Reading/Leeds Festivals Get Grimey

When most people are asked to describe a music festival I’m quite sure many people respond with the same kind of answers: mud, beer, bands etc. Bands especially have been the reason for festivals since Woodstock pushed the festival into the mainstream. But now with bands on the decline and festival ticket sales slowing down, Reading and Leeds organiser Melvin Benn is tuning in to the turning tide of music tastes with the introduction of the BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage and the BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage now being stretched to the full weekend.

As one of the biggest festivals, Reading/Leeds are an established money making machine. This year, however, both sites did not sell out. The lineups have been (in my opinion) growing steadily worse and this year in particular headliners The Cure, Kasabian and Foo Fighters were all bands formed at least a decade ago – the band members have got kids for crying out loud – Dads are not cool. The introduction of the new stages hints at a welcome new direction for one of the most popular festivals in the land.

According to Melvin Benn – “This stage will absolutely hit you straight between the eyes with the best of UK hip-hop and grime, with some US acts in the line-up too. I’m delighted to be working with BBC Radio 1Xtra on it”. Despite Benn being a white middle class man in his late 50s, I have hope that the stages will inject some much needed repetitive bass to the Leeds lineup. Another interesting point will be the potential lack of sound checks between DJ’s on the dance stage. One of the major mood killers at festivals are the huge gaps between bands but with more and more DJ’s playing, transitions can be seamless.

Despite Deftones and Alt-J being the first bands announced for the August festival, the promise of grime collective BBK brings more than a little hope that Reading/Leeds can match the pop-power of V Festival and also to rediscover its status as one of the finest festivals around.

Joni Roome