Photo Copyright © Jo Forrest & Review by Graham Finney
Social Media users had plenty to say when the initial line-up for the Reading/Leeds Festival bank holiday weekender was announced. Bemoaning the lack of big name rock bands on this year’s line-up, along with a rap/grime heavy presence, it’s fair to say some of the hardcore crowd were going to take some pleasing this weekend.
As we found by the end of our three days at Bramham Park for the Leeds leg of the weekend, this was a line-up that had something for the well-rounded music fan. From pop-punk to dance to indie to rock to grime to hip-hop wherever you went the multitude of stages offered you the chance to not only check out some of your favourite bands but also the chance to find your new favourite sounds.
Friday with Kings Of Leon, The Courteeners, Chris Ramsey and more
Headlined by rock giants Kings Of Leon, the first day of Leeds Festival kicked off on the main stage with the raucous grunge of Dinosaur Pile-Up who made enough din to wake up those still in their tents. Tucked away in the corner of the festival site and, always a popular place with festival fans is the alternative stage and following the rowdy start, we headed up there for a dose of camp comedy courtesy of Mock The Week regular Tom Allen who not only looked completely out of his comfort zone surrounded by badly dressed students but delivered the kind of laughs that set the standard high for the weekend.
Unfortunately the heavens opened just before Canadian punks Billy Talent took to the main stage but they didn’t let that little matter ruin what was furious set topping their performance twelve months earlier when they performed on our next port of call, the Pit Stage for young London rapper Bexey. Now, without wanting to sound old, it’s not hard to see why the older crowd are finding the inclusion of acts like Bexey as a bit grating but, judging by the swarm of fans around him after his set, the youth have a new idol. Speaking of idols, American rapper NF lived up to his reputation of being the new Eminem with his hard-hitting rap while , Frank Carter made a surprise appearance on the Lock-Up stage causing absolute bedlam as he did twelve months ago at the Radio 1 stage where , this year, we found Aussie rockers the DMA’s in fine form.
A short hop across the site saw the Alternative stage rocking with laughter to a bill which featured to both up and coming names along with the more established names on the comedy circuit. Friday saw comedy fans enjoying an afternoon of laughs in the company of Evelyn Mok, Mawaan Rizwan, Dane Baptiste and Mo Gilligan before seasoned veteran Chris Ramsey closed off the stage with his brilliant Geordie humour.
Elsewhere indie was winning the battle on the main stage with both The Vaccines and Manchester lads The Courteeners flying the flag high for indie rock in front of massive crowds while, for those looking for the latest trends, Lil Pump and Scarlxrd satisfied that fix.
We’re heading into the latter part of the evening and again the festival shows it’s diversity with Lewis Capaldi joking about being “a fat bloke singing love songs” while over the other side of the site, US hardcore band Stray From The Path were smashing through their politically charged fury ahead of headliners rap/rock favourites Hollywood Undead.
If you’re looking for suitable rock headliners then look no further than Kings Of Leon who prove with a career-spanning set that, while they may not put on the kind of budget-draining theatrics that some bands do, when they wheel out the hits like “Sex On Fire” and “Use Somebody”, they are the perfect headline for the first day. A few hundred yards away though, rising UK star Tom Grennan was playing to a packed Festival Republic tent showing that his time tucked away in the smaller stages is surely coming to an end.
Saturday with Fall Out Boy,Tiff Stevenson, Post Malone and more
Day two saw pop-punk giants Fall Out Boy top the bill but before that there was another day of great comedy and music to keep ninety thousand fans entertained.
The Radio 1 stage was our first port of call for the day for the eclectic pop of Rae Morris while, across the way on the Lock-Up stage, female-fronted aggression came in the form of Petrol Girls. A quick look over to the main stage and, while the sun may have been out, all the colour was coming from pop-punk trio Waterparks who certainly had us smiling.
Speaking of smiles, Piff The Magic Dragon and Mr.Piffles made a welcome return to the alternative stage for a bit that featured plenty of big hitters from the comedy scene in the form of female comic Tiff Stevenson and the hysterical Russell Kane who closed off another storming day of laughs. Between our visits to the alternative stage, there was the small matter of a not-so-secret set by Sheffield rock band Bring Me The Horizon who followed up the recent release of their new single Mantra by putting on an arena level performance to a packed Radio 1 crowd.
Time for some more music on the main stage and, with the sun beating down on the crowds, LA-based rapper Post Malone delivered the perfect kind of chilled-out set for the afternoon before indie rock took over the main stage again with storming sets from The Kooks and The Wombats. Back up at the Lock-Up and Radio 1 Stage – it was hard and raucous on the Lock-Up stage with fans packing in for two raucous sets from The Used and Underoath while, the blunt-drenched sounds of Mist sat in the middle of the two on the Radio 1 Stage.
Day two finished off with a bang and while UK favourites Wolf Alice rocked their headline set at the Radio 1 stage, it was up to US rockers Fall Out Boy to light up the Yorkshire sky with the kind of pyrotechnic display that shook the field to its roots. Brandishing a flame throwing guitar, Pete Wentz and his band battled technical difficulties to storm through a hit-laden set with highlights including Dance Dance and Sugar We’re Going Down. A perfect way to end day two.
Sunday with Panic At The Disco, Harry Hill, N.E.R.D. and More
Sadly the weather took a turn for the worse on the Sunday but that didn’t stop rain-soaked fans enjoying what, for some, was the final blow-out before returning to school / college / uni.
Leaning heavily towards the rockier end of the musical spectrum, the main stage kicked off with the rowdy trash boat before Welsh favourites Skindred proved they can still rock hard even despite the pouring rain. One of the obvious highlights of the day was always going to be the appearance of Linkin’ Park frontman Mike Shinoda who plucked material from all of his bands including some touching tributes to his departed band mate Chester Bennington. Pop punk favourites Sum 41 proved the genre is far from finished and had a field reliving their teenage years with a set of metallic pop-punk gems like “In Too Deep”.
Despite the lack of big names for the final day of comedy in the alternative stage, even the likes of Coronation St/Emmerdale actress Gaynor Faye came out for the slapstick comedy of headliner Harry Hill. Elsewhere Shvpes dished out some heavy riffs on the Lock-Up Stage as did Harrogate lads Blood Youth with Pale Waves taking us on a journey back to the 80’s with their glorious synth pop.
As we head towards the home straight, organisers wheel out some big pop names in the form of the Pharrell Williams led N.E.R.D. who have the crowd bouncing from the minute they hit the stage while Dua Lipa brightens up the damp afternoon with her energetic pop routines which, while sitting oddly between the likes of Panic At The Disco and Sum 41, go down well with this young crowd.
By now the weekend is drawing to a close but not before main stage guests Panic At The Disco put on a truly classy performance with frontman Brendan Urie giving Skindred frontman Benji a run for his money in the cool rockstar stakes. Speaking of which, dance/rock mob Pendulum incited a riot in the Radio 1 stage with their return surely ensuring fellow returning crossover nutters The Prodigy are keeping an eye on them.
With Kendrick Lamar controversially closing the weekend, like many others, we decided to end our weekend elsewhere choosing the company of alt-rock titans Papa Roach and what a way to finish. It was loud and sweaty as Jacoby Shaddix and the band threw everything into their set to ensure that our brilliant weekend ended with us soaked to the skin, covered in mud but having had an absolute riot and already counting the days until Leeds Festival 2019!