Reading and Leeds Festival: A staple of the English music scene. An opportunity for you and your mates to enjoy some of the greatest music acts that the time has to offer. 2019 was no exception.
This year saw Foo Fighters, Post Malone, Twenty One Pilots and The 1975 all take to the stage for around 90,000 people. Although I was only able to make it for one of those days, I was still able to take in a full 10 hours' worth of mind-blowing musical enjoyment.
Before continuing this article, I thought I’d quickly reflect on the growing drug problems that Leeds has become more associated with over the last few years. The loss of a 17-year-old woman on Friday due to a drug-related overdose is terrifying and my heart goes out to her family and friends. If after reading this article you want to go to Leeds next year, or if you were already planning on doing so, please look after each other.
When I woke up on Saturday morning to make my way down to Leeds, It hadn’t really sunk in my head what exactly the day had in store for me. I was more worried about two things: drinking as much as I could in the car over (so I didn’t have to rely on the ungodly amount of money a pint costs at the festival), and putting some sun-cream on, to avoid the 28 degrees Celsius temperatures I would be exposed to for the day. However, when turning into the ‘Day Ticket’ car-park, after traffic resulted in a three hour car journey from Doncaster, and getting my first look at the festival, I knew I was in for a treat. I’ve already camped at Leeds Festival once before, in 2017, so I was aware of what the campsite environment was like, but seeing the campsites as a spectator, rather than a participant, made me somewhat jealous of all the people chilling in the sun. Before seeing a single act I made a mental note: “No matter what the line-up is like next year, buy a weekend camping ticket”. In fairness, I’m not quite sure what stopped me from getting a weekend ticket this year. It’s probably from spending most of my money on a combination of Tesco meal deals and pints during first year.
"We emerged into the landscape of music, food and drinks. The 3 ingredients for any good time"
Making our way through to the main arena, weaving our way through a wave of desperate festival go-ers, we emerged into the landscape of music, food and drinks, the three ingredients for any good time. The only downside to the festival would be how expensive everything is, and for anyone camping at the festival this isn’t a problem. But for anyone going for the day, it may be wise to take a fair bit of money in. For a reference point, a burger and chips cost around £13. I’d ignore this normally, but after a few pints I happily forked over the money, and from what I remember, eating that food was the happiest three minutes of my life.
Moving on to what everyone reading this wants to know about: the acts. Our first taster of the day was Scottish band Twin Atlantic, a band that I wasn’t necessarily aware of prior to going. We managed to get to the front of the Main Stage for it, which wasn’t too hard given that it was only 1:30pm, and I have to say I was massively impressed. They seemed to be a crowd pleaser, with a lot of people joining in with their songs, and the instinctive and rhythmic nature of their guitar encouraged a lot of bobbing heads in the crowd.
"They definitely set the tone for the rest of the event."
The next couple of acts, Charlie XCX and Juice WRLD, were surprisingly good, given that I was only really familiar with a few of their top hits: Charlie XCX’s ‘Boys’ and ‘I Love It', and Juice WRLD’s ‘Lucid Dreams’. They certainly had control of the crowd, instigating mosh pits and drawing attention from all over the festival.
After sitting back and relaxing, prior to the arrival of festival veterans ‘You Me At Six’, the first major act I was looking forward to was getting ready to begin: Joji. For those of you unaware, the Australian-Japanese rapper first rose to fame from a parody YouTube account, which he ended a couple of years ago to pursue a career in music. The amount of people that came to see him was bursting out of the tent, which only goes to show how large a fan base he has, and the crowd favourites of ‘SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK’, ‘COME THRU’ and ‘YEAH RIGHT’ were met to screams of happiness from the crowd, and accompanied with the crowd spurring out the lyrics. Given that he’s only been on the scene for two years, to be performing on a major stage at one of the biggest festivals in the world is testament to his abilities, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the main stage in a few years time.
