LIVE REVIEW: Leeds Festival 2019 @ Bramham Park, Leeds – 23rd-25th August 2019


Even though Reading & Leeds are no longer strictly rock festivals (something that their detractors never waste any time in letting everyone know), there’s a presence around the site that feels decidedly punk in its goal. Notes about the ongoing global climate crises are abundant, and calls to end social divides by an inept government remains a steadfast talking point. Thus, it makes a lot of sense that a band like Milk Teeth (7) are opening the Main Stage, a band who are not only at their musical peak, but use this bigger platform to spread their message of social change far more than most. It’s great to see, and while from a musical standpoint, the intensity isn’t quite up there with some of the smaller festival stages they appeared on this summer, it’s hard to doubt that they make an impression. There’s an inherent pop factor among the grungy exterior of Owning Your Okayness that works wonders on a stage like this, while the balance between Becky Blomfield and Em Foster as vocalists feels a lot more even than it has in the past. It’s resoundingly solid from front to back, and even if Milk Teeth aren’t the most traditional main stage fare for a festival like this, it’s still good to see them doing so well here regardless. • LN

Childcare (Credit: Ellen Offredy)

It’s sunny this Friday afternoon, but the atmosphere inside the Radio 1 tent couldn’t be further from the warmth outside. A cold and clinical voice is delivering a chilling, Black Mirror-esque speech to some kind of induction programme or clinical trial. Its message? Listen to Childcare (7). The hopes probably held by much of the crowd for anything particularly groundbreaking are dashed from the moment the band start playing, but there are some solid indie-fusion jams aired that keep the set entertaining. The four members look like they should all be in different bands (hammered in by the backdrop featuring their mix-and-matched faces) and singer Ed Cares’ onstage antics, which include clambering up the stage rafters are particularly entertaining, if slightly random. While most people will probably remember Childcare for their image and stage presence, musical highlights Omega Grey and Film Club are more than likely to make their way into a few audience members’ playlists when they’re back on solid ground. • GJ

SWMRS (Credit: Kyle Mcloughlin)

Given the immense reaction they receive, it’s hard to imagine that SWMRS (6) are only taking to the Main Stage because of an extremely last minute lineup shuffle. But indeed, here they are, and a particularly fervent fanbase aside, it’s still a bit difficult to see why. They’re competent, sure, and there’s enough rambunctious punk energy to Palm Trees and Trashbag Baby to keep things chugging along at a decent pace, but it’s not as if there’s anything all that memorable or special besides it. The Green Day DNA brought in from drummer Joey Armstrong remains in “whey-oh!” chants that aren’t quite as laborious but feel just as perfunctory, and it’s not like anything beyond that crosses a threshold greater than being generally fine. It works for what it is; it’s just that what it is is little more than adequate. • LN

It’s hardly a surprise to see The Faim (7) drawing a big crowd; even if the quality in their output has fluctuated more than a bit, their poor man’s Panic! At The Disco shtick most definitely appeals to the masses. But to their credit, they do actually pull it off in the live environment, something that takes a rather rote, overblown alt-pop template that Humans and Summer Is A Curse have on record and turns them into far meatier, more bombastic anthems. Vocalist Josh Raven plays a considerable role with a personality that’s heavy on the parading showmanship that comes with My Heart Needs To Breathe, but paired with a refreshing twinge of sourness and cynicism that makes for a rather interesting dichotomy. Of course, refining their approach beyond the one recognisable template will see them go much further (both onstage and off it), but the fact that The Faim come out as strongly as they do is a pleasant surprise. • LN

Mayday Parade (Credit: Ellen Offredy)

In theory, anthemic pop rock steeped in nostalgia for plenty of the attendees here should fare excellently on the Leeds Main Stage, but a handful of factors keep Mayday Parade (5) from doing the fine job they’re more than capable of doing. Technical issues keep singer Derek Sanders a beat out of time with the rest of his band (who are all uniformed in their own merch) for the majority of the set, making songs like Oh Well, Oh Well and Jamie All Over cringe-fests rather than the call-to-arms throwbacks they should be. Chuck in a cover of Mr Brightside that is just as cliched as you’d expect it to be and you have a set that will be memorable for all the wrong reasons – a shame considering how receptive a lot of Leeds-goers would have been had this gone right. • GJ

Kim Petras (Credit: Kyle Mcloughlin)

Over-sanitised pop is far from commonplace at Leeds, so pulsing dance beats, saccharine vocals and full-fledged choreography in the Radio 1 Dance tent warrants checking out. Kim Petras (8) is completely working the stage with a type of confidence the rock bands who grace this field simply don’t possess, strutting and posing with just a black backdrop and a DJ behind her. Vocally she’s magnificent, hitting notes that Ariana Grande would be proud of all while mastering the balance of keeping things bubblegum (songs like Hillside Boys and I Don’t Want It At All) and owning her sexuality and urging her impressively fanatic crowd to do the same in a stunning rendition of Do Me. It’s a thoroughly entertaining half-hour that makes a brilliant case for why pop deserves a place among the guitars and bars that call Leeds home. • GJ

Yungblud (Credit: David Dillon)
Yungblud & Machine Gun Kelly (Credit: David Dillon)

If there’s one thing to gain from Yungblud’s (5) set, it’s that there’s at least some idea of where his appeal comes from. For as integral as political issues have become in modern music, there needs to be some way to appeal to every stratum of a society that needs to get involved, and by sticking Yungblud on the Main Stage, you get all the plastic punk that appeals to the kids while having nowhere near the nuance it needs to really connect. And that’s ultimately where he falls down; he’s got the provocation down to an extent, but when that amounts to little more than coming onstage in a dress and being loud, it ultimately feels like the whole thing playing up to the image of what this thing should be instead of what it actually is. It doesn’t help that the performance isn’t that great either with Yungblud’s snotty gurning being even less appealing than on record, but there’s at least a darting energy that’s commendable, doubly so when Machine Gun Kelly makes an appearance for I Think I’m OKAY. Otherwise, the kids clearly like it so there must be something there, but whatever it is is wildly lost along the way. • LN

Hot Milk’s (7) growing reputation for reliability among the alt-pop set is clearly doing well for them, considering how decently full The Pit is and how much the residual good will from supporting the Foo Fighters is worth. And honestly, it’s hard to deny that they really are coming ahead in leaps and bounds, and these sorts of festival sets, while not the most high profile, are doing a lot to facilitate what’s ultimately becoming a worthy rise. A couple of mic problems for Han Mee during Candy Coated Lies early on means that this isn’t the tightest they’ve ever been, but it doesn’t take long for them to hit their stride, with Wide Awake and Take Your Jacket having the exhilarating pop-rock hooks that always fly, and Awful Ever After once again being a reliably excellent closer. Releasing some new music will do them a world of good considering they’re still new and only have the one EP, but it’s hard to see a springboard stronger than the one that Hot Milk are forming for themselves. • LN

Despite a hellish clash with Enter Shikari, the Radio 1 tent is satisfyingly full for The Story So Far (8), who own the next half hour with a brilliant set. More streamlined cuts from last year’s Proper Dose make up the largest portion of the set but far from overwhelm it, with the notoriously dedicated pop punk fans in the crowd shouting every word back at the stage and the songs themselves sounding great, particularly Upside Down and Out Of It. That said, it’s the older material that people are here for. The aggressive bro pointers are out in full force for Quicksand and The Glass, while Placeholder does an admirable job of tying together old and new material in the set. This is a set that shows a band comfortable in where they are in their career, cherry picking the most appropriate material to put that across while still keeping fans happy, and as a triumphant Roam rings out, it’s clear few people in this tent are regretting their decision to choose this tent over the Main Stage. • GJ

