Leeds Reading Festival

Posted by vibrations on 14-08-15

It is nearly that time of year again, when the good people of Thorner and Bramham hide their gnomes and lawn furniture and the Lane-Foxes open their gates to the Jagerbomb fuelled hordes of teenagers taking their first tentative steps into the wider world of the summer festival circuit post exam results, eager to enjoy a weekend of hedonistic abandon to a soundtrack of the music… that I like?

I think that sometimes Leeds Reading gets a bad rap… it doesn’t have the greenery and pseudo mysticism of Glastonbury that now attracts hipsters and glampers like a two ton turd attracts houseflies (look, I can remember when the fence was jumpable… not that I would ever have done such a thing… and things were definitely different then. Once the big walls arrived, something left. Just saying), it doesn’t have the specificity of Download (whose line up I peer at eagerly and avariciously every year) or Sonisphere or Beatherder, and it doesn’t have the high-brow boutiquery of Latitude or No 6 Festival. In fact, despite its heritage, it has a bit of a reputation for being an Early Learning Festival – My First Festival, as written by Julia Donaldson with touchy feely surfaces… though the less said about that, the better. But as this year’s more-convincing-than-last-year’s line-up shows, a good number of the acts are more appropriate for the parents of the teens than the teens themselves. So: is it a learner fest or is it something that has more of an adult appeal than first considered – like The Simpsons?

Yes and yes. Consider the main stage headliners: Metallica, The Libertines and Mumford and Sons. Bands that in their own ways defined the mid-eighties, mid-nineties and mid-noughties respectively. Forget the fact that just about everyone on the planet has now seen Metallica at least once (a feat completed once they had played on Antarctica to the last three remaining people in the world who hadn’t seen them), that certain Libertines members are better known for their not playing than their playing and that Mumford and Sons are… well, Mumford and Sons, these bands act as both nostalgia trips and education – “look son, this is the band that gave us ‘Enter Sandman’ – remember this moment well”  - “Dad, I’ve already seen them three times…” Pretty solid, but look at the second tier – Limp Bizkit: instant party, just add crowd; Royal Blood: making all bands with more than two members look indulgent… including Motorhead; Mastodon: gargantuan riffs and sledgehammer tunes – look, what can I say, I love the metal. But the more I look at it, the more gold there is: Kendrick Lamar, Bring Me the Horizon, Alt J, Everything Everything, Hawk Eyes, Mariachi El Bronx. It’s totally chaotic, eclectic to the point of utter confusion, but it’s all good – some years it’s felt like a car crash, this year it feels like a mix tape. You remember mix tapes? You recorded them for people as statements of your personality, for better or worse? Now it’s all playlists, which doesn’t really capture it, but this line up has that kind of defining personality. And that’s why it’s a starter and a senior moment, a stream of consciousness, a hand written love letter of a line up. I know it got some grief for its gender bias – we have Marmozets, Wolf Alice and Pvris, but also so Charli XCX, Azaelia Banks, Alvvays and Lucy Ros - and it’s still pretty weighted, but I get the feeling this will be a bit of a tsunami of a weekend, and I don’t mean the weather. Although that too is a possibility.

Now if I can just get to see Limp Bizkit, I’ll be rolling… and showing the young ‘uns how I roll.

Rob Wright

On the Vibrations stereo...