Reading & Leeds Preview
The chaps charged with organising Reading & Leeds festival have assembled on hell of a metal day at this year's edition of the twin festival. Ben Armstrong talks us through the cream of the crop.
Seven years into my festival career and just off the back of an incredible stint at Donington Park, I never really had myself down to be at Reading this coming weekend. In recent years, Reading has been the celebration of Radio One favourites, with the bands of the moment performing alongside a few prestigious golden oldies. This year however, the organisers have shown themselves to be risk takers with a Saturday that wouldn’t look out of place at Download or Sonisphere. There’s always been hints of Reading wanting to experiment with heavier music (as Glastonbury did with a Metallica headline performance in 2014) and 2015 is the year in which they deliver in spades.
Here’s my (rather chaotic) itinerary for Saturday at Reading Festival:
Babymetal (Main Stage)
The very best way to start any festival day – Babymetal were pure quality at Sonisphere 2014 and have gone from strength to strength since that, their first UK performance. The Japanese pop-come-metal sensation might be the most gimmick-drive act of the day, but their brand of blasé, tongue in cheek humour combined with solid musicianship should make Babymetal one of the most memorable acts at Reading.
Marmozets (Main Stage)
With just one record under their belts, English rockers Marmozets have established themselves as the most aggressive entry into the Paramore/PVRIS mould. Bold, addictive hooks balanced with outbursts of angst are the name of the game, but the band also mixes up what could be a generic blueprint with song diversity and progressive flourishes to sweeten the deal. Here’s hoping their live energy brings their songs to life even more.
And So I Watch You From Afar (The Pit)
I’ve been waiting to see ASIWYFA since they released Gangs in 2012 and though they haven’t matched that record with their last two efforts, live videos attest to a focused, powerful and passionate group who deliver only the most bombastic performances. Guitar theatrics replace and augment the usual role of vocalist to create a spellbinding exercise in indie mathematics, and frequent chant/hum along sections make them as interactive a band as any. An awesome way to start off the afternoon.
Alexisonfire (Main Stage)
Alexisonfire are the archetypal ‘blink and you’ll miss it band’ for me. By the time I’d become a fan they’d already played their farewell show at Brixton Academy and the members had gone on to play in other projects. A prominent main stage slot at Reading this year is a hugely welcome addition to the bill and gives people like me an opportunity to see one of the greats of the 2000’s deliver one last time. Easily one of the biggest draws on the bill this year owing to the one-off appeal and tremendous energy that they’re sure to bring along with them.
Everything Everything (NME Stage)
My only trip to the second stage on Saturday will be to see Manchester based indie/pop/avant group Everything Everything. This year, their record Get to Heaven saw the band blend hooky, poppy songwriting with off-kilter rhythms and politically charged lyrics in what will likely end up as my pop/indie release of the year. With an immense live album and a track record of impressive live shows, all signs point to a spectacular performance at Reading.
Gojira (The Pit)
What more needs to be said about Gojira that hasn’t already been said? Quite simply one of the most magnificent live metal acts of all time, the Frenchmen exemplify true heaviness, atmosphere and precision with a show that’s both bone shattering and heart wrenching. There’s no new album to promote this time around, but make no mistake Gojira will be one of the bands of the festival – no doubt about it.
Bring Me The Horizon (Main Stage)
The true wildcard of the Saturday line-up, Sheffield-based Bring Me the Horizon have risen from the murky depths of deathcore to shine as one of the best upcoming British metal outfits. That’s the Spirit is due later this year and advance cuts from that record plus some classics would go down really well in front of a crowd more suited to music with a melodic edge. With this Reading appearance, the band are sure to be on top form and looking to bolster their CV with yet another performance to win over the haters.
Ghost (The Pit)
My headliner, for all intents and purposes, Ghost have just released one of the best records of the year and after being pushed to the top of the bill for the third stage after Mastodon dropped out, all signs point toward this being their big chance to step up. Ghost are headline material, plain and simple. With a few more albums behind them, I have no doubt that they’ll be headlining this festival’s main stage – getting there though, especially in a climate where booking Van Halen, Def Leppard or Aerosmith is preferable to giving the new blood a chance, may prove difficult. However, their live show cannot be denied and with Meliora, they now have the song power to captivate as many people turn up to watch them at Reading this year.
Metallica (Main Stage)
By Metallica’s own high standards, this cannot and will not be a bad two hours. This headline slot will either be exceptional or simply just great because Metallica aren’t capable of producing a poor performance these days. From the opening bars of The Ecstasy of Gold to the final bars of Seek and Destroy, the biggest and best of the big four (at least live, in 2015) never disappoint. The question is, will the setlist be more tailored towards a rock crowd? It would be nice to hear an injection of AJFA era thrash but I appreciate that fans here will more likely want songs from The Black Album. In any case, Reading have claimed that this will be the most lavish and expensive performance in Reading history, so even if the song choices are a bit suspect, I have faith that it will be a show to remember.
Words: Ben Armstrong