August Bank Holiday weekend can only mean one thing for music fans, Reading & Leeds Festival and, with the added bonus of a surprise Summer heatwave leaving the UK baking in near 90 degree sunshine, it came as no shock that Bramham Park in Leeds, our choice for the weekend, was packed to the rafters for a three day bash headlined by Foo Fighters, The 1975, Twenty-One Pilots and Post Malone.
Spread across multiple stages, there is quite literally too much music to cover but, at the same time, there is something for everyone whether you’re a rock fan, a dance fan or you just like the popular mainstream acts of the moment. The glorious sunshine meant that fans were out in force at the main stage enjoying a day which kicked off with the high energy grunge rock of Milk Teeth and through a day of edgy bands like Enter Shikari, punk rockers The Distillers and a chaotic set by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, with Carter spending most of the early part of the set in the crowd.
Local boy Yungblud whipped up a frenzy with his high-energy pop rock while American hard rockers A Day To Remember played a career spanning set in front of 80,000 people just days after playing an intimate gig to a few hundred people at the House of Vans in London.
Elsewhere around the festival, Aussie rockers The Faim, star of The Dirt/Bird Box Machine Gun Kelly and alt-rockers The Story So Far rocked the Radio 1 stage which culminated in a jaw-dropping, dramatic set from Chvrches before headliners Bastille brought the first day to a close with their brand of indie rock. The Pit/LockUp Stage was the place to be if you wanted things a little rowdy as the finest punk/hardcore bans from the blistering White Reaper to the frantic Palaye Royale whipped the crowd into a frenzy before main stage performers Enter Shikari got up close with fans with their second set of the day.
However, there was only one place everyone wanted to be at 8.15 and that was the main stage where Foo Fighters, fronted by the nicest man in rock, Dave Grohl, showed promoters and doubters that rock music is very much alive and kicking. For two+ hours Foo Fighters showed exactly why they’re one of the biggest rock bands on the planet with a blistering set of hits and classics setting the bar ridiculously high for the rest of the weekend.
Whereas Friday’s main stage had more of a rockier feel to it, sun-baked music fans had more of an eclectic bill on the Saturday. With no let-up in sight for the much-appreciated heatwave, queues for the ice cream vans and water points were three deep at their peak while shaded spots around the site were at a premium.
For those music fans though, Zawala kicked off the day on the main stage followed by the duo IDKHBTFM who entertained everybody with a rendition of “Nobody Likes The Opening Band”. Elsewhere Sam Mctrusty of Twin Atlantic decided he was going to join the masses for a singalong while Charli XCX brought some high energy dance to the mainstage before the hugely popular Juice World made an appearance despite having to cancel his set at Reading the day before. As the main stage headed to the home straight, Brit rockers YouMeAtSix had the crowd rocking with the likes of Undercover, the Wombats brought a dash of indie rock to proceedings before Brighton duo Royal Blood smashed through a set of hard riffs and pounding drums.
For those exploring away from the main stage, there were plenty of highlights including Zuzu and Black Honey on the Festival Republic Stage, while The Sherlocks dropped in for a surprise slot. Over on the Radio 1 Stage, Sea Girls made sure to wake up the early afternoon crowd while actress/pop star Hayley Kiyoko added some glamour to the bill before Pale Waves brought their goth-tinged electro-pop to their evening slot followed up with some energetic alt-rock from Circa Waves. Representing the London rap scene, Fredo and headliner Dave closed off the Radio 1 stage with some hard-hitting rhymes.
Again, the Lock-Up stage was the place to be if you didn’t fancy the mainstream sounds of the main stage with both Patent Pending and headliners the brilliantly comical Bowling For Soup providing some infectious pop-punk tunes. Dream State followed up their HMA success with a mid-afternoon appearance while Puppy and Laura Jane Grace made sure the crowd were suitably rocked ahead of the main event.
Saturday night saw the bill topped by Cheshire/Manchester pop rockers The 1975 who, fronted by Matthew Healy, illuminated the Yorkshire sky as they finally reached the top of the bill at Reading/Leeds after years of working the smaller stages. An arena tour earlier in the year saw packed out venues set things up nicely for this weekend and, as you watched the band, it’s easy to see how their combination of rock energy, pop hooks, and a slick, polished live show has brought them to the level of festival headliner.
And so, the final day arrives for 90,000 fans at Bramham Park and what better way to bring three days of music and debauchery to a close than in the baking sunshine as the ongoing heatwave reaches its hottest temperatures yet.
With festival goers taking full advantage of the heat and camping out in front of the stage, they were treated to another eclectic mix of music from the light pop sounds of Finnish singer-songwriter Alma to the Paramore-tinged alt-rock of Against The Current who took the opportunity to announce a December return to the UK. More alt-rock followed in the form of The Hunna who battered the ear drums of the sun-kissed crowd with an edgy, hard-hitting set of songs. Following the alt-rockers, fans poured to the main stage from all corners of the site as London hip-hop AJ Tracey took things in a different direction before the appearance of one of the big draws of the day, Billie Eilish. With fans crushed against the barrier for her angsty electro-pop, it’s obvious who the big draw of the day is and, given this slot was afforded to today’s headliner Post Malone last year, it’ll be interesting to see if her return to the festival is equally as immediate.
Heading into the latter stages, indie favourites Blossoms bring things back down a more guitar-orientated route and are clearly comfortable playing on stages this big these days and while, little seems to ever change with the Stockport indie boys, they certainly give their fanbase exactly what they want. Co-headliner Twenty-One Pilots take to the stage causing absolute pandemonium across the field from the moment they open with Jumpsuit. Their set has it all from blazing pyrotechnics, insane crowd-surfing drum solos and the kind of interaction with security that puts a smile on every sunburnt face. Having said that, the highlight for everyone surely came when they were joined by Post Malone for an emotional rendition of Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger.
Across the rest of the stages more big-hitters kept the sold-out crowd happy although the day kicked off with a newcomer to the festival as local boys Fudge. caused enough mischief to get people nice and sweaty early on in the day. Elsewhere, Harrogate boys Blood Youth smashed through their set on the Lock Up stage followed quickly by Poppy, the billion-stream YouTube sensation who caused much confusion with her is it pop/is it metal hybrid sound. Big hitting American rockers Of Mice and Men made a welcome return to the UK while over on the Radio 1 stage, electro-rock favourites Pvris made another return to the festival ahead of some booty-shaking tunes from Mabel and Stefflon Don both acts who, five years ago, probably wouldn’t have been seen anywhere near a Reading/Leeds line-up.
So, another hugely successful Leeds Festival weekend comes to an end and, following over a hundred plus acts covering the whole spectrum of mainstream music, it was left to rapper Post Malone to bring the curtain down on the weekend. Delivering exactly what his extensive fanbase wanted, Post eased through twenty-song set grinning from ear-to-ear. Through the likes of Better Now, this was the kind of performance that put all of the doubters very much in their place as, for over 90 minutes, with the aid of a microphone, a field levelling amount of fire and not much else, Post Malone signed off Leeds Festival 2019 in unforgettable fashion.