Words: Rianne Thompson.
The Reading and Leeds Festival is an annual marker to the end of the summer, the last of the summer sun or rain to be more realistic. I spent the weekend hardly sleeping or eating accompanied by some incredible music and warm pints, here are some of my highlights…
The Thursday night was all about the Relentless stage which was tucked away underneath the trees in the main campsite area, taking centre stage at the festival after hours. It was the stage that offered an alternative line-up to the rest of the fest, bringing the latest in grime, hip-hop, rappers, DJ’s, MCs and so much MORE. Opening Leeds was the Heavytrackerz, the masters of producing breakthrough singles for artists such as Stormzy. They set the energy levels high eradicating the dampening spirits of the crowd as the rain slammed down on Thursday evening.
Followed by Reeps One who demonstrated his beatboxing talents as he stormed the stage for a twenty-minute intense set. The highlights came from North London rapper Lady Lykez. She and the crowd jumped in unison with their hands raised in appreciation whilst the lights of the stage flashed on the swarm of people below. Flava D followed with Nadia Rose taking to the stage after, ending the night on Ghetts – the East London MC and Jaguar Skills closing the stage at 3am. The Relentless stage was not for the faint hearted.
Isaac Gracie played on the Festival Republic stage before 1pm on the Friday with a chilled out audience who were sat lounging on the grass with cups of tea and coffee in their hands. Gracie was the perfect opener to Leeds with his minimal sound that complements his strong vocals. Known for his track Last Words, which was recorded on garage band in his bedroom, almost set the groundwork for his set. It felt like an intimate performance with everyone captivated by his on stage presence.
The Vryll Society were another highlight on this stage with the quartet offering something a little different. The lead singer spent the set shoeless with shades strapped to his face, projecting a good energy out into the audience. Their layered, woozy sound had many swaying along and drew passers by into the tent. The band finished on the psychedelic track Deep Blue Skies with the lead singer – Michael Ellis, walking off stage leaving the rest of the band to jam out and close the set.
At 3.25pm on the BBC Introducing stage, the duo hailing from Teesside, Mouses demonstrated that you only need two talented bodies to create a raw and heavy sound. Lead singer Ste is an animated frontman and brought real energy to the stage. Nathan matched this by attacking his drum kit, throwing drumsticks left, right and centre throughout their set. Their track Hollywood may only be 1 minute and 32 seconds but if anyone can rep their sound in less than 100 seconds, it’s Mouses.
Over on the BBCR1/NME stage Half Moon Run appeared on stage at 4pm to a packed out crowd. The Canadian four-piece opened with Turn Your Love and held a polished and professional sound throughout. Other track highlights came from Call Me In The Afternoon and the famous Full Circle, which the crowd happily sang in harmony with Devon Portielje. Completed with a harmonica, patterned shirts and strong lead vocals they did not disappoint.
To close the main stage for the first night of the festival was the Scottish based three-piece Biffy Clyro. As the audience head banged their way through the band’s hit tracks, the guys made the most of their time in the spotlight and went big as always.
Over on the Relentless Stage things had just got started. Luke Hassan opened the stage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday bringing deep house mixes and setting the vibe for post midnight. Icarus, the Bristol based brothers, then graced the stage and performed a sleek set. Jax Jones followed on from this and finally the electronic DJ – Feed Me.
On the Saturday at the BBCR1/NME stage Hinds leaped onto the stage, confessing to the crowd they’d had less than three hours sleep. This seemed like the most appropriate way to connect with a festival crowd after a heavy Friday night. Their fun filled set helped pull the crowd out of their hangovers as they pranced around the stage, strumming on guitars and creating coordinated dance moves. By the end of the set, everyone had pushed themselves off the ground and joined in; Hinds were a delight to watch and listen to.
Later on in the day once the heavens had opened I sheltered safely underneath the Festival Republic tent where Blaenavon were playing. The three piece have only released two EP’s but have already managed to pick up a following and as they powered through their set the mosh pit grew. In the end the whole far right of the crowd had joined in with the lead singer jumping into the sea of people who then surfed the spectators. These lads are ones to watch, no doubt they will be climbing the ladder of festival stages swiftly.
Foals and Disclosure co-headlined on the Saturday night. It was a wet one but spirits were not dampened as the stage erupted in sound and Foals stormed out, launching straight into the opening track of their set – Snake Oil. Spanish Sahara was one of the highlights with images of rolling waves completing the atmospheric feel of the track, which sent shivers down the spine – an unforgettable festival snapshot.
A more recent track Knife In The Ocean sounded polished to perfection with the video created by Leif Podhajsky forming a colourful backdrop. In contrast My Number and Mountain At My Gates bookmarked their best rhythmic dance tracks, allowing the crowd to let loose by prancing around in the puddles. Yannis continuously thanked the crowd for supporting the band over the years, whilst bringing infectious energy, as always, to the stage. This projected out onto the fan filled crowd, particularly during the mosh pit moments, channelled through tracks such as Providence and What Went Down.
The band’s set was literally LIT with flames thrown out over the front of the stage illuminating rows of arms held in the air in honour of their headline set. They finished with Two Steps Twice as confetti flittered into the air, resting on soaked faces. Foals set the bench mark when it comes to live music, this band know how to create an energetic, fun and seamless headline set.
The mysterious CamelPhat took to the Relentless Stage with 60 minutes of deep house whilst the trees recreated a rainstorm of its own, fortunately Leeds is a northern festival so, no one really noticed. Next up was BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Monki who demonstrated her experience to continuously pull out the right tracks to please the current crowd. She was able to tailor her set to the feel of the festival and what the Relentless stage had to offer – a continuous party. Hannah Wants took over from Monki after 2am and closed the stage for the evening.
The BBC Introducing stage on Sunday offered a strong line-up of emerging acts with the likes of HAUS who create playful, rhythmic alternative indie-rock tracks. The lead singer Ashley Mulimba holds his own on stage with effortless dancing to accompany the music. They are a five-piece band from North London and if you haven’t checked them out then go listen to their track Two Minds. I have no doubts this isn’t the last we have seen of HAUS.
The lads from the North Yorkshire Moors – Avalanche Party, absolutely ripped apart the BBC Introducing stage at 3pm. Draped in silk shirts accompanied by an army of guitars, they were a strong unit who projected a massive sound. Lead vocalist Jordan Bell jumped down from the stage and stared into the crowd as he sang, exemplifying the intensity of their set. It’s not often you see an up and coming act who seem so sure of their sound and themselves, refreshing and intriguing to say the least. So, if you’re going to go and see anyone live then this is the one.
A little later on The Shimmer Band emerged, they are a five-piece from Bristol and mix psychedelic sounds with an almost rock ‘n’ roll groove. The lead singer Tom Newman looked comfortable and confident on stage wrapped up in his gold mac and distinctively large white sunglasses, putting the audience at ease. At points their tracks sounded familiar but with an interesting and distinctive twist.
Red Hot Chilli Peppers closed the main stage playing a set full of hits including By The Way, Give It Away and Californication. Just after midnight the Fat White Family played at the Alternative Stage who are renowned for their live performances. It got messy to say the least with a fan filled crowd and many a mosh pit. Set highlight was track Touch The Leather which transferred well into a live sound and probably the most appropriate end to this year’s festival.
At points I was covered in mud and soaked to the bone but as the Sunday night drew to a close the festival blues began to sink in, Leeds 2016 that was so much FUN.