Reading & Leeds 12 things we learned from Reading & Leeds 2014

From future headliners to bands that look good in dresses, here’s what DIY took away from the Bank Holiday Weekend.

Discoveries arrive in all shapes and sizes when it comes to Reading & Leeds. It’ll either be a great new band, a weird-tasting drink or the joys of a giant yorkshire pudding - someone, somewhere, is going to be having an epiphany or two. If there’s one overwhelming lesson to be taken from this year’s Bank Holiday weekend, it’s that silence - both literally and in relative terms - has its benefits. The cutting out sound issue that initially struck Paramore’s headline set looked like being a disaster, but as we quickly realised, no band were capable of handling that problem better and turning it on its head. On a much bigger scale, Jamie T’s vow of silence for the past five years eventually looked like harming him, he’d taken so long to muster even a slight hint of a return. Yet when it came to him eventually making his festival re-arrival, it was as if he’d never been away for a second. On the contrary, he’d been missed to such an extent that he felt like an even bigger deal.

Aside from those moments, Reading & Leeds doesn’t tend to appreciate silence. Every waking minute there’s a brilliant, searing noise cutting across fields and into the conscience of festival goers, some of which are experiencing all of this for the first time. It might be a couple of days before the constant ringing noise in people’s ears begins to disappear, but we’ve decided to pick out the biggest and best eureka moments from this year’s event.

Paramore are awesome in a crisis

Paramore’s first headline set at Reading & Leeds was always going to linger in the memory regardless of circumstance, but this one’s going to be impossible to forget for anyone in attendance. Midway through a thrashing, all-affirming set, Hayley Williams started addressing the crowd and at that moment, every instrument on stage cut off. It took almost a minute for this news to reach the band - clearly their monitors were still working. For any band that might’ve been that, a sod’s law blow capable of ruining a set, a night or even a career. Instead, Williams took it in her stride, sat down on the edge of the stage with her bandmates and simply laughed about it. No hint of self-pity, no visible strain - yes, this was a shitty situation to be in, but these things sort themselves out. So they carried on playing, and by the time sounds crept back through the speakers, they were met with hysterical screams. Paramore showed that they’re not just any headliner.

Royal Blood are going to be even more massive than we ever thought

This year’s NME/Radio 1 Stage was often heaving to the point of being fifteen rows deep outside the actual tent. This applied to Disclosure’s weekend-closing set, The Kooks’ R&L return and The 1975’s big slot. But no occasion was busier than Royal Blood’s. The timing was perfect - their debut album had just been released, and their no-bullshit, triumphant routine is almost tailor-shaped for Reading & Leeds. But as soon as they began playing, they exposed themselves as something even greater than the hype being sent in their direction. Main Stage? No problem. Potential headliners? It would’ve sounded ludicrous before they played, but by the time the Brighton duo closed out, they emerged as a completely different prospect.

Drenge look good in dresses (and got fearsomely good live too)

Any band turning up to a much-anticipated Reading & Leeds slot sporting fanciful frocks could be accused of foiling a distraction. Either that, or Drenge are just keen to drop the ‘Nirvana’ hint without the slightest subtlety. The Loveless brothers have nothing to hide, though - except their ‘precious parts’, which could do with some more protective boxers next time - because they’re one of the best live bands in the country. The same couldn’t be said last year, when they were still learning their trade. Now there’s a fusion, a telepathy almost, to how they play. They’ve gone from impressive to all-out colossal. And with just one album under their belts, they’re only going to become a more fearsome outfit. Might be worth investing in some nicer dresses next time, mind you.

R&L remains one of the best places to witness a new band for the first time

It’s stating the obvious, but it rang particularly true this year. Nothing quite matches the sensation of seeing exciting new bands cutting their teeth on big stages for the first time. Outside the comfy confines of A&R-filled London venues, they’re playing to excitable fans, seeing their music escape to a huge environment. “Festival period’s been amazing just seeing how over the past three months, the volume of people actually seeing us and knowing the words - it’s beginning,” said Flyte’s Nick Hill after their appearance on the Festival Republic Stage. It’s in these confines that fresh faces come good. The Districts brought hysterical whoops by the time their jam-tastic blues session concluded, and Circa Waves’ set was a similar revelation. Over on the BBC Introducing Stage, Bloody Knees prompted barmy shoulder-raised bedlam, while Jack Garratt’s performance is watched on with complete, respecting silence. Back to the sticky basement venues they go for the time being, for these experiences are going to stay with them.

Gerard Way is brilliant at being a solo pop star

It was treated like a debut in every sense of the word. Gerard Way opened this year’s festival as a completely different individual to the one headlining back in 2011 with My Chemical Romance. Out stepped someone with entirely new ambitions, and his solo festival debut proved he’s just as adept at being a commanding pop phenomenon of his own. “I’m never going to forget this,” he claimed at the end. “We’re going to be here a lot, so we’ll be seeing you plenty more.”

