Reading and Leeds Festival has remained one of the most important and integral element to Music in this country. Bringing together acts from across the World of varying genre's means it is a festival that will always attract new crowds and always maintain it's high popularity. We usually split these review in to a chronological style but it made sense for this review to be split by reviewing the highlights from each stage we frequented over the weekend (let's face it, we only ended up close to the Dance stage because there was a bar next to it). So without any further ado, here were some of our highlights from the weekend, as well as some low-lights as well...
The Main Stage this year proved to be absolutely stacked with some of the best bands and acts from their respective genres looking to make this their year to shine. From the brilliance of Biffy Clyro to the bedlam of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes to the disappointment some certain Californian superstars it proved to be a true melting pot and perfect focal point for the majority of punters.
Speaking of Biffy Clyro (11/13), their headline slot was easily the strongest of the headlining performances on the Main Stage this year. Since watching them headline Reading three years ago we've seen a band who have continued to grow in to a genuine world beater and whilst this year wasn't quite on par with that particular night it was damn close. The band were supported by some excellent stage production, with all three members elevated on the stage and able to move between the varying levels - even the smallest members of the crowd will have been able to catch a glimpse without having to become glued to the screen! The opening six or so tracks were marred by some real sound issues - an incredibly loud muddy mess. It was difficult to hear Simon Neil's voice through the music, particularly a shame because this period of time included Wolves Of Winter and Living Is A Problem. Luckily the sound issues didn't persist and by the time Who's Got A Match? kicked in everything suddenly clicked in to gear. Whilst it was utterly ridiculous that they had to 'share' the headline privilege this year, it is fair to say that Biffy Clyro were no doubt in the top five performances of the weekend.
In stark contrast to this, two nights later Red Hot Chili Peppers (5/13) phoned in a performance which was so disappointing to watch it actually verged on being painful to watch. Whilst easily attracting the biggest crowd of the weekend, the band simply didn't match the level of enthusiasm for them implanted throughout the site. Flea tried his best, bouncing around with more energy than the other three combined, but he can only do so much. To be frank, this looked like a band who hated themselves and hated the fact they had to even be there. It has been a long time since this band have been at the absolute top of their game but whilst mediocrity has been accepted somewhat over the last few years, now it feels like they're beginning to take the piss a bit. If there is any consolation for those going to the sold out UK tour, they do seem to at least care a bit more when it's not a festival show.
Sticking with the Sunday, earlier on in the day Clutch (9/13) preceded Skindred (10/13) in an excellent early afternoon double whammy. Whilst the former may have had an incredibly small crowd they displayed the same level of fervent enthusiasm and prime musicianship as they would if there were ten times as many people. Clutch are a band who have pretty much seen it all in their career, the performance could probably be best described as being very professional, certainly not one of their best but still better than most other acts on the line up. The vibe changed when Skindred hit the stage and ultimately became a little more energetic. Playing a slightly longer set due to Parkway Drive unfortunately having to pull out, the Welsh Metal unit brought the party as they always do in a festival setting. They stacked their set list with hit after hit, smashing apart any Sunday morning hangovers that had begun to linger - Newport helicopter as chaotic as ever. Five Finger Death Punch (7/13) two days prior to this tried to engage with the crowd on the same level but whilst the enthusiasm was there from the band, the crowd weren't giving too much back. They are a band who have stepped up to this level now, moving away from just doing the heavier festivals in to a more commercial realm and honestly, give it time, soon enough it will click a lot better than it did at Leeds this year. They've got enough groove and bounce to keep casual punters somewhat engaged but they just need that extra oomph to bring them to the next level. Directly comparing Skindred and FFDP, the latter are likely to only attract those who know their stuff already, Skindred will attract people across to the stage from the other side of the field out of sheer curiosity - the make-up of an excellent live band and a perfect festival band.
