To say that the lineup for this year’s edition of Reading & Leeds Festival is divisive would be an understatement. The festival’s sudden shift away from its typical guitar-loving image towards a far more forward-looking (and varied) festival bill almost ignited a Twitter war as the organisers defended their decision to give artists such as Post Malone, Travis Scott and (of all people) Lil Pump pride of place on that shiny poster. But look beyond the Soundcloud rappers and Capital Radio mainstays, and there is a real treasure trove of live musical goodness to be uncovered. The Saturday-headlining Kendrick Lamar is obviously a must-see, but beyond the big names dominating the conversation, these six acts are well worth placing high on your radar.
Ok, I’ll include at least one big name here, because indie darlings (and Edge favourites) Wolf Alice just haven’t seen as much of the conversation surrounding Reading 2018 as they really should have done. Almost a year on from their exceptional sophomore album Visions of a Life – which was our third favourite album of last year – Ellie Roswell & crew will be sure to set the festival crowds alight with hits such as ‘Freazy’, ‘Space & Time’, and of course the truly beautiful ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’. Reading & Leeds veterans to the core, the band have played at the 2017 and 2015 editions of the festival, and have proven they can bring incredible stage presence to any venue, from a local pie shop to the O2 Guildhall. Rest assured, Wolf Alice will be looking to bring a ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ set to delight longtime fans and new listeners alike this late summer bank holiday weekend.
Catch them on the BBC Radio 1 Stage, Friday 24th August.
For fans of: alt-J, The 1975, Tame Impala, Catfish & The Bottlemen.
Top 5 tracks: ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, ‘Freazy’, ‘Beautifully Unconventional’, ‘Space & Time’, ‘Bros’.
It’s hard for words to describe quite how phenomenal BROCKHAMPTON are. Not a rap collective in the truest sense of the term – the group have self-styled themselves as a boy-band, and “America’s favourite” one at that – the 15-or-so-man ensemble have ambitions to eventually produce and release high-quality music beyond their own in years to come. For now though, we have their ballsy (but ultimately exceptionally successful) plan to saturate the market with their outstanding SATURATION trilogy of albums from 2017 (all of which we gave five stars), as well as the handful of singles the group have dropped in the run-up to their as-yet untitled follow-up to the SATURARION trilogy, to go off leading into Reading 2018. That’s not a bad tracklist of songs to pull from, so expect high energy, tangible charisma, and quite possibly the most bonkers but incredible set of the entire weekend to enthrall festival-goers when this lot take to their stage, especially if their “Love Your Parents” tour and Coachella 2018 appearance are anything to go by. Reading has proven it can be incredibly forward-thinking by booking this exciting hip-hop ensemble who keep on pushing boundaries; now it’s time for the “best boy-band since One Direction” to prove to the crowds that they are all that.
Catch them on the BBC Radio 1 Stage, Saturday 25th August.
For fans of: Vince Staples, Run The Jewels, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar.
Top 5 tracks: ‘BOOGIE’, ‘SWEET’, ‘BLEACH’, ‘GOLD’, ‘1999 WILDFIRE’.
Rex Orange County
Rex Orange County – the solo project of Surrey 20-year-old Alex O’Connor – is really a little bit of everything. Started in his teens as a side-project after school as an extra to the bit-part he was playing as a drummer in numerous bands, O’Connor soon realised that he “wasn’t that into drums,” picked up a keyboard and a microphone, and spawned the genre-crossing act we know and love today. Part jazz freestyler, part singer-songwriter, part soft-rock popstar, Rex Orange County soaks his swinging melodies in sun-kissed refrains about love, and daydreamy choruses that don’t really care about much other than lying down on the beach with a piña colada in hand. In 2017, his debut studio album Apricot Princess broke boundaries by simply refusing to confine to them, with the artist skipping about from alternative rock to Latin-inspired instrumentals and back again within the same song, before taking a detour down to jazz, swing, and accoustic balladry. The point is, this guy refuses to be pinned down, in part because he excels at whatever genre he tries his hands at, and in part because – in his words – “Why take it so seriously when anyone in the fucking world can make music?” It’s captivating, it’s exciting, and it’s sure to have a whole new wave of fans enamoring after him following his set on Saturday evening this year.
Catch him on the BBC Radio 1 Stage, Saturday 25th August.
