An Ayr Rise Festival 2018 Review…

words fae liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

It’s not often mentioned but the state of music festivals in Scotland is rather depressing. Sure, TRNSMT is doing awfully gid for something that just began last year but when you look at some of the countries heavy hitters, you’ll come to the startling realisation that the days of Rockness and Wickerman Festival are far behind us with most being sadly cancelled. Hell, even TRNSMT itself is the continuation of an annual festival that sadly dipped in quality before reaching its anti-climatic end.

That being said, we’re beginning to see a rise (no pun intended) in smaller festivals that relish in giving smaller acts a chance to show off and bring their sound to an audience that may have previously passed them by. It makes total sense considering that the likes of Tenement Trail use established venues in order to host the acts, meaning the razzle-dazzle of your usual festival is left to the wayside in order for the music to be the real selling point and with tons on offer, and plenty to drink, it’s an ideal situation.

Ayr Rise definitely seems keen on bringing this to an area that, while rife with talent, often doesn’t generate a blip on the musical radar due to its location. Taking place in local nightclub Furys, a venue which is often the go-to for local gigs, it was an event that was not only important for those involved but one that would ultimately serve as a determining factor for whether or not something of this magnitude could work.

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Things were off to a promising start with Molly Eliza taking to the stage. While she may have been filling in the slot left vacant by Atlas Run, it ultimately gave Ayr Rise some variety which benefited it greatly: she may reference the likes of Nina Nesbitt as an influence but you wouldn’t be mistaken for noticing hints of Sophie Allison or even a vocal resemblance to pop heavy hitter Lorde. Her music wasn’t only just pleasant to listen to but also offered some interesting insight lyrically, meaning she could end up joining the ranks of Young Fathers in politically aware Scottish music. Some songs may have been screaming for some backup, specifically some drums, but the minimal performance from Molly left a good taste in the mouth – keep this one on your radar.

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Keeping the momentum going were Ayr-based rock outfit Anna Conda and right off the bat, we were hit with remnants of what could easily be mistaken as demos from the fictional Scott Pilgrim band Sex Bob Omb (a high bit of praise fae us). As the act continued on, the band’s influences became increasingly obvious (someone or all involved in the act definitely has a soft spot for The White Stripes as shown by their Fell In Love With A Girl cover) but it by no means detracted from the enjoyment Anna Conda provided: infectious harmonies rolling over some octane performing culminated in what was easily a hugely entertaining set from the boys who we’re sure we’ll see more of in the future.

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A band still very much in their infancy, only emerging at the tail end of 2017, Honours. were up next. In terms of stage presence, it was a little lacking (which may be totally down to either nerves or the sheer variety of chords that they’ve bolstered in promotion) but there was definite moments that showed they’ve got the foundations laid to make some really interesting alt-rock.

27545489_381304295674464_7592854196806952831_n.jpgThere would be no prizes for guessing what acts have paved the way for the sound ZANG are going for but oh lordy, did they put on a show. Frontman Bunny Wood channelled that rock and roll frontman attitude both in his vocals, that were reminiscent of another funky, bluesy rock and roller Robert Plant, and the mannerisms he showed off on stage. The argument could be made that the band weren’t quite as varied as we would have liked them to be but for what they’re going for, and for how they managed to keep our attention, ZANG did exactly what they needed to do and then some.

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Positioning themselves as an alt-rock riff machine, Zola didn’t disappoint with a rip-roaring good rock time. While the audience at Rise were rather timid (myself included), this didn’t stop the band from interacting with the crowd and trying to get everyone right into the gigging spirit. There were a fair few moments where I found myself reminded of Queens of the Stone Age, a comparison I may throw around a bit frequently but the layered performances and the synergy between and the vocals means I feel justified in that bit of acclaim. Showing off their latest single to finish things off, Zola are certainly going places and we’re looking forward to seeing how they evolve.

21949833_822681854604537_7924578189341822206_o.jpgOur last act of the night (family ting), The Mawb are an act we’ve discussed a fair bit over the past year and a bit but for good reasons. Front-man Ewan McCulloch was the head honcho of tonight’s operation so the fact he had the energy to balance both organisation and performing all on the same day has to be commended. On the related note of said performance, The Mawb were the best they have been yet and hit me with that familiar feeling of pride, not only for the fact they’re an Ayrshire based act doing it proud but for constantly shifting their sound.

