ONE WEEK ON; We look back at the UK’s Biggest Music Festival.
WATERPARKS – Main Stage
Having recently discovered the absolute joy that is WATERPARKS’ second studio album – Double Dare – I was anticipating their appearance on the Main Stage would reinvigorate the spirit of pop-punk into the dreary northern crowd. Having just finished headlining the final ever Warped Tour this Summer, WATERPARKS were sure to have all eyes on them.
However, there was one problem: WATERPARKS were set to perform at 12 pm.
This killed the vibe a little. I wasn’t expecting many people to roll out of their tents to come and see an American band who are relatively unknown in the UK, especially after the first night of the festival. But, I quickly had to eat my words – WATERPARKS managed to draw quite a crowd. The set was excellent and Awsten Knight’s impressive vocal runs on songs like Stupid for You and Blonde were exceptional.
If that wasn’t enough, fans were stunned to see frontman Awsten Knight and guitarist Geoff Wigington casually strolling through the festival grounds moments after their set. With both the guys being nice enough to stop for a picture. I asked Awsten what he was doing now, seeing whether he was flying straight back to the States or hanging around in the UK, but he explained that he was hanging around to catch a not so secret, secret set from titans Bring Me The Horizon.
In short, WATERPARKS’ set was slightly snubbed by the early stage time, but their performance was incredibly impressive. Anyone who missed their set should be regretful for not catching these up and coming pop-punk powerhouses.
Fizzy Blood – BBC Music Introducing Stage
Despite performing on one of the smallest stages at the festival, FIZZY BLOOD produced one of the most impressive performances of the weekend. As people walked past, their sound grabbed crowds and made for a reception that the band seemed overjoyed by.
From beginning to end, FIZZY BLOOD exceeded expectations and brought their best for their hometown of Leeds. Playing some of their biggest tracks like Pink Magic, January Sun and ADHD, it was cleared that the band were there to please. These tracks sparked an extraordinary amount of movement and moshing at the front of the crowd and some head-nodding and foot tapping at the back. Their most popular track was most definitely ADHD which seemingly hit a chord with the audience as people began dancing and formed a larger mosh pit around the small stage. It should be noted that FIZZY BLOOD’s showmanship is far past exceptional – the audience often found it difficult to keep up with their sudden outbursts of energy.
The band showed that are more than ready to advance up the Festival chain. But most importantly, they did what they needed to do and pulled off a vivacious, tight performance, giving both new and old fans something to talk about. We met a long-time fan clutching the barrier, who told us that FIZZY BLOOD seems to be on the edge of greatness. I can only hope they continue to reach their full, exciting potential.
Bring Me the Horizon – BBC Radio 1 Stage
Suddenly jumping out onto the BBC Radio 1 Stage, Bring Me the Horizon took Leeds by storm. Bringing with them a heavy energy which Reading & Leeds seemed to lack this year, with mainstream acts like Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone and Travis Scott all dominating the top spots on the bill. Some critics, such as Charlotte Richardson Andrews of the Guardian, have rightfully observed that the festival is changing and that its “rockstar” label is beginning to falter. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing – as the proverb goes: “variety is the spice of life”. That being said, Bring Me the Horizon (BMTH) managed to draw back the essence of rock onto one of the biggest stages that Leeds has to offer.
Bring Me the Horizon, as frontman Oli Sykes relayed to NME on the Saturday, knew that they were going to perform at Reading & Leeds 2018 since the beginning the year. Having been their first performance in over 2 years, BMTH were heavily focused on introducing their new sound to the masses, with a powerful performance to boot. They launched the new BMTH era with brand new track MANTRA. Instead of lacing new material among their more popular tracks, the band premiered their newer music immediately to blow away the cobwebs.
Following this, BMTH brought out their best material. Throne and Can You Feel My Heart drove the audience into absolute anarchy. Subsequent tracks Happy Song, Follow You and Shadow Moses only caused furthered the pandemonium as the crowd thrashed intensely, yet the highlight for many fans was undoubtedly the final two tracks of the set – Antivist and Drown. The former drew back to the early BMTH sound, fuelled by fire and rage. Even when released on their 2013 album Sempiternal, Antivist was by far the heaviest track. To see it performed alongside BMTH’s lighter, recent material was truly a breath of fresh air in a big, sweaty tent. Not only did it manage to rekindle an old flame, but it also reintroduced a heavy sound that Reading and Leeds has lacked on the larger stages for some time now.