For fans of: Cuco, Kali Uchis, Declan McKenna, Cosmo Pyke.
Top 5 tracks: ‘Loving Is Easy’, ‘Best Friend’, ‘Sunflower’, ‘Never Enough’, ‘Apricot Princess’.
The Magic Gang
I’ve made no secret of my love for The Magic Gang here at The Edge over the last year and a half. Since bounding onto our radio stations in early 2017 with the terrific ‘How Can I Compete‘, the soft-rock four-piece have kept dropping tracks at our feet as pleasantly as the waves of their native Brighton’s beachfront. The kings of ’60s and ’70s nostalgia, the gang have taken the pleasant, pop-friendly rock of The Beatles, Fleetwod Mac, and The Kinks, and transformed it with a 2018 rock sheen to produce some of the most exciting and affecting indie rock music of the last decade. Their debut album landed them a barrage of five-star reviews – including from us here at The Edge – so they’ll be looking to take such hits as ‘Getting Along‘, ‘Your Love’, and ‘Alright’ into the festival fields to enthuse the fans who are looking for a little bit of soft-rock before Kendrick Lamar brings the fire across the arena shortly after their set closes. But they’ll be able to hold their own as well; the gang have a terrific stage presence – their love for their craft and their songs truly making itself felt in the hearts of everyone watching, their charisma positively dripping from the stage. It may be long overdue, but these guys are finally catching the limelight, and it’s incredibly exciting to look forward to how electric their set will be.
Catch them on the Festival Republic Stage, Saturday 25th August.
For fans of: Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Circa Waves, Two Door Cinema Club.
Top 5 tracks: ‘Getting Along’, ‘How Can I Compete’, ‘Your Love’, ‘Alright’, ‘Caroline’.
Still wanting your hard-rock fix from a festival that seems to have all but sidelined it? Then absolutely check out Canada’s finest in Billy Talent. After headlining the Pit Stage in last year’s festival, the punk rock veterans (yes, they’re a band, not a solo artist) have graduated to the Main Stage this year to warm up for The Vaccines and Sunday headliners Kings Of Leon. It’s a tall order, but one that’s not beyond them; although they’ve struggled to truly break the charts here in the UK (their most recent effort, Afraid of Heights, was also their highest-charting at #23), across the pond in their native Canada, they’ve notched four straight #1’s on the bounce in a run that stretches back to their 2006 sophomore album Billy Talent II. With such a wealth of hard rock experience under their belts, you’d expect them to have a terrific stage presence – and they do: their 2016 gig in the O2 Guildhall positively brought the roof down, and they’ve even impressed UK heavyweights Royal Blood to such a degree that Royal Blood drummer Ben Thatcher leaped at the opportunity to fill in for a couple of songs on the London leg of the same tour. True, they’re relatively unheard-of here in the UK, but that just makes them a hidden gem well worth discovering for those who like their guitars raucous and drums heavy this late summer bank holiday weekend.
Catch them on the Main Stage, Sunday 26th August.
For fans of: Royal Blood, The Amazons, Deaf Havana, Queens of the Stone Age.
Top 5 tracks: ‘Viking Death March’, ‘Red Flag’, ‘Fallen Leaves’, ‘Rusted From The Rain’, ‘The Crutch’.
Finally, where would we be in a UK festival run-down without a little grime? Nadia Rose may not be quite as well-known as her BRIT Award-winning cousin Stormzy, but her bars are just as lethal and her flow just as slick. Although she has proven herself talented at making many forms of music, it’s through her hip-hop that Rose has garnered most praise, and for good reason: her endless energy and tangible desire to spit some fire truly make her a force to be reckoned with. She’s suited to almost any kind of stage as well; from last year’s Common People to the madness of The Great Escape and the extravaganza that is Glastonbury, Rose can take any audience and have them cheering along to ‘Skwod’ or ‘Tight Up’ within minutes. Make no mistake: Nadia Rose is a lethal MC who deserves your attention as you head into Reading’s Sunday afternoon.
Catch her on the BBC Radio 1XTRA Stage, Sunday 26th August.
For fans of: Stefflon Don, RAYE, Stormzy, Ray BLK.
Top 5 tracks: ‘Skwod’, ‘Tight Up’, ‘Big Woman’, ‘Boom’, ‘Wat Up’.
Tickets for the weekend are still available for Reading Festival during the August bank holiday weekend here.