Enter Shikari (Credit: David Dillon)
Enter Shikari (Credit: David Dillon)

By now, there’s really no need to speculate on how good an Enter Shikari (8) Main Stage set is going to be; they’ve been treading the boards up here for years now and they never lose any of the magic that typically comes with a Shikari set. And while this is marginally different in that it’s their first of what will eventually be a record-breaking five sets across the weekend, this is about as standard as it comes from this band. That is to say, they’ve still got it in spades, and the shimmering pops of Stop The Clocks – despite being ostensibly a new song – arrive doused in the familiar Shikari sheen that’s always on course for a winner. The grimy electronic throbs of Sssnakepit and Rabble Rouser still hit like a truck, as does the hardcore blitz of The Paddington Frisk, while the now-customary mashup of various tracks is yet to feel unwieldy or threadbare with genuine care and talent put into how this is all arranged. What’s more, nothing ever feels calculated or overly precise; it’s thoroughly modern rock music played with the edge and rawness that this genre has always held dear, and as anyone who’s ever had even the remotest exposure to Enter Shikari will know, they’re still among the very best. • LN

Reading & Leeds in 2019 sees rap take as much precedence (sometimes more with the particularly fever pitch artists often billed) as the rock acts that became synonymous with the festival since their inception. That idea is definitely being put into practice today with people flocking to the Radio 1 tent in their droves to see Machine Gun Kelly (6). Kelly as an artist is often lumped in with the rock world, something this live performance definitely validates. The guitars on Floor 13 and Candy are inescapable and truly feel realised in the way he assumedly wanted when he made the decision to include more rock elements on Hotel Diablo. To further poo-poo the naysayers, there’s even a Mötley Crüe cover thrown into the setlist (whether that’s out of genuine appreciation or just to plug MGK’s role as Tommy Lee in The Dirt is up for debate). But alongside an honestly respectable effort for a live performance, much of the set is just so unlikable with no visible passion or morsels of joy leaking out from underneath Kelly’s tough exterior, case in point being when he drops Eminem-diss track Rap Devil with nowhere near the force or emotion such a song needs. The closest he gets to emotiveness is I Think I’m OKAY where he’s joined by Yungblud, but even then there’s not much that can be done to save the set. Some people in the overflowing tent seem to be enjoying it, but there are plenty of better rap acts coming up over the weekend. • GJ

The problem with putting more underground legacy bands on the Main Stage of a festival like this has been and always will be a lack of receptiveness from a crowd that mightn’t be all that interested, and The Distillers (6) are a prime example of how something like this can go awry. It’s not really the fault of the band themselves – punk like this can absolutely thrive when the band knuckles down and cuts away any perfunctory chatter – but it’s not exactly the attention-grabber that’s all too necessary to keep a crowd interested, especially this late in the day. Put them on in The Pit and that would be a completely different story, given how Brody Dalle still has the husky rasp in her voice that makes Coral Fang and City Of Angels seethe, but here, it largely all comes and goes without a trace. For a band currently going through a revival on the scale that The Distillers are, they deserve to be given some better circumstances. • LN

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (Credit: Lindsay Melbourne)
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (Credit: Luke Dyson)

This Leeds Friday is a nod to the guitar roots the festival founded itself on, and with parts of today’s lineup being handpicked by headliners the Foo Fighters themselves, who better to helm both today’s breed of rockstars and this evening than Grohl’s go-to support act Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (9)? They’ve been gunning for the Main Stage since they formed, speaking it into existence every time they play this festival (which is every year, just in case you’ve missed them), and this genuinely feels like a special moment not just for the band, but for rock music in general. Songs like Crowbar and Kitty Sucker from this year’s End Of Suffering album were absolutely tailor-made for these sized crowds while it’s impossible to imagine Lullaby being played on smaller stages ever again. The quality of these shows aren’t a secret, and everyone at a Frank Carter show knows exactly what to expect – he’ll stand atop the crowd at some point, there’ll be the incredibly vital ‘women-only’ crowdsurf to Wild Flowers and the mass jump-up to Devil Inside Me – but there’s still an intangible energy fizzing about that makes everything feel exciting and unpredictable, just as a show of this kind should feel. The entire crowd is wrapped around born frontman Carter’s little finger through a mixture of admiration, a little bit of fear and a lot of love, truly united in their appreciation for this band and in a hatred for Boris Johnson who Carter dedicates a particularly vehement I Hate You to. This has felt like such a landmark moment and if it points to one thing, it’s that the future of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes is going to be gigantic. • GJ

It always feels like an event when A Day To Remember (9) come to the UK, not only because it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should anymore, but because they’ve become one of the most consistently brilliant and entertaining acts that modern rock has to offer in any capacity. That said, it makes each scant appearance feel at least a bit more special, and for a sub-headline slot where they dish out more than enough evidence for why they could leap up to the very top of a bill like this, it goes without saying that there’s very little to fault. They certainly make themselves known early with a crushing 2nd Sucks, but a set that swerves between thunderous metalcore cuts like Sticks & Bricks and the meaty pop-punk perfection of Right Back At It Again and Better Off This Way without missing a beat shows a band who’ve turned these huge sets into a fine art. The fact that can still be applied to their more contentious newer material speaks volumes as well; Rescue Me strips back a lot of the EDM passages for a stronger rock foundation, while new single Degenerates, though still one of their poppiest cuts to date, feels like it was tailor-made for stages like this. But even beyond that, there’s barely a foot put wrong, particularly with a mouthpiece as resoundingly strong as Jeremy McKinnon who’s capable of bringing fire and fury when necessary, but also leading acoustic singalongs on If It Means A Lot To You that hit all the right spots. They’re the beats that are customary for big festival bands to hit, but A Day To Remember are able to twist them ever so slightly to feel that much more exciting, and when it’s a tactic that works as consistently as it does, it only makes sense that the very top of the bill is theirs soon. • LN

It’s our first trip to the Festival Republic stage this bank holiday weekend, a stage whose lineup can often be split into two categories – future Main Stage bookings and acts who’ll have vanished into thin air in a few years time. Basement (7) fall into neither category, representing the kind of stalwart niche band who can always be relied on to deliver a solid performance. They’ve always had a dedicated following who erupt for Spoiled and Promise Everything, a contrast to the still strong but less visible appreciation to recent material Be Here Now and Disconnect that hint towards the possibility of bigger stages at this festival. It’s the heart-on-sleeve emo singalongs that make a Basement performance though, with the streamlined rock of Aquasun and pure voice-blowing potential of Pine and the beautiful Covet sure to be the lasting memories of both fans and curious festival-goers at the back of the tent. This is a band sure to be back at Bramham Park soon. • GJ

CHVRCHES (Credit: Luke Dyson)

