Everyone remembers the moment Arctic Monkeys packed out the Carling Stage at Reading in 2005. As fans spilled from all sides of the tent, the Monkeys played a set that acted as a launchpad for an entire career. This year’s Reading & Leeds line-up is stuffed with new bands, but who’s best? From the unholy noise of New Jersey freaks Ho99o9 to The Big Moon’s smiley indie-pop, we run down the 10 buzziest bands from across the weekend.
The Big Moon, BBC Introducing Stage, Friday, Leeds
You’d need a heart of stone and ears of tin not to fall in love with The Big Moon, four girls from London who make effervescent, whip-smart indie-pop that can’t help but put smiles on faces, their own included – frontwoman Juliette Jackson spends most of their set grinning from ear to ear. The songs are all pretty great – debut single ‘Sucker’ sounds like a sassy, slackerish Palma Violets – but it’s their cover of Madonna’s 1999 single ‘Beautiful Stranger’, full of tricksy time-signatures and three-part harmonies, that seals the deal.
Spring King, Festival Republic Stage, Friday, Leeds
“This song features saxophone by Pete’s dad,” singer-drummer Tarek Musa announces just before Spring King break into ‘My Sleeves’. Steve Darlington toddles onstage, puckers up to his instrument, and lets rip a feline, fruity and fecund corkscrew of sax. There are few bands on earth that wouldn’t be improved by someone’s dad coming out and blasting one. But even if Lars Ulrich’s wizened Danish dad were tooting away on the back of ‘Nothing Else Matters’, Spring King would still feel more of an event this weekend. Their ragged Monkees gang-chants are a punky Pacman eating any dots of sadness left in the afternoon.
Hippo Campus, Festival Republic Stage, Friday, Leeds
Normally, America’s Anglophiles bond over The Cure, Joy Division, The Smiths, and one other of your choosing (which gives them their requisite direction). Not so Minnesota’s Hippo Campus. They’re more into Wu Lyf and Bombay Bicycle Club. Their paisley pop reels us in with its Chameleon complexities. ‘Little Grace’ is bright and scratchy and ‘Suicide Saturday’ is definitely sniffing around in the general direction of The Cure. A little more snarl and they’ll be perfect.
Georgia, BBC Introducing Stage, Saturday, Leeds
“I was here last year with Kate Tempest and I thought that one day, maybe, I’d be up here playing songs I’ve written myself,” admits Georgia Barnes at one point tonight. Safe to say, her session-player days are well behind her; Barnes’ self-titled album is one of the year’s most arresting debuts, a thrilling pop-grime amalgam she wrote and produced in her bedroom. The BBC Introducing stage, sparsely-attended at the best of times, may not be the stuff that Reading And Leeds dreams are made of, but you can bet that she’ll be back sooner rather than later, and causing a much bigger fuss.
God Damn, Lock Up Stage, Saturday, Leeds
God Damn do a strange line in this whole ‘banter’ thing: “We played for all the softie Southerners yesterday, who probably got dropped off by mummy in the Range Rover,” sneers frontman Thom Edwards. “Sorry, some of you might have Range Rovers too – let’s not be judgemental”. Later, he also snaps at an audience member during their set-up for reminding them how many minutes late they were running. What they very much do have the hang of, however, is the sort of splenetic, sledgehammer-heavy riff-rock that you’d expect two hairy blokes from the Black Country to make. “Go and tell your friends that we weren’t too shit,” the suddenly-contrite Edwards asks at the end. We’re more than happy to oblige.
Rat Boy, Festival Republic Stage, Saturday, Reading
“Sign on! Sign on!” For a few minutes when a technical breakdown prevents Rat Boy from playing their most popular tune, the Festival Republic stage starts feeling like an angry mob besieging a barricaded job centre. Which ironically reflects some of urban rap-rock troubadour Jordan Cardy’s music – ‘Stick Up Kids’, for instance, pits the titular youth against “police with guns/And you know it’s never gonna end well”. It’s all part of Cardy’s adopted role as the stop-gap Jamie T, painting portraits of gritty low-living and his generation’s struggles; ‘Carry On’ staggers around the scuzzy Chelmsford party scene crammed with late-teen ennui, ‘Sportswear’ traces the tribulations of the two-kids-no-job Benefit Street waster. Yet there’s a hard rock crunch to ‘Hanging Around’ and a sliver of hip-hop menace to ‘Left 4 Dead’ that fits Reading even better than Treays’ narcotic traumas. Reading’s caught in the Rat trap.
White, BBC Introducing Stage, Saturday, Reading
Glaswegian newcomers White hark back to a time around 2007 when indie got ludicrously silly. A time when White Rose Movement (remember them?) postured angularly in red and white like a po-faced art rock parody, Does It Offend You, Yeah? were a Nathan Barley electro fantasy made manifest and Art Brut were properly popular. Fronted by theatrical falsetto poseur Leo Condie – a mini Brett Anderson with the vocal chords of one of Wild Beasts and Johnny Borrell’s wardrobe – the quartet jerk around to the kind of arty indie disco built for sweaty nights down Camden Barfly. ‘Future Pleasures’ and ‘Blush’ are unashamedly overblown, but cleverly grounded by DFA-style synth hooks. Will they get big? Likely not. But fuck it, they’re a lot of fun. Viva 2007 – it’s good to have you back.
Pretty Vicious, Festival Republic Stage, Saturday, Reading
Pretty Vicious arrive at Reading with the cocksure swagger of the Gallaghers in their pomp, but their youthful exuberance smacks of the Arctic Monkeys when they burst out of Sheffield in 2005. Bullish, baby-faced frontman Brad Griffiths screams into his mic as the Merthyr Tydfil teenagers launch into ‘It’s Always There’. Squallers like ‘Cave Song’ and ‘Are You Entertained?’ come on like future anthems in waiting, and a spiky cover of Iggy And The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ sends the throng down the front pogoing wildly. Snottily brilliant.
Ho99o9, The Pit Stage, Saturday, Reading
The noisiest and most frightening band at Reading And Leeds, Ho99o9 are a real freakshow. The noise starts before the New Jersey duo – rappers TheOGM and Eady – even set foot on stage. Their drummer, in a ‘Ho99o9 City Rockers’ hoody and black balaclava, stalks around smacking cymbals and turning dials on effects boards for a good 10 minutes before they come on. TheOGM’s crusty Sideshow Bob dreads protrude from a sparkly blue gown, his teeth are covered by a silver grill. Eady is in skintight camo with a mask to match. ‘P.O.W. (Prisoners Of War)’ is deafening, a barrage of gruff rapping and blasts of white noise. It’s hard to make much sense of the bloodcurdling 30 minutes that follow, so we join the hippies down the front, to watch Ho99o9 tear The Pit to pieces.
Loyle Carner, BBC Radio 1xtra Stage, Saturday, Reading
The 1xtra stage has been rammed all weekend, so when Loyle Carner walks onstage to a half-full tent mid-afternoon, you feel for him. Happily, the south London rapper doesn’t give a shit, and those that are here are treated to 30 minutes of his gritty, relatable hip-hop. He raps about student loans, drinking whisky like his granddad and buying old CDs. That he does so while bounding around with more energy than both Rizzle Kicks combined makes this one of the most engaging sets this tent will see all weekend. If you weren’t here, you missed out.