Thanks to Covid this was my first festival in two years and it was great to be back. It was different in a number of ways, notably the two main stages (East and West) to accommodate dual headliners on each day. I am still not sure about this joint headline thing though, surely the final act is the actual real headliner, right? Another thing that felt very different was the sheer number of bands and singers making their Reading/ Leeds debut. This was probably driven by their being hardly any US or other overseas bands on the bill, again thanks to Covid. The fact that it was such a British-centric line up made it more interesting in my opinion though. What did you think, dear readers?
The first band I caught was Blondes on the Festival Republic Stage. I only caught their last few songs but they appear to be purveyors of quality synthy indie pop with some great guitar riffs too. My first visit to one of the twin Main Stages was the East one for the Struts from Derby. I bloody love this lot, they are bringing back Glam Rock in a wonderful way. A truly great performance. Next it was back to the Festival Republic Stage for the magnificent Sophie and the Giants. This was a real show and Sophie really knows how to play to the crowd. They have some great tunes which at times reminded me of Siouxse and the Banshees, Blondie and Toyah Wilcox. Over on the Main Stage West I caught Neck Deep, one of the UK’s finest pop punk bands. Their style is pop punk, but with a much harder edge. Vocally I felt an influence from Blink 182. Neck Deep are an incredibly powerful live band and they have some epic choruses that Panic At The Disco would kill for.
One of my favourite stages at this festival is the BBC Introducing Stage and my first visit there of the weekend was to see Meg Ward. She creates some banging dance tunes which had one of the biggest and liveliest crowds I have ever seen for a new artist at the BBC Introducing Stage. Meg was awesome as fuck and I doubt that anyone else on any stage enjoyed themselves as much as she did! Check her music out, you will not be disappointed. Back to the Festival Republic Stage I had the pleasure of catching a storming set from Belle Latham a.k.a Baby Queen. It is hard to believe that this was only their fifth gig, but it’s true! What are Baby Queen like? If Cyndi Lauper and Kate Nash adopted a daughter and raised her together I believe that daughter would become Baby Queen. Todays secret set was not so secret given that Jake Bugg tweeted about it the day before. The Festival Republic Stage was bursting at the seams as the crowd chanted “Jakey, Jakey, Jakey Bugg” before he appeared. I stayed for a couple of songs but despite the buz from the crowd it felt a little lacklustre. I am not convinced that his new material is as strong as his earlier stuff.
Blossoms were up next on Main Stage West and in a faux pas for music nerds they were introduced as “the” Blossoms. This band are beyond well established now and still maintain a fabulous pop sensibility in their songs. This was a great set from Stockport’s finest, Tom Ogden’s vocals really hit the spot. Wolf Alice owned the Main Stage East for the duration of their set. In my opinion they are rapidly developing into one of the best bands on the planet. Ellie, Joff, Theo and Joel played newer material from their excellent current album ‘Blue Weekend’ along with some earlier tunes. Every song was a winner and the crowd were eating out of Wolf Alice’s hands.
Next up on Main Stage West was the inimitable YUNGBLUD. This bloke is special. Think Bowie, think Freddie Mercury, think Alice Cooper, think Gary Numan, think Rage Against The Machine, think Eddie Izzard and then add enough energy to close a black hole. That is YUNGBLUD for me. He tried to create the biggest circle pit of the day and from the cameras overhead it looked like he succeeded. He will definitely be headlining this festival before too long. Holly Humberstone from Grantham played a great set on the Festival Republic Stage. She has a tremendous voice and also comes across as a great human being. Her music is an outstanding dark blend of folk and electronica.
Finally it was time for the first of the joint headliners, Biffy Clyro to rock the Main Stage West. They were a relatively late replacement for Queens Of The Stone Age and maybe that is why the crowd at times felt a little flat and subdued. However, I loved it, this was a stunning set from one of my favourite bands. Was Simon Neil wearing his Mum’s old maternity dress for the first few songs? The light show, projection screens and fireworks were devastatingly good, especially the laser cobweb effect. They drew on songs from across their vast canon of epic tunes. Particular highlights for me were “Biblical”, “Wolves Of Winter”, “Black Chandelier” and “Many Of Horror”. Regular readers will know that I am not a huge fan of the second headliner for Friday at Leeds, it was Liam Gallagher. I still believe that the first two Oasis albums are great, however I reckon they should have knocked it on the head after their defining Knebworth moment in 1996. In my opinion, while Noel Gallagher has produced some somewhat different new tunes, for me Liam has become not much more than an Oasis tribute act. Nearly 70% of the songs in his set were from his Oasis days with a handful from his post Beady Eye solo career. To be fair, “Wall Of Glass” is an ok song. Also to Liam’s credit he did dedicate “Live Forever” to the late, great Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. So overall a great day and wonderful to be back in festival land!
All the pictures were taken using my cheap Chinese phone camera. Videos were all found on YouTube and credited to Callum Wattie.
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