Falling victim to bad luck every so often is part and parcel of being a touring musician, but having your 2016 Leeds Main Stage debut marred by a torrential downpour (leaving only a fraction of the crowd you should have pulled otherwise) and then clashing with none other than the Foo Fighters the year you return is surely another level. That said, CHVRCHES (9) aren’t letting their subheadline slot of this year’s Radio 1 stage be anything less than a triumph. Singer Lauren Mayberry is dressed to match the Leeds Festival colour scheme (whether it’s intentional or not is unclear) and is in every way a mesmerising force onstage. She constantly descends into deranged bouts of twirling (no mean feat in the huge platform boots she’s wearing), decorating the songs she’s flawlessly singing with her own improvised dramatic choreography. Tonight’s is an incredible selection of songs from start to finish, encompassing every mood possible with the trio’s signature synthpop. There’s top-of–the-world heart swells (Get Out, Clearest Blue), soul-searching reflection (Forever) and scathing (Leave A Trace, unexpected but stellar closer Never Say Die), with every emotion exacerbated by the synth prowess of Iain Cook and Martin Doherty. Tonight’s set feels like CHVRCHES have finally planted their flag in the Leeds Festival soil and managed to get across how much business they actually mean. Fingers crossed that next time they play the festival gods will be on their side and they can have a truly epic success story. • GJ

Foo Fighters (Credit: Ellen Offredy)
Foo Fighters (Credit: Matt Eachus)
Foo Fighters (Credit: Ellen Offredy)

There’s not a band more well-versed or well-equipped to modern festival headlining that the Foo Fighters (8). That’s not really a statement that’s up for any sort of debate, either; with a catalogue packed with as many rock-solid, bona fide hits as theirs and a CV that spans countless stadium and festival shows – including ones on this very stage – they’re about as safe and secure to deliver as it comes. And for what could easily come across as just another day at the office (after all, not that much has changed about this set in recent times), it’s the sort of comfort food that many come to the Foo Fighters for. To address the main complaint though, the length is still an issue, and spending a not-insignificant portion of a set that’s already verging on three hours bulking out songs with extended jam sessions just isn’t necessarily for a band of this size. Other than that though, for some of the best straight-up rock singles ever written, there’s no shortage here, and they’re delivered with a level of flair and showmanship that make them feel like the stadium-rock goliaths that they are. Dave Grohl is, as ever, the focal point, still being a remarkably powerful vocalist without having his personality sanded down to nothingness in the vein of so many other rockstars, but the pliability within the spotlight is noticeably, especially for Taylor Hawkins’ drum solo (on a hydraulic riser, naturally), and giving him lead vocal duties for Sunday Rain and a cover of Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure. There’s clearly still a love of music within this band that hasn’t been shafted aside by industry cynicism, and when Grohl brings his daughter Violet onstage to join him for a slowed, stripped-back My Hero, it’s a refreshingly human gesture among the clinical, planned-to-the-letter rubric of a festival headline set. But really, it’s the songs that everyone’s here for at the end of the day, and when it comes to representing basically every part of the Foo Fighters’ catalogue, there’s astonishingly little to complain about. The lack of real deep cuts is predictable, but I’ll Stick Around and This Is A Call pay homage to those older days in a way that most bands wouldn’t humour. And, of course, there’s the reams of singles that everyone knows – The Pretender; Learn To Fly; Times Like These; Walk; All My Life; all are rock staples at this point and really do feel like it throughout. And even if this doesn’t feel like the most momentous occasion in the band’s storied history, all the hallmarks of a great festival set are there, with Everlong being the absolute perfect closer and the Foo Fighters breaking out every reason for how they’ve endured this long. • LN

Bastille (Credit: Eleanor Freeman)
Bastille (Credit: David Dillon)

Despite the Foo Fighters being a massive draw for the average Reading & Leeds-goer, the Radio 1 tent is absolutely rammed for Bastille (8). Theirs is music that is made to be belted out with friends in pure glee, and that is exactly everyone’s MO for the hour set. Right from anthemic opener Quarter Past Midnight the joy is palpable and the crowd reaction is deafening, complementing the theatrical onstage setup of a house containing a full choir beautifully. For the majority of the set, it’s a complete hit parade for the Bastille of 2019. Fans may cry out for the exclusion of Flaws and Bad Blood in this set, but Craig David collaboration I Know You sounds unbelievable in this environment, as does worldwide hit Happier, during which huge colourful balloons are tossed onto the crowd and passed around for the duration of the set. Two Evils and Doom Days are beautiful low-key inclusions that really allow singer Dan Smith to both really push his stunning vocal range and dramatically play around with the intricate staging. As mentioned, it’s only a hit parade for the majority of the set, and the choice of weaker deep cuts from their discography like Blame and Those Nights mean the set is slightly choppier than intended. That said, Bastille have without a doubt emerged victorious. Moments like the “everybody down!” rally cry during their Of The Night mashup and pure jubilation during Good Grief are sure to stick in peoples’ memories as some of the best moments of the festival, while the singalong to routine closer Pompeii sets the bar for the loudest of the weekend. A totally gleeful end to this year’s Leeds Friday. • GJ


Bloxx (Credit: Kyle Mcloughlin)

It’s not like anyone really expects anything spectacular from the first band on the second day of a festival like this, and in a way, Bloxx (5) are fortunate to be given that sort of leeway. There’s nothing particularly wrong with them and vocalist Ophelia has a strong voice, but there’s not a single second of this set that stands out in any way more than being perfectly adequate. They’re far from the worst that indie-rock has to offer, but having next to no discernible features doesn’t feel like the most valuable of trade-offs in that situation. • LN

It’s another blisteringly hot day at Bramham Park and a modest crowd are powering through their hangovers to see Kawala (7) open the Main Stage. They provide all-too-appropriate summery indie jams led by sunny finger-picked acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies fleshed out with delicious builds into a funky full-band effort – it’s a great soundtrack for both those dancing near the front and the casual watchers and sunbathers near the back. Kawala’s stage presence and way of addressing the crowd is refreshingly down-to-earth, bantering amongst themselves while introducing each member by name, going off on a tangent of maybe-not-entirely-tasteful dyslexia jokes and gleefully telling the tale of how their musical lives actually began while studying in Leeds. Even if not everyone in the crowd will remember that they saw Kawala, watching them has been a lovely way to spend a summer afternoon. • GJ

Whenever The LaFontaines (7) have played these festivals over the past couple of years, it’s often felt like they’ve never been given a home that really does them justice. They played the BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage last year which, given how indie-rock and pop are just as prevalent in their sound as hip-hop, felt like a mismatch, and now on the Dance Stage, there’s even less connective tissue there. But to their credit, they draw a more engaged crowd than would maybe expected for this particular environment, and it all translates into a set that’s about as enjoyable as the band have built their reputation on. The emphasis on groove and pushing that incredibly smooth nexus is established early on with opener Alpha, but Kerr Okan’s personality shines through as a considerable boon throughout, and when veering into more traditional party-indie sounds like on Up and Under The Storm, there’s a likable energy that’s an easy standout feature. Even if The LaFontaines still need a stage that properly benefits them as a band, they’re making those strides to winning people over, and that’s a good move to make. • LN

Reading & Leeds always seems to become a first home for every indie band who have a ridiculous amount of buzz surrounding their breakthrough, and a very loud crowd has gathered for Sea Girls (7) this afternoon. They have meritable enough songs in their repertoire – the catchy Call Me Out and Closer in particular getting a crowd echo reverberating around the tent. At the moment there isn’t too much present to differentiate themselves from many of their counterparts, particularly in terms of actual performance, but the setlist more than carries the half hour into enjoyable territory. • GJ

