans from all corners of the current generation’s music community. Indeed, there are rap, rock, and arguably even some country fans that flock to him, and the super amounts of pyro and the smashing of a guitar at the climax of massive hit ‘Rockstar’ is a fantastic spectacle if nothing else.
FALL OUT BOY – 3/10
Fans of Chicago’s pop-punk kings Fall Out Boy have been waiting pretty much since their 2013 for them to finally be invited and accepted as main stage headliners, and though they nearly grasped that moment in 2014 at Download Festival, 2018 finally marks that occasion at Reading & Leeds Festival just a few weeks before what will be their biggest hometown show at Wrigley Field.
With some massive computerised backdrops, a lot of the stage set up mimics that from their recent ‘Mania’ headline tour – a lot of the images and footage accompanying each respective track have zero connection. Still, the setlist acts as a celebration of their career thus far, picking out cuts from the entirety of their discography to date. It should be huge ceremony of pop-rock filled bliss a moment of triumph for the four-piece. Unfortunately, any fanfare deflates pretty quickly and in a steep crashing fashion.
Sure, it’s hard to not sing your heart out to picks like ‘Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down’, ‘Thnks Fr Th Mmrs’, ‘The Phoenix’ and even newer and more polarising material like ‘Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)’ and ‘Uma Thurman’ will take control of your voice box without you knowing it at first.
The thing is, it’d help if the band looked as excited to be here and with this opportunity as they should be. Drummer Andy Hurley looks beyond disinterested in the setlist, and bassist Pete Wentz looks pretty unhappy too, at least until he comes out with a flamethrower attached to the neck of his guitar during ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)’.
Even with their boredom being abundantly apparent, these can all be overlooked if it wasn’t for the fact that disaster strikes that’s completely beyond the band’s control. Just a few songs in, the speakers start to suffer to boom across the field, intermittently cutting in and out frequently throughout most of the set… that is until the field monitors cut out completely, leaving just the four main stage monitors having to carry out the work that the now defunct and out of action monitors across the field are no longer providing, and it’s pretty clear by their faces that Fall Out Boy are fully aware and annoyed by the technical hitches that are going on. That’s not even to mention that the stage screens are out of sync with the sound.
Basically, almost everything that could go wrong with the sound does go wrong, which in turn leaves you feeling a little bit sorry for the pop-rockers, even if you aren’t a fan. That still doesn’t act as a justification for the band’s blasé nature, and with it Fall Out Boy come across more like Fall Out Grandad.
BBC RADIO 1 STAGE:
BRING ME THE HORIZON – 8/10
Though listed as and referred to on schedules as simply “An invitation to salvation”, those in the know of their recent single ‘Mantra’ and various promo teasing around the site know exactly that really this is a secret set and the return of Sheffield’s own Bring Me The Horizon. The fans flock, and the band appear with their invitation. “Do you wanna start a cult with me?”, says Oli Sykes as they kick of with new single ‘Mantra’, and with that it’s almost like they never went away.
‘Mantra’ is where it starts and ends with cuts from ‘Amo’, their forthcoming sixth album, and firmly established favourites like ‘Can You Feel My Heart?’ and ‘Happy Song’ sticks and shoots a straight needle of excitement back into our veins. There’s a few moments where Sykes doesn’t quite hit the notes to harmonise with some of the vocal backing tracks, which is expected with their first few shows after a two-year long absence. It just needs a little more dusting off.
THE PIT/LOCK UP STAGE:
THE XCERTS – 7/10
After years of slogging it on the road, it seems like people finally got the memo about the part Aberdeen and part Exeter trio The Xcerts when they dropped their fourth and most recent record, ‘Hold On To Your Heart’, and with it the band also seemed to be in their stride.
Unfortunately, the turn out for their set at Leeds Festival this year is a little sparse for the most part, but that doesn’t deter them from delivering a set confidently stocked full of cuts from the record. It’s hard to not love songs like ‘Feels Like Falling Love’, which only sound better live. In a different festival, The Xcerts can and do flourish with colours.
