Perhaps more than the majority of modern festivals, Reading Festival and Leeds Festival are generally clear of arty-farty installations and the like, with all energies firmly focussed on creating the mother of all line-ups. Attended by a slightly younger crowd than Glastonbury, the Richfield Avenue and Bramham Park sites will be mobbed between August 23rd and 25th by fans eager to hear what the latest bands on the scene have to offer.
Although the Main Stage is hosting some truly massive names this year, be sure to set aside some time to check out some of the less-assuming spots where more than a few of tomorrow’s big names will be performing. Although last year’s Reading and Leeds won NME’s coveted Best Festival Award, organisers have not relaxed, promising extra spectacle for 2013 with more stages and acts than ever before! In this PAAM festival staff blog, we explore what to expect, what’s new and what not to miss.
What to expect at Reading and Leeds
The festival scene
The partygoers at Reading and Leeds are definitely there for music, mayhem and little else. Although the headliners are still big draws, the new names on the scene are just as important to these serious band geeks.
The festival arenas
If you’re used to epically endless festivals like good ol’ gigantic Glasto, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear that the Reading and Leeds stages are all within manageable walking distance of each other (on their respective sites that is!). This setup caters especially well to a music-mad audience that wants to drink in as many different acts as possible.
It also means the crowds can be quite intense however; there’s a huge amount of energy in the moshpit of the Main Stage and in front of the NME Radio 1 Stage – not recommended for anyone who isn’t teenage, hardcore or both of the above – and there’s not always a great deal of space for those wanting to sit back and relax at the back. That being said, there is some respite to be had at the Alternative Stage.
The festival campsites
For many, Reading and Leeds is the last big party of the summer, and as such the crowds are likely to be going at it hard with little letup. After dark, the campsites at both sites boast the party spirit until the early hours, and although much of the action revolves around mini tent raves and open-air drunken debates, there are onsite DJs at Leeds and music tents at Reading for those who want to keep dancing ’til dawn.
Each year, Reading and Leeds Festival gets bigger and better. Among the gaggle of new-fangled fancies on offer this year is a Jager Bar at Leeds – bombs away! Although probably not a great idea to make this place the focus of your weekend, the ice cold shots and free merchandising are sure to draw in a few drunks. The appropriately-named Relentless Stage, where Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe will be joined by DJ Yoda and The Streets former frontman Mike Skinner, will also be catering to Leeds revellers looking to keep keeping on until the early hours.
Both sites will be playing host to a new Off The Wall area, where fun-seeking festi folk will be invited to get interactive with a bunch of hands-on activities, including DJing, ping-pong (that’s wiff-waff to you, Boris) and cabaret. As always, there will be plenty more on the cards, but sniffing out new experiences for yourself is often the most exciting and memorable part of festival fun.
The Line-Up: Reading Festival Friday / Leeds Festival Saturday
The American Idiot punk rockers – officially on the list following last year’s surprise appearance – will be performing the headline set on the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Pretty much single-handedly responsible for mainstream punk revival in the US, these Californian grunge gangsters guarantee energetic, aggressive rock and enthusiastic interaction with the crowd.
System Of A Down
Making a welcome return to the Main Stage after a decade’s absence, the Armenian-American heavy rockers promise to serve up virtuoso vocals, gigantic guitars and dynamite drums. The Grammy Award-winning band, who have been touring solidly for the past three years, are sure to have their set pinned down by now!
Now a regular at Reading and Leeds, the third American rockers on the Main Stage Friday-Saturday swap scene will have the moshpit in a frenzy as they hammer the crowd with their expansive riffs and massive alternative sound. Although difficult to fence this band into a single category, their steamroller performances never fail to exhilarate.
NME BBC Radio 1 Stage
Although rumours were rife that Skrillex – or Sonny Moore to his mum – was set to play Reading and Leeds last year, this is the star’s debut appearance at the sister sites. A California-based electro/house/dubstep producer, Skrillex has worked with everyone from Lady Gaga to the Black Eyed Peas, scooping a fistful of Grammies along the way, and all by the age of 25!
His first time at Reading and Leeds, this American rapper has already proved a massive hit with the UK festival crowd after appearing at this year’s Radio 1 Future Festival. He is sure to have the crowds jumping and jiving once again when he takes to NME BBC Radio 1 Stage on Friday at Reading and Saturday at Leeds.
Radio 1 Dance Stage
A British electronic DJ who has managed to combine credibility with popularity, Sub Focus has been busy remixing the likes of Dizzee Rascal and The Prodigy to incredible mainstream success. Already well known for wowing audiences around the globe with his dubstep/house/drum & bass mishmash style, he is sure to bring euphoric energy to the Radio 1 Dance Stage.
