Reading & Leeds is a festival where each year, the line up is still topic of fierce debate. As the bill sees the increasingly noticeable additions of worldwide pop stars – welcoming genres across the boards – the fact is that Reading & Leeds is an ever-evolving event, suiting the times of the teens that revel in the weekend.
With this being noted, once you shift through the somewhat controversial acts, the Reading line up still boats a plethora of bands for those who long to grasp on to the rockier roots of the festival’s legacy. As always, the Already Heard team touched down in Reading to explore what the weekend had in store.
Wearing some dazzling sparkly shorts and a shirt emblazoned with the word “antifascist”, Ren Aldridge of Petrol Girls (3/5) warmed up the small crowd gathered at The Pit/Lock Up, playing the opening set of the weekend. With plenty of energy and passion, the self-declared “feminist post-hardcore” four-piece hailing from Austria and Bristol helped set the tone for the rest of the day at Lock Up. (BS)
Moving across to the BBC Introducing stage, an unusually large crowd for a Friday morning at Reading had formed for the South Welsh outfit Himalayas (3.5/5). Bringing their slick riffs of new wave rock’n’roll, pits formed for the quartet with ‘Thank God I’m Not You’, demonstrating they’re a band on the cusp of a huge career. (FA)
Now to SWMRS (4/5). Although having been around for years under different names, had a roaring reaction to their debut album ‘Drive North’ in 2016. Its safe to say they had an equally roaring reception on the Radio 1 Stage, with an enthralling performance of Californian punk. When playing their new single, ‘Berkeley’s On Fire’, it became apparent that the outfit have taken to a grittier sound, as frontman Cole Becker’s animated leadership paired with the band’s energetic spirit made for an enticing show with the question of what’s to come. (FA)
By the time it came for The Xcerts (3/5) set, the tent was a little busier, and the band’s brand of jangly upbeat pop-punk tunes had people dancing and bopping away happily, pulling a decent crowd despite having to compete with BMTH’s “secret” set. A strong choice for a mid-afternoon slot, the band seemed relaxed and confident during their set, obviously enjoying themselves and the reaction from the audience. (BS)
With the not-so-secret set being mentioned, Bring Me The Horizon (4/5) displayed a triumphant return opening with their comeback track ‘Mantra’. A silk-shirted Oli Sykes beamed as the Radio 1 Stage became a continual rampant pit, welcoming back the Sheffield boys back to the scene with a glowing reception. Unsurprisingly, BMTH have matured in performance, but what was really brilliant to witness was how the ‘Count Your Blessings’ screamo kids have graduated to a headline-worthy band of euphoric belters. (FA)
Like some wild badass cross between RATM and Stray From The Path, The Fever 333 (5/5) quickly established themselves as a hard act to follow as they proceeded to absolutely slay The Lock Up tent. With pits aplenty and calls for solidarity amongst the misfits and marginalised, this was energetic punk with a message which ensured everyone left feeling sweaty and pumped. (BS)
Although they begin later than scheduled on The Lock Up, fans of La Dispute (4/5) clearly didn’t mind the wait as they were treated to their unique brand of frenetic punk energy. With maximum audience participation, lead singer Jordan Drayer continually leaned right over the barrier, yelling in the delighted crowd’s faces. (BS)
Sticking in The Lock up, the next band delighted crowds with a verse of Shakespeare where pits ensued. Yes, that is correct, Reading hosted its first Shakespearean circle pit (probably) and the band that were able to do so were The Used (3.5/5). The nostalgic set saw the Utah screamers generate fun throughout, where tracks like ‘Pretty Handsome Awkward’ cemented why the band are so adored this side of the pond with a wall of death appreciation. (FA)
Headlining The Lock Up was Underoath (3.5/5), where it was (unbelievably) their first time pitching down in Reading. With the band re-emerging earlier this year, their set came with a sense of urgency – as if they had a point to prove – where they certainly delivered in reinstating their prominence. (FA)
As the Friday fix of AH favourites seemed away from the Main Stage, Fall Out Boy’s (3/5) headline slot felt somewhat important to cover, as their pop-punk beginnings had secured them as the bill toppers after years of returning to Reading. As graphics of an apocalyptic world filed the mainstage, they began with ‘Thriller’, where from then on, their setlist leaned more heavily towards post ‘Infinity On High’ classics.
