Artists to look out for at Leeds and Reading this year

20/06/2024

Sarah Gent on Leeds and Reading Festival’s headliners, artists on the BBC Introducing Stage and her chat with Melvin Benn, Managing Director of Festival Republic

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Image by Dee McCourt

By Sarah Gent

Festival season has officially begun! But which artists should we be looking out for this year?

The weekend schedules were released last week, and if you’re anything like me, planning is essential. There are so many stages and artists at the festival, it can be tricky to decide exactly which to watch and when, so hopefully I can help.

Festival Republic announced two brand new stages for Leeds and Reading Festival this year, the first being The Chevron. This stage will host headliners including Skrillex, The Prodigy, Barry Can’t Swim, and Sonny Fodera. But what makes this stage exciting is the new lighting and visuals that will accompany the artists with lighting above the audience and surrounding the tent to make the experience that bit more exciting. The most recently announced stage, The AUX, will host podcasters, youtube streams and games. It was created to incorporate youth culture to Leeds with things outside of music. The festival has always had an alternative stage with comedic acts and cinema etc. Acts announced so far include The Useless Hotline (although only at Reading) and Antics with Ash.

This year's main stage will see some very exciting headliners. Former lead singer of Oasis, Liam Gallagher, is at Leeds on Friday and Reading on Sunday. Following the 30th anniversary release of Definitely Maybe, and his tour, the artist will be performing Oasis hits at the festival. Earlier this year, Gallagher released an album with The Stone Roses’ John Squire (the band that inspired Oasis) so we can probably expect some of those tracks too.

Lana Del Rey made the headlines after her extremely late entrance at Glastonbury last year, so fingers crossed she doesn’t repeat this at Reading and Leeds! She seemed to redeem herself with her performance at Coachella; the artist brought out guests including Billie Eilish and Camila Cabello causing fans to go crazy. Lana has announced her first country album Lasso which is to be released in September, just too late for the festival, but who knows, maybe we will see some singles being released in time!

Other highlights include The Last Dinner Party, who have made the top charts recently with their song ‘Nothing Matters’. The band will be playing the festival for the first time this year. Blink-182 are making a stop off from their tour at the festival, playing Leeds on Saturday and Reading on Friday. Reneé Rapp has become increasingly popular and she will also be playing on the main stages. Beabadoobee’s newest single ‘Take A Bite’ alongside the accompanying album This Is How Tomorrow Moves is expected to be released on 16 August, just in time for the festival!

RAYE dominated the Brit Awards this year with an amazing six awards. Festival Republic’s Managing Director, Melvin Benn said that he believes the ‘Escapism’ artist could headline the festival one day. She is constantly rising in fame and is definitely one not to miss.

I spoke to Melvin Benn last month about new and upcoming artists. Benn has always been passionate about helping artists get to where they need to be to be able to headline rather than being thrown straight in the deep end. He relaunched his ReBalance initiative recently after it was interrupted by Covid. The programme focuses on giving female artists a spotlight, pairing them with a producer to record and complete their first EP in a professional studio. Benn said “It is really important to be constantly pushing young women to the forefront, they have as much capability as any young men but they don’t always get the opportunity.”

“We can’t put a young act, male or female, binary or non-binary, into a slot in a festival that they’re not ready for… the audience will tell them to get off the stage.” Festival Republic work closely with young artists and BBC Introducing to help the next generation of musicians, in fact a lot of the headliners for Leeds and Reading started off as BBC Introducing acts.

I was invited to a press day for the festival to meet some of the BBC Introducing acts ahead of the weekend. Ellur, an indie-pop artist from Halifax, performed her new single ‘Boys’ and ‘Satellites’ for us. Her music was genuinely nice to listen to and I would say that her lyrics and sound have a very similar quality to Phoebe Bridgers. We also watched Sun King who are a five piece band from York, although the drummer was missing on the day. I can best describe them as a modern day Fleetwood Mac. I was again pleasantly surprised by their music which was really catchy and enjoyable to listen to. The lead singer has a very strong, raspy voice which made their sound all the more interesting. Melvin Benn said that none of the artists at the event were there accidentally, in theme with his ReBalance initiative, they were predominantly female to give them the chance they deserve. Who knows, perhaps we will see them headline the festival one day.

The acts on the BBC Introducing stage span a wide range of genres. From indie-pop, to folk, to hip hop and rock, there is a strong chance that there will be something which takes your fancy. I would strongly recommend stopping by.

The Music Teams at Nouse and University Radio York will be attending Leeds Festival this year, so keep an eye out for our coverage leading up to and during the festival. You can read more about it on nouse.co.uk/muse/music and listen to URY’s Interview Series at ury.org.uk.