It has not been a typical festival season this year. Sonisphere, Oxegen and Big Chill were all cancelled and Bloc was shut down; weather has dampened – on several levels – many other events; and Glastonbury took a fallow year. Instead, this summer has been dominated by the Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to London, with all their associated events. This year’s festival season is, in consequence, in danger of coming to an end before it really gets going.
So with the interest in music festivals at an all time low, it is left to Reading Festival to pick up the August Bank Holiday pieces. And while it may not be the festival many would rely on for such a task – with many considering it aimed at teens who want to cause trouble and get wasted – Reading and its northern sibling Leeds – has a great chance to take advantage of Glasto taking a year out.
One of the main criticisms of festivals these days – and Reading in particular – is the tendency to keep coming back to the same artists again and again. But organiser Melvin Benn has avoided many of the typical Reading acts and put together a pretty strong line-up this year.
The three main stage headliners are all enticing prospects, with The Cure being a big coup for the Friday night slot for what will be their first appearance at the festival in 33 years. Meanwhile, Kasabian will continue their rise to the top with their first headline performance at the festival on Saturday, before rock giants Foo Fighters close out the festival – 20 years on from when Dave Grohl headlined with Nirvana in their legendary performance at Reading.
The main stage also sees a deserved place for The Black Keys just under the Foos, while Bombay Bicycle Club and The Vaccines have been bumped higher up the order after impressing with their live performances. Bombay Bicycle Club are especially deserving after working solidly for three years and recently headlining their own sold-out show at Alexandra Palace.
It is also worth pointing out the return of the notorious OFWGKTA, who will step up to the main stage in what could be a risky move – but one that shows Benn’s willingness to add a different dimension to the festival. It is also great to see Band Of Skulls on the main stage, as the Southampton trio are not only underrated, but also an incredible live band.
However, if that’s not enough to convince you, then the NME/Radio 1 Stage has a great variety of new artists – as well as the a few older faces. At The Drive-In will undoubtedly be one of the main draws, headlining on the Saturday night, while The Maccabees and Justice will do the honours on the Friday and Sunday, respectively. The stage will also play host to The Hives, Friends, The Joy Formidable, Tribes, Howler and The Horrors over the weekend.
Elsewhere, the Festival Republic Stage will see some of this year’s brightest new talents looking to impress. Niki And The Dove and Alt-J will be two acts to look out for in particular, while 2.54, Zulu Winter and Jake Bugg have also had a lot of attention this year. The line-up also sees the loud and abrasive Sleigh Bells headline on Friday, offering a vastly different listening experience to the other headliners on the same night.
With the BBC Introducing Stage and Alternative Stage also available for those who are less enamoured with what is going on elsewhere, it is fair to say that you will be hard pressed to find spots on the line-up where nothing takes your fancy. Whether the Reading and Leeds Festivals will live up to the gaping hole left by Glastonbury in this oddest of festival years, though, is yet to be seen.