As pyrotechnics illuminated the sky and spurted from Pete’s bass, appreciation of the opportunity poured out in abundance, as Pete heartwarmingly mentions, “It’s so wild we’re headlining Reading, it’s like a dream come true” as the rain started to pour. With a particular nod to ‘Centuries’ and ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark’ their set solidified that the former Illinois emo-kids are more than worthy of headlining Reading, as they encompass what it means to produce alt-pop goodness that appeals cross-generationally. (FA)
Fittingly kicking off day two were Trash Boat (5/5). Having released their second LP, ‘Crown Shyness’, in July, the quintet proved that they are frontrunners in redefining a new wave of pop-punk. The early Main Stage slot didn’t seem to phase them, as they furiously tore apart the early clusters of pits. Finishing with ‘Strangers’, Tobi’s vocals soared across the field, where it’s certain to say that they’ll deservingly be returning to the stage in years to come. (FA)
Heading to the Festival Republic Stage, grunge quartet BLOXX (3/5) played a set that was bursting with promise. They possess a balance alt-rock brushed with pop that attracted a commendable crowd for the time of day. With an EP on the horizon, BLOXX are a band that left you wanting more head boppers. (FA)
After a morning of the new, pitching up at the Main Stage for ragga-metal veterans Skindred (3/5) was met with a sea of merch old and new. With their following out in full force, Benji’s swagger seemed ever greater, especially when they covered The Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space’. (FA)
As the dust from the Newport helicopter settled, the crowd grew extensively bigger in preparation for the return of Mike Shinoda (5/5). With his three-piece band platformed behind, Shinoda took to centre stage with Fort Minor’s ‘Introduction’ into ‘Petrified’, where from then on the set progressed into embracing his journey as an artist. The combination of FM, Linkin Park – with the intensely moving piano rendition of ‘In The End’ – and his latest material from solo album ‘Post Traumatic’; Shinoda demonstrated how versatility pours out of his creations whilst being a gatekeeper in the hip-hop rock hybrid. Shinoda’s performance honestly felt as if it were Reading’s equivalent of the legend’s slot at Glastonbury, where Linkin Park fans were rejoicing in his return whilst celebrating his new venture as a solo artist. The atmosphere was truly thick with admiration. (FA)
A performance that could’ve ripped the skin clean off your back were Blood Youth (4/5). Tracks from the Harrogate thrashers debut ‘Beyond Repair’ sounded brutal at the Lock Up, where their theatrical stage presence reached hectic levels. With latest single ‘Starve’, having been released just days before, it proved how the band have produced a more accomplished sound with the same vigour. (FA)
With the upcoming album ‘All That Divides’ tantalisingly close, Black Peaks (4/5) have already had an enormous year on the festival circuit. As ‘Can’t Sleep’ kicks of their six-track-set, it is soon apparent why Black Peaks are an exhilarating band who deserve the hype that surrounds them. Will Gardner as a frontman is a true spectacle to behold, where he transforms into a ringmaster of the pit. The collective’s live presence surpasses having only one album under their belt, in that their aptitude of performance is inspiring. Black Peaks are a band that makes a statement, where it is certain they will be onto bigger stages in years to come. (FA)
From stars of the future to a real Broadway star, passing through Panic! At The Disco’s (3/5) co-headline slot came with glittering visuals, spanking leather trousers and a voice that sears the soul. With the crowd being arguably the biggest of the weekend so far, there was no escaping a dosage of pop-drenched fun, where Urie’s beam filled the screens whilst reminiscing to 12 years before of being knocked out by a bottle of urine. How times have changed, ey? (FA)
As news started to filter through of the passing of Kyle Pavone, Beartooth (3.5/5) dedicated their set to the We Came As Romans singer. Beartooth have been absent for a little while, but you wouldn’t have known it with the reception they received at The Lock Up. With new album, ‘Disease’, having been announced, the title track saw Caleb Shomo sink into his distinctive anthemic flare with their back catalogue of metalcore creating climatic heights that shot straight back into snarling riffs. (FA)
With the weekend having reached the halfway mark, it was at times felt extremely troubling that The Lock up never quite made full capacity at this point when considering the bands on the roster. This soon changed with the night’s headliners being none other than Papa Roach (5/5). With some not even being able to even get a look in, it was an incredible sight to see how the Cali rap-rockers united a huge community for the hour of carnage. Unsurprisingly, Shaddix has crafted his showmanship to a T, where the nostalgic set glorified their nu-metal career. As the chugs of ‘Between Angels and Insects’ rippled through, the unification in The Lock up was a feeling that was longed for from the weekend thus far. (FA)
