The 10 best new acts we saw at Reading & Leeds 2022

After the dual-site festival returned for another year, here are the brilliant and essential new acts that won the weekend

NME Radar was born out of the spirit of discovery, and we’ve always made it our mission to seek out and champion the most exciting emerging artists at festivals each and every year. Last weekend’s Reading & Leeds Festival (August 26–28) boasted its most sonically diverse line-up to date, and gave us a near-endless list of pretty-hot prospects who descended on the twin-site event over the three days.

NME‘s on-site team at Reading spent the weekend running between stages, following anything that caught our eyes and ears. Desperate to dive into our list and discover your new favourite artist? You should be: these rising musicians are all blazing new paths forward, and we can’t wait to see where they’ll go from here.

Sophie Williams – Junior Staff Writer (New Music)

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Words: Ali Shutler, Andrew Trendell, Hannah Mylrea, Jeremy Abbott, Thomas Smith, Sophie Williams

Ashnikko

“Now when was the last time you had a very good scream?” Ashnikko asked a heaving Radio 1 Dance Tent. “Like, a really good therapeutic scream?” They then encouraged the crowd to let rip, resulting in deafening yelps filling the tent. In a megawatt set that included the Avril Lavigne-sampling ‘L8r Boi’, the Grimes collaboration ‘Cry’ and the ferocious banger ‘Maggots’, Ashnikko worked the stage with abandon. By the time we reached set-closer ‘Daisy’ – which saw the DJ rewind the track to further ramp up the frenzy – it was a full-scale dance party, one which the audience seemed reluctant to let end. (HM)

Credit: Andy Ford for NME

Caity Baser

Patience is a virtue, they say, and the vast crowd that swarmed around the BBC Introducing Stage at sunset on Friday (August 26) would agree. Despite a 30-minute delay, they stayed put in anxious anticipation of the sharp and lively pop star Caity Baser, whose casualness is key to her appeal. Sexual double standards? Deadbeat ex-boyfriends? FOMO? You name it, Baser will sing a zippy song about it – and her confidence is as captivating as her tunes. With a mixture of bright-eyed ska and an expressive vocal that recalls ‘Alright, Still’-era Lily Allen, Baser exuded bundles of energy running around and convincingly singing about the lives of her mostly teenage female audience, who yelled every word along with her. Despite the clear pains staked in the creation of these songs, she pulled off performing them with style, making for a display of pop brilliance by a force of charisma. (SW)

Courting

What Liverpool four-piece Courting have in abundance is huge enthusiasm and personality – much rarer commodities in British guitar music today than they perhaps should be. To the delight of the Festival Republic Stage’s young, lively and up-for-it crowd – though perhaps not the festival’s health and safety manager – the band threw tennis balls into the tent-wide moshpits, before then standing back to marvel at the lunacy they managed to inspire. Frontman Sean Murphy-O’Neill barely kept his laughter in later as he used an Auto-Tune filter to deliver an impromptu Charli XCX cover, while the band’s reckless commitment to fun extended to playing with stop-start pacing and winding up fuzzy crescendos. The show skilfully balanced both humour and heart, powered by four best friends yelling their lyrics at each other, grinning all the while. (SW)

De’Wayne

“Imagine The Ramones, but Joey Ramone is a sexy Black man,” De’Wayne told the crowd on the Main Stage West while describing the vibe he was going for on ‘I Know Something’, the frantic punk track he performed towards the end of his “dream come true” Reading set. This came after the elastic rock’n’roll of ‘National Anthem’, the soulfulness of ‘Family Tree’ and the blend of industrial cyperpunk with free-flowing rap on ‘Stains’. “I know a lot of you are probably wondering, ‘Who is that, and why’s he dancing like that?’” the Houston-raised artist said at one point to his rapidly-growing audience. “But it’s nice to meet you.” By the end of his set, he’d won them all over with his rockstar confidence and an energetic set of party-starting bangers that couldn’t care less about genre boundaries. This performance really felt like the start of something beautiful. (AS)

