Don’t put your neon bucket hats and supersized sunglasses away just yet – there’s one final weekend of carefree summer fun left in the form of Reading & Leeds Festival, which will take place later this week (August 25-27). Rock, metal, rap, grime, dance and pop will be represented across seven stages at the dual-site event, and even a cursory glance at the line-up would show you that there are plenty of essential new acts set to play that are worth braving the campsite for.
At last year’s festival, Team NME saw a bevy of emerging artists and bands enjoy star-making moments: pop-rock hero Dylan wowed a packed-out Radio 1 Dance Stage; Caity Baser played to the biggest crowd that the BBC Introducing Stage saw all weekend. NME Australia cover star Mallrat, meanwhile, kicked things off on Main Stage East. These huge sets were proof that the support shown towards these artists from new music fans has kept festivals like this one exciting each year.
Over on the Radar desk, we’ve taken an in-depth look at this year’s Reading & Leeds lineup, and extracted 10 key names to add to your weekend itinerary. From bands that will make sure you leave the pit with a grin on your face, to the pop upstarts with a wealth of feel-good tracks, here are the acts you can’t afford to miss.
Sophie Williams, Associate Commissioning Editor (New Music)
Additional words: Liberty Dunworth
Alt Blk Era
Who: Genre-defying sister duo looking to bring a sense of adventure to festival season
Why they’re perfect for R+L: By combining inspiration from The Prodigy, Stromae and Ashnikko, Alt Blk Era are set to be one of the most unforgettable acts at this year’s festival. Whether you’re looking for some bass-heavy belters, hard-hitting rap or a bit of all-out punk, the band have you covered – and are one of the few acts on the lineup who can draw a crowd of all musical tastes.
Key track: ‘I’m Normally Like This’
Where to catch them: BBC Music Introducing Stage. Reading: Friday, 19:50 Leeds: Saturday, 19:15 (LD)
Who: Fun-loving ravehead with tunes that are guaranteed to leave you buzzing
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Charlotte Plank lives and breathes the rave. “Drum ‘n’ bass will always have a special place in my heart,” the 21-year-old told NME earlier this year. “Ever since I started going to festivals, I have wanted to sprinkle that energy into my music.” Her Day-Glo beats and uplifting choruses will sound radiant in a huge festival tent: this is an artist who has already risen to dance music stardom, but who you sense will climb further yet.
Key track: ‘Lost Boys’
Where to catch them: BBC Music Introducing Stage. Reading: Friday, 14:35 Leeds: Saturday, 17:00 (SW)
Who: The breakout British rapper of 2023
Why they’re perfect for R+L: In January, Clavish dropped ‘Rap Game Awful’, a 28-track epic that has since accrued millions of streams for his frank, unsparing social commentary and atmospherically minimal production. In the months since, the NME 100 graduate hasn’t given any interviews, and besides a short run of UK dates in March, his performances have been kept at a minimum – allowing the music to speak for itself. Don’t miss a rare chance to see this future superstar.
Key track: ‘Greece’
Where to catch them: Radio 1XTRA Stage. Reading: Saturday, 22:40 Leeds: Sunday, 21:45 (SW)
Who: Fearless and futuristic punk sounds from Steve Lacy collaborator
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Last year, Fousheé released the mesmerising ‘Softcore’: a genre-hopping project of silky R&B melodies mixed with fiery punk anthems. The latter collection saw the New Jersey artist experiment with flashes of screamo, as she laid out her fears and romantic failures over angsty guitar passes. Expect these tracks to inspire a steady stream of moshpits and crowd surfers.
Key track: ‘Supernova’
Where to catch them: Radio 1 Dance Stage. Reading: Sunday, 14:00 Leeds: Friday, 13:35 (SW)
Who: The London alt-rap trio guaranteed to bring the energy to any stage, any time
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Already hailed as one of the 10 best new acts at this year’s Great Escape, Frozemode have proved themselves worthy of bigger stages with each of their recent sets – and this slot is set to be no exception. Whether in an intimate pub or, in this case, a sprawling field, the UK trio are ones to keep an eye out for when it comes to exciting new acts bringing a more playful side to their shows.
Key track: ‘Maybelline’
Where to catch them: BBC Music Introducing. Reading: Friday, 15:35 Leeds: Saturday, 18:00 (LD)
Joey Valence & Brae
Who: Hip-hop duo with a feverish cult-following
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Having gone viral with a music video filmed entirely on a Nintendo DS, Joey Valence & Brae have become one of the most exciting new acts making a punk and hip-hop crossover sound. Now, returning to the Reading & Leeds stages for 2023, the duo are set to prove that – even four decades after the likes of Public Enemy and Beastie Boys popped onto the scene – the genre is still alive and thriving.
Key track: ‘Punk Tactics’
Where to catch them: Festival Republic Stage. Reading: Saturday, 18:35 Leeds: Sunday, 18:25 (LD)
Who: Quietly ambitious songwriter turning her innermost thoughts into indie gold
Why they’re perfect for R+L: For 19-year-old Nieve Ella, much has changed since she started releasing music last summer; largely shaped by her huge support slots for Inhaler and Dylan, and appearance at Glastonbury, where she wowed crowds with her soaring voice and on-stage charm. A major slot on the Radio 1 Dance Stage will surely be a star-cementing moment.
Key track: ‘His Sofa’
Where to catch them: Radio 1 Dance Stage. Reading: Saturday, 12:55 Leeds: Sunday, 12:40 (SW)
Who: Rising pop-punk stars who combine the best of UK and US rock
Why they’re perfect for R+L: If there is one artist set to capture the rugged charm of the Y2K-loving crowd at Reading & Leeds, it is rock trio Pinkshift. Having abandoned med school to head on tour, the group were soon named as one of NME’s essential emerging artists for 2022. Now, with their upcoming set, the members are guaranteed to deliver a dose of nostalgia for those who were raised on the likes of Paramore and My Chemical Romance.
Key track: ‘I’m Not Crying You’re Crying’
Where to catch them: Festival Republic Stage. Reading: Friday, 17:30 Leeds: Saturday, 17:00 (LD)
Who: The best friend duo breaking out of Australia’s indie scene
Why they’re perfect for R+L: Regardless of what weather this year’s edition has in store, Sydney-based best pals Royel Maddell and Otis Pavlovic are guaranteed to bring a laid-back summer vibe to this year’s Reading and Leeds. Another artist recognised as one of NME’s Top 100 emerging acts, the duo have already perfected their signature blend of guitar-orientated indie-pop, and won over countless UK fans with their 2022 breakthrough EP ‘Bar & Grill’.
Key track: ‘Oysters In My Pocket’
Where to catch them: Festival Republic Stage. Reading: Sunday, 12:45 Leeds: Friday, 12:40 (LD)
Who: Uber-dexterous rapper flying the flag for the underground scene
Why they’re perfect for R+L: A crop of shit-hot rap stars will take over the Radio 1 XTRA stage this year, including Meekz, Queen Millz and Songer. The latter, however, is perhaps the most essential act to see: born and raised in Reading, a Sunday afternoon slot will mark a huge homecoming show for Songer, who never fails to deliver on euphoria, energy and bubbly party anthems. Gun fingers to the sky!
Key track: ‘04:59’
Where to catch them: Radio 1XTRA Stage. Reading: Sunday, 20:05 Leeds: Friday, 19:35 (SW)