May 20, 2024

Reading Festival 2019: What went down

If you weren’t one of the 200,000 attendees at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival, here is a brief summary of what you missed out on – focusing on Reading.

The weekend consisted of performances from a wide range of artists, from rappers to rock bands and everything in between. One of Friday’s highlights was pop icon Charli XCX. She took over the main stage early on to show Reading how it’s done – who knew a petite girl in Gucci sunglasses would have so much energy? She sang some of her biggest hits including Boys and Fancy, and won the crowd over.

As Juice WRLD isn’t known to be the best performer live, catching Comethazine’s set sounded like a better idea, but sadly both artists cancelled last minute. What’s even more unfair for Juice WRLD fans is that he ended up playing Leeds the next day, but that’s another story. At 5pm, Hayley Kiyoko played a set at the Radio 1 stage surrounded by dancers. She sang while doing the choreography as well, and although it looked incredibly cool, her vocals weren’t as good as they could have been, especially when listening from far away.

English rock band Puppy played an impeccable set as usual: nothing ever sounds off in their performances. They play their instruments so perfectly that it feels like if being in a band was a video game, every other band would be the players and they’d be the tutorial video. Definitely one of the best performers of the weekend. The Wombats on the other hand, who played on main stage at around the same time, were a headache. Fisher’s set had potential, but does anyone who isn’t an underage kid on drugs want to be around a bunch of underage kids on drugs? They unfortunately made it hard to enjoy it but nothing actually mattered at the end of the day because The 1975 were about to headline day one of the festival and exceed all expectations.

It’s a known fact that The 1975 are good, but they raised the bar with their Reading show. They played a mix of songs from their four albums (the fourth, Notes on a Conditional Form, is set to release in February 2020) accompanied by unique stage setup and dancers and identical twins Taitlyn and Kaylee Jaiy (better known as the Jaiy twins), who were described as new members of The 1975. The band somehow managed to deliver a punk, pop, rock, political, massive yet intimate performance all at the same time, in a way that only The 1975 can do. Frontman Matty Healy was playing a different character for each song, but went back to being his funny, slightly self-obsessed self in the breaks between them, interacting with the crowd and trying to take in the fact that they were headlining Reading. Fans in the crowd were ecstatic to see the band playing, but not as ecstatic as Matty was to be playing to them. It was clear from the beginning of the performance that it would be the best of the entire weekend, and it was.

On the second day, similar political messages to The 1975’s were still being spread by other bands: it seems like this year, a lot of UK bands focused on using their platform to state their opinion on the world’s current situation, hoping fans will listen and make a change. Counterfeit played a weirdly happy yet really good morning show on the main stage. Are they really the band that used to play punk shows in black jeans and leather jackets? Because they looked more like Neck Deep than the old Counterfeit. Good, but weird.

Boston Manor rocked the BBC Radio 1 stage, completely disregarding the fact that they had a whole album out before Welcome to the Neighbourhood, but there’s only so much you can play during a 30-minute set. The biggest disappointment of the day was finding out King Princess had cancelled, but AJ Tracey played a decent show on main stage during the time she was supposed to be on, and hearing one of the hottest songs out there at the moment, Ladbroke Grove, almost made up for it.

And then it was Billie Eilish time. How she managed to attract a bigger crowd than the headliners is a mystery, and to think she was supposed to play at a smaller stage! She is already seen as a legend at her young age, yet her performances just aren’t as good as they should be. Maybe the day they turn up her microphone she can finally be heard by the thousands of people who go watch her. Although most tents were rather empty during her set, UK artist Bexey played one of the best shows of the day; the crowd was small but the vibe was incomparable.

Internet sensation Poppy made the crowd wait too long for a show that could have been better, and the same can be said for Paris Shadows who performed right after her. Maleek Berry had his own party going on, and Stefflon Don put every other artist that performed on Saturday to shame with her perfect set (and outfit). The first of the co-headliners, twenty one pilots, played a much better show than Post Malone, who despite having a beautiful voice has absolutely no stage presence. How that many people actually stayed for his set without falling asleep is a mystery.

After a disappointing end to Saturday, the last day could have either saved the festival or ruin it. Luckily, it was a good day full of genuinely good performances. Milk Teeth used their main stage slot to not only play some of their best tunes but also deliver a the same messages as the bands on the days before them did. Emo kings Mayday Parade were way too good for that small crowd they attracted, but it’s okay to be underrated. Next up on main stage was Yungblud, who becomes a bigger and bigger star every single day. He’s got incredible energy and songs that kids can relate to, which explains his loyal fanbase. His setlist included Machine Gun Kelly’s I Think I’m OK, and the US rapper joined him on stage for it, which made an already excellent performance even better.

At the BBC Radio 1 stage, The Story So Far played a disappointing set, which is unusual for them. They played right before Machine Gun Kelly, who made that disappointed feeling go away within seconds of getting on stage: everything about it was perfect. The band, the visuals, the songs, the crowd. He couldn’t have played a better set. Evidently, Yungblud returned the favour and the two played their hit song for a second time that day, because… Well, why not?

Another excellent performance came from A Day To Remember, whose new album, You’re Welcome, is set to release in November. They deserved to play right before the last headliners of the weekend, Foo Fighters, as they got the crowd ready better than any band could have. Needless to say, the headliners played the best set of the day (what other band do you know that can play for three hours and sound good the entire time?). Bonus points for bringing out Rick Astley on stage, what a perfect ending to Reading Festival.

Tickets for next year’s Reading and Leeds are already on sale, you can get yours here.

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