After seeing Joji, who had been the favourite act for a lot of my mates, we arrived at the last destination of the day: the Main Stage. There were three more acts to see: The Wombats, Royal Blood and The 1975. I must admit, I was really looking forward to The Wombats, and some of their songs, such as ‘Let's Dance to Joy Division’ and ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’, were outstanding, but the flow of their performance was a little slow for me. They were amazing, and I’d happily pay to see them again, but I didn’t really feel it at Leeds. The following act, who were one of the main reasons I attended the festival, struggled with their flow as well, but that was through no fault of their own. Some minor technical issues meant that the screens around their stage had frozen, which took some of the aesthetic appeal of their performance away from them, and for a short amount of time the band seemed stagnant. However, in true Royal Blood fashion, they absolutely smashed the rest of their performance, with performances of ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’, ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ and ‘Out Of The Black’, to name a few, leaving me screaming the lyrics until I couldn’t anymore. Royal Blood are a band which I’ve seen a couple of times, and seeing them at Leeds definitely won’t be the last.
"If you haven’t heard of them before, and you like music which isn’t too heavy, but enough to get your head rocking, they are the band for you."
However, a band which I’d been listening to a lot prior to going to Leeds has to be my highlight of, not only the festival, but my 2019 so far. I’m talking of course about The 1975, the Manchester based four-piece who have emerged onto the British music scene as one of the biggest bands of this decade. I didn’t really know what to expect from them. I’d seen the one act I was looking forward to the most (Royal Blood), and thought that I’d catch the beginning of The 1975’s set, then nip out to catch a bit of Dave (the rapper) before the end of the festival.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
As soon as the lights went low on the main stage, and the crowd started screaming for the imminent arrival of the band, I was hooked. Starting their performance with their new single ‘People’ (one of the more experimental songs on The 1975’s discography) encouraged the high energy from the crowd needed for their set. This energy carried on to high power songs such as ‘Give Yourself A Try’, ‘Love Me’ and ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’. However, the band proved their diversity when they blasted out slower, more melodic songs, such as ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, ‘Loving Someone’ and, my favourite song of theirs, ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’. I’m not afraid to admit that I got emotional at that last song; the blasting of white light from the stage, the unity of the crowd and the rhythmic strumming of Matty’s acoustic guitar got to me, and in that time I thought,
“This may be one of the best performances I’ve ever seen”.
I honestly can’t get the image of their set out of my head, and I’ve had their lyrics pulsing through my head for the last 3 days. Also, on a political note, their performance of ‘The 1975’, a self-titled song which includes a Greta Thunberg environmental speech over an instrumental background, was genuinely powerful. Reflecting on the narrative in which Greta was discussing, the danger that mankind is putting the earth into is extremely scary, and unless we engage in, as she defines, “Civil Disobedience”, we’ll be faced with a “disaster of unspoken sufferings”. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I urge you to do so. The message that the band sent out on environmental safety urged everyone around to look after the planet, a message which is apt now more than it ever has been.
The final songs they performed, including ‘The Sound’, were massive crowd favourites, and Matty Healy’s encouragement to "fucking jump" left the crowd leaping around as a solid unit: a fitting moment for a gig that, I think, made every member of the audience feel one in the same. When I was walking back to the car park after their performance, and reflecting on my previous plan to watch Dave instead, I couldn't stop saying, “I can’t believe I was going to miss that”. I’ll have to save Dave for another day!
Thank you for taking the time to read through this article and, for anyone who hasn’t or is hesitant to go to a music festival, I can’t urge you enough to go. Use them as an opportunity to experience music you wouldn’t normally. Reading and Leeds have been slated for a few years now, for their diversification away from ‘rock 'n' roll’ towards ‘rap’ and ‘pop’ icons. I don’t see this as a downside, but instead a positive reason to attend. I was sceptical of The 1975, but after seeing them, I truly believe they’re the biggest British live act in the world.