Last year, we threw the gauntlet down to the Reading and Leeds faithful. Ahead of the first edition of the festival in over two years, we asked you to “open your mind” and support the emerging musicians that have kept festivals like this so exciting each and every year. Clearly, you listened. This year’s bill is as varied and intriguing as ever, and they only book acts like these because you turn up… so bravo!
It’s not all rosy, mind. Though the COVID-19 pandemic might be approaching the back of your mind, its impact on the music scene still looms large. Your favourite venues and new bands are struggling in the cost-of-living crisis, after being decimated by cancelled gigs and insufficient support from the Government. The fight to support new music and protect the places that help nurture these artists is still ahead of us.
So the message remains the same: stay open-minded, stay curious and stay supporting grassroots musicians at festivals like these. You never know what you could end up discovering…
Thomas Smith – Commissioning Editor (New Music)
Words: Thomas Smith, Sophie Williams
Who: Endlessly entertaining Edinburgh performer pitching for a role as a new festival staple
Why they’re perfect for R+L: The stars have aligned nicely, here. Combe’s breakout moment was a cover of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’, who headline the festivals this weekend. A few years down the line from that viral moment, she’s an accomplished songwriter and performer in her own right, exploring the blurry lines in messy flings (‘Are You With Me?’), but still a master of the cover (‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’).
Key track: ‘A-Game’
Where to catch them: Festival Republic Stage. Reading: Friday, 13:10 Leeds: Sunday, 12:40 TS
Who: Vibrant, ’60s-loving gang here to make rock groovy again
Why they’re perfect for R+L: We could all do with an early afternoon breather as the festival weekend rolls on, and CVC’s lightly funky melodies could provide a moment of bliss for any crowd. Bedecked in uber-wide flares and questionably bright shirts, this South Wales six-piece bring a similarly no-fucks-given approach to their psych bangers, which combine their vintage vibe with a confident strut.
Key track: ‘Lonely People’
Where to catch them: Festival Republic Stage. Reading: Sunday, 12:20 Leeds: Friday, 12:00 SW
Who: Houston-born, LA-based rocker looking to emulate his boundary-pushing heroes: Thom Yorke and Jimi Hendrix.
Why they’re perfect for R+L: This festival loves the prospect of a future icon, and De’Wayne’s certainly keen to put himself in the mix. “I love challenging people,” DeWayne told NME in 2020. “I love coming onto a stage and bringing so much energy that people have to either love it or hate it.” There’s the gauntlet thrown down, then…
Key track: ‘Top Gun’
Where to catch them: Main Stage West. Reading: Saturday, 14:05 Leeds: Sunday, 13:25 TS
Who: Indie pals with the bold ambition of future festival headliners
Why they’re perfect for R+L: The Yorkshire-via-Copenhagen duo have enough fighting spirit to push themselves up the festival line-up bills in no time. Their debut single ‘Rothko’ breaks through in moments of huge indie-pop euphoria, with a skyward chorus that’ll sound especially uplifting in the forecasted heatwave this weekend.
Key track: ‘Rothko’
Where to catch them: BBC Music Introducing Stage. Reading: 18:15 Leeds: Saturday, 17:30 SW
Who: The future guitar-pop hero taking on the world
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Dylan’s live shows are as riotous as they are ambitious. At her debut US headline show in New York last month, the 22-year-old thrashed through a towering Guns N’ Roses cover, hinting at an engaging and technically slick performer ready to push her rockstar image and sound to the next level. Devil-horns to the sky.
Key track: ‘Girl Of Your Dreams’
Where to catch them: BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage. Reading: Sunday, 13:25 Leeds: Friday, 12:55 SW
Who: Indie-pop upstart that makes it feel like summertime all the time
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Trust Flowerovlove to turn Reading & Leeds into a glorious, summer-scented paradise, even if just for 30 minutes. The 17-year-old’s gleaming pop – which combines charming lyrics about growing up with self-produced percussive arrangements – possesses enough warmth to usher in a brighter, calmer energy at even the loudest and most lairy of festivals.