It wouldn’t be a true Reading without a solid day of rain, and as the heavens opened on Sunday, a small, poncho-prepared crowd embraced the weather to head to The Joy Formidable (3/5). Teasing new material from upcoming album ‘AAARTH’, the ‘Whirring’ Welsh group embraced the rain with smiles. It was evident that TJF are ready to take on the world with their undeterred performance. (FA)
Taking shelter in The Lock Up, it was time for the elusive Black Futures (4/5). With their expedition club in tow (a group sporting white hazmat suits and sunnies), the duo aren’t only futuristic in sound but also in show, where they intrigue us in introducing the crowd to their somewhat peculiar family. What made BF so interesting to witness is that exploration is a word that personified their whole meaning. With their truly brilliant sound of electro-psych-rock, there is no doubt that their psychedelic future is one to look out for. (FA)
With a slight gap in the schedule after Sleep Token, images of rattlesnakes filled the screen, which could only mean one thing. Now completely packed in, the lights dimmed, and it was time for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (4/5). True to form, Frank used the crowd as a platform for his crowd surfing acrobatics. Taking a pause, Frank extended a huge thank you to Daniel P Carter for his continued support of bands, then encouraged “all the women who have always wanted to but have never felt like they can” to crowd surf to ‘Wild Flowers’. Although Safe Gigs For Women signs had been projected throughout the weekend, it was apparent that Frank using his position to promote this issue resonated with all the women who took to the pit. (FA)
After being crowned the Best UK Breakthrough Band at The Heavy Music Awards, Milk Teeth (5/5) lived up to their new title wholeheartedly. This year has been difficult for the Gloucestershire outfit, but with the addition of Nervus’ Em Foster, you needn’t have known as they came back stronger than ever. Milk Teeth never cease to encapsulate the angst of life, with a juddering force illustrated with Becky’s transparent vocals. The beauty of Milk Teeth lies in their charismatic approach to songwriting that is underpinned by core-shaking power. (FA)
Swiftly after were Black Foxxes (4/5), where Mark Holley made it clear quite quickly that he was battling a severe hangover that Leeds had served him, where the crowd could empathise as time moved into the Sunday evening. Despite the risk of vomit, the trio prevailed with the haunting-yet-touching tack, ‘Breathe’ paired with the mathy slashings of ‘Manic In Me’ and ‘Husk’. (FA)
With grungy basslines and soaring vocals, it was clear from the outset that Lowlives (3.5/5) are ready to unleash havoc. Although the crowd was intimate, the band that consists of an amalgamation of Amen, The Defiled, The Ataris and No Devotion stamped their mark on The Lock Up with huge personality. With the release of their debut EP just days away, their set was a moment of sheer excitement, confirming that this is just the mere beginning. (FA)
With the Sunday marking the 15th anniversary since their debut album, The Bronx (4/5) brought the punk rock party to Reading with merciless strength. The quintet took to being the creators of anarchy, with material as culturally relevant today as at the time of their formation. (FA)
As the day turned into night – and the tiresome drones of Kings Of Leon filtered through whilst waiting for Hollywood Undead (3/5) – we were ready to embrace their headline slot to round off the weekend. Despite their stomping around the stage spitting bars, the group’s show was largely jovial where mischief was at the top of their agenda. The light was firmly shining on their greatest hits as their latest material was left absent, where the last remaining at Reading lapped up the last of choral opportunities. (FA)
Reading is a monster of a festival. It always has been and it always will be. Although it may not be the front-facing all out rock-fest that it once was, the alternative community remains a pumping force at the core of the event. With Reading & Leeds’ progression being one of the most drastic in terms of genre in the UK, it’s safe to say that despite what some sceptics may feel, it remains a festival that tirelessly gives new bands to chance to emerge and for nostalgia to thrive. (FA)
Words by Ffion Riordan-Jones (FA) and Bec Simpson (BS).
View more of Already Heard‘s coverage from Reading Festival 2018 here.
If you have enjoyed reading this article and would like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page.