It’s not hard to tell that I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (6) aren’t operating at full capacity. Dallon Weekes makes it clear that he’s ill on multiple occasions, and that can certainly be felt in how ragged and uncharacteristically rough his vocal performance can be. After all, this is a duo that relies on alt-pop tightness to really make waves, and while they clearly try to get the crowd on their side with tongue-in-cheek banter and valiant stabs at retaining the hookiness of songs like Social Climb, you get the impression that good will is taking over as the dominant emotion rather than genuine enjoyment. It doesn’t help that some of their decisions are just outright baffling – a cover of Beck’s Debra does absolutely nothing and that’s not surprising in the slightest – but it’s endearing to see them plough on regardless, and even illness isn’t enough to dampen the playful streaks of Nobody Likes The Opening Band and Do It All The Time. Still, this would’ve been undoubtedly better had the circumstances not been stacked as high against them as they are. • LN

Twin Atlantic (Credit: Sarah Koury)
Twin Atlantic (Credit: Sarah Koury)

With their change in sound on last record GLA, Twin Atlantic (7) have been gunning for Main Stages for years. Leeds is a perfect fit for them – they can appeal to their usual fans as well as the classic rock dads, indie fans that may have missed the boat for whatever reason and any other alt-rock fan stereotypes that may be in attendance. Sam McTrusty is charisma personified today (as always), garbed in a stylish checked suit rather than his usual leather jacket. Their huge rock songs are made for stages like this too, be it the more earnest Britrock stylings of Hold On or the swaggering No Sleep. New song Volcano is a welcome addition to a setlist that is perhaps starting to get slightly tired and thirsty for revitalisation, but it’s still a fun enough slot that the Scottish quartet certainly wring every drip of sweat and emotion out of. • GJ

It’s weird to see Patent Pending (7) on a bill like this, mostly because it’s always felt they’ve ever exclusively appealed to those in the niche section of US pop-punk that hasn’t advanced beyond sugar-rushing hooks and the genre’s stereotypical pool of themes. It’s not like that’s not true either, but take any pretensions towards depth out the equation, and what’s left is the sort of enormously fun time that places an undeniably childlike whimsy right to the fore. The fact that they knock out a cover of Cascada’s Everytime We Touch like it’s nothing says plenty, but factor in Joe Ragosta having some genuine comedic chops on him and a knack for industrial-strength melodies that are so easy to enjoy, and it’s not hard to see why the Lock-Up tent is as full as it is, even if a song like Hey Mario is pretty far away from its usual punk ethos. It’s hard to argue with straight-up fun though, and Patent Pending deliver that in spades. • LN

Charli XCX (Credit: Ellen Offredy)

There’s a pop dichotomy running right the way through Charli XCX’s (8) career – she somehow specialises in both maintaining a presence on radio airwaves and ringleading her own dedicated fanbase in amongst a more underground scene. As somewhere that is increasingly supportive of both deeper niches and mainstream music, Leeds is the perfect environment for her to showcase both sides. While the setlist remains firmly in the familiar (there’s no Vroom Vroom being played here, Charli fans), it does a fantastic job of getting a party going. Sure, Fancy, I Love It and Wannabe remix Spicy aren’t the coolest songs that’ll be played on this stage today, but for every one of those there’s a more edgy track like Gone, dance-led party starter like Focus or the remixed outro to 1999, or a pure pop anthem like the perfect Blame It On Your Love, Boys or closer Boom Clap. Charli herself has the personality (and moves) to be able to command the entire Main Stage completely alone, and plenty of people here have had one of the most fun 45 minutes they’ve ever had at Leeds Festival. • GJ

While there’s some stiff competition from The Wombats and Circa Waves today, The Night Café (7) sprint away with the title of Scousest Band on today’s bill. Their much-hyped indie tracks are sprinkled with extremely Liverpudlian adlibs about coming to Leeds as teenagers to get off their faces that plenty of people in the Radio 1 tent today can relate to. Musically, they’re not the most high-octane band in the world, and singer Sean Martin has the perfect voice to keep one interested while still being versatile; he makes the gorgeously hazy Endless Lovers float by while still being able to to lead more quietly anthemic songs like Strange Clothes no questions asked. The mood in the tent feels politely appreciative until magnificent closer Mixed Signals where the crowd explodes, something genuinely heartwarming to see. This might not have been the strongest indie set of the weekend, but The Night Café could easily find themselves in more high-profile slots should they carry on how they are. • GJ

Juice WRLD (Credit: Matt Eachus)
Juice WRLD (Credit: Matt Eachus)

As often as people complain that Reading & Leeds have moved away from their rock roots, it’s honestly not that hard to see why. After all, the jokes about these festivals being the annual post-GCSE results blowout clearly aren’t too far from the truth given some of those in attendance, and it only makes sense to book a lineup in accordance with that to get bodies to the stages. And thus, when you see an artist like Juice WRLD (5) take to the Main Stage with only one real hit to his name but that’s still riding relatively high, the unabashedly huge crowd isn’t too much of a surprise. But even for someone with no clue who Juice WRLD is, the reaction to Lucid Dreams’ opening guitar flutters makes it abundantly clear that this is what everything hinges on, mostly because there’s not a whole lot going on elsewhere. It’s not even that Juice WRLD’s brands of trap and emo-rap are particularly awful, particularly when there’s a solid, smoky atmosphere to a song like Lean Wit Me, but the general one-note run-through of these tracks can get pretty tiring, especially in a 45-minute set where it feels like the pace never really changes. As for Juice WRLD himself, he’s a fine enough performer, but it’s clear that he hasn’t wedged himself in his own niche within trap given how there’s not much of an identifiable personality really anywhere. It honestly feels like a rather premature booking to give him a slot this high, and with only a handful of moments that spark any sort of reaction (and one of those being to the rather questionable move of having Legends dedicated to XXXTENTACION alongside Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller), it’s all just a bit hollow. • LN

It’s encouraging to see Dream State (6) making such considerable strides towards their debut album, but it’s still a bit disheartening that they’ve not lost their knack for running into unfortunate stumbling blocks. Case in point – today’s set on the Lock-Up Stage, where it’s evident that this is a band trying their damnedest to connect with an impressively-sized crowd, but struggle to get that extra leg up. It’s more a case of a mix that doesn’t accentuate just how vast and soaring their post-hardcore can be, especially given that CJ Gilpin’s vocals sound muddier than they have in a long time. Really, this is a band that benefits from having those big stages to work with, and while they’re still able to work with what they’ve got here, it’s not ideal. • LN

There’s full-on hysteria in some parts of the Radio 1 tent as the lights change and Hayley Kiyoko (7) takes to the stage. She’s another artist chosen to represent pop at the festival this year, her corner more high-profile than the likes of Kim Petras or Alma but somehow more grounded, being huge on community and LGBT+ pride. Material like Wanna Be Missed is something not often heard at Leeds – sleek, sultry pop that doesn’t have energy to spark movement in a crowd, but it seems to go down well with the crowd. It’s the singalong songs that unsurprisingly fuel the biggest reaction. The high energy Curious has fans competing with each other with how accurately they can sing the super-fast part of the chorus, while anthemia sparks an echo with I Wish and What I Need. There are a few times in the set where choreography takes preference, with the end of songs being cut off so Kiyoko can bust into a funky dance routine. It’s impressive, sure, but shaving minutes off the reason most people are here isn’t worth it in the hope of a better ‘performance’. Overall though it’s a solid slot, one that could certainly pave the way for even more pop at Reading & Leeds in future years. • GJ

