It’s that time of year again, when the summer is gently coming to a close, and the entirety of the UK nation prepares for the August Bank Holiday; a time otherwise known as Reading & Leeds festival start date. Let’s take a look at the highlights of this year’s festivals…
Leeds Friday/Reading Sunday
Friday’s offering at Leeds showed a huge swing in the new outlook of the festival, with heavier rap/dance music influences alongside the largely indie rock showing. With the newly-reformed Libertines headlining later in the evening, there was lot on in the hours preceeding for fans to sink their teeth into.
Outside of Planet Kanye, Kendrick Lamar is probably the biggest rapper on this planet at the moment. Between the release of a critically successful album alongside a revival in all things ‘Compton’ nowadays, getting Mr Lamar over here for the dual festivals was really a coup by boss Melvyn Benn. Lamar brought all of his hits with him as well as an exceeding amount of showmanship and charm, too, that endeared him to the crowd. He even compared Reading to his home town of Compton, not so sure about that one Kendrick…
The likes of Ghostpoet, KWABS and Awolnation provided an eclectic afternoon’s listening on the NME/Radio 1 stage, before the man with one of the albums of the summer took to the stage, Jamie xx of the xx.
Early on in his set he gorged the crowd with one of the hits from the album, ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ before continuing in that form with an well-chosen mix of tunes – with 70s soul and dancehall going doing particularly well with the crowd given the sunset-circumstances. While many artist like xx, Mark Ronson or even fellow DJ Skrillex would have all sorts of on-stage distractions on-going, the on-stage presence is minimal to say the least, just Jamie xx behind the decks, as it should be.
It’s all about the music, and with no gimmicks or distractions to divert your attentions elsewhere, it’s that much easier to find yourself being swept up in the slowburning euphoria of ‘All Under One Roof Raving’, or the big, sonorous bass notes of ‘Gosh’. Personal favourite ‘Loud Places’ makes a fantastic showing late on, and gets the crowd going perfectly too.
Leeds Saturday/Reading Friday
Indie fans were well served by Bastille, alt-j and Mumford and Sons, over on the Main Stage, a trio that personally sends chills down my spine, although I have good news to report- they weren’t all that bad. Bastille, sure seemed to be eeking out their lengthy running time, but in the case of the latter two they seem to have fully developed as the artists they are; delivering on the success that I felt was undeservedly going their way following some promising debuts. Both are now fully established and are festival mainstays for sure.
Alternatively, and this is the great thing about R&L, Run the Jewels walked on-stage to the self-affirming anthem ‘We Are The Champions’, and you really wouldn’t have it any other way. El-P and Killer Mike killed it as expected and brought something fresh and new to the NME/Radio 1 Stage.
“We are going to f*ck this motherf**ker up”, announced the latter before launching into the duo’s self-titled track ‘Run the Jewels’. It didn’t take long for the crowd to lap up the on-stage chemistry between the two rappers and the energy from one another and their music seems to latch on to everyone present, resulting in some serious mosh pits. ‘Blockbuster Night 2’ and ‘Early’ saw the crowd engaging in plenty of raised ‘guns and fists’.
They even managed a cheeky thank-you to NME, and requested an award for next year’s NME Awards, that’s the type of balls RTJ have, and at this stage in their burgeoning career as a duo, with this much success so far, can you blame them?
Leeds Sunday/Reading Saturday
Following a barren seven year absence, Metallica returned to close Leeds Festival 2015 – with an extended two hour set that was by the fans, for the fans. With a debut Glastonbury set last summer in their back pocket the veteran metal band kept their ‘choir’ of hardcore fans at the back of the stage, which personally looks rather bizarre to me…
Entering the stage to Ennio Morricone’s western soundtrack ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’, while screens showed footage from movie The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, they kicked-off with the crowd-pleasing trio of ‘Fuel’, ‘To Whom The Bell Tolls’ and ‘Battery’. The set seemed to get the best from a crowd you expect would have been through a tiring third day.
For the encore, Metallica covered a raucous ‘Whisky In a Jar”, This is going to make you bounce,” pledged lead singer James Hatfield before jumping on into ‘Enter Sandman’. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend for many, as pyrotechnics and lasers filled the sky before the release of hundreds of bouncing black balls added to the cacophony of sound and visuals to aiming to please the majority of the crowd.
The NME/ Radio One Stage saw a packed early-afternoon tent as thousands rushed to see a surprise slot from band-of-the-moment, Foals, whose album dropped the preceeding Friday. Kicking off with crowd favourite ‘My Number’, before dropping into new single ‘Mountain At My Gates’ as those lucky enough to catch the set were astounded by the future headliners.
It felt like one of those coming of age moments for a band four albums in and with designs to be the last act on the Main Stage in a few years time. That new album, ‘What Went Down’, will surely help their cause and don’t rule out a swift rise to the top for the Oxford band. Frontman Yannis Philippakis ended up in amongst his baying crowd of worshippers come the set’s close, and indication it went rather well.
It’s a shame that technical problems plagued the set of one of the hottest bands of the year, Wolf Alice, whose lead singer, Ellie Roswell’s guitar just stopped working during closer, ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ (see what they did there?!). It was only a minor glitch in an otherwise triumphant time that showed just how far the British band had come in not that longer time at all. With a number one album behind them and this just one of several impressive festival outings, expect Ellie and the gang to be a constant presence around and about the scene for years to come.
A woman who seems to adore controversy, Azealia Banks, was headlining the 1Xtra Stage on the same evening as Metallica, tough pick right?! Well those who managed to catch a slice of the American’s set would’ve been pleasantly surprised as Banks proved there’s more to her than her hateful Twitter presence. Having had the wonderfully talented DENCH Lethal Bizzle as her warm-up, Ms Banks played many songs from her debut LP, ‘Broke With Expensive Taste throughout her 50 mins set, launching into ‘Desperado’ by shouting “You ready to have a good time?” to the heaving tent of festivalgoers. Getting the crowd going seemed to be her strong suit, as she built the crowd up with chants of “Let me hear you make some f**king noise”, receiving a huge response, as the launch of her greatest hit to date,’212′, got the crowd singing her words back at her. She might still be a little rough around the edges but Azealia Banks is finally starting to deliver on some of the hype that’s followed her since her debut.
Check out the poster below and let me know your own highlights!