Gearing up for SW4, Sub Focus chooses his favourite tracks and acts to look out for.
It might have its roots in guitar driven rock, but Reading and Leeds Festival has rapidly evolved into much more. Fans of shredding, from mild to heavy, are of course catered for, but with a headline trio boasting both indie anthems and a serious hip-hop pedigree, there’s definitely something for everyone. Music, comedy, and all-round entertainment fans can take in a whole range of acts just walking around the field, and those with a more specific music taste won’t be left wanting.
Pick your preferred style of music below for an insight into what to expect come the August bank holiday weekend.
2017 sees the second headline appearance by legendary hop-hop superstar Eminem. His significance on the landscape of urban music cannot be understated, as news emerges that his greatest hits collection Curtain Call celebrates 350 weeks in the stateside Billboard 200 charts. It’s a marker few can touch, but one that he’s threatening to match with Grammy Award winning The Eminem Show which has reached 329 weeks. That record also celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.
Rumours are abound that Eminem is set to release new music. There are even rumours that his next album might be his last. With nothing confirmed, perhaps the otherwise reclusive rapper will reveal more on the big stage. Regardless, his headline appearance is set to be very memorable.
Urban fans don’t just have to make do with one headliner though. The Godfather of Grime, who this year released the aptly titled Godfather, will take to the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage over the course of the weekend to delight fans. Wiley has been cited as a huge force behind the careers of Dizzee Rascal, Ghetts and many more. He even set up a supportive label, as well as being influential in the start of Boy Better Know, a label led by Jme and his older brother Skepta. Not bad. Godfather also went on to cement Wiley’s highest UK chart position to date.
Elsewhere across the weekend Giggs is set to take to the Main Stage, following some serious championing by BBC Radio 1. The South London rapper has been making a name for himself with a series of hot mixtapes and studio albums, most recently releasing his fourth full-length Landlord in the summer of 2016. The record went on to reach No.2 in the UK Album Chart, with guest appearances by the likes of Rico Love and Stormzy. He’s one of a handful of artists representing urban music on the festival’s Main Stage, as well as headliner Eminem and US rapper Migos.
Of course that’s not it for die-hard urban fans. There’s a whole stage hosted by BBC Radio 1Xtra, with headliners Danny Brown, Flatbush Zombies, and British grime MC Bugzy Malone. Malone has been heralded as instrumental in bringing grime back to its roots, moving away from the mainstream commerciality it has recently celebrated.
Lethal Bizzle, Loyle Carner, Troy Lanez and more are also performing across the weekend, one that offers plenty for all fans of urban music.
Here’s where Reading and Leeds Festival started. Various stages across the fields cater to a vast range of heaviness, from the indie-pop upstarts to veteran metallers. The Pit and The Lock Up host some of the festival’s heavier artists, but as with all genres, there’s a general spread across the whole weekend. It’s all lead by headliners Kasabian and Muse, both offering their distinctive and internationally acclaimed guitar-driven rock.
Reading and Leeds marks a welcome return by Leicester rockers Kasabian, who launched back onto the live circuit earlier this year with various headline shows and a festival topping appearance at Glasgow’s inaugural TRNSMT Festival. New album For Crying Out Loud picked up right where the band left off, catapulting straight to the top of the charts. Over time they’ve celebrated a distinctive style that’s destined to get that little bit rowdy come their Main Stage set.
Muse are no strangers to headlining Reading and Leeds, but they’ve come a long, long way since first appearing on the Carling Premiere Stage in 1999. By the way, that year saw headline sets by The Charlatans, Blur, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In just one year the band jumped to headline the festival’s second stage, eventually reaching headline status in 2006 off the back of their Black Holes and Revelations release. Most recently they headlined in 2011 playing the seminal Origin Of Symmetry in full. This year, there’s one hell of a back-catalogue to choose from, as well as the chance of new material. It’s bound to be a feast for the ears.
