Festival Preview: Reading and Leeds 2009

01 August 2009

It may not signal the end of the festival season as it once did, but the annual north and south Bank Holiday shindig that is Reading / Leeds is still only has Glastonbury as its main rival in terms of size, star names and prestige.

This year, those in search of the traditional ‘metal day’ (Friday in Leeds, Sunday in Reading) will be searching in vain – although the rock acts are still there, they’re spread much more widely over the three days, resulting in a far more ‘indie’ feel than in previous years.

Friday (Leeds)/Sunday (Reading)

Four years on from their debut Reading / Leeds appearance, Arctic Monkeys take their first headlining spot, with a brand new album partly produced by Josh Homme to plug.
They’re ably supported by a stellar cast on the day, including Ian Brown and a back on form The Prodigy. And make sure to get to the main stage early to catch the riotously entertaining Eagles Of Death Metal.

Of course, there’s lots more to Reading / Leeds than the main stage. Indeed, some of the hidden treasures can often be found in the smaller tents – such as the excellent Canadian band Metric who have an afternoon spot on the NME/Radio 1 stage. They’re followed by the always intriguing Patrick Wolf, who will be attempting to recreate the impossibly ambitious The Bachelor album onstage.

Headliners The Gossip will be the unqualified draw on the NME/Radio 1 stage for many – if only to remind oneself that Beth Ditto, inbetween being an incongruous tabloid fixture, is an impossibly charismatic frontwoman with an incredible voice.

Saturday (Leeds)/Friday (Reading)

The second day of Reading / Leeds brings the undoubted highlight of the entire weekend for many – Radiohead. It’s the first time that Thom Yorke and company have appeared at the festival since the pre-The Bends days of 1994, and it’s fair to say that their headlining spot is being awaited with slavering anticipation.

Yet Radiohead aren’t the only draw on Day 2 of Reading / Leeds. Bloc Party, despite their onstage announcement last year that they wouldn’t be back in 2009, are second on the bill, while Yeah Yeah Yeahs will no doubt attract one of the biggest crowds of the weekend promoting one of the albums of the year in Zero.

Although it’s hard not to feel sorry for Lostprophets and La Roux (headlining the other two stages while Radiohead are on), there’re plenty of other attractions elsewhere on the site – Passion Pit and Crystal Castles to name but two. Perhaps the dark horses of the weekend could be the Bruce Springsteen-approved The Gaslight Anthem – for many, this year’s The Hold Steady.

Today also sees the one day that the Dance Tent is open – headlined by the enigmatic Deadmau5, the Canadian electro pioneer who often performs dressed as a huge mouse. Other names in the dance arena include Lady Sovereign, back home from her success in America, and the inventive duo MSTRKRFT.

Sunday (Leeds)/Saturday (Reading)

Kings Of Leon make the final step from scuzzy, grimey indie rockers to fully fledged stadium rockers by headlining the main stage. It’s a moot point whether mass acceptance has dulled their edge, but the irony of their worst album yet becoming their biggest seller is inescapable. Yet they remain a formidable live act who should bring the weekend’s festivities to a fitting close in Leeds.

A more unpredictable headlining spot is promised at the NME/Radio 1 tent, where Faith No More make their second festival appearance of the summer following their reformation. Other names include a revitalized Jamie T and the Mercury nominated art-dance of Friendly Fires, but why are The Horrors so low down the bill, may we ask?

Elsewhere, gravel-voiced grunge legend Mark Lanegan brings the Soulsavers to the Festival Republic stage while the Biffy Clyro side project Marmaduke Duke are headlining.

Also throughout the weekend on the Festival Republic stage are gems such as Broken Records, Marina And The Diamonds, The Big Pink and 65 Days Of Static. Keep an eye on the official website nearer the time to clarify times and dates for the Festival Republic stage.

There’s also the best new bands on the BBC Introducing stage, the Alternative Stage and an array of comedians and spoken word acts. It’s the sort of impressive line-up that guarantees Reading / Leeds is going to be the highlight of many a festival goer’s summer.

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