You Me At Six (Credit: David Dillon)

At this stage, a You Me At Six (7) festival set is pretty much a guaranteed win for them. They’ve amassed the songs, fanbase and clout to pretty much rock up and deliver the hits, and to be fair, that’s generally what they’re best at. Fast Forward, Lived A Lie and Underdog feel as steadfast as an opening trio comes, and for a band that feel perfectly comfortable in their no-nonsense rock guise, they’re quick to pick up momentum and ride it to yet another victory. Maybe it’s not quite as set-in-stone as some though, as the stumbling blocks are noticeable; new single What’s It Like doesn’t fare any better live with overweight drops that still feel painfully awkward, and Josh Franceschi’s reliance on crowd participation for Bite My Tongue effectively cuts that song to ribbons. That’s really it though, and most of the time, this feels like a band who’ve reached a comfortable groove where these early evening slots are deep in their wheelhouse. There’s definitely a reason to be apprehensive of complacency in that, but that doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue; You Me At Six still have the live prowess to deliver, and that looks to be in no danger of fading any time soon. • LN

It’s disheartening at the best of times to see a band attract a crowd so much smaller than what they rightfully deserve, but it’s even worse when that band is Puppy (8). The hope would be that so many more people would’ve caught on given that The Goat is still one of the best of the year, but a few isolated rows in the already small Lock-Up tent would suggest that simply isn’t the case. And yet, if the band are thrown off even slightly, they don’t show it, keeping a steely composure that feels perfectly befitting of the purveyors of Leeds Festival’s most colossal riffs. The sheer volume is something to be marvelled in its own right (even if it can drown out Jock Norton’s vocals at times), and when working with the metallic excellence of World Stands Still or the phenomenal grunge grooves of Poor Me, it’s truly exhilarating from front to back. Top it off with a melodic precision that could rival the majority of pop acts this weekend, and it only makes Puppy’s continued status as an undiscovered gem feel all the more ludicrous. • LN

The Wombats (Credit: Luke Dyson)

The crowd at the Main Stage is the biggest it’s been all day and for good reason – Reading & Leeds dependables The Wombats (8) are onstage. It’s obvious how much of a fan favourite this band are to the average Leeds-goer – people as far back as the food stalls are jumping around in pure euphoria to the likes of Moving To New York and Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves) and possibly gunning for the attention of the band onstage judging by the volume that they’re screaming the words. Even the tracks from last year’s misstep Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life don’t entirely ruin the set, with I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do acting as more of a casual break rather than a bore. The intra-band harmonies are spot-on as always, with Matthew Murphy’s creative lyrics sounding even more fantastic than usual on such a large stage. He announces this is the band’s final show before heading to record their next album and things only turn up a notch from there. An absolutely fever-pitch Let’s Dance To Joy Division and a stunningly bittersweet duo of Turn and Greek Tragedy are a brilliant send-off to this album cycle, and plenty here will definitely miss The Wombats until they return. • GJ

Laura Jane Grace (Credit: David Dillon)

For as big a draw as Against Me! have proven to be in the past, that doesn’t look to have translated to Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers (8). The Lock-Up tent is a bit more densely populated, sure, but for someone who can rightly be called a punk icon at this point, there should be a lot more hype and excitement than there really is. But again, that becomes a far smaller issue when the trio are as great as they are, taking the earthier, more stripped-back aesthetic of Bought To Rot and giving it the no-frills, all-thrills punk flair that’s been Grace’s calling card for years now. Speaking of Grace, it doesn’t need to be reiterated that she’s an absolute superstar, but with a powerful, authoritative vocal performance and commanding figure, she gives the sort of force to what is ostensibly a side-project that most bands can’t even muster for their main efforts. It’s worlds away from being the flashiest set of the weekend, but the overflowing heart and personality in Grace’s stories gives a more grounded, humanistic appeal that’s critically lacking elsewhere. • LN

Playing during modern rock giants Royal Blood and indie favourites Circa Waves doesn’t exactly hint towards a packed-out tent, but if you’ve released one of the best punk albums of the year like Pup (8), people will definitely turn up. The songs the Canadian four-piece air tonight are raucous, catchy, sometimes emotionally-heavy but totally sparkling in sound, and the atmosphere inside the Lock-Up tent is fueled by camaraderie and a genuine love for the music. The crowd reaction is as a result huge, something the band themselves see, vowing to keep small talk to a minimum and bang out unruly anthems until they absolutely have to stop. It’s a totally joyous half hour with the fantastic Kids and Reservoir inciting pits and arm-waving, while the loudest singalong about a tragic chameleon you’ll hear all weekend happens to Sleep In The Heat. By the time stellar closers If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will and DVP ring out everyone in the tent is gleefully exhausted, and it’s entirely likely they’re all completely fine with that. • GJ

Royal Blood (Credit: David Dillon)
Royal Blood (Credit: Kyle Mcloughlin)

It’s a minor miracle that Royal Blood (5) have been given a slot as high as they have. They might have been the poster boys for British rock at one point with a bass-and-drums take that had promise at the time, but a lack of innovation and subsequent stagnation has only left them as something of a non-presence. And yet, it’s almost like they haven’t noticed. They’ve drawn in a sizable crowd, sure, but with a relatively sparse stage setup and personality that starts and ends at entry-level between-song patter, they clearly want to be proper rockstars but just don’t have the versatility to muster that up. To their credit, they’re at least sonically formidable with Mike Kerr’s dexterous bass work and Ben Thatcher’s loose-limbed drumming, but there’s only so much that fat, mid-paced grooves paired with a pop chorus can work before it starts to get tiresome. And it’s not like Royal Blood don’t have good songs as the likes of I Only Lie When I Love You and Little Monster show, but repeating the formula with no variation over and over just highlights how limited this duo really are; even the new song Boilermaker doesn’t nothing to differentiate itself from their stock template that’s never expanded on. It just isn’t good enough for a sub-headline set, and from a band who once had all the opportunities in the world to justify occupying stages this size, that’s enormously disappointing. • LN

With every passing day The Maine (8) only seem to become more loved, such is the case when a packed-out Lock-Up tent somewhat begrudgingly risks missing the start of The 1975’s headline set in order to see them. That’s pretty telling with regards to how popular this band have gotten, too, as this isn’t the sort of visually memorable, extravagant showing likely to be appearing on the Main Stage. Rather, this is a set where the focus is some of the best modern pop-rock around, and with the band generally delighted by the turnout in the matching white outfits, there’s a liveliness and borderline theatricality to the whole thing that only makes it seem more overblown and bombastic. Passages of duelling guitars from Jared Monaco and Kennedy Brock serve as a glimpse of that flair, but it’s John O’Callaghan who stands as the real star, with effortless charisma that gives the sharpness of Am I Pretty? and Bad Behavior so much extra zest. It’s the sense of community the tips it all over into something really great though, whether it’s pulling out a fan to sing Girls Do What They Want or the colossal, beaming round to close off Another Night On Mars to highlight just how much this band of an impact this band can make. Admittedly the set can feel a bit abbreviated, but when that’s the only real shortcoming, it’s pretty hard to fault The Maine knocking out the sort of sleeper hit that they’ve specialised in for years. • LN