The Line-Up: Reading Festival Saturday / Leeds Festival Sunday
The most successful rapper on the planet ever needs no introduction – but we do like to indulge you! Rap royalty of the highest calibre, Eminem is by far the biggest event at Reading and Leeds this year. Returning to the Main Stage after more than a decade away, this is Shady’s only UK festival appearance of the year, so DO NOT MISS IT!
Chase & Status
These dance music impresarios scored a palpable hit at festivals around the country last year and show no sign of delivering anything less than spectacular as they take to the Main Stage at Richfield Avenue and Bramham Park this August. Saul and Will are sure to have the crowd bouncing to their electronic beats that, although ultra-modern, will have a few oldies in the audience fondly reminiscing about the golden age of rave.
This year the unstoppable Foals will graduate to the Main Stage for their third appearance at Reading and Leeds. Performing hits from their latest offering Holy Fire, these post-punk indie rockers’ galloping guitar riffs and thoughtful lyrics definitely deserve the extra space.
NME BBC Radio 1 Stage
English indie rockers Alt J won hearts and ears around the world last year when their debut offering An Awesome Wave grabbed the Mercury Music Prize for Best Album. Formed at Leeds Uni, the quartet, also earmarked for no less than three Brit Awards, will top the bill on the Radio 1 NME Stage at Reading on Saturday and Leeds on Sunday.
Johnny Cash-influenced singer/guitarist Jake Bugg will be gently rocking the NME BBC 1 Stage this year. He has recently been working with songwriters in Nashville, so lookout for some new tunes alongside solid favourites from his highly acclaimed self-titled debut album.
Radio 1 Dance Stage
Dubstep supremos Benga, Skream and Artwork return to Reading and Leeds to take their rightful place headlining the Radio 1 Dance Stage. It was while performing at the festivals back in 2010 that Skream realised just how powerful dubstep could be when delivered live to an audience. Expect mesmerizing visuals and powerful bass drops.
The Line-Up: Leeds Festival Friday / Reading Festival Sunday
These Scottish rockers, who have put in some hard work at festivals around the world recently, mark their eighth time at the Reading and Leeds with a headline set on the Main Stage. Biffy Clyro are sure to deliver a barrage of their best-known rock anthems in spectacular style, as well as songs from this year’s epic No.1 album Opposites.
Nine Inch Nails
Be prepared for something truly original from Trent Reznor as he brings NIN’s latest line up to the Main Stage at Leeds on Friday and Reading on Sunday. With Jane’s Addiction’s Eric Avery and King Crimson’s Adrian Belew now on the bill, expect the unexpected and expect it to be a masterpiece! These are the only dates the industrial rockers will play in the UK this year, so miss them and miss out.
Fall Out Boy
Also doing the Friday-Sunday, Leeds-Reading swap are everyone’s favourite boys from Illinois. Following a number one comeback album Save Rock and Roll released earlier this year, Fall Out Boy will be delivering anarchic punk pop from across their career exclusively to the Leeds and Reading revellers.
NME BBC Radio 1 Stage
Headlining the NME BBC Radio 1 Stage for the first time, this French foursome come to Reading and Leeds following brilliantly received sets at both Field Day and Glastonbury. The Grammy Award-winning alternative rockers will likely play favourites from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix as well as new tunes from their latest offering Bankrupt!
After last year’s success at Reading and Leeds, New York rapper, singer, songwriter and general bad girl Azealia Banks returns to the NME BBC Radio 1 Stage to spit out tunes from her debut offering Broke With Expensive Taste. Well known for her sometimes aggressive approach to music, our Azealia is sure to present an exciting and energizing set.
Radio 1 Dance Stage
Australian electronic dance music duo Rob and Gareth will be stirring up electrifying drumstep on the Radio 1 Dance Stage in Leeds on Friday and Reading on Sunday. The pair enjoyed massive success with their first EPs and have just wowed US audiences with high- energy, higher-voltage performances on their Haunted House tour.
Also not to be missed…
The above are just a sprinkling of the awesome acts that will be peppering the main stages at Richfield Avenue and Bramham Park over the August bank holiday weekend. Although it is quite simply impossible to see the lot given the talent listed above, the Festival Republic Stage will also be hosting some great bands this year, including Crystal Fighters, British Sea Power, Spector, Chvrches, Savages and Mount Kimbie, while the BBC 1 Extra Stage will play host to Wiley, Devlin and Wretch 32 among others.
And it’s not all about music. Light relief in the form of great comedy is to be found at the Alternative Stage, with huge names including Russell Kane, Rob Delaney, Josh Widdecombe, Katherine Ryan, Holly Walsh and Shappi Khorsandi set to split sides en masse. And don’t forget to keep something in reserve for when the sun goes down as the Reading and Leeds lot are not there for an early night!