Reading and Leeds also welcome back the legendary Liam Gallagher, formerly one half of the driving force behind the defining Britpop outfit Oasis. Expect tracks from his band’s back-catalogue, as well as new cuts from his solo career in the build up to the release of his debut record As You Were. He’s got a cocky bravado about him, one which twists into an enigmatic live performance. Expect a big singalong, and some quality banter come his Main Stage set.
The rock just keeps on coming. There’s plenty to choose from across the stages, from Bastille and Two Door Cinema Club on the Main Stage, to favourites The Hunna headlining the Festival Republic Stage. They are one of few UK rock bands to generate a fanbase even the most twee of boybands would be jealous of. With only one album under their belt, they’ve already celebrated well over 1.75 million Spotify streams, and 5 million video views. And that’s just the start.
It’s not just indie-rock either. Jimmy Eat World bring their emotionally charged melodies to the Main Stage. Billy Talent, While She Sleeps and Neck Deep together showcase the wide variety of rock – from pop-punk to charged British metal – dominating The Pit and Lock Up Stage. We are just scratching the surface here.
Electronic music has become a staple of Reading and Leeds Festival in recent years, not least due to the rapid growth of the festival’s BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage. The genre has also moved its way further out, this year welcoming Major Lazer to the Main Stage, which has previously hosted the likes of Chase & Status and Disclosure. Comprising Diplo, Walshy Fire and Jillionaire, Lazer have celebrated some serious success, not least single Lean On becoming the most successful independent song of all time. It even celebrated being the most streamed track on Spotify of all time, and is sure to find its place on the Main Stage setlist come the bank holiday weekend. The trio most recently released the Portuguese language Sua Cara featuring Anitta and Pabllo Vittar, an example of their international reach and success.
Closer to home, Brighton based DJ Fatboy Slim is set to headline the BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage, joined by Andy C and Marshmello across the remaining two days. Slim, AKA Norman Cook, makes his first appearance at Reading and Leeds, after over 30 years in the business. “It will be like losing my cherry all over again,” he told us earlier this month in anticipation of the event. If his second stage headline set at Latitude Festival is anything to go by, fans are in for a real treat. Eat, sleep, rave, repeat… right? It’s definitely the mantra for many at Reading and Leeds.
For the true ravers, the action doesn’t finish as the main stages close. The Transgressive bill sees late-night takeovers by some of the hottest DJ and live sets across both sites. That’s if the likes of Flume and Sub Focus on the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage hasn’t sent fans into an early euphoria.
Again, we’re only just touching upon the huge amount of electronic dance music on offer come Reading and Leeds.
Reading and Leeds has way more on offer than guitars, heavy beats, and rhymes. There are some of the most exciting names in contemporary pop music rising through the line-up, not least the sheer homegrown talent of Charli XCX. Sandwiched on the BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage between Mistajam and headliners Marshmello, she’ll be bringing her atypical melodic vibes to the masses. She just caused one hell of a stir with new track Boys, in part due to its inspired video. She was already making waves… here comes the flood.
Charli isn’t the only vocalist to be causing a stir both across the airwaves and in clubs. Norwegian singer Sigrid recently signed a huge record deal, propelling her into the mainstream, off the back of only a handful of tracks. But it’s totally understandable when you hear them. With the likes of Don’t Kill My Vibe and Plot Twist in her musical arsenal, she’s already being tipped as a huge future festival headliner.
Halsey is another one to watch out for, taking to the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage shortly before headliners Haim. Starting her career as a rock crossover, Halsey has taken a definitive leap into the pop pile with her most recent album hopeless fountain kingdom. She found household acclaim teaming up with DJ duo The Chainsmokers on Closer, but is now more than ready to breakout on her own. Her popularity propels her high up the Reading and Leeds line-up, and it’s going to be very special when she proves just why.
There’s loads more from the world of pop too, showcasing the real diversity of the genre. There’s Saint PHNX, Anne-Marie, ALMA… the list goes on. Pop lovers are well and truly catered for at Reading and Leeds.
With Reading Festival Saturday tickets sold out, get the last remaining tickets for Reading and Leeds Festival now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.