Lasers are the way forward (just ask QOTSA, Chvrches and The Horrors)

Fancy lights can’t do all of the talking, but 2014 seemed to be the year that some of R&L’s biggest acts invested in trusty lasers. It started off with Queens of the Stone Age’s magnificent, blinding visual show. When it came to tent-based sets, Chvrches and The Horrors were the stars. The former’s commanding logo didn’t even manage to light up properly for half the time, but that wasn’t an issue: Instead, Lauren Mayberry led the trio through a dazzling set that arrived backed by neon-lit euphoria. The Horrors emphasise the trance element in their new album ‘Luminous’, a sense of ascent - and they achieved this with complete perfection on the closing day, with one of the sets of the weekend. It’s not exactly ‘try this for yourself at home’ stuff, but it’s worth taking note of.

Jamie T’s time out of the spotlight has had the opposite effect of harming him

It might have had something to do with this ‘secret set’ being about as secret as the delicious jumbo hotdog stalls, but Jamie T’s eventual festival return couldn’t have gone any better. The Festival Republic Stage reached its capacity peak. Crowds reached entirely new levels of bedlam. And for the first time since announcing his return, it looked like Jamie T was ready to become an even bigger deal than the one departing five years back. Time out the spotlight’s served him well. He’s savoured more by fans, and they seem to believe in his brilliance that little bit extra. Even newer numbers like ‘Zombie’ sound destined for huge things, and given the recently confirmed run of shows at London’s Alexandra Palace, he’s more than ready for the step up.

Not even Reading & Leeds is raucous enough for The Orwells

Pity the guys in The Orwells. They’re young, hungry, bloodthirsty in their quest to become a huge rock ’n roll band. And by the time they step on stage for their Reading & Leeds debut, they look like a group that belong here, the kind designed for mud-splattered, sweat-doused afternoon sets where moshing’s an obligatory addition. It all goes to plan, in one sense. They showcase the best of latest album ‘Disgraceland’, kicking off with an impromptu Strokes cover and even suggesting they might be the next big post-2001 phenomenon. Kids go wild. Every member of the Chicago group looks like they’re having the time of their lives. Except Mario Cuomo who, at some stages, must have had some slight ringing noise in his ear that told him no, things needed to get even more chaotic. His response? To climb the metallic frames of the Festival Republic stage, make out like he was having sex with the spindly poles, before heaving his entire bodyweight and trying to bring the whole thing down. All this was executed with nothing but the finest of poise - when jumping back down, he even managed to land on a security guard. That’s Mario for you.

Disclosure don’t need to rely on the special guests

It feels almost ridiculous to talk about the guest names when approaching a Disclosure headline set. They closed the festival for thousands of punters, and for not one single second did it matter that they weren’t joined by Aluna Francis or Sam Smith (the latter of which was glitzing it up at the VMAs). Things still fell into place for Guy and Howard Lawrence. They got here on their own terms, penning gigantic songs for a debut record, ‘Settle’, that reads like a who’s who of the names that eventually broke big in 2014 (that’s unless you count Jamie Woon - sorry Jamie). London Grammar didn’t need to turn up - not even Ed MacFarlane was worth a shot. This was Disclosure’s night and theirs only. Don’t rule out ‘Settle’’s follow-up from being completely guest free.

Wolf Alice are ready for even bigger occasions

A Wolf Alice show tends to have the same ecstatic conclusion these days - bassist Theo Ellis jumps into the crowd, the rest of the band look like they’ve had the best set of their lives, they take a photo of the crowd, sprint off stage and probably give each other a gigantic group hug. It’s a brilliant spectacle, but it’s one they’re going to have to get used to topping. So far, a Festival Republic slot and a London Scala gig remain their crowning glories, but they’ve more round the corner.

Turns out Gnarwolves are more than equipped for the Main Stage

They might be skate punks with self-confessed grubby habits, but that doesn’t make Gnarwolves less capable than the next brilliant rock band in taking on giant stages. Their Main Stage debut at Reading & Leeds was one of the weekend’s most anticipated - it was a band who’d gone up from the lower ranks and this was their first crack at the big time. Equal terms ridiculous and all-affirming, these three took it in their stride. They looked every bit the kind of band ready-made for crowds in their thousands, despite their insane ability to capture a stuffy basement venue audience. Skate punks have their fun, but deep down Gnarwolves are pros.

Arctic Monkeys have settled into a headliner groove

For one reason or another, Arctic Monkeys’ headline set wasn’t the most memorable set of the weekend. But that wasn’t their doing: They avoided tricky sound issues, there weren’t too many snazzy lasers on show - it was the ‘AM’ logo wave and four pristine looking chaps from Sheffield, on top of their game. Slick to the extreme, their performance had no margin for error. Accusations are flung their way, saying they’re too rehearsed for their own good - but any band this sharp and this confident in their approach to a headline slot is deserving of praise.

Tags: Royal Blood, Reading & Leeds, Festivals, Features

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