TROPHY EYES – 5/10
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Trophy Eyes this year, especially after dropping their full-length ‘The American Dream’ a few weeks back, so – as expected – the tent starts to pack up pretty quickly by the time they take to the stage.
Frontman John Floreani sports an especially short and excessively crop cut top (not really suited for the British weather, fella), but the problem here somewhat lies in his raspy and weak delivery on the likes of ‘Chlorine’ and ‘More Like You’, and also a notable lack of guitars thanks to some PA issues stripping any punk edge from a good chunk of the set.
LA DISPUTE – 8/10
Emotion is something that La Dispute live and drive on, and their music is soaked for it, and that definitely resonates in their set. Frontman Jordan Dreyer explains how he’d been feeling pretty down earlier today until he caught Petrol Girls’ set, who sparked excitement, passion, and happiness in him, and he then dives erratically with his band mates into poetic and intense songs like ‘Such Small Hands’ and ‘The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit’.
Yet, even with all of this, nothing holds as much frightful fervor as closer ‘King Park’. As the songs narrative begins to build and escalate to its self-loathing, regretful, and nightmarish climax, Dreyer darts onto the barrier, plunging his microphone in hand into the crowd as he screams along with them “Can I still get into Heaven if I kill myself in unison?”, and it’s this that not only makes La Dispute one of the most remarkable acts on this year’s festival bill, but also the strongest.
THE USED – 7/10
Steadily approaching a two decade long career, The Used have had quite a few ups and downs throughout their career and, though they may not be in the soaring peaks that they faced back in the massive emo boom in the 2000s, one thing that they have done is survived and amassed more than a handful of cuts that has always retained their origins enough to confidently say they’ve stuck to their guns.
They’ve always been ones to serve their fans first, and a set that’s packed with their favourite and most popular hits of yore is exactly how they’re accommodating those desires for the festival crowd. Indeed, it’s hard to not get nostalgic and nutty for classics like ‘The Taste Of Ink’ and ‘Take It Away’. The band don’t even touch their last three albums once. Tonight it’s all about fun and, though many might cringe at their splicing of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ with ‘A Box Full Of Sharp Objects’, their intentions of fun are clear and delivered.
UNDEROATH – 7/10
Their appearances at Reading & Leeds Festival this year mark both Underoath’s first UK sets since releasing their comeback album ‘Erase Me’ a little earlier this year – their first in eight years – but also their first UK festival shows since they reunited back in 2015.
So, with that firmly in mind, it’s criminal and a crying shame that not even half of the stage tent fills when the Floridians take to the stage; something that admittedly The Pit/Lock Up stage has suffered from for most of the day. For those who bother to show up, however, are treated to Underoath proving once more why they’re deserving of the most respected and adored post-hardcore/metalcore acts of the past decade and a half.
The six of them are pretty crammed up on the smaller size of the stage, but that just gives frontman Spencer Chamberlain more of a reason to swoop to the front of the crowd and spend more time there instead. Of course, set staples like ‘Writing On The Walls’ and ‘It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door’ make an appearance, and no moment is quite as electric for their almost hour long stint on stage as ‘A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black And White’.
New album features also deservedly hold their own in a live format too. ‘On My Teeth’ is classic Underoath pushed forward into 2018, ‘No Frame’ and its glitchy effects makes it a dissonant delight, and Chamberlain gives a heart-tugging statement of self-love, self-worth, and assures fans that suicide is never the answer before we delve into the meaningful ‘Bloodlust’.
By the time Underoath play out the final notes of their set, the crowd has petered and wandered out, and there’s barely even one hundred people here to catch their UK festival return. Sure, it’s a shame, but that’s okay. Even this far into their career, the band remain undeterred, ferocious, and as vital as they’ve ever been. They’re too good for this.
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.