Descending on Bramham Park (just off the A1) again this year are hoards of music fans ready for a weekend of live music and good vibes. It’s clear that some revellers are celebrating recent GCSE and A-Level results and are using this as a celebration of all the hard work they have done over the past few years. As soon as you step onto the site and the wristband clasped around your wrist there seems a sense of normality, gone are the lockdowns are shielding because live music is back!
The great thing about the Reading and Leeds Festival is that it is so diverse; from the Alternative Stage hosting some of the biggest names in UK comedy including on the lineup for Friday, Marcus Brigstocke and Russell Howard. The latter of the two pulling such a large crowd that they had to close the tent! Compared with the BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage which had the best vibes of any stage all weekend. The festival goers crammed into what seemed to be the old NME or “2nd stage” tent had no agenda or plan, they were there to lose their collective shit (probably drink a hell of a lot too much) and dance their day away. One of the early acts on the stage was the TikTok viral sensation Gayle who pulled a strong crowd for so early on in the day. She covered the legendary track Bad Reputation and closed her set with her biggest track ABCDEFU, this was a great start to the weekend of music.
As you walk around the festival setup, music can be heard from all stages including the popular BBC Introducing Stage; curated with acts both local and upcoming from around the UK playing some of their biggest shows to date. One band that caught our eye were Boy Bleach, the London based outfit drawing a strong crowd so early in the afternoon. Their unique brand of indie mixed with pop captivated the West Yorkshire crowd, expect big things from this band in the future!
Another stage that contrasts to other parts of the festival is the BBC 1Xtra Stage which hosted some of the biggest acts featured on the radio station. The act we managed to catch on there was ex-Love Island star Wes Nelson, he entertained the full tent with his brand new music which included the hit with Clean Bandit, Drive. A great set from Nelson and personally such fun to photograph. The Festival Republic stage played host to the “heavier” acts of the weekend, acts that featured on Friday that we managed to catch included Crawlers, beabadoobee and The Blinders. These acts most definitely are bigger than the tent they played, but the vibes came across better in the more intimate environment.
In it’s second year of the new setup of two Main Stages there was around a 15 minute changeover between acts, this gave for ample time to see all the acts on both main stages. Catching our eye mid-afternoon were Australian Indie kids DMAs who we were lucky enough to interview first thing Friday. New track I Don’t Need To Hide went down an absolute storm as did Silver and their classic cover of Believe by Cher, a great festival act.
Closing out the day were Charli XCX, and co-headliners Halsey and Rage Agai… I mean The 1975. Charli XCX brought pop fun to Main Stage East whilst Halsey (whilst suffering with food poisoning) did her absolute best to perform to the Leeds crowd. Having entered the stage to the Rage Against The Machine track Bulls on Parade, the West Yorkshire mob knew they were going to get the very best of Halsey this evening. Her stunning cover of the Kate Bush classic Running Up That Hill was dark and dramatic which encapsulated the whole vibe of her set. Which brings us to the final act of the night; The 1975. Having replaced original headliners Rage Against The Machine because of illness, frontman Matty Healy described the bands set as a showcase of their “greatest hits” and they certainly did not disappoint. Having been a little sceptical of The 1975 originally replacing RATM, the audience reaction for the replacements was huge and unfortunately RATM are not the target audience band for this festival anymore. Understandably RATM fans sold their tickets when the band cancelled but the majority of festival goers were more hyped for the replacement.
Overall, a fun day of acts and a fantastic way to open the festival for the weekend.