The 1975 (Credit: David Dillon)
The 1975 (Credit: Sarah Koury)
The 1975 (Credit: Sarah Koury)

Even though we had the Foo Fighters last night, tonight’s headline slot feels like the most anticipated of the weekend. It’s certainly received the most raised eyebrows and rolled eyes, and there is probably a sizeable group of cynics willing them to fail. That said, there is an absolutely rapturous reception as The 1975 (9) take to the stage, and they quickly prove that this is a set they were born to play. Opening with curveball punk single People demonstrates how the quartet shouldn’t be put in a box, while they repeatedly air their prowess for writing modern anthems, whether they’re loads of fun like TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME or sweeping epics like Robbers or Somebody Else. Also unsurprisingly (this is The 1975 we’re talking about), the aesthetics are fantastic. But to talk about The 1975 is to talk about Matty Healy, who is on top form tonight. He’s goofy (giggling as he talks to the crowd using his Autotune mic), humbled (wearing his disbelief at headlining his favourite festival on his sleeve) and a true rockstar. He carries songs like I Couldn’t Be More In Love which would be a lull in any other band’s set, plays up the frontman schtick on the brilliant treadmill set (complete with fluffy hat and backpack) and constantly ringleads the huge audience with political speeches and calls to arms. The final fifth of the set is where we get to truly mind-blowing territory. Recent single The 1975 featuring teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg is truly sobering with much of the huge crowd stunned into reflective silence, followed by a frankly ridiculous closing run of Love It If We Made It, Chocolate, Sex and The Sound. The band themselves provide the perfect sum-up to this set, ending Sex with a giant screen proclaiming ‘ROCK IS DEAD’. It could be a genuine thought, feeding into the picture of delusion and arrogance many critics paint of Matty Healy and his band, or it could just be one last jab at anyone turning their nose up at the idea of their headline slot. Nevertheless, euphoric closer The Sound starts up, as do the projections of criticisms the band has received throughout their career. It’s so gloriously carefree and tongue-in-cheek, sending one final message to their haters: don’t like us? We don’t care. • GJ

Bowling For Soup (Credit: David Dillon)

You’d think that having your set at the same time as two of the most in-demand UK acts in recent years would be deflating, but Bowling For Soup (7) clearly take their clashes with The 1975 and Dave in good stride. They’re kind of obliged to given the persona of goofy pop-punk dads they’ve grown into over the years, but the clear camaraderie formed by the playful jabs towards tonight’s Main Stage headliners at least sets a good tone for what’s to come. And while that’s arguably the more essential and important set tonight, Bowling For Soup are still able to deliver a fun time. The fact that they’ve constructed their own bar onstage is an early indication, but the combination of self-deprecation while clearly being in on the joke and playing up just how juvenile they come across hits a level of dumb humour that’s incredibly easy to get along with. It doesn’t always land, especially with the extended pause partway through Punk Rock 101 in which the band host their own photo opportunity to Sarah McLachlan’s In The Arms Of An Angel that lasts entirely too long, but in all honesty, the potential to crash and burn does add to the overall fun factor. This is clearly not a band pressed about achieving big things with this set, and the fact that they not only perform the Phineas & Ferb theme song but follow it up with snippets of AC/DC’s Shoot To Thrill and Mötley Crüe’s Kickstart My Heart (not to mention an entire cover of Stacy’s Mom to top it off) shows just how much of an important role taking the piss plays in all of this. And somewhere among that, there’s a decent crop of pop-punk songs that have pretty much become essential within the genre, and that the band, despite their advancing ages, pull off with remarkable amounts of gusto and energy. Girl All The Bad Guys Want naturally gets a stellar reaction, as do High School Never Ends and 1985, but there’s an all-around affability that makes this such an enjoyable time. Again, Bowling For Soup aren’t aiming higher than that here, but they don’t need to when the results are as resoundingly entertaining as this. • LN


Considering how many of its aces have been saved for last for Leeds especially, it seems strange that Counterfeit (6) of all bands are opening the Main Stage. They’ve been fairly dormant for the last two years, and even then, theirs is a brand of punk-flavoured hard rock that doesn’t exactly scream “Leeds Main Stage” in any significant capacity. To their credit though, they’ve got a consistently solid amount of energy that’s good to see, and while there’s nothing all that striking about these songs, even the new ones, the fact they’re sold with a level of gusto that suggests this is a real passion project is easy to appreciate. With Jamie Campbell-Bower not exactly popping as a frontman but never lagging either, it evens out generally decent without catching the attention too much, though honestly, that’s still better than initially expected. • LN

Sunday afternoon of a festival isn’t exactly the ideal time to try and get a party going, but Alma (5) is without a doubt going to try. Bringing her own brand of dance-tinged pop to the Main Stage should be an instant remedy for plenty of people here, but sadly that isn’t the case. Her usually-soulful voice combined with a live band just doesn’t carry too well on such a big stage, something that really hurts big closing hit Chasing Highs’ performance, especially when Alma’s drummer is joins her on vocal duties too. High points like Dye My Hair or All Stars are swamped by weaker material (like boring ballad Summer) that really drop an anchor and stop the flow of the set stone dead just as it gets going. It often feels like Alma is focusing more than achieving a certain party vibe than the actual performance, a shame as it feels like a wasted opportunity for a great set. • GJ

Today is the least rock-inclusive day of Leeds Festival’s larger stages, so the Radio 1 tent crowd is eager to take advantage of one of their few chances to hear riffs and mosh. Having upped the scope with brilliant second album Welcome To The Neighbourhood last year, there a few more up to the task than Boston Manor (8). To the chagrin of some fans shouting for Laika, that more recent material is the sole focus of this set with nothing earlier being played, but it’s without a doubt the right decision. The way songs like Bad Machine and Liquid manage to stomp and soar in equal measure all the way to the back of the tent is effortless. Pits are constant (with singer Henry Cox jumping in one himself during If I Can’t Have It No One Can) and a huge wall of death caps off a portion of a brilliant album cycle for Boston Manor, one that points towards an ambitious future both at this festival and in their career as a whole. • GJ

One of the running themes of this weekend seems to be otherwise-middling pop-rock bands finding some much-needed galvanisation when given a larger stage to play with, and Against The Current (7) definitely seem to be keeping that pattern up. They’re already capable of some pretty propulsive and likeable songs as it is, but there’s a definite all-around boost that comes from the Main Stage environment that makes Strangers Again and I Like The Way sound positively gigantic. Of course, the key player is Chrissy Constanza and the fantastic clarity and range in her voice, but this is studio-quality stuff that rarely falters, even on a notoriously temperamental sound system. It at least works in part to mask some unfortunate dips in momentum on Personal and Wasteland, but otherwise this is all perfectly solid, and it’s a credit to Against The Current as a live band that they’re able to make such a profound leap up. • LN

The Hunna (Credit: Sarah Koury)