Saturday morning at Leeds was all about the 'Frank' double whammy as Frank Turner and Frank Carter brought their own unique doses of energy to the Main Stage. With the amount of times Frank Turner has played Reading & Leeds he's almost become festival royalty, subsequently having the option to apparently play wherever he chooses. Opening slots at festivals usually last around 25/30 minutes and attract only a handful, today Frank had 40/45 minutes and it was packed. As a band live, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls (10/13) are more than just musicians, they are full on performers with almost each track preceded by either a story or some crowd participation as he masterfully carries everyone in attendance in the palm of his hand. So from Frank Turner's Wall Of Hugs (you need to just Youtube it) to Frank Carter's destruction. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (11/13) are a band seriously on the warpath at the moment. Last year they played midway up The Pit stage and at both Reading and Leeds caused sheer bedlam. A further year's worth of touring under their belt and they've been granted the big time opportunity of gracing the Main Stage. There were moments throughout the performance where it did feel like the stage was just a bit too big, with the band being swallowed up a bit by its size, but Carter's charisma and ability as a front man helps carry the show forward. With the far more open setting the carnage didn't feel as nuclear, but there were still plenty of shenanigans between band and crowd. The new track in the set sounded very promising with the band now looking forward to surely one of the most anticipated albums of 2017.
Looking back towards the top of the line up, we go back now to Friday and the other half of the co-headline equation. There has been a lot of chat and chit about Fall Out Boy's spot on the bill this year, most of it frankly being a debate as to whether Biffy Clyro should simply have been headlining on their own, but here we were with Fall Out Boy (10/13) as a co-headliner and to be honest they displayed exactly why they were in that slot. The band put on a really enjoyable show which catered equally to some of their more die-hard fans and the casuals, making sure their set list was stacked full of the hits. Whilst they've shifted towards abandoning the 'Punk' element of Pop-Punk in recent times, watching them at Leeds on Friday night you can clearly see they've achieved exactly what they set out to do.
Earlier on in that day was actually the first band we had the chance of checking out across the weekend. After releasing The Color Before The Sun last year, Coheed and Cambria (9/13) have been a band rejuvenated. Their recent European dates have all been a huge success as well as making it quite clear that the interest in this band is still very much widespread. With such an early slot on the day they did suffer from some sound issues, with both the vocals and guitars (most important components for this band) being far too low in the mix. Things did improve though and closer Welcome Home is still one of the best live things you can ever wish to witness.
We conclude our Main Stage focus then with the excellent groove, party and fun which Eagles Of Death Metal (11/13) delivered in spades on Sunday afternoon. The recent history of this band has been well documented so to watch them play live shows with the kind of fervent enthusiasm as they did at Leeds on Sunday afternoon is a joy to watch in itself. The band opened with I Only Want You, joined by Mastodon's Brent Hinds on guitar and if that wasn't cool enough they went on to play a short set packed with hits and a truly excellent cover of Bowie's Moonage Daydream. A perfect festival set.
Before we move away from the Main Stage, big shout out to Boy Better Know as well. Not what we'd usually cover on here at all but an incredibly fun set and excluding RHCP, easily the biggest crowd all weekend.
The Pit Stage
Ever since it's introduction to Reading & Leeds Festival a few years ago, The Pit stage has consistently housed some of the most exciting bands in Metal and heavy music. Even with it only being around for a short period of time, this stage has proved to be a platform for so many younger bands pushing through at the moment as well as cementing the legacy of bigger acts.
After having to sadly pull out last year, Mastodon (12/13) returned this year to headline the Sunday night at Leeds, and much like they have for most of the touring cycle behind Once More 'Round The Sun the band were on absolutely blinding form. Hitting up tracks from across their back catalogue, the tent environment did do wonders for a band who sometimes struggle in the festival setting. Playing tracks from across their back catalogue the small yet dedicated crowd ate it all up with incredible enthusiasm, something which amped up even further when Neil Fallon from Clutch sauntered on to the stage to join the band for Blood and Thunder. The band announced that their new record will be out early next year at the end of the set, something we're already counting down the days for.
Speaking of small crowds, The Dillinger Escape Plan (12/13) took to the stage at Leeds on the Sunday evening for what was set to be their last involvement in a festival which they've had such a history with over the years. The crowd size was unbearably small - as it was on this stage for most of the weekend - something which has justifiably raised the debate as to whether Rock and Metal really do have a place here any more. Either way, whether there were 5000 people or 5, DEP have never and will never hold back in the live environment. The band are heading towards the end but that it no way suggests that they've in any way lost any kind of fire live. The intensity is frankly monumental and terrifying. There is absolutely no doubt about it, they will be sorely, sorely, missed when they do go because even just judging this performance alone, th ere is still absolutely no one in their circle who are even getting close to being this good.