Drown did much the opposite, instead drawing BMTH’s performance back to their modern sound. It was completed with a lighter stage design. Drown was perfect for the festival stage with its distanced, echoing instrumentation and vocals grandiosely filling the whole tent with power and emotion.
Post Malone – Main Stage
I’ll be frank with this one – Post Malone performed one of, if not the best, set at Leeds this year. It was a real shame that his performance was so early (3pm) as his showmanship and intimacy with the audience really would’ve played better with a darker night and a larger crowd.
Any fans of Post will know that his music is powerfully intimate. Songs like Congratulations, I Fall Apart, and Rockstar are an insight into the lifestyle of a rising star, or perhaps a normal man thrust into the limelight. With what seemed to be a strange shift of tone from Creeper to Post, the field was pulsing with enthusiasm. Post Malone’s unique style of music bridges the gap from hip-hop to rock and emo, which seemed to fit the mood of the day.
Coming onto the stage to uproars of applause and cheers, Post really seemed humbled by his 3 pm turnout which seemed to match the evening headliners. Before performing each of his hits, Post took a moment to talk to the crowd, smoke and drink alongside them, and explain what the song meant to him, and what he hoped it meant for them. Sounding exactly like he does on his records, he stole the day with his showmanship, talent, and class.
His set ended with a triumphant decree to the crowd – “Get drunk! Do drugs! Have an amazing weekend! Don’t tell your moms!” – as he leapt from the stage and walked alongside every barrier to shake hands and meet his fans. He ran one way, ran the other, and came back to the missed side to personally thank all those who had attended. Having been the number one spot on my ‘Ones to Watch’ article, I was deeply excited to finally see Post Malone live. He certainly lived up to expectations. With hope, we’ll be seeing him embark on his first UK and European tour very soon.
Maggie Rogers – BBC Radio 1 Stage
Maggie Rogers was probably the best performer I saw over the weekend. Despite Rogers set clashing with the gargantuan Post Malone, the small crowd she managed to attract was thoroughly amazed at her high energy, insightful comments, and incredible musicianship.
Although the odds looked to be stacked against her with a power cut half way through her set, plunging the tent into darkness and complete silence, Rogers remained on track performing her newest single, Fallingwater. She followed this with an unreleased track, before ending with her most popular piece, Alaska.
She thoroughly impressed me as, like Norwegian artist Sigrid, Rogers dressed comfortably for the stage and did not rely on aesthetic outfits, strutting around the stage to spark some hormones in the teens watching. By simply relying on her incredible talent it made her performance more memorable as she continued to press on, even without power.
The Front Bottoms – BBC Radio 1 Stage
As a folk band from New Jersey, I expected The Front Bottoms to have a relatively small following in the North of England. However, the band were able to reap a relatively large crowd. Instead of relying on a predetermined set, the band turned to the audience and asked what we wanted to hear, with vocalist Brian Sella noting that “you don’t see many bands here taking requests.”
The ability to perform any number from your vast discography (six LPs and seven EPs!) is an incredible achievement, and The Front Bottoms pulled it off without a hitch, performing career highlights such as Twin Sized Mattress, Maps, Tie Dye Dragon, and Grand Finale. With Grand Finale, Sella admitted that he “usually gets this one wrong”, but with the help of a decent crowd bopping and shouting the lyrics back, the band managed to power through.
A short-but-sweet set, The Front Bottoms embodied the heart of a music festival – the feeling that this band flew nearly 3500 miles to play in a muddy field in the North of England on a rainy day to connect with their fans, was deeply inspiring and moving. Unfortunately, we were unable to see their entire set due to the sheer number of performances on that day, but hats off to The Front Bottoms for, what I am sure, was a fantastic performance in Leeds.
Fall Out Boy – Mainstage
Picture this. You are 14 and on your way to your first real gig at a stadium. Just you and your friends, young and innocent, off to see your favourite band – Fall Out Boy. Everything goes smoothly, your favourite songs are performed, and the band interacts with the crowd. They do not rely on flashy backgrounds to keep the attention of the masses, but instead simply deliver a fantastic show… That was my first experience with Fall Out Boy and attending gigs in general. You can, therefore, imagine my excitement when I heard that Fall Out Boy would be headlining my first festival… right?