Everyone in the act was on phenomenal form, Callum McIlwaine being the devilish chap on guitar we’re all used to and incorporated a wireless device so he could prance about the club while playing, picking up a pint in the process. The aforementioned Ewan continues to impress with those pipes of his and bassist Harry Mawb still radiates that effortlessly cool as a cucumber attitude about him without breaking a sweat. Drummer Paul Nally seems to have totally come out of his shell at this point and it definitely added it all, his commentary during the break between each track adding a certain charm to it and by the closing track, he was clobbering away at his set with the energy of a man who had just went through a botched exorcism. To put it simply, it was a bloody great end to our night.

So Ayr Rise was an overall success, showing that a local festival can definitely work when the right management and acts are brought in. If there’s any feedback we could give, it would be that next year’s event (which we hope is on the cards) tries to shake up the genres on offer: every festival has their strong point but we’d love to see some more bands that don’t fit into the alt-rock mould. From an optimistic perspective, money permitting, it would be exciting to see Ayr Rise branch out amongst some other venues in the town: West of the Moon may no longer be with us but places such as Soundmagic would serve as a nice alternative stage and Big Sparra Vinyl potentially acting as an acoustic one for some stripped back sessions. Of course, this is pure speculation but Ayr Rise, much like the acts playing it, is brimming with potential and we’re crossing our fingers that we get to see it return in 2019 and beyond.

Slammin’ Beers: A Slam Dunk Review

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Prologue

One of the finest pleasures of the late May Bank Holiday weekend is the fact you get a three-day weekend, but better yet, there’s bound to be some tasty musical action at Slam Dunk Festival, one of the UK’s finest touring pop punk/metal/rock festivals. Every year the festival offers great variety, with the bands and headliners presenting something for everyone, with a few upsetting clashes along the way. Plus, at under £50 for the ticket, it’s a great way to discover some brand new favourites as well. 

Also, it’s a brilliant excuse to get on the beer.  Six cans deep and thirsty for more, I decided to fully immerse myself into the day’s action, offering gonzo journalism from the pit. A metal Hunter S Thompson if you will. Whilst I can’t confirm that the Doctor didn’t enjoy opening this place up, I doubt he’s ever been headbutted during Bury Tomorrow and couldn’t stop sneezing. 

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Crossfaith

Kicking off the day’s personal schedule were Japanese electrometal enthusiasts Crossfaith, whose brand of full-frontal metal mixed with some heavy synth produces a sound akin to the Prodigy having angry sex with a wasps nest. Despite being on at half 2 in the afternoon and only the second band on, they nearly managed to fill out the entirety of the Genting Arena‘s floor, which is, give or take, about 8,000 people, and will host the likes of fellow metal heads Take That and Little Mix in the coming week. Mega. 

But it’s not hard to see why Crossfaith pulled in such a big crowd so early. The energy carried by their band was enough to send the arena into a mosh-heavy, fist-pumping frenzy during their six-song set, featuring an appearance from Beartooth‘s Caleb Shomo for an adrenaline laced performance of Ghost in the Mirror. One of their party pieces is a full-blown cover of Omen by the Prodigy, which does the original justice, but adds a smidgen more of ruthless aggression. Setting the bar high for the day’s action, Crossfaith were the perfect hors d’ouvere on the Slam Dunk menu. 

Rating – 7/10

Beers consumed – 1 pint Amstel (7 total)

Black Foxxes

Appearing in the middle of the Genting‘s food court on the Key Master stage, young and hungry Exter rockers Black Foxxes were one of the top dishes available in the food court. Perfectly enjoyed with a slice of overpriced pizza and a bottle of warm Heineken despite asking for a cold bottle, Black Foxxes banged out some proper, good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

Their debut album, I’m Not Well came out towards the latter half of last year, with songs like Husk, Wilder People and River steadily impressing everyone passing through the food court at that point. In retrospect it’s a fucking great idea to stick up and comers in the middle of a food court , because you’ll reach a wider audience. Great bunch of lads playing great rock ‘n’ roll with a shite slice of pizza. Lovely. 

