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 the Saturday date of the line-up of the festival site over at Reading, we caught a bunch of acts that you can read more about below, including a main stage sub-headliner slot from Panic! At The Disco.
SKINDRED – 7/10
Self-proclaimed “ragga punk metallers” Skindred are festival favourites, and for good reason – they know how to have a good time. Frontman Benji Webbe is as eccentric as ever, and seems to have brought with him an array of spiked sunglasses and glittery jackets for the occasion.
These guys know their way around a good mash up as a remix of ‘Kill The Power’ with Max Romeo’s reggae classic ‘Chase The Devil’ sees fist pumping, and ‘Nobody’ sounds as anthemic as ever with a dubstep breakdown. Set closer ‘Warning’ has the entire crowd doing the now infamous Newport Helicopter, proving that Skindred are still kings of the party.
MIKE SHINODA – 7/10
Legendary Linkin Park guitarist Mike Shinoda brings his solo set to the festival next, and it’s a varied mix of tunes from the band, his side-project Fort Minor, and his new solo venture. Old school jams like ‘Remember The Name’ pump up the crowd, and hip-hop tinged tracks from his latest album ‘Post Traumatic’ prove that he’s almost as good a rapper as he is a guitarist.
But things really hit an emotional high when he begins a rendition of classic ‘In The End’, dedicated to the departed and much loved Chester Bennington, accompanied by nothing but delicate keyboards. “I want you guys to sing so loud Chester can hear you”, Shinoda tells the audience, which is exactly what they do. Not a dry eye in the house.
SUM 41 – 6/10
The members of legendary pop-punk band Sum 41 are pushing 40 now, and that’s enough to make anyone feel old. Still, they’ve got a bit of rock ‘n’ roll in them yet. A giant inflatable skeleton flipping the bird to the crowd forms the backdrop to classics like ‘Fat Lip’, ‘In Too Deep’, and ‘Still Waiting’, which all still slap, although a lame cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ falls a bit flat.
Far better is their cover of Linkin Park’s hit single ‘Faint’, complete with pal Mike Shinoda on guitar. These guys are definitely past their best now, but it’s still good fun nonetheless.
PANIC! AT THE DISCO – 9/10
Co-headlining the main stage alongside hip-hop’s man of the moment Kendrick Lamar is no easy feat, but one that former emo kings turned polished pop-rock superstars Panic! At The Disco are well equipped for. The band are essentially just frontman Brendon Urie these days, and he emerges smiling ear-to-ear, clad in a sparkly jacket and leather trousers so tight it’s no wonder he’s hitting those high notes with ease, ready to lead the exuberant crowd through a veritable cornucopia of hits.
Killer choruses are what Panic do best, and there’s no shortage in this setlist – from the Beatles-esque ‘Nine In The Afternoon’, to the anthemic power pop of ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’, to the showy, triumphant pomp of recent single ‘High Hopes’. A scintillating cover of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ sees possibly the biggest singalong of the weekend, before taking things back to 2007 with the band’s breakout hit, ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’, sweeping the crowd away on a wave of nostalgia.
The set is finally brought to a close with ‘Victorious’, which couldn’t be more apt, considering what we’ve just witnessed. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been”, Urie grins, and, given that he may well have played the show of his career, you can hardly blame him.
BBC RADIO 1 STAGE:
CHASE ATLANTIC – 8/10
There’s a distinctly female cheer as Aussie alternative trio Chase Atlantic come on stage, probably in no small part to the fact frontman Mitchel Cave’s shirt is wide open. Still, their set is instantly so animated and infectious that you can’t help but be won over.
Dropping pop-infused bangers like ‘Triggered’ and ‘Into It’, they’ve got the whole tent in the palm of their hand, and whilst some of the vocals are a bit weak in places, there’s so much energy on display that it’s forgiveable. It’s also impressive to see Clinton Cave actually plays live trumpet during the set, rather than relying on a backing track. No wonder these guys are blowing up so fast.
BBC RADIO 1 DANCE STAGE:
NOW, NOW – 5/10
Over on the dance stage, Minneapolis duo Now, Now bring their bubbly indie-pop songs to a rather uninspired crowd. The tunes aren’t bad – especially the dreamy ‘Holy Water’ – but there’s a lack of stage presence that puts a dampener on proceedings.
Pink haired frontwoman KC Dalager has gorgeously soft, wispy vocals, but most of the time she looks bored, as does drummer Brad Hale. Dalager comes down from the stage to embrace the crowd during set closer ‘Powder’, almost in a last ditch attempt to drum up some excitement, but it’s a little too late, and a lukewarm set overall.
THE PIT/LOCK UP STAGE:
BLOOD YOUTH – 7/10
North Yorkshire bruisers Blood Youth are back with a new single and a new sound, but have lost none of the unabashed chaos and conviction of their live shows. Frontman Kaya Tarsus is a madman, leaping from the stage into the crowd, whipping them into a frenzy, and generally making the whole thing look easy.
Newbie ‘Starve’ is in a heavier direction than their previous material, but the crowd welcome it like a new member of the family, and it slots in seamlessly amongst older favourites like ‘Parasite’ and ‘Closure’. Strong stuff.
BLACK PEAKS – 8/10
It’s been a slow but steady rise for Black Peaks, but if this packed out tent is anything to go by, they’re finally approaching the… peak (yes, that was bad, sorry). It’s easy to see why too; vocalist Will Gardner is every inch the rock frontman, owning the stage and moving from breezy falsetto to a hair-raising wail in mere moments.
The atmosphere through what has been The Pit’s biggest crowd so far today is nothing short of electrifying, and the mammoth singalong that takes place during ‘Glass Built Castles’ suggests these guys could very likely be playing on the Main Stage next year. A very special set from one of modern rock’s most promising acts.
BEARTOOTH – 8/10
Hardcore heavyweights Beartooth are headlining The Pit tonight, and it feels like half of the festival has crammed their way into the tent in preparation for what will surely be a set of pure mayhem.
At first, you might think it’s just down to the festival’s metalhead population shunning Kendrick Lamar on the Main Stage in search of something with a bit more guitar, but minutes after Caleb Shomo and co. step out on stage, it’s evident that most of the crowd here are die-hards, as they erupt into the “whoa-oh-oh” of ‘In Between’.
The band appear to have packed the set full of their biggest and most mosh-worthy anthems (why not when you’re headlining a stage called The Pit, eh?), from the cathartic and aptly titled ‘Aggressive’ to the visceral ‘Body Bag’ with its exhilarating bridge. New track ‘Bad Listener’ from as yet unreleased upcoming album ‘Disease’ is savage and virulent, and a promising sign of things to come.
Frankly, there are few bands of Beartooth’s calibre in their genre right now. With performances like this, and if their new material is any indication, they’ll be polishing their crowns for a long time to come.