The big ones: Reading and Leeds

The North/South divide is forgotten for one manic weekend of rock (sort of).

What is it?

With Reading in its twentieth year and Leeds in its tenth, this is essentially Britain’s biggest birthday weekend of the summer (especially with Creamfields also celebrating its tenth birthday up in Cheshire). The festival sold out on a skeleton line-up in just 24 hours and ticket holders having been drooling over the prospect of Rage Against The Machine, Metallica, Bloc Party and The Killers ever since. With one of the biggest line ups of the year and the happy thought of not being forced to drink Carling all weekend, the three-day double header could be THE festival of the year.

When and where?

August bank holiday weekend, it takes place at Little John's Park, Reading, and Bramham Park, Leeds, both sites near to the cityt centres. Early-birds get the best pitch and those with the 'Early Bird' tickets will be granted site access from 6pm on Wednesday. Regular campers are advised (unofficially) to be waiting at the gates for Thurdays’ 8am opening to avoid miles of trekking to and from camp.

Five to watch

Whilst the headliners all go without saying, there's an endless list of talent equally as capable of having your arms flying, hearts stopping and heads pounding (respectively). Of more than 150 bands attending here are some of the real buzz bands you will find in the darker corners of the arena:

Kids in Glass houses (NME/Radio 1 Stage)

Once only ‘bedroom hobbyists’ and too often compared with emo band Lost Prophets, this five-piece rock outfit are now receiving the attention they deserve with infectious punk tinged tracks such as ‘Good Guys Gone Bad’ and the darker ‘Historia’. Despite their growing success Kids In Glass Houses are still a little lost in the tidal wave of new music to chose from, fans of My Chemical Romance in need of a little uplifting take heed.

Blood Red Shoes (NME/Radio1 Stage)

Ex-band members of Lady Muck and of Cat on Form, Vocalist Laura-Mary Carter (Vocals/Guitar) and Steven Anstel (Drums/Vocals) have appeared at several festivals this summer, and those lucky enough to have seen them are sure to be pressed up against the front barriers of the NME stage. They pride themselves in pushing their passion to the limits for live shows and with an irresistible new sound, described best by the band as ‘Indie-punk-rock-n-noise’ this will be the homeward journey CD of choice for many. If others follow Blood Red Shoes in this genre, it’s a mouthful worth remembering. Feel the tension build through ‘I wish I was someone better’ only to explode in ‘ADHD’ and melt your heart in balladic ‘Hope your Holding Up’ featuring violinist Harriet of Los Campesinos!

Black Kids (Festival Republic Stage)

‘I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You’ is the epitome of quality live music and make their polished radio tracks as exciting as a tidy room and 10 o’ clock curfew – bands like this make it worth spending every last penny and then some on festivals and ‘Hurricane Jane’ is sure to confirm this. Forget your rain macs and umbrellas for this one, Black Kids are a fair-weather band. Expect the pit to be a party and make sure you get your slice of this Florida baked disco cake before they head back to the US.

Cajun Dance Party (NME/Radio 1)

Perfect for when you reach a point in the weekend that you feel you need to step back from it all but are afraid of missing out – just hope that their timing is right! With a folky feel, Cajun Dance Party mould and harmonise silky vocals with synths and plucky guitar rhythms to create the sound of escapism that The Cure may have done with a sunnier disposition on life.


The stand-out band of the summer, drum'n'bass kings Pendulum are an essential party ingredient to Reading and Leeds. Having stepped up from 2005s’ ‘Hold Your Colour’, recent album ‘In Silico’ features guaranteed booming tent fillers ‘Propane Nightmares’ and ‘Other Side’. When a band reports: ‘We spend nearly every waking moment trying to create music that takes you out of this universe’ then it would be foolish to let the product of their toil slip though your fingers. It may be tempting for many to write these guys off as ‘too dance’ or more recently ‘too mainstream’, but with an energy they compare to Led Zeppelin, Tool and Queens Of The Stone Age, and having picked up the electric guitar and authentic drums, their sound is a fusion of genres that should unite music devotees across the board.

One to miss

Manic Street Preachers (NME/Radio 1)

Despite years of highly acclaimed live performances, the Manics will have to provide some real surprises to hoist them back into the ‘oh my god did you see…’ post fest chatter and forums. While complacent fans will be clamouring to see 2007s ‘Send Away The Tigers’, regular touring and lack of new material in a dog eat dog scene make the band one to see on a rainy winter day.

Playing a rare festival date

Pennywise (The Lockup Stage)

Flying the flag for true festival spirit and values and renowned for shunning mainstream labels Pennywise will be promoting recent album ‘Reason to Believe’. No strangers to American festivals, this is 2008s’ only British fest for the California punk band who will undoubtedly take loyal fans on a long-since craved nostalgic journey of extensive pounding drum fills, scorching riffs and relentless melodic vocals that have carved their place in punk history.

Worst clash

Tenacious D vs Last Shadow Puppets

You won't be seeing either of these at many festivals so choose wisely. Last Shadow Puppets will see Alex Turner and Miles Kane backed by a full string orchestra, apparently, while Jack Black's rock cabaret makes a rare UK landing. The latter is bound to be more musically asthetic but if it's a proper show you want we'd pump for Tencious D.

Be at Reading or Leeds if you like…

Quality time with your old records. With bands ranging from Metallica to the Manic Street Preachers, ska punk legends Less than Jake and MXPX, there’ll definitely be some ‘am I really that old’ moments, but with any luck there’ll be a good few thousand others to share this experience with. The traditional molten metal underlay has errupted to the surface for 2008 this year, with the kinetic explosiveness of punk, a collision of hardcore and mainstream bubbling away furiously underneath. A fondness for either genre is favourable. For the sleepy heads out there that want some peace and quiet at night (and a love for trekking) you have the rare option of a ‘quiet camp’ in the white campsite.

Avoid if you like

Anonymity. Whether you’ve been living abroad or in your garden shed for the past decade, somehow you will bump into a familiar face. Just hope your boss hasn’t pitched up beside you.

Festival tactics

Bright signature clothes for your troupe and tent will help prevent the Blair Witch syndrome, especially when you realise that muddy tent buried in a pool of beer cans you keep seeing is in fact yours. Flags are great, but if you don’t securely fasten it you may find yourself arriving at the tent-step of its’ new owner. Also ensure you plan who you want to see and identify where and when they are playing – with 6 stages, a silent disco and Club NME, lack of organisation could have some very disappointing consequences.

Fashionista or folky?

This festival does not discriminate! From it’s eco-friendly choices of accommodation, tent recycling scheme and litter collecting incentive (2009 tickets to be won), to genre breaking artists such as Dizzee Rascal and Last of the Shadow Puppets, you can expect every type of festival goer to have made time for this monster fest.

Alcohol of choice

No longer sponsored by Carling, in a bid to be truly independent the traditional Reading/Leeds weekend expectations will be hugely altered on the beer front this year. Tuborg has become the festival drink of the summer, with Gaymers being the official Reading and Leeds cider.

Take your mum score

2/10. With about half the festival being between the ages of 16-20, you'll only encourage her maternal side. She'll be running round offering everyone soup while you hold your head in your hands. Leave her at home and reserve all the pampering and TLC for when you return home in a heap. 

Reading and Leeds Festival takes place 22nd August – 24th August 2008

by Anja Kimberley