The first time I went to Reading, I grotesquely watched my mate shit in a porridge pot, get playfully molested by a group of happy Welshman and suffer beaten limbs because of strangers trampling on his tent; never bring a coffin tent to a festival… especially not to Reading. Oddly enough, this is exactly the reason we decided to go the following year, and provoked us to visit the haven of adolescent idiocy for a third time too.
As one of the rarest weekends on the British calendar, it is inevitable that the press will continue to strike fear into the heart of mum’s net, and insight a storm of fake news, to put a bad light on the post exam teenage bash. However, what parents will fail to realise is that Reading is in many ways a safety valve, provoking teenage tearaways and IT consultants to let themselves lose, and dabble into the inhuman territories they cannot partake in outside of the 90,000 capacity field. It is a well-spirited, nice-natured post-apocalyptic Jamboree that sets people up for the gruelling English winter, as well as showcasing some of the greatest musical talents the world has to offer.
Recently, Melvin Benn (the head of festival republic) has been heavily criticised for making ‘Reading Rocks’ a hub of EDM and rap. This backlash has mainly come from 30 year old men wanting to hark back to their youth; when Brit-pop was prevalent and grunge was grinding away the grills of speakers. What they fail to realise is young revellers actually have more of an eclectic and varied taste than they once did; the introduction of the dance and 1 extra tents has meant that literally anyone can have a cracking time at Reading, deteriorating the exclusivity that was once associated with the festival. Alternative rock is still the most booked genre, but it is no lie that Grime, Bassline and American trap brandishes more energy from a crowd. AJ Tracey’s Sunday night 1 extra set will make Kings of Leon’s headline slot look like a pub karaoke performance, the visceral and brutal energy that the rapper will descend onto his crowd will be cult-like, and definitely more entertaining than a bunch of 40 year old men giving verbal abuse to their fans for not singing their hits loud enough, which they famously did back in 2009 when they headlined.
This year is full of change, and full of promise. The variation of acts is incredibly exciting and will hopefully open up new avenues for the festival, which is in need of a revamp. As well as set the scene, and get you excited for Britains biggest weekend of music, we thought we would shortlist our 10 Acts that we are regarding unmissable.
If you are looking for a set full of admirable energy and exuberance then look no further than Suspect. His latest LP ‘Still Loading’ is one of the best the UK rap scene has witnessed this year, and has been praised by the likes of Skepta and Giggs. His unpredictable nature makes him unbelievably intriguing, and one of the underground stars with the potential to break through nationally and internationally.
2. Sheck Wes
The New York rapper’s break out single ‘Mo Bamba’ has been shutting down gigs, raves and parties for around a year now - receiving attention from the likes of Travis Scott and Kanye West. Now signed to G.O.O.D music, it seems success is inevitable for Wes, who will be bringing his riotous energy to the 1 Extra tent on Friday. Expect a cameo from him in Travis’ performance too, the Houston rapper is helping his exposure, showcasing him to the masses at festivals.
3. Travis Scott
There was a lot of hype around ‘Astroworld’, the Houston artists latest album, and it certainly lived up to the critic’s expectations. It is now almost a cliché to say he has one of the best live sets in the world, but the modern day rockstar justifies this every time he performs. It is an absolute travesty that he is on before Fall Out Boy, if there is one booking that has vexed me the most at Reading it was their headline slot; they should not be following, inevitably, one of the best sets of the weekend
4. Bad Sounds
As one of Britain’s grooviest indie outfits, the 5 piece from Bath will have one of the best performances on the festival republic stage this year. They have found the perfect medium between fellow bands Superfood and The Magic Gang. Their music is both infectious and anthem worthy; with their highly anticipated debut album finally out, they will have plenty of music to plough through.
‘There is no gig like a Slaves gig’ is a statement that divides my mates completely in half. On one side, the true punk appreciators, you have the argument that their riotous energy smashes anyone else out there, which I personally agree with. However, my other friends (who are still yet to even listen to them properly) believe they are rubbish. Don’t take the side of my ignorant and dismissive mates, experience a show like no other, and the passion of punk. Their new LP is fantastic. 6. TQD
Britains biggest bassline trio will be bringing you all the waves the best DJs have been spinning over the summer. Together, they are highly prolific, constantly releasing tracks, VIPs and EPs on their radio 1 residency show, as well as remixing tracks from the likes of Donaeo and P Money. Their debut album ‘UKG’ is one of the most important and genre defining records for their scene, as they continue to fly the flag for UK garage and bass music.
7. Kendrick Lamar
Kung Fu Kenny is no doubt the biggest attraction of the weekend, and will pull a humungous crowd of ravers. You would be wrong in protesting that he isn’t one of the biggest names in Hip Hop; you can expect classics off good kid m.A.A.d city, but also his collaborative Black Panther soundtrack too. His music is becoming increasingly versatile and, although some of his tracks hint at him becoming a bit of a sell out, he delivers a very contemporary performance, full of energy and absolute bangers.
8. Playboi Carti
Signed to A$AP Mob’s crew, Carti is one of the forerunners of the mumble rap movement. Rocky has heavily criticised the scene as of late, but continues to sing praise for Playboi and his psychedelic production. If you aren’t aware of his adlibs, or goofy flow then just come and see his performance, they are hypnotic and infectious, and will have you moshing from the start.
9. Headie One
Headie’s lovable character and unique hood poetry makes him one of the most well respected English rappers going. His engaging story telling and spooky beats make London estates feel like a haunted house and trappers look like vampires. This imagery is a severely underrated element to his game, but creates a performance high in passion, emotion and energy. If you saw 67 last year, you can expect this set to have a similar provocative atmosphere.
This is the third year in a row that A2 has played the radio 1 extra stage, and I’m determined to catch him this time. It still pains me to this day that I haven’t seen him live, but as of this coming weekend, I’m hoping that will change. ‘X2 (Dble)’ is still one of my favourite UK rap songs of the 21st century, the wavy production and his dreamy flow offering the perfect bun up tune, so definitely one to sneak a zooty into if you can.
Whoever you see at Reading this year will put on a good show. The prestigious name the festival withholds brings the best out of artists. Just make sure you don’t get your gazebo nicked, your pillow pissed on, or miss Kendrick.