Thrash Hits

March 30th, 2010

Wait…what? THAT’s the Reading/Leeds Festival line-up?

Believe it or not, Reading & Leeds Festival 2010 have already announced a more controversial line-up than Download and Sonisphere put together. Hugh Platt explains why.

Holy fuck! We guess you’ve seen the initial Reading and Leeds Festival line-up announcements by now, and we’ll admit that we are surprised. We normally like to smugly stroke our beards at impending festival announcements, safe in the knowledge of what’s about to be revealed is either a) underwhelming, b) already pre-leaked to near-pointlessness, or c) of absolutely no interest whatsoever.

But Reading and Leeds Festivals this year have already gone beyond expectations.

Brief history lesson, kids – traditionally, the Sunday of Reading Festival (or Friday, if you were a Leeds go-er) has always been the “Rock Day” – at least as far as the Main Stage goes. Okay, okay, occasionally this tradition has sometimes been diluted across other days of the festival (and last year most of the “rock” was shunted off onto the Second Stage altogether), but for the most part, the final day has been when rock and metal make their appearance.

In the last few years, Reading & Leeds have arguably struggled in the face of a growing Download Festival, and since last year, that of Sonisphere too. Despite both festivals claiming not to be strictly “metal festivals”, the both of them have hoovered up a lot of the “rock” talent that’ll be doing the UK festival circuit this year. To put it bluntly, compared to 2002, there are now an additional five full festival days’ worth of acts booked up that Reading and Leeds pretty much can’t get anymore – or at the very least, can’t get book exclusives with anymore.

But let’s take look at the line-up announced so far for this year:

However you choose to slice it, that’s two “Rock Days” on the Main Stage. TWO! Once you take into account the amount of acts that Download and Sonisphere swallow up as a natural part of their own booking cycle, then that’s a pretty bold move for Festival Republic. Many – including us – speculated that Reading & Leeds would slowly gravitate further and further away from “rock” towards a bedrock of “indie”, but if this initial line-up is anything to go by, Melvin Benn and co have suck two fingers up at that idea.

And Festival Republic haven’t even announced punk-only Lock Up Stage yet. Okay, we’re less excited at the prospect of the 3rd Stage line-up that’s yet to be announced, or at the other half of the Second Stage line-ups (which going on the bands announced for it so far, we’d be surprised if there’s much in the way of metal making an appearance). But there’s still a lot of bands still to be announced, and going on the glut of Kerrang!-friendly unit-shifters already on the bill, there’s got to be some scope for some more.

Oh Look. QOTSA. At Reading. NEARLY 10 YEARS AGO.

As we’ve just implied, it’d be a fair criticism of the line-up to point out just how….old it is. The vast majority of the line-up are not just veterans of Reading & Leeds, but multiple-veterans of the festival. Hell, a good whack of them played the festival last year. Cynics would argue that the bookings of Limp Bizkit, Weezer, NOFX, Blink 182 and Guns ‘N Roses are evidence of the festival unsure of what direction to take, and instead hiding among a brace of bands past their prime. Even the fresher talent on offer – bands like Paramore, You Me At Six, Enter Shikari, and All Time Low – are all bands that split opinion down the middle, and for the most part they’re all splitting people the same way. If you like one of ’em, chances are you’ll like most of them, and vice versa.

Okay, except All Time Low. Only idiots and children like them.

Likewise, you could point out that the bands booked thus far represent the popularist, most mainstream interpretation of “rock” that’s it’s possible to cut from the bands traipsing round the 2010 European festival circuit – and you’d be right. Reading & Leeds aren’t really about the avant-garde. They’re not really about pushing boundaries. Reading has always been the festival equivalent of a gang of teenagers getting wrecked in a car park, and Leeds has been exactly the same, only with some added juvenile arson thrown in on the last night for good measure. You don’t go to Reading & Leeds to marvel at the bands; they exist to be mainstream, to be the centre-ground. Without the centre, there can be no edge. They don’t stand in the way of Bloodstock, or Supersonic, or even Offset. That’s why they’re there, and that’s why they’re still needed.


We’d just like to take a moment to apologise for the sheer number of inverted commas that Hugh used in this post. Don’t worry – he will be suitably punished for his crimes against grammar.