Key track: ‘Hannah Montana’
Where to catch them: BBC Introducing Stage. Reading: Friday, 13:45 Leeds: Saturday, 13:10 SW
French The Kid
Who: Essex rapper whose bilingual bars bring a fresh new edge to the UK scene
Why they’re perfect for R+L: The festival’s transition away from being an out-and-out rock bash has been steady, but not without success. The fact that acts like French – and his collaborators Bad Boy Chiller Crew – have a space at a festival like this acts as further proof of Gen Z’s genreless approach to listening.
Key track: ‘Thrill’
Where to catch them: BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage Reading: Saturday, 15:40 Leeds: Sunday, 15:30 TS
Who: The mysterious punk-poet starting to crawl out of the shadows
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Drawn straight from the gut, Joe Unknown takes down both British class culture and his own personal demons through his grisly delivery. With an immediate mix of hip hop, punk and bassline, he fits into Reading and Leeds most sonically diverse lineup yet.
Key track: ‘Ride’
Where to catch them: BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage. Reading: Sunday, 14:30 Leeds: Friday, 14:00 SW
Who: Gorgeously intimate pop-meets-R&B from assured Londoner
Why they’re perfect for R+L: A Mercury Prize-nominee on the line-up is nothing to sniff at. Joining fellow shortlisted-act Little Simz on the bill, Crookes’ debut album ‘Skin’ has only resonated stronger with time, its focus on the growing pains of young adulthood will resonate strongly with crowds like these.
Key track: ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’
Where to catch them: Main Stage West. Reading: Friday, 16:00 Leeds: Saturday, 15:25 TS
Who: Jungle queen in the running for DJ of the summer
Why they’re perfect for R+L: It’s been a crazy few months for Nia: there’s been the win of Best Producer at the BandLab NME Awards 2022, a stellar debut EP in ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ and a standalone festival banger with ‘Mash Up The Dance’, powered by her melodic vocals. An afternoon-stealing set at the dual festivals – particularly in her hometown of Leeds – will only elevate the hype for what comes next.
Key track: ‘18 & Over’
Where to catch them: BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage. Reading: Friday, 16:40 Leeds: Saturday, 16:25 TS
Who: Future-facing star retaining the genre’s DIY spirit
Why they’re perfect for R+L: After her self-produced ditties became a genuine TikTok phenomenon in lockdown, PinkPantheress is finally able to put faces to numbers as she continues to greet huge crowds throughout her first-ever run of festival shows. Her surging club beats and massive hooks add up to something addictive and frenzied enough to easily unite a hungry festival crowd.
Key track: ‘Passion’
Where to catch them: BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage. Reading: Friday, 15:45 Leeds: Saturday, 15:30 SW
Who: TikTok-conquering act pioneering the self-styled genre of ‘Bimbocore’
Why they’re perfect for R+L: The weirder the line-up gets, the more we’re into it and we’ll wager you’ve heard little like Scene Queen’s ‘Pink Panther’ before. We won’t say any more than that, so head down, find out for yourself and make your own mind up…
Key track: ‘Pink Panther’
Where to catch them: Festival Republic Stage. Reading: Friday, 15:00 Leeds: Saturday, 14:50 TS
Who: Leeds quartet that have the emo spirit coursing through their veins
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Static Dress have honed their urgent and raw live performance with a host of recent support slots for hardcore heroes Knocked Loose, alongside their plenty of their own sold-out shows across the UK. They’re the type of band that will make you want to leave your inhibitions outside the festival tent, and quickly become a sweaty, delirious, glorious mess of yourself in the moshpit.
Key track: ‘Fleahouse’
Where to catch them: Festival Republic Stage. Reading: Saturday, 12:50 Leeds: Sunday, 12:50 SW