Reading & Leeds Festivals – Which Bands Could Be First Time Headliners In 2017?

Now Reading & Leeds Festivals are over for another year, potential headliners for future editions are already being mooted. We take a look at the big contenders to see who’s got the chops to follow in Foals’ footsteps and go all the way to the biggest slot of the weekend.

The 1975

Where they played last time: NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage, Headliner, 2016
The argument for: One of three acts on this list name-checked as such by Melvin Benn himself, The 1975 are strong contenders to follow Foals’ lead in establishing themselves as headliners. Just two albums in, with success Stateside and hits a-plenty, Matt Healey’s Merry Band of Mancs have headlined the NME/Radio 1 tent; making a move to the top of the bill a realistic prospect. Healy even said as much, telling Sunday’s Reading crowd that they’d return to top the bill.
The argument against: Despite big shows and climbing the billings, the band are yet to headline a festival. But their day in the sun (figuratively speaking) seems inevitable.

Two Door Cinema Club

Where they played last time: NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage, Headliner, 2016
The argument for: Another Mr. Benn Main Stage shout, one of Ireland’s biggest indie exports headlined the NME Tent in 2016 ahead of the band’s third LP ‘Gameshow’, set for an October release. Booked as headliner of Latitude in 2014 – something of a breeding ground for Reading and Leeds headliners – the band were forced to cancel after illness.
The argument against: While Reading and Leeds veterans, it’s difficult to shake the feeling the band’s star has waned somewhat; especially when bands like The 1975 are nipping at their heels.

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Bring Me The Horizon

Where they played last time: Main Stage, second to top, 2015
The argument for: With five albums and many, many a Reading/Leeds slot under their black-and-white chequered belts, BMTH represent metal’s best hope for a debut headliner. With latest album ‘That’s The Spirit’ making moves into stadium-rock territory and a Metallica-subbing slot in 2015, a Bring Me 2017 headline would seem a fairly safe bet.
The argument against: Despite their enormous popularity, doubts remain over the band’s lack of broader – headlining – appeal.

BBK

Where they played last time: Main Stage, third to top, 2016
The argument for: A Boy Better Know headline slot would represent a welcome watershed for a festival traditionally rooted in rock and indie but increasingly broad in its approach – and a genuinely exciting prospect. The grime collective are the third act recently noted by festival organiser Melvin Benn as a future headliner, and the BBK juggernaught seems increasingly unstoppable. Impressively, it’s one built on no terms but their own; and they can namedrop the likes of Drake jumping on their bandwagon.
The argument against: It might be better waiting for BBK, as a collective, to put out an album to match Skepta’s 2016 solo record ‘Konnichiwa’.

Bastille

Where they played last time: Main Stage, third to top, 2015
The argument for: Another indie-pop big-dog making a feverishly anticipated comeback, it’s hard not to fancy Bastille’s chances for a shot at headlining. After a summer spent playing Glastonbury’s The Other Stage and gearing up for the release of second album ‘Wild World’, they’d be primed for the job next summer.
The argument against: With just the one – albeit behemothic – album out in the wild, it could be a little premature.

You Me At Six

Where they played last time: Secret Set at The Pit, 2016
The argument for: Ominously, Foals played the now-traditional secret set in 2015; this year it was You Me At Six’s turn to play the festival’s worst-kept secret. The UK’s answer to All Time Low, the pop-punksters have four (soon to be five) albums and a catalogue of Reading & Leeds shows behind them; moreover, they have the radio-friendly, mainstream appeal crucial to any band’s hopes of cracking the festival’s top billing.
The argument against: Despite their enormous popularity, the band lack the one massive hit encore song to pull off a headline set.

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Slaves

Where they played last time: Main Stage, mid-afternoon, 2016
The argument for: Royal Tunbridge Wells finest punk export have enjoyed a truly rapid rise – enjoying chart success success, relentless touring and a Mercury Prize nomination. The band can also boast some big tunes in ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Cheer Up London’.
The argument against: For all their success on the airwaves of Radio 1, you wonder if a duo with such a sparse stage set-up could command a headline slot.

Years & Years

Where they played last time: NME/Radio 1 Stage, mid-afternoon, 2015
The argument for: Another band to achieve big things with a debut record (and a BBC Sound Of 2015 award), Years & Years made their Reading & Leeds debut with a respectable mid-afternoon slot in the NME tent last year. Danceable tunes and big chorus’ give the band broad appeal across the airwaves.
The argument against: Time (and more records) will tell if the blossoming electro-pop trio have true headlining potential.

Chase and Status

Where they played last time: Main Stage, second from top, 2013
The argument for: In Reading & Leeds years, Chase and Status’ last appearance beneath Eminem in 2013 feels like an age ago. The duo would seem the obvious candidates to take Disclosure’s baton with their raucous, electronic dance headlining show.
The argument against: While the band can boast some big hits across their three albums, it’s hard not to feel a two-hour Chase & Status headlining show might – even now – stretch a little thin. Moreover, they have yet to headline a festival outside the dance music bubble.

Catfish & The Bottlemen

Where they played last time: NME/Radio 1 Stage, second to top, 2015
The argument for: Led by the charismatic Van McCann, Catfish & The Bottlemen have brought anthemic, power-chord pub-rock back into the mainstream.
The argument against: While the band can count on a rabid fan base, chart success and some packed Reading & Leeds shows, second album ‘The Ride’ failed to hit the heights of its predecessor. Combined with no top-billing experience, a Catfish headline set feels – at best – some way off.

Twenty One Pilots

Where they played last time: NME/Radio 1 Stage, second to top, 2016
The argument for: It’s fair to say Twenty One Pilots have – unlike the rest of us – enjoyed 2016; a steady ascent rounded off by a massiv set in the NME/Radio 1 Tent, and a huge November show at London’s Alexandra Palace.
The argument against: Undeniably, this Ohio duo are a band going places. But a billing much higher than their current standing seems unlikely for the foreseeable – Reading & Leeds boss Melvin Benn stated as much himself.

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