We rocked up to the stage early in order to get a great spot and waited. We listened to people all around us describe their excitement, but also their concerns over the fact that “Fall Out Boy have headlined nearly two years in a row!” However, Fall Out Boy came onto the stage to immense applause and cheers. All doubts seemed to disappear as the band opened the set, and it was quickly evident that they had not lost their musical talent over their long careers. The night started on a real high.
Unfortunately, as the set went on, it became apparent to me that Fall Out Boy seemed, dare I say, bored. Comparing them to acts earlier in the day in terms of showmanship, Fall Out Boy seemed disconnected. No member appeared to smile. Joe Trohman, the lead guitarist, appeared to just stare at his fretboard for most of his performances, standing still and just waiting for his next cue. Pete Wentz was much of the same. His static performance, broken by the occasional walk across the stage and blast from his flame-throwing bass, was the best the band had to offer. Wentz is usually electric and thrives on energy during Fall Out Boy performances, even coining the iconic ‘Pete Wentz Spin’. However, there was no dance moves to be seen on the Leeds stage.
To give the band (and their team credit) the stages decoration were truly memorable. Covered in LED screens that displayed different environments for each song, the images that ranged from mountains to forest skylines really built each song. However, during Immortals, the screen began playing scenes from Disney’s Big Hero Six. This, of course, comes as a result of the song being written for that film, but the abrupt change certainly read as a promotion for the 2014 film to those around us in the crowd.
Fall Out Boy were by no means bad, they just seemed as though they lacked energy. Perhaps this was due to their headline show at Reading the night before, but it just seemed, as I said before, the band were bored. With little-to-no interaction with the crowd, apart from Pete Wentz talking to the sky whilst the rest of the band returned, it seemed as though there was a wall between the stage and the audience.
Perhaps it’s time for another hiatus.
Saturday at Leeds was an entirely impressive day. Each stage oozed with talent that, despite a few technical hiccups, made it stand out as the best day of the festival. We ran from stage to stage with no breaks in-between to catch some of our favourite bands. Unfortunately, this meant that we couldn’t catch entire sets. Here are some special mentions for bands and artists that performed exceptionally well.
One of the biggest draws to Reading & Leeds fest are school leavers. The 16-18-year-olds seem to pump their body with substances and generally go wild. However, there was a lot of things I expected to see at Leeds – but a young boy jumping over a barrier and storming Travis Scott’s headlining stage was not one of them.
Demanding the mic from Scott, the boy attempted to hype up the crowd on Scott’s behalf. What transpired was a hilariously cringy event that I’ll never forget. Hats off to Scott for rolling with the intrusion and making the best of the bad situation. He had the crowd moving entirely with hits from his latest album, Astroworld.
Nothing But Thieves
Indie rockers Nothing But Thieves took me by surprise. I had never seen them live before, but I wasn’t feeling optimistic that frontman Conor Mason would be able to replicate his impressive range on songs such as Amsterdam, Sorry, and Particles.
The band performed exceptionally well, I was almost convinced they must be lip-syncing. Of course, they weren’t but we did learn that they are just that talented.
Having seen Wolf Alice recently, I was excited to be able to really experience their sound in an intimate environment.
At Leeds, their stadium blitzkrieg rock dominated the environment. They had everyone swaying and moving along whilst performing hits such as Don’t Delete the Kisses certainly which certainly won over the fans.
DON BROCO have had an exceptional year – shortly before the release of their third studio album TECHNOLOGY, the band managed to sell out the Alexandra Palace where a few members of WaveByte managed to get the true Don Broco experience.
After queuing for an hour to meet the band, only to have drummer Matt Donnelly laugh at George’s outfit (don’t worry, it was really silly) and to be turned away at the last minute so the band could go perform, Don Broco still had me beaming during their set.
For the first time in my life, I was that guy who opened the pit and ran around it to shape it. That was exciting. It was a fantastic set before embarking on a European tour. DON BROCO really had their Priorities straight.
Will Wilkins, George Knight, and Jess Daubney