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Credit: Harry McCulloch

Nia Archives

“Oi oiiiiiiiiii,” Nia Archives bellowed over and over again to further gee up the packed-out BBC Radio 1Xtra Tent of young and beautiful early-day ravers. Not that these guys needed any encouragement to cut loose, though. It might have just been a few hours into the festival, but the 22-year-old DJ, singer, songwriter, filmmaker and winner of the BandLab NME Awards 2022’s Producer Of The Year brought a kaleidoscopic onslaught of hedonistic jungle and drum’n’bass to transport these wide-eyed party animals far away from this dusty Berkshire afternoon and drop them into a witching hour Ibiza sesh. This is how you ‘Mash Up The Dance’. (AT)

Piri & Tommy

The road to discovery for artists has changed drastically over the last few years. For some it was found via Facebook and Instagram, while for others of generations past it was Myspace. Nowadays, TikTok is not only a viable means of music distribution, but also the key to stratospheric rise, if played right. Manchester duo Piri & Tommy Villiers have built the foundations of a blossoming career via the social media behemoth, and to see them break out into IRL stardom at Reading was a sight to behold. Their Friday afternoon set kickstarted the festival with a dance-infused flurry of excitement: a sugary-sweet blend of their biggest hits intertwined with bouncy renditions of dance music classics, none more so than their cover of DJ Marky’s seminal ‘It’s The Way’. To see a rabble of enthusiastic teens flailing to a drum‘n’bass classic released years before they were born proves that the old can still very much be gold. A bright future lies ahead for an act born on social media, but made for the big stage. (JA)

Credit: Ben Awin

Priestgate

Finding the perfect middle ground between modern post-punk and the New Romantics of the ‘80s, Priestgate delivered an energetic, theatrical performance on the BBC Introducing Stage. With a crowd of die-hard fans down the front and an ever-growing number of passers-by drawn to their soaring, angular tracks like ‘Bedtime Story’ and vocalist Rob Schofield’s enthralling showmanship, Priestgate’s set quickly felt like a party that refused to let up. ‘Eyes Closed For The Winter’ was a dreamy hunk of emotional escapism, while the riotous close of ‘Summ(air)’ united everyone in energetic euphoria. Gothic dream pop has never felt so good. (AS)

Scene Queen

Whether it was demanding walls-of-death to her chaotic blend of sugary ‘90s pop and metalcore breakdowns, instigating twerking that would make Megan Thee Stallion proud, or encouraging the women in the audience to “bark the fuck back” if they’re ever made to feel uncomfortable, Scene Queen’s 30-minute set was a glorious introduction to the playful, empowering world of ‘Bimbocore’. ‘Pretty In Pink’ came with a female-only moshpit: “Guys, keep your hands to yourself, or I’ll come down there and toast your ass,” she promised. There was even a cover of Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ thrown in for good measure. (AS)

Credit: Ben Awin

STONE

The idea of playing at a festival curated by former One Direction member Louis Tomlinson and Britain’s biggest rock bash in the same weekend would have once worked the purists into a right state, but Liverpool’s STONE relish in the juxtaposition. Having flown in from Malaga for a Sunday night showcase on the Festival Republic Stage, the rockers’ punchy set showed no sign of weariness. Frontman Fin Power simply doesn’t display an ounce of fatigue, prefacing ‘Leave It Out’ and ‘Let’s Dance To The Real Thing’ with dispatches about the broken and hungry, and those neglected at the bottom of society. He knows the band’s rowdy and true message – no matter the audience – will cut through regardless. (TS)

Witch Fever

The perfect antidote for anyone annoyed about Rage Against The Machine pulling out, Witch Fever brought tightly-wound, ferocious metal anthems to Reading. More than just delivering sledgehammer riffs, though, the Manchester four-piece toyed with atmospheric emo (‘Congregation’), blistering revenge (‘Bully Boy’) and cathartic horror (‘I Saw You Dancing’), all bundled together with a communal sense of power. The nuances of music this raw can often get lost at a festival, but Witch Fever’s set was a dynamic one, with the band bringing a playful light and oppressive shade to their progressive metal. “The live rock scene has historically been sexist, misogynistic and racist. We’re here to see the end of that,” declared vocalist Amy Walpole towards the end of their set, as Witch Fever staked their claim as the future of heavy music. (AS)

Check back at NME here for the latest news, reviews, photos, interviews and more from Reading & Leeds 2022.

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