‘Reading and Leeds’ is one of the biggest festivals in Britain, with over 90,000 festival goers piling into both sites on the August Bank Holiday weekend. This was my first festival, and it was definitely a ‘go big or go home’ situation. Before the festival started I was so anxious about not being able to see my favourite bands and missing some really great performances. Of course I didn’t need to worry at all; everyone is so helpful and I felt completely at ease. Although the site is huge, it feels so intimate. One of the best things I found is that it’s totally up to you how involved you are in the festival, whether you want to be deep in the mosh pit or relaxing in the sun you feel immersed wherever you are. The weekend was amazing and totally overwhelming.
The Festival Republic Stage had a great atmosphere and the sound quality was awesome. Some of my favourite bands played there, like Wolf Alice and Drowners and both had great turn outs. It had a huge mixture of different bands and genres which is great, as well as having well known artists and really small artists which made it quite unique. It felt very intimate and it was a fairly small space which is why I think I really liked it.
Best New Discovery
On Friday, I felt quite chilled so we sat down by the main stage and took in the music. ‘Blood Red Shoes’ were very good, they had a big crowd and a lot of energy for such an early set. I will definitely check out their album, not only because they were really excellent, but also because their lead vocalist was also the drummer, which I have never seen before!
During Vampire Weekend I met a lovely boy called Andrew who kindly enough offered to lift me up on his shoulders, which I accepted very gratefully. During ‘Cousins’ I had a great view of the stage and it was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. Their whole set was probably my best experience at the festival. It was a fun, quirky atmosphere and my favourite band in the whole world were performing.
The Kooks and The Horrors had a joint slot in the Radio 1/NME tent before the 1975, which for me was an amazing way to spend two hours. With electric energy and infectious enthusiasm the Kooks had the tent bursting at the seams, and the loudest crowd singalong all weekend. The Horrors had a less of a crowd but their set was by no means smaller. The spectacular light show and exciting guitar riffs lit up the tent, and they had the best ending to a set in one minute I have ever seen.
Who I Want to See Again
For me, a gig has a very different atmosphere to a festival. At a festival you might get some people who are just there for the experience, and some people who are invested in music and music culture; it’s a lottery in the crowd. At a gig, everyone is there for one specific artist, nearly everyone has heard their music before, and they appreciate the band completely. Keeping this in mind – I would probably want to Peace again, as I would definitely like to see a longer set, but also Jake Bugg, as I feel like somewhere like Alexandra Palace, where he is playing later this year, would be very atmospheric and intimate.
I was not expecting to see any bands that massively exceeded my expectations, or at least not in the way this band did. I saw the Drowners in the Festival Republic tent on Sunday and for me it was the best set that day. I was very close to the front, with only a couple of people in front of me, and the band blew me away. Matt Hitt and Co had an effortless stage presence, causing girls to chuck their bras on stage from left to right. Clearly influenced by The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and the best of early brit pop, each catchy and irresistible tune was played in true rock and roll style.
Best Line Up
The best 3 sequential acts for me happened on Saturday night. Imagine Dragons put on a friendly, enjoyable and feel good show which attracted a huge number of fans. Dan Reynolds, their frontman, seemed genuinely grateful and humbled at the number of fans present, and their enjoyment of the music. In turn, I was happy and excited to be a part of their set, especially when Dan ran down through the crowd, which felt very heartfelt, but also surreal, probably for both him and us. Next up; Jake Bugg. Without fail, listening to Jake Bugg’s music always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach, and at Reading Festival, that familiar feeling was so much better. With a gorgeous summer sunset as his backdrop, Bugg delivered a refreshingly simple and very rewarding set. His stage presence was incredible, but he didn’t seem at all obnoxious or grumpy as he is sometimes shown to be. His setlist was evenly split between his two albums, and he encouraged a whole crowd sing-a-long of ‘Broken’, a very beautiful song for such a magical moment. Then came the big on; those Arctic Monkeys. Swaggering onstage with hair gel by the bucket load; Alex, Matt, Nick and Jamie began an epic headlining set. From the very first riff of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ the crowd were in the palm of their hand; screaming and jumping around, arms flailing in the air. Drawing perhaps the largest and most invested crowd of the whole weekend, the Monkeys delivered classics like ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ and ‘Teddy Picker’ along with a multitude of hits from their bestselling album, AM, as well as the odd Oasis reference thrown in there. Without a doubt, the best set, crowd and atmosphere of the whole three days.
I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the weekend any other way and I hope to return to Reading for next year and for many years to come.