The phenomenal triple whammy of Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan and Kvelertak truly was a brilliant dose of chaos on the Sunday evening at Leeds, and whilst the crowds were small (sorry we keep mentioning it, it was just sad to see), all three of them were at the absolute top of their game. Kvelertak (12/13) came on to the stage to an absolutely thunderous cheer with Erlend Hjelvik donning a new owl mask (this time with red glowing eyes) they just threw themselves in to their set, picking tracks from across all three of their albums there wasn't a single moment where the crowd fell in to any kind of a lull. The new album was met with some mixed response, especially considering just how different a lot of it does sound, but in the live environment some of these tracks really took on a whole new level. By the time they had ended their set, there was genuinely an applause ringing out for a good minute or two after they departed. Without a doubt one of the best live bands in heavy music at the moment.
On the previous day at a similar time the hugely popular Thrice (8/13) sub-headlined the stage, and whilst the above three were able to make a real impact on the crowd no matter it's size the day after, Thrice lost engagement with most people at Leeds after just a handful of tracks. Their music is of a type whereby you do kind of need to be in the right mood to fully commit - the band themselves looked bored not too long in to the set and weren't able to repair the high levels of disconnect.
In direct contract to this earlier in the day, Creeper (11/13) displayed exactly why there is so much hype around them at the moment. We've been to a few festivals this year and have only really had the chance to catch either glimpses of sets or shows marred by poor sound, but at Leeds Festival on early Saturday morning we finally got it. First off, we've already mentioned a fair few times that the tent was largely empty for most of the weekend, but for Creeper is was the complete opposite. They have the kind of following behind them at the moment which will see them rise to be one of the shining lights in this genre for the next few years. The sing along for some of the tracks at times was deafening to the point of being louder than the band themselves - particularly the case for Black Mass which just sounded huge. The band 'disappeared' soon after the festival and are currently in the midst of being involved in one of the most intriguing and exciting Media campaigns anyone has done for many, many, years. Do not miss what they're up to at the moment.
Similar to Creeper, the following day it was truly brilliant to see how busy the tent was for Heck (11/13). This is a band who have built a reputation on their chaotic live shows, but with the release of Instructions earlier this year they've now got the songs in their arsenal as well. The Dillinger Escape Plan are about to call it a day in the next twelve months or so, instead of wallowing in sadness make sure you jump on the Heck hype train. It would be unfair to simply focus on the bedlam of their performance now because some of these tracks are the kind of injection Punk has needed for a long time. Whilst a few years ago you will have had most of the crowd standing in awe at the chaos, at Leeds you also had the vast majority shouting along with all of the lyrics as well. They're never going to be a gigantic band like Creeper are on the path to at the moment, but they'll still go along way to fill the DEP sized hole in heavy music in the new future. Speaking of Dillinger, guitarist Ben Weinman's new project, alongside Brent Hinds from Mastodon and William DuVall from Alice In Chains now less, played their first couple of shows at Reading & Leeds this year. On hitting the stage at Leeds on the Sunday afternoon Giraffe Tongue Orchestra (8/13) were marred quite seriously by some sound issues throughout their set, which alongside a general disinterest didn't make for the greatest of shows. Considering the kind of calibre in the band it is amazing that we're even saying this, but with this only being their second live performance there is plenty of time for this to click properly, and we're sure it will.
Closing off this review then we look at both Hacktivist (10/13) and Crossfaith (9/13). These are two bands who are still making a serious impact in the heavy scene at the moment, and whilst their general make up is very different they're still both committed to bringing some seriously fun heavy music. Hacktivist opened their set with a Break Stuff cover, instantly grabbing the attention of everyone in the tent (a lot of which were cowering from the rain). It's this kind of set-list intelligence at a festival which has allowed these two bands to become so popular. Crossfaith may well have opened with a big cover too if it wasn't for the incredibly tedious line check in which there were apparently issues with one of the microphones. The delays caused the band to come on very late and subsequently it's safe to assume had to shorten their set as a result. They did save their big crowd pleasing cover till later in the set with their cover of The Prodigy's Omen triggering the now standard 'get down on the floor and jump when prompted'.
That's our lot from 2016 then! A lot of top performances from across the whole weekend at a festival which really does look to celebrate the very best across all genres. Tweet us with some of your highlights from either Reading or Leeds Festival this year! @roomthirteenmag