Rating – 8/10

Beers Consumed – 1 bottle of lukewarm Heineken, 1 pint of Amstel (8 total)

Bury Tomorrow

Yes, yes, oh yay! At this point I was actually a bit pissed, which made the fact I was going to see Bury Tomorrow, a band I’d actually discovered at the same festival some two years back and met frontman Dan Winter-Bates whilst cuddling a two-pinter even more exciting than usual. There’s a theme developing here, isn’t there. 

Unfortunately the start of Bury Tomorrow‘s set was delayed by technical issues, something that would plague the Jagermeister Stage for the rest of the day. However, what was short was undoubtedly sweet as the set began with the scintillating Man on Fire, turning the floor of the Genting into a frenzy as pits opened up quicker than Maggie Thatcher could close them. Somewhere in between Lionheart and Sceptres I’d acquired an Obey snapback, something which oddly suited me and would stay on my head from that point onwards. Interesting side note, none of the bands I like make snapbacks, rendering this discovery void. 

During the final song Cemetery, I took damage in a moshpit, getting headbutted in the nose, causing me to sneeze uncontrollably, which meant I was unable to hear that their set was only going to be as long as that. Whilst technical glitches scuppered their set, they certainly made up for it in power and delivery. 

Rating – 6/10 (based on injury and technical glitches)

Beers Consumed – 1 Amstel (9 total)

Beartooth

No time to spare as Bury Tomorrow would be directly followed by their metal counterparts Beartooth. Well, there was time for a wee and another beer, so that bit’s a lie. 

The main offering of today’s action was always going to be Enter Shikari‘s tenth birthday party for Take to the Skies, but Beartooth‘s lightning set would mean that the Shikari boys would have to go some to beat this performance. On fire from start to finish, the Columbus crowd pleasers got a nearly full arena bouncing, jumping and moshing to their sound.  

Returning the favour that Caleb Shlom payed earlier, Crossfaith frontman Kenta Koie came out for a louder-than-hell duet on Body Bag, with a mix of old tracks such as In Between from debut album Disgusting rubbing shoulders with songs from 2016’s sophomore album Aggressive (which is only £9.99 on vinyl in HMV, get on it lads), getting a hungry Birmingham crowd hyped up. The set was jam packed with action, energy and passion, producing one of the standout performances of the day, and would definitely require a huge effort from other bands to beat that whirlwind performance. 

Rating – 8/10

Beers Consumed – 2 Amstel (11 total)

I Prevail 

Fucks sake. We didn’t get to the poorly placed Impericon Stage in time and we can’t even see the bastard thing. It’s like hidden behind some bushes, how bloody stupid. Pretty sure they were great anyway. Might as well have a pint and watch the FA Cup Final. Saw some of Citizen as well, they were good, if not my bag. Also saw some of Waterparks as well. Ended up doing an impression of the front man and sounded like a stereotypical American teenager. Like, oh my god Kelly. 

Rating – ???

Beers Consumed – 2 Amstel (13 total)

Don Broco

Christ Jesus I can’t stand Don Broco. I’ve got no idea where they fall into the musical spectrum but they sound and look like someone fed a Topman catalogue after midnight. They opened with Everybody which is a pretty enjoyable track mind you, but at the point it ended I descended into a fiftieth circle of musical hell which I am going to dub Fuckboicore, because why not? 

It’s easy to understand why people like Broco, because it’s something a bit heavier but not too heavy, but they’re wearing short sleeve shirts from Topman so they’re just okay, I guess? Frontman looks like a young Jeremy Clarkson, and I struggle to comprehend why anybody under the age of 50 tucks a t shirt in. My dad does that and I wouldn’t want to see him front Don Broco either. To be honest I got distracted trying to get my booze-laden pal to calm himself down, which was a comical interlude as we all ended up wrestling. Whole reason I was there to get into pole position for Shikari so I’m really not the guy to ask about it. 

Rating – 5/10

Beers Consumed – 1 Water, 1 Amstel (14 total)

Enter Shikari

LADIEEEEEES AND GENTLEMEN, SHOW YOUR YOUR APPRECIATION FOR ENTER SHIKARI!

Being honest the rest of this review is just slightly comical preamble to the main event. No more beer, no more comedy, it’s time for Enter Shikari to host the latest leg of the Take to the Skies anniversary tour. 

