One of the biggest festivals in the UK, and one of the most well known, Reading + Leeds Festival is now a staple of the British summer of music. The festival attracts some of the biggest names in the music industry to perform in font the 90,000 people who’re expected to take a trip to the sites. Yet this festival doesn’t stray far from criticism and hate, mainly to do with its lineup, and how the organisers choose to share it.
There are issues with the lineup. For a start, I see Reading + Leeds to be primarily rock and indie infused into their lineups. In 1989 bands such as My Bloody Valentine, New Order and The Mission gracing the stage… all for the price of forty quid!
Over the next few years, Reading continued to grow and more and more talent began to emerge. The Pixies, Ride and Mudhoney all appeared on the following years lineup in 1990. Then in 1991, Iggy Pop played a historic headline set, with a certain, much smaller band called Nirvana playing on the same day.
The festival is also the site of (arguably) the greatest, and most historic live set of all time. Nirvana’s headline set of 92 went down in history. It was something that the festival had never seen before. It was defining and game changing not just only for Reading, but the majority of festivals around the world.
As we skip further forward we end up in 1999 and a festival looking to get bigger and bigger. It expanded to Leeds, with an alternating lineup taking place across the August Bank Holiday, music lovers in both the North and South would be able to go to the best rock festival on the planet. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Blur and The Charlatans headlined the festival, with The Chemical Brothers playing a mesmerising set, bringing rave and dance music to the festival.
With the turn of the new millennium bought the arrival of rap to the festival. Eminem headlined the festival in 2001 and became an instant hit.However, rap at the festival wasn’t taken lightly as 50 Cent was bottled off the stage in 2004.
The years stretching from 2000-2013 was a golden era for the festival. The resurgence of indie into the popular music spectrum resulted in band such as Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and Kings Of Leon gracing the stage on numerous occasions, spear heading the indie genre right to the top of the festival bills.
Halfway through the decade, the festival only had 4 stages. The Main Stage, NME Tent and the Festival Republic stage all predominately featuring bands and guitar music, with the lock up stage being the home of metal and heavier music. The Lock Up stage was turned into the Dance tent on a Friday night for around 3 years, then in 2013 the BBC Radio 1 dance tent and the BBC 1 Xtra tent appeared as a separate stages hosting dance music and grime and rap from smaller MC’s. Eminem also returned to headline the festival once again. The Festival was changing.
The Festival republic Stage and the NME Stage would become the place where people could get their fix of indie music that was fresh and new, with much more heavier music appearing on the Main Stage. Main stream artists began seeping their way through the lineup as Major Lazer, Skrillex, ASAP Rocky and Chase and Status found themselves getting higher amongst the lineups, and growing in popularity.
In 2014, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, somehow managed to sub-headline Blink-182 in a lineup which was one of the best of the current decade. 2015 saw rapper Kendrick Lamar took to the stage sub headlining The Libertines on the closing night of the festival. However, Kendrick managed to blow away the gigantic crowd which had joined to watch the rapping mega star perform his critically acclaimed album ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’. Foals also performed one of the best sets of the weekend with a secret set at 1pm in the NME tent.
This brings us nicely into 2016. A year which saw Foals hit the heights of their power and tear apart the main stage as a co-headliner with dance duo Disclosure. The festival was hit with cririticsm as there were two co-headline slots meaning 5 headliners. Foals and Disclosure was expected, however to give Biffy Clyro, a band who have headlined before and absolutely smashed it a co-headline slot with Fall Out Boy was kind of a bit disrespectful. Grime hit the heights as Boy Better Know performed 3rd down from the headliners Foals and Disclosure, showing the world how big and how quick grime has risen.
Jack U headlined the NME tent with Twenty One Pilots playing before… I don’t think I can say more about that one. Other than that, the lineup was solid.
Yet even this lineup is still good, it might not be as good as previous years but music is changing and so is popular music. If you don’t like an act, see someone else. Don’t just sit there and complain or just sit at your tent and get in an even more drunken state as you already are.
2017 is looking promising. Muse and Kasabian are confirmed as headliners, with one more still to be announced. Indie trio Two Door Cinema Club look set for a sub-headline slot on the main stage after closing the NME tent the previous year. Major Lazer could also sub-headline, however I see it being unlikely. Rave pioneer Fat Boy Slim will grace the festival for the first time in a set that cannot be missed. The late addition of Korn will please a lot of fans of the festival. The Nu-Metal band from America will most likley be a main stage performance, with anything less being an insult to the famous act.
With one headliner left to announce and hundreds more artists to be added to the lineup i want to quickly talk about some acts that id love to see play the festival.
First of all, The Prodigy have announced new music will be coming this year and have also been announcing numerous festivals around Europe. A main stage sub-headline slot before Muse would be perfect and a great and wild evening. Pendulum are another dance act id like to see perform. They have already announced a headline slot at dance festival South West 4 in London for the same weekend as Reading and Leeds.
Interpol are a band who will be in Europe around the festival, however if they can fit the festival in their busy touring schedule remains to be seen. A slot on the main stage would be fitting for a band celebrating the 15th anniversary of their debut album. Placebo are celebrating 20 years of the band so like Interpol, both bands could feature on this years lineup. Placebo have featured at Reading Festival 6 times in its history, yet haven’t performed in nearly 10 years. Royal Blood are another band who I hope make a return to the festival after being announced for multiple festivals across Europe. The Brighton duo know how to put on a show and a possible sub-headline would suit the band.
As for that final and elusive headline act we can never be sure. Kasabian were a definite, and Muse no one saw coming after their huge headline slot at last years Glastonbury. Multiple bands have recently ruled themselves out. Arcade Fire, Kings Of Leon and The Killers are all UK exclusives to other festivals and Green Day have announced a USA tour over the august bank holiday with support coming from Catfish and the Bottlemen, ruling out those two bands to make an appearance.
Eminem has been rumoured for a while to make yet another appearance headline the festival. Linkin Park have also been given a nudge due to their touring schedule and the festivals they are playing in Europe. People are now sceptical of Blink 182 and a possible headline slot. The band have switched lead singers and since then, they haven’t found a spark. The band could still play, however i doubt it will be a headline slot. Foo Fighters are all but set for Glastonbury, however, the band could also play Reading. They last headlined 5 years ago and a touring Europe playing festivals around the continent, so could Dave Grohl and Co. be heading to Reading again?
All images courtesy of Reading and Leeds Festival