When The Hunna’s (4) frontman Ryan Potter asks the crowd if they’re ready to have some fun, there obviously must be some wires crossed there given that fun and The Hunna simply can’t exist in the same space. Quite how this band have bagged a Main Stage slot is a total mystery given their approximation of indie-rock is among some of the more boring and formulaic out there, but where even derivative music can have some appeal on this sort of huge scale, this is just as whitebread as ever. It’s clearly crowd-pleasing, but foundation-grade crowd interaction mixed with hit after hit of inoffensive mundanities performed by a band hoping to ride by on prettyboy indie stereotypes has nothing of worth on paper and almost just as little in practice. There’s barely a moment that actually sticks, and while that would be cause for concern for most other bands taking an important upper-bill slot like this, the general mediocrity of The Hunna will inevitably find a way to ride even higher off the back of it. Go figure. • LN

Some of the most cutting commentaries on British society as it stands have come from grime and rap circles – notably Slowthai (6) who put out a whole record on that exact topic this year. He’s exactly the right kind of performer to deliver such material, too – he’s forceful yet emotive, knowing when to turn on the full-on venom (GTFOMF and Inglorious are particularly brutal today). However, musically he struggles a little more. His is a sound that burns out quickly in a live setting – the set blurs together as it goes on as the nuances of Doorman and Drug Dealer aren’t entirely audible. But it’s nowhere close to an issue for the crowd watching bouncing along, in fact, a sizeable portion are matching Slowthai word for word and lose their minds when he brings out Jaykae for Grow Up. It’s easily one of the most entertaining artist/crowd relationships we’ve seen all weekend, something that absolutely has to be commended. • GJ

AJ Tracey (Credit: Luke Dyson)

There was never going to be a chance that AJ Tracey (7) wouldn’t be a considerable draw. He’s currently one of the highest fliers in UK hip-hop with Ladbroke Grove being in the Top Five as we speak, but he’s also been consistently rising up the ranks of this very festival to culminate in a Main Stage slot that does feel deserved. And while the crowd begins to thin out after that big hit gets its airing, he’s wise enough to leave it until towards the end to show just how versatile and enjoyable as an artist he is. There’s an impressive number of bases touched here, ranging from lush synth cushions on Psych Out! to understated soca ticks on Butterflies and sharper straight-up hip-hop on Pasta and LO(V/S)ER, but there’s an impressive consistency among it all thanks to Tracey’s commanding presence to make up for a rather sparse stage setup. Above all though, it’s an intoxicating vibe that’s the biggest winner, particularly when those glassy garage beats come in for Ladbroke Grove and the energy levels from all in attendance just go through the roof. It’s the sort of moment that perfectly embodies what the current incarnation of Reading & Leeds is about – modern, exciting artists having their moment to shine, and AJ Tracey grabs his with both hands. • LN

Billie Eilish (Credit: Ellen Offredy)
Billie Eilish (Credit: Eleanor Freeman)
Billie Eilish (Credit: Ellen Offredy)

If there’s one artist whose unashamed embodiment of the Gen Z mindset has taken a sledgehammer to the concept of pop this year, her name doesn’t even need to be mentioned to know who it is. It’s no secret that Billie Eilish (9) has become a true force of nature, so much so that her original slot on the BBC Radio 1 Stage had to be bumped up to the Main Stage, where, at Reading, she still managed to pull in the biggest crowd these festivals have ever seen. And yet, taking the music in isolation, it’s still perfectly easy to see why she mightn’t click with some; her sound is deliberately underdone and off-kilter, and can often come close to buckling under the weight of edginess that might seem unearned. Put in a live environment though, and the story changes dramatically, to the point where it’s not only easy to see Eilish’s appeal, but also understand exactly where the talk of her being an icon-in-the-making comes from. It’s the uniform, almost slavish devotion of the crowd that’s maybe the most noticeable, not only singing along to every word but also the bass thunks and synth whistles of bad guy and the acoustic flutters of bellyache, but to move the spotlight too far away from Eilish herself would be doing her an enormous disservice. Bear in mind, this is a seventeen-year-old on the Main Stage of one of the biggest festivals in the country, and she’s able to carry herself with the poise, affability and personality that most artists twice her age couldn’t even come close to reaching, and doing all of that while maintaining an energy that’s almost unfailingly unique really speaks volumes about Eilish’s skills as an artist. It never overshadows a genuine musical talent though, with a beautiful vulnerability coming through in ocean eyes and when the party’s over that never feels at odds with the playful malevolence of a song like my strange addiction. It’s an almost masterful display of pop artistry from a genuine force who’s already nailed the combination of ironclad populism and rockstar presence better than virtually everyone else in her field. Billiemania only looks set to continue, and it has every reason under the sun to. • LN

The Pit seems to be used as shelter from the sun right now above anything else, and that might explain why Blood Youth (6) have such a sizable crowd on their hands. It’s not that they don’t deserve one, especially with the year they’ve been having, but today feels more run-of-the-mill than anything particularly spectacular. The bite is still there, and the nu-metal-inflected crunch that sends their hardcore hurtling forward still carries the rumble and roar that’s been so appealing about it, but that’s really all there is overall. It’s going through the motions a bit, and though Starve has the heft of a great closer, it’s the only thing that really verges on an essential moment. It’s definitely not bad overall, but it’s hard to call Blood Youth a standout presence when there’s not a whole lot to go off. • LN

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (Credit: Sarah Koury)

The crowd at the Main Stage has thinned out massively following Billie Eilish’s frankly ridiculous draw, but there are still more than enough people here to appreciate the unique stylings of Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (8). The effortless blend of throwback hip-hop, soul and funk with modern rap sounds even better live with the backing of band The Free Nationals, and is a positively glorious soundtrack to a sunny evening like tonight. Songs like Come Down, Tints and Jet Black (the latter made particularly great by the backing singers who fill in Brandy’s part) are impossible not to feel some kind of warmth towards. .Paak himself is visibly having the time of his life onstage, switching between his stint behind the drumkit to a more active frontman role at the drop of a hat, his megawatt smile never dimming. It’s a much-appreciated breath of fresh air when it comes to the music being given a platform at Leeds, something the festival organisers will hopefully keep in mind when booking future acts. • GJ

There’s a distinct bristle of anticipation going around The Pit surrounding the imminent arrival of Poppy (8), something that’s really only exacerbated by an unfortunately late start. That excitement is understandable though; her transition from doe-eyed yet unnerving YouTube presence to industrial polymath has been well-documented, and even on a bill as wide-ranging as this, she’s one of the most unique prospects to take the stage. And while that’s definitely the case, it shouldn’t be ignored how similar this all feels to Babymetal, with the corpse-painted backing band and Poppy herself standing front and centre quite literally dressed like a doll. As a whole entity though, a lot of the more centralised ideas are consigned to Poppy’s very tart, precise vocals, particularly as the industrial-metal grinding and darkwave throbs feel decidedly weirder and more far-reaching. It’s ear-catching, no doubt, and the enigmatic figure that Poppy casts is difficult to look away from as she coos through the dark-disco of Am I A Girl? or flips to something a lot more twisted on Scary Mask. This does feel like a more underground proposition overall, and Poppy and her band use that to their advantage to craft something that’s difficult to look away from, and even harder to forget in a hurry. • LN

PVRIS (Credit: Sarah Koury)