The atmosphere was tangiable and the excitement could be bottled and sold as a performance enhancing drug as the lights went out at the intro to Stand Your Ground/Enter Shikari hit, with the crowd going into a frenzy during, with the excitement carrying straight over into Mothership. At some point I lost my found snapback, but there was no room for passengers aboard the mothership. The excitement and ecstasy carried over into Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour, and it did, as Labyrinth followed directly after. This is brilliant, the production values were amazing if not a few technical niggles, and the passion interweaved in these old songs was incredible, but there was just as much love for the new classics as The Last Garrison, Anaesthetist and Redshift all made an appearance with The Appeal and the Mindsweep II bringing the set to an aggressive end. 

What a joy it was to see tracks like No Sssssweat, Jonny Sniper and Adieu, especially, performed live, with the crowd reaction showing that Take to the Skies still has the same impact and effect it did ten years ago, except this time, Shikari are now deservedly an arena filling band. However, whether they should be playing arenas is up for debate, as the sheer power of their sound, their message and their fans has caused severe structural damage in every venue they’ve played. That damn good. 

With a tribute to the people of Manchester weaved in, there was an emotional sing along to a cover of Oasis’ Half the World Away before the beginning of Adieu. 

In between songs, frontman Rou Reynolds made us all aware that June 8th is our opportunity to get rid of Theresa May once and for all, but if you’re a Shikari fan, and you’re not politically engaged, you’ve gotta get on the trolley. It’s music with a message, stupid!

All in all, I’ve been to lots of gigs in my time, ranging from small-time gigs where there’s more band members than fans, to blockbuster gigs from some of the biggest and best, but I’ve rarely seen a 10/10, to the point they barely take up one hand. But this, my dear reader, with the passion, the sweat, the love and the energy, makes this 10th birthday party one of the best gigs, and 10th birthday parties I’ve ever been to. 

Rating – 10/10

BEER TOTAL – 14 beers and I felt good enough to drive! But I didn’t. We got a taxi. OH and I had a few cans when I got in.  

FINAL OPINION

SURPRISE PACKAGE – Black Foxxes, rock and fucking roll!

BEST BAND – Shikari, no doubt about it. 

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT – Finding out that snapbacks suit your man. Swag, motherfuckers! 


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TRNSMT Just Announced Their Lineup And The Internet Is Happy

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

 

In stark contrast to the sub-par reception to the Reading and Leeds announcement, the reveal of the very first TRNSMT festival line-up has been received with sheer positivity. With the festival being hyped up as a replacement to T In The Park, more on that later, TRNSMT have one-upped the long lasting Scottish festival with three stellar headliners.

T In The Park’s organisers confirmed in November that the festival would be ‘taking a break’ in 2017 after a series of problems in recent years on site at Strathallan Castle and while TRNSMT is set to fill in the gap, DF Concerts boss Geoff Ellis insisted that TRNSMT should not be viewed as a “replacement” for T. Ellis hopes that eventually TRNSMT could exist side by side with T and make Scotland a real festival force and with the acts announced for the 7th-9th July, there’s a real chance of that happening.

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Friday will be fronted by musical pioneers Radiohead who have long been rumoured to be making an appearance and will not only be doing so but bringing along homegrown critical gems Belle and Sebastian in addition to London Grammar (meh) and Rag N’ Bone Man, packing in more diversity in just one day than R+L managed over two. The following day will see Kasabian, previously announced as a UK festival exclusive for R+L, lead Saturday night’s events with a whole host of acts such as Catfish & The Bottlemen and Circa Waves serving that niche indie rock/mod crowd that T In The Park slowly but surely started to pander to in its final years.

It wouldn’t be a proper Scottish festival without a native headliner and who else but Biffy Clyro would be chosen to take on the challenge having played out a stunning show at Bellahouston Park last summer. Not only that but The 1975 and Twin Atlantic will be preceding the bearded rockers, making sure that festival goers will be getting more bang for their buck considering many would pay upwards of £30 to see each act separately.

Not only will there be heavy-hitters but Glasgow will be staying true to its roots by displaying up and coming acts. “Something that we’re going to be doing at TRNSMT as well is the King Tut’s stage, which is going to be an emerging artists’ stage. To me that’s important because the King Tut’s venue has played an important role in the music scene in Glasgow and in Scotland,” Ellis said.

