Reading & Leeds 2021: 10 essential new artists to catch at this year’s festival

The annual dual-site festival kicks off tomorrow (August 27) – make sure you don't miss these rising artists

Reading & Leeds Festival has a late chance to own the summer. Glastonbury has been postponed for another year and despite fine comebacks from Latitude, Green Man and Boardmasters, they don’t quite pack the mainstream punch that’ll be on display at the duel-site festival this Bank Holiday weekend: Stormzy, Post Malone, Disclosure, Liam Gallagher and more are due to play the headline slots over the coming days.

There’s also a renewed focus on the festival’s legacy of supporting new music, something wholly necessary after rising musicians’ plans have been torn to shreds over and over again. Across the bill, there’s an array of movers and shakers ready to start their odyssey up the lineup with the hope of one day topping the whole thing. And if you’re serious about supporting emerging musicians – you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise, right? – get down to the sets early, show them some love and tease your pals about the sets they missed on their way home – this could be your first ‘I saw them early’ opportunity for quite some time.

So dig out the clashfinder, open your mind and make sure you discover these fantastic new bands at Reading & Leeds Festival this weekend.

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Words: Kyann-Sian Williams, Sophie Williams, Thomas Smith

Bad Boy Chiller Crew

Who: Bradford trio set for the weekend’s buzziest, funniest set
Where: BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage
When: Leeds – Friday, 2:15 pm / Reading – Sunday, 2:15 pm
What to expect: If you’ve made it this far without seeing one of the trio’s viral clips, or heard one of their throwback bassline bangers, we feel for you. Their mid-afternoon set has all the makings of a breakout appearance, especially for those at the festival’s northern contingency. It’s gonna get rowdy…
Key track: ‘Don’t You Worry About Me’ (TS)

Berwyn

Who: The Trinidad-born, London-residing musician does it all: he’s crooned, rapped and produced his way to the forefront of the UK alternative scene
Where: BBC Music Introducing Stage
When: Leeds – Friday, 5:30pm / Reading – Sunday, 7:40pm
What to expect: A set that will put you through every emotion. Known for the gritty, raw reality of his lyrics that sit atop soothing beats, it’s quite the tranquil moment compared to some of the energetic mosh pits you might have been in, or are going to be in.
Key track: ‘Vinyl’ (KSW)

Digga D

Who: a leading voice in the scene who has risen above endless police sanctions to bring drill to the masses
Where: BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage
When: Leeds – Friday, 10:15pm / Reading – Sunday, 9:05pm
What to expect: A star in his own right, Digga D’s set will be energetic and one for those who love a little braggadocio in the lyrics they cite. Every drill fan will be there, so if you want to quick peek into the culture, you could find it all under one tent for the duration of his set.
Key track: ‘Wasted (featuring Ardee)’ (KSW)

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GRACEY

Who: Brighton newcomer crafting shimmering, strobe-lit hooks to unite the dancefloor
Where: BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage
When: Reading – Friday, 12.45pm / Leeds – Saturday, 12.45pm
What to expect: This pop wunderkind makes the type of huge, instant, ridiculously addictive bangers that can easily unite a hungry festival crowd. Big Night Out-ready beats, singalong refrains, enviable confidence – it’s all there on recent single ‘What A Waste’, which will make its live debut at Reading and Leeds.
Key track: ‘What A Waste’ (SW)

Inhaler

Who: Irish indie-rockers with the surefire ambition of future festival headliners
Where: Main Stage East
When: Reading – Friday, 1.50pm / Leeds – Saturday, 1.40pm
What to expect: ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’, the debut album from Dublin four-piece Inhaler, topped the charts last month, and now its massive, groove-driven choruses will make for perfect moshpit material this weekend. Couple that with the band’s striking presence and you’ve got an unmissable set.
Key track: ‘Cheer Up Baby’ (SW)

Ivorian Doll

Who: Disturbing London’s First Lady who’s moving away from her grimy drill roots into something more flirtatious and commercial
Where: BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage
When: Reading – Friday, 6pm / Leeds – Saturday, 5:45pm
What to expect: She’s stirred up the British music scene and influencer culture by using her internet popularity as a launching pad for her rapping talents. She is a fun one, too, who places just as much focus on putting on a show as she does hyping up the crowd.
Key track: ‘Rumours’ (KSW)

KennyHoopla

Who: Pop-punk hero-in-the-making putting introspective verses over gut-punching riffs
Where: BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage
When: Reading – Friday, 1:35pm / Leeds – Saturday, 1:35pm
What to expect: The Ohio native’s pop-punk crossover pulls from anger and youthful naivety to deliver deceptively ambitious verses that try to find beauty in the pain. Breathless, urgent and impossible not to love, every track sounds like running around the circle pit – keep up.
Key track: ‘ESTELLA//’ (featuring Travis Barker) (SW)

Prospa

Who: Leeds duo ready to soundtrack your return to summer raves
Where: BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage
When: Reading – Friday, 5:30 pm / Leeds – Saturday, 5:30 pm
What to expect: The band’s best song, ‘Ecstasy (Over & Over)’, was released in the depths of lockdown doom. As the pair burst out of virtual parties, the old-school euphoria offers a crucial release from the doom and gloom; it’ll be a reminder of all the good times we’ve sorely missed, and the many more to come.
Key track: ‘Ecstasy (Over & Over)’ (TS)

Tia Carys

Who: An underground talent bringing substance to a rap scene that favours party music over real stuff
Where: BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage
When: Reading – Friday, 2:15pm / Leeds – Saturday, 2pm
What to expect: Unapologetically British, you’ll be able to hear her well-crafted bars firsthand. It may be another slower set that you’d two-step to instead of mosh around, however, if you’re more of a ‘what they say’ rather than a ‘how they say’ rap fan, her earnest lyrics will offer crucial insight. (KSW)
Key track: ‘Trouble Train’

Yard Act 

Who: One of the few guitar breakout bands of the last year: sharp, funny, catchy post-punk groovers
Where: BBC Music Introducing Stage
When: Leeds – Friday, 4:35 pm / Reading – Sunday, 6:30 pm
What to expect: The success of ‘Fixer Upper’ caught the band off guard, and they’re still waiting to come back down to earth and be treated to a sparse festival crowd. You sense that with the local fanbase and sharp, danceable follow-up singles, that nobody will be turning their back on a Yard Act set for a little while longer.
Key track: ‘Dark Days’ (TS)

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