The Radio 1 stage is doused in monochrome – very on-brand for PVRIS (8). The trio are of course sleekly uniformed in black and white while the pulsing synth motif of St Patrick blasts around the Radio 1 tent as a fantastic kick-off to the set. As always their live presence sadly doesn’t feel entirely comfortable and a tad formulaic in the attempts to make up for it, but these songs more than do any extra lifting the performance side of things might drop slightly. New singles Death Of Me and the stunning Hallucinations fit in perfectly among older material – it’s always good seeing the beautiful Holy get an airing, along with strong singles Anyone Else and Heaven enveloping the audience in an epic wave of synth-tinged emotion. PVRIS always bring a vibe that is distinctly theirs – reserved and aesthetic-heavy – that always seems to spellbind alongside their brilliant material, so with a new album on the horizon, surely they’re bound to be back at Bramham soon. • GJ

Of Mice & Men (Credit: Ellen Offredy)

Say what you like about Of Mice & Men’s (7) new music, but as far as live acts go, they’ve well and truly left their scene phase behind them and become a consistently strong straight-up metal band. And it’s still surprising how hard they continue to go, now bearing the sort of foundation-testing guitar tone that punches up Aaron Pauley’s screams for some extra brutality. He’s really settled into his own as a frontman now as well, bringing a savagery to Warzone and Pain that really does go above and beyond what’s necessary, but never alienates the melody that works so well on cuts like Would You Still Be There. The focus on material from their upcoming album early on does feel a bit uneven (even if Mushroom Cloud sounds fantastically heavy live), but again, all this set is really doing is furthering Of Mice & Men’s reputation as one of modern metal’s go-to bands for a quality show, and that doesn’t look to be fading any time soon. • LN

Stefflon Don (Credit: Ellen Offredy)

The presence of an artist like Stefflon Don (8) serves as an ideal litmus test for how well the shifting – or at least advancing – demographic of this festival can go over. The aim is definitely to bring forward a more pop-oriented audience, and indeed, when the BBC Radio 1 tent is effectively packed out with that younger, predominantly female crowd, it feels successful overall. That’s unequivocally a good thing as well; regardless of what the doubters say, there’s room for pop here too, and when Stefflon Don’s aim is to bring the flashy, high-energy, capital-S show that’s set to be a clear winner from the off, there’s very little to complain about. Don is the obvious commanding presence, whether it’s as a magnetic onstage presence alongside her backing dancers or through her speeches around empowerment and female positivity that naturally go down a storm, and bringing fans onstage to twerk alongside her only adds more fuel to her enormous personality. But even beyond that, there’s a clear level of popularity that can definitely catch some off guard when the singalongs for Boasty and Hurtin’ Me are some of the loudest of the day. It’s genuinely impressive to watch an artist like Stefflon Don thrive in an environment that, in the past, has been all too hostile to artists in her lane, but credit where it’s due – she has the unfettered star power to carry something like this right to the finish line and beyond. • LN

Twenty One Pilots (Credit: Kyle Mcloughlin)
Twenty One Pilots (Credit: Kyle Mcloughlin)

The idea of co-headliners at Reading and Leeds isn’t one that’s often talked about – in a musical landscape that sees the same pool of headliners rotated among almost every festival, introducing more slots so that new acts can be inducted into such echelons without compromising the opinions of naysayers is not only a great move, but a vital one in keeping alternative music going. Despite Post Malone closing both Reading and Leeds this year and leaving the co-headliner status of Twenty One Pilots (8) in contention, the Main Stage is absolutely packed out to see what the genre-bending duo do with such a high-profile slot. For the first part of the set at least, it doesn’t exactly feel like anything special. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun have their ‘business as usual’ hats on, burning through cuts from last year’s Trench with older hits sprinkled throughout like it’s just a regular show. But following a speech from Joseph about Leeds often getting forgotten by artists in favour of Reading and fellow co-headliner Post Malone joining the two for a cover of Don’t Look Back In Anger, the professional mood onstage suddenly does a 180. Suddenly there are all kinds of stunts like getting security up onstage to hilariously lead the entire crowd in a sideways dance, an attempt at a split-crowd singalong to My Blood that doesn’t quite take off and a White Stripes interpolation into Morph – this all happening along with Dun’s ‘drum solo atop the crowd’ and Joseph’s ‘over crowd platform climb’ to Car Radio. Although such antics will make this set more memorable than most of the Trench cuts aired tonight ever will, it’s impossible to not feel something during closer Trees; the most beautiful backdrop of an oak made of light swirls shines down over Tyler and Josh doing their triumphant drum round-off, and as fireworks blast over the duo’s final bows, it’s easy enough to feel sated by this co-headline slot. • GJ

Even with the widened bar for entry for artists that we’ve already mentioned numerous times, it feels odd to see someone like Mabel (7) appear on this bill. She’s arguably the purest mainstream pop artist to appear all weekend, and yet that doesn’t stop her from pulling in another huge crowd in the BBC Radio 1 tent, and putting on a show befitting of her lofty billing. It’s a bit more minimalist than some of her contemporaries might partake in, with the focus being primary on her and her backing dancers, but there’s an impressive tightness to the choreography that really sticks out, and an expected clarity in Mabel’s vocals that fits the easygoing energy of her tropical pop rollicks. And it’s easy to see why these have become genuine hits too, with the dancing percussion of Fine Line and Mad Love and the deeper, busier Jax Jones beat of Ring Ring being phenomenally infectious from front to back. It’s not like Mabel is reinventing the wheel with any of this, but the fact that she seems as home on a stage like this as she does is extremely telling about the sort of doors that Reading & Leeds are opening going forwards. If they’re going to stay this strong though, there’s nothing really wrong with that. • LN

Post Malone (Credit: Kyle Mcloughlin)
Post Malone (Credit: Kyle Mcloughlin)

On paper, Post Malone (8) represents everything that the modern incarnation of these festivals caters for. He’s a rapper, a hitmaker and a rockstar all rolled into one, and when it comes to the ability to unite the tribes for one final blowout, his is the sort of headline set that’s been overdue for a while now. It’s a celebratory air that’s established in the bouncy trap knock of opener Wow., but where Post really begins to run is in cultivating an atmosphere that matches the heady, hedonistic air of his songs that’s so easy to find intoxicating. Better Now is just as tense and expansive as it should be, while Sugar Wraith and Candy Paint temper their celebrations with nocturnal wistfulness, and Stay and Go Flex tap into a vulnerability and melancholy thanks to their acoustic foundations. In terms of sound, Post absolutely nails it right out of the gate, creating the huge melodies and instrumental canvases that feel fully suited to a stage this huge, but also stop him getting lost when visuals or production are so spare. He’s certainly got the voice to that as well, with a huskier warble that emboldens of lot of the emotionality that internally drives so much of this material. And that’s honestly the kicker; Post plays to his strengths throughout, and while that might seem a bit on the safe side, especially when the stage can occasionally feel this barren, throwing out hit after hit feels like worthwhile compensation. But at the same time, he’s got the charm and undoubtedly the likability to vault above this being merely passable, and when the climax of rockstar arrives with Post engulfed in flames and smashing his acoustic guitar, it’s an explosion that feels earned. It’s a more unconventional take on the headlining norm, but given how these festivals continue to move forward, it makes a lot of sense, and an artist like Post Malone is more than fit to lead the new charge. • LN

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

Photos by Ellen Offredy (website), Kyle Mcloughlin (website), David Dillon (website), Lindsay Melbourne (website), Luke Dyson (website), Matt Eachus (website), Eleanor Freeman (website) and Sarah Koury (website).

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