The reactions have been enthusiastic to say the least, as shown by twitter users here:

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With many seeing TRNSMT as a must go festival along with Parklife, Glasgow could be well on its way to cementing itself as not only a haven for gigs but festivals as well.


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Reading And Leeds Just Announced Their Lineup and the Internet Isn’t Happy

Could one of the largest UK festivals face the same fate as T after another lukewarm announcement?

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

2016 is all but a distant memory for most, in no small part due to how much of a hellish year it was, though it was thankfully redeemed by the quality music that was on display. Unfortunately, though, that didn’t mean that music was impenetrable, shown by the surprise but long-rumored cancellation of T In The Park as well as the threat of closure for various small music venues across the nationHowever, 2017 has already got off to a great start with a great batch of albums dropping (see RTJ3 & I See You for example) in addition to a replacement to the aforementioned T In The Park titled TRNSMT (pronounced transmit).

It was only a matter of time until one of the most attended festivals in the UK was to make their second lineup announcement and as Reading & Leeds took to the stage, they tripped on the first step and face planted immediately.

Oh my. Before we get into the aspect of this line-up that has caused a great ruckus on social media, let’s take a glance at what a £200 ticket is gonna get you. The newly added headliner is the result of Danny Dyer and Peep Show’s Super Hans forming a band: Kasabian. While having a few good albums under their belt, Kasabian are very much like the already announced Muse which may have many attendees bored of white man fronted rock music by the end of the weekend. In addition to Kasabian, R+L also revealed various acts who will be performing including Wiley (yay!), Jimmy Eat World (woo!) and…Rat Boy….(yay?).

As you can expect from the above tweet, many were left unimpressed by the second announcement with many claiming that a lack of diversity, both gender, and genre-wise, being the key reason that they wouldn’t pick up a ticket despite the final line up not being revealed till spring.

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However, the below tweet definitely caught my attention due to not only how laughably ignorant it was but how much of a perfect representation it is of the vast majority of NME readers.

Yep, it’s time to get into everyone’s favourite subject, diversity or the lack thereof. Out of the 58 musicians (that’s individuals, not 58 different acts) that will be taking part, only one is female. In addition to that, the one female artist is in a band alongside two other men, continuing the trend of a total lack of female performers at music festivals.This isn’t a brand new issue by any means as shown by the 2015 final line-up which, when stripped of all its male acts, looked a little something like this:

Oh, and the statement that “80% of women musicians are absolutely pants” couldn’t be further from the truth: St Vincent, Courtney Barnett, Grimes, SOAK, Lana Del Rey, Angel Olsen, HAIM, Fake Boyfriend and Carley Rae Jepsen are just some of the few acts that are solely female in addition to bands like The XX, CHVRCHES, Wolf Alice, Crystal Castles, Alabama Shakes, Sleigh Bells and Yeah Yeah Yeahs who are either female lead or at least feature one. If you have a look at these acts as well, nearly all are either rock orientated or have previously played the festival before so the excuse that female musicians are usually pop singers is ridiculous.

The issue of this diversity isn’t a case of having token female acts, it’s the issue of ignoring, whether intentional or not, the fact there are various talented acts who would be much better suited to the festival to someone like Bastille. Many will debate for hours, even days, about whether this decision is fueled by misogyny and ignorance which I won’t get into since, really, it’s not my place and I’d rather not be burned at the stake regardless of what I say. It’s a topic that is far more complex than a blog post is capable of tackling but what is clear to see is that the lack of diversity is not only bad for the festival, who will turn off potential attendees with a lineup full of average male bands, but also for their listeners who will be subjected to it.

So, for the love of god Reading + Leeds, get your finger out your fictional arse and make the final line-up something that will make me regret ever saying such slanderous things about you. As it stands, though, I’d rather drown in a mud-drenched tent than fork out a single penny for this festival.


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Thoughts On: UK Festivals 2016

Could a lack of variety result in 2016 being the weakest year for UK music festivals?

It’s that time of the year again. The time where myself and hundreds of thousands of music fans pay close attention to multiple music festival’s twitter feeds to see who will be playing this summer. There’s nothing that can really compare to it; the rumoured line ups, everyone throwing in who they think deserves to be headlining and wading through half an hour of Radio 1 to hear the host reveal a handful of new acts: for music fans, this is essentially Christmas.

