FEATURE: False Currency and Worn Bills: Why the Line-Up for This Year’s Reading and Leeds Festival Is Dividing Opinion



False Currency and Worn Bills


 ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images

Why the Line-Up for This Year’s Reading and Leeds Festival Is Dividing Opinion


IF one examines the poster for this year’s...


IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar

Reading and Leeds festival; many have noticed some rather worrying signs. I will point out some positives but, in terms of those headline acts; it is the same story as last year! In 2017, there was one blazing-hot U.S. inclusion (Eminem) and two predictable, lumpen British inclusions (Kasabian and Muse). This year - Reading and Leeds festivals will be taking place over August Bank Holiday weekend: Thursday 23rd - Sunday 26th August - has the same breakdown. Kendrick Lamar headlines the Saturday (at Reading; Leeds on Sunday) but, either side of him, there are two bands – American, actually – that could have gone lower down the bill. In fact, when thinking of Reading's Friday and Sunday headliners, Fall Out Boy and Kings on Leon; it raises concerns. Each of those headliners will play both Reading and Leeds and, for those pumped about the August festival: are you going to see that poster and take away a lot of hope and excitement?! I do not mind an all-American headline outfit but, when you think about the quality on show – is that the best they could do?! I am glad Muse and Foo Fighters (easy choices) are not appearing: the fact is, the actual choices are not exactly inspired. Kendrick Lamar is a bold and incredible artist who will bring his magic to the people here. Kings of Leon have not unveiled anything since Walls in 2016. That record did not go down too well, and so, one wonders how current and popular that booking is.



Fall Out Boy’s seventh album, Mania, was recently released and, again, not one that stormed it with critics. I wonder how many people are going to make a special effort to see both of those bands?! I agree Kendrick Lamar is an original choice and, like Eminem, will be a fiery and intense act. I am pleased artists like Wolf Alice, Dua Lipa and Sigrid are on the bill. That might signal a lack of Rock/Alternative firepower - and one has to ask why the likes of IDLES were not included high on the list (you’d think they’d be ready to headline?!). Getting that honour has nothing to do with longevity and popularity: Arctic Monkeys headlined the festival near the start of the career; when they were really starting to heat up. Whilst there is a variation and sense of dare regarding the line-up, one has to ask: does it betray the roots and ethos of Reading and Leeds? There was hype and suggestion Arctic Monkeys would headline this year – some angry punters are already flogging their tickets – but that was an outside bet. They are recording new material but it would seem likely they’d get this sort of gig once that material is out. If their new album is out by August; some with rue it as a missed opportunity.



AJ Tracey, Brockhampton; Hinds, J Hus; Lil Pump, Nadia Rose and Papa Roach are among the confirmed artists. There are very few out-and-out Rock bands in the pack. Grime and Hip-Hop come courtesy of Skepta and Kendrick Lamar; there is some great Pop and newer bands like Pale Waves and Wolf Alice – The Wombats are in there, too. Some might argue the festival is diversifying and trying to reach a wider audience. There are other festivals that cater to those who like Pop and Grime: why do we need to make Reading and Leeds’ gritty, Rock background softer and safer? Latitude, this year, suffers a similar sense of disappointment. Alt-J, The Killers and Solange will appeal to many - but they are not necessarily the first acts you’d expect at that festival. It seems the popular festivals are picking up from Glastonbury and trying to integrate some of their likely inclusions. Because of that; we are seeing festivals broaden their scope and provide a home for these artists. I feel there should be some sense of authenticity regarding Rock/Alternative festivals. Others could claim Reading and Leeds has lost its way a bit the past few years. Obvious bookings (like Muse) show it is concerned, still, about certain commercialism - sticking with tried-and-tested artists. I am shocked IDLES did not crack the line-up this year: others have looked at the increase in Pop/Rap artists and wonder what has happened. The biggest question one could ask revolves around the lack of bands that have bite and spit...


IN THIS PHOTO: Shame/PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Louise Bennett/Dork

Bands I have flogged to death like Cabbage and Goat Girl could get the people jumping; Shame are one of the breakout acts of the moment and warrant a spot, one would think! Maybe Arctic Monkeys will play a surprise set but you have to wonder, if that is not the case, where are the sound-alike replacements?! There are great acts that take from their lead – they could fill the void and do a great job. I worry the headliners are a little too insincere and safe. Kings of Leon will not offer anything new: few are too bothered about their older hits and seeing them break out the new hits. Fall Out Boy have a great back catalogue but, again, they are only going to grab a certain few. Kendrick Lamar is the only decent headliners in a year where festivals are disappointing. Latitude has left many cold – I hope the Isle of Wight bill is a lot bigger and better! There are plenty of young bands who could have done well at this year’s Reading and Leeds. They could have gone further down the list but would have made welcome inclusions. The Y Not? lineup has Manic Street Preachers and The Libertines among their biggest acts. It is a mixture of familiar older names and some sort-of-promising acts. I am a bit concerned there is an average and overly-wide approach to bookings.


Many will ask whether this year’s early festival unveilings signals a wider trend: the remaining big festivals building up momentum and then, when it comes to the announcements; the air goes out of the tyres. The Reading and Leeds bill is the initial announcement. There might be additions and changes the closer we get to August. It seems unlikely there will be shockers and major explosions, mind you! Those who balk against Kendrick Lamar need to remember the quality he brings and the pull his music has - the same goes for many of the Grime/Rap acts and Pop newcomers. There are no bands in this country that command the same respect and power as Lamar, right now - an angry and physical voice that can do justice to the stage he will take to. The lack of female headliners is, again, no surprise: I think Wolf Alice (female-fronted) are worthy of a headline slot. Women are included throughout the festival and there is a good mixture of genres: providing chances to new artists who are starting to turn heads. My worries regard the lack of high-profile quality and knockout headliners. I hope there are surprises and revivals as more festivals announce their lineups: what we have now, for Reading and Leeds, is a bit of a muted affair. Maybe Fall Out Boy and Kings of Leon will bring their A-game and it will be a career-defining set – my suspicions outweigh any tangible hope! There is more intriguing and potential when one looks lower down the bill and explores those newcomers. Do we need to look at female artists and start putting them higher up the bill? Do we need to stop going for easy and obvious bands? What changes need to be made? Should we jump to lambast Grime/Hip-Hop inclusions at a festival that has always been about Rock? The social media reaction has been a bit mixed – many are miffed by the artists announced and how far Reading and Leeds has strayed from its origins. My hope is, by this time next year, the backlash and confused reactions will provoke festival organisers to up their game…



AND give the people what they want!