However, this year seems to have provoked a different reaction than usual and worryingly enough it seems to have happened in a year that has already been plagued by some worrying news regarding live music. We’re only three months into 2016 and there’s already been word about small venues in the UK being under threat which is a major concern to anyone with an interest in music. Now, not only do we have that to take into consideration but we now have our biggest music festivals in the UK facing a bit of a crisis.

This crisis is highly subjective and comes in two parts, the first being the state of festival sites. Unfortunately to address this I’ll have to take shots at the very first festival I attended and that is T In The Park. The state of T in 2015 shocked me at first as the move to Strathallan Castle came with it an amazing new setting and potential to further enhance certain elements of the festival, allowing the organisers to breathe some new life into it.

However, multiple outlets reported that this wasn’t the case and I found this out personally. Friends of mine who have been attending the festival for years complained about the security or the lack thereof with multiple people reporting the high number of violent incidents occurring at last year’s event. Before you point out the obvious, yes, I know violence at a music festival isn’t anything unusual since you’re bound to get that with the drugs and alcohol going about but when people are having to leave a festival due to the fear of their own safety then something has to be done.

While the quality of T In The Park’s site may be oddly specific to that festival alone and organisers have since said they have addressed this for 2016, the quality of the lineups this year are something that, while not worth having a breakdown over, are worth criticising. To do this, we’ll focus on three of the biggest UK festivals as in previous years they have displayed their ability to be diverse and satisfying. We’ll start with Glastonbury who have announced two headliners so far and the moment I saw both, I had to let out a sigh: Muse and Coldplay.

While I’m always the first to jump in defence of Coldplay for being the music world’s punchline, is this what we really want from Glastonbury; two bands that hit their peak around a decade ago? The rumours of Adele being the final headliner has me even more concerned as anyone who has ever looked at a Glasto lineup knows they usually stand out as being different and, dare I say it, controversial. Kanye, love him or hate him, resulted in a massive debate about hip hop at festivals and was the most talked about festival performance of last year without a doubt. Even before then there was Metallica the previous year who were their first metal headliner : do we really want to see a festival known for pushing itself out of its comfort zone go with the 3 of the safest choices imaginable?

Festivals

In addition to that, the number of female acts at some of these UK festivals is laughable. I’m not going to go into some huge rambling, feminist-esque rant about the patriarchy being behind it all or that it is sexist but just look at the T In The Park lineup: the original announcement contained 4 acts out of 41 that feature a woman in it. 4. You can count all of those acts on one hand.

“It’s not that deep” some people have tweeted and for the most part, they’re probably right. The fact there’s so few female acts on the lineup isn’t down to choice but most likely ignorance as there’s so many to choose from that I’m astounded that the number is so little: Grimes, Courtney Barnett, Halsey, Lana Del Rey, Wolf Alice, Little Mix (I didn’t say they were all going to be good) came into my head within just a few seconds of thinking. If a nineteen year old with a blog can name more female acts in that space of time than there is on a festival lineup then something is seriously wrong.

Let’s end on a bit of a positive note and have a look at the Reading and Leeds lineup which, while it’s not perfect, is a tremendous improvement of what else is on offer. Not only is there more female acts on the Friday than there is on the entire T lineup alone but we seem to have a better representation of music nowadays as well as the past. Boy Better Know  are waving the flag for grime which was rudely missed out at the Brits while we get Red Hot Chili Peppers displaying the rock music many will have grown up with. Meanwhile, Biffy Clyro and Foals will be displaying the state of rock music nowadays which, if you’ve been paying attention, is face melting, juggernaut sized anthems that will have everyone in attendance going absolutely awol.

Not to mention Two Door Cinema Club making a return and my personal highlight of Modern Baseball, Basement and State Champs kick starting the Sunday, Reading + Leeds seems to be getting a lot of undeserved flack when really, once you’ve looked past a few of bland acts like The Courteeners and Imagine Dragons, it’s the best the UK is offering this year. A festival that, regardless if you despise it or love it, is showing a great range of acts that will be sure to result in a great weekend.

A step in the right direction.

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