Reading thrives off those special moments when thousands upon thousands discover their next favourite artist. This weekend, that accolade could well fall to Dylan, whose early set on the Dance Stage is fizzing with pure unstoppable ambition, knee slides and an audio caffeine boost that serves as a Sunday wake-up call. Already armed with a summer of bloomin’ huge shows, today’s set is a world of electric licks and neon-sharp bangers that has the stage moving and following her every move. ‘Girl Of Your Dreams’ is a key example, born to be blasted out of speakers on warm summer days just like this – and in the time she has on stage, Dylan makes sure to leave a lasting impact. For those gathered, it’s a special brag to say they were there first because it’s not a matter of if Dylan becomes a Main Stage superstar, but when. Missing out simply isn’t an option, guys. (FM)
Bringing a much needed lease of positivity to a Sunday Main Stage East crowd is Willow. One of the more unlikely breakout rock stars of the new pop punk wave, she opens with the reintroduction single ‘Transparent Soul’, a bunny-eared beanie covering her usually shaved head to flip around in lieu of hair.
After wrapping up a tour, she notes that it’s nice to be playing outside instead of in closed venues, and says this is how music should be. With a refreshing rock star attitude, she calls for positive affirmations from the crowd rather than mosh pits between tracks from last year’s emotionally honest ‘How I’m Feeling Now’.
Wrapping up with a double bill of TikTok hits, ‘Meet Me At Our Spot’ and ‘Wait A Minute!, plus new single ‘<maybe> it’s my fault’, it’s hard to believe the voice comes out of her tiny frame. (AF)
Lockdown breakout starlet Abby Roberts has steered her enthusiasm for “creating things” from TikTok makeup tutorials to genuinely impactful tunes. With June’s seven-track release ‘Ashes’ already making waves online, Abby steps up to the plate and doesn’t disappoint with her live renditions. Although the remaining dust from Leeds supposedly makes her voice raspy, her impeccable vocal drives hits like ‘Pink Champagne’, which she dedicates to “a boy that broke my heart”. Sharing that she wrote ‘bandaid’ for a friend suffering from mental health issues, today it is instead used to shake off the inevitable hangovers and embrace the highs and lows of maturing in the internet age. (FH)
Lynks pops up at the BBC Introducing stage for a secret set, one self-labelled as “the legends slot.” After a bizarre start with HERE COMES THE BRIDE, they jump on stage alongside their ‘shower gel girls’ and right into a heavily choreographed show that demands listeners supply dance moves of their own. The level of physicality is impressive, particularly as the masked singer jumps into the pit during ‘Straight Acting’, and that’s only song number two. An extremely explicit undertaking spices up even the already-too-hot Sunday glare, and Lynks admits, “I shouldn’t have worn a gimp mask today.” Revealing unreleased material (‘Use It Or Lose It’), they encourage fans to grasp their prime years while they can, and this audience quickly obeys. Revelling the chaos of this notorious festival, Lynks, as usual, offers horny queer bangers galore. (FH)
How much ridiculousness do you reckon you could stomach on a Sunday afternoon? How about Dylan Brady wearing a bright yellow magician’s hat and smashing up a xylophone three songs into 100 gecs’ debut Reading performance?
The hyperpop pioneers took to the Radio 1 Dance Stage with a set more suited to 4am afterparties, playing to a crowd who were either completely feral or completely confused. Tracks from debut album ‘1000 gecs’ are interjected with bonkers attempts at stand up, including bits where they ask the audience if it’s their first concert and telling a story of Laura Les having her tooth removed.
Between the video game visuals, rock-leaning live renditions, and semi-stand-up you can barely hear through the autotune, it’s a relatively jarring afternoon affair, but for the kids on pills at the front, it’s definitely changed their lives. (AF)
Following up 100 gecs is hard to beat on the bonkers scale, but Ashnikko gives it a good go. Dressed in little other than ropes wrapped around her body and humping the stage in front of two hot pink teddies with huge vulvas printed on them, her stage show is just as provocative as her lyrics.
Their fans know it too. Girls in the front row are holding up “sign my tits” banners (including one fan who’d apparently flown from Canada on the off chance they would), and going absolutely feral when Ashnikko instructs them to have a therapeutic scream.
There’s empowerment in hearing a crowd of mostly women scream lyrics about hating fuck boys and not letting them dim your light, peaking early at ‘Stupid Boy’ and keeping the energy high until closing with ‘Daisy’. (AF)
Riding the high of their recent third album ‘Unwanted’, Heather Baron-Gracie continues to lead Pale Waves through a well-earned high point of their career. With ‘She’s My Religion’, ‘Falling To Pieces’ and ‘Easy’, they deliver back-to-back bangers with a live prominence that has to be seen to be believed. “Saving the best ’til last,” the Mancunians close with ‘Jealousy’ and it is a set to be envied. This is a band in their stride, well equipped to take further paces forward. (FH)
“We’ve been told we can’t hit tennis balls into the crowd, so we’ve got 200 tennis balls going spare if you want one.” – the words of Sean Murphy O’Neill, singer of Courting, about 20 minutes before the start of their show. Sport-related issues aside, it’s a confident set from the band, rattling through cuts from the new album to a massive reaction. ‘Tennis’ continues to be a massive hit, but ‘Jumper’, an experimental banger which borrows more from 100 gecs than the indie sphere, hits just as hard. A mid-afternoon slot at the Festival Republic stage can be a tough sell, but Courting have never been a band to shy away from a challenge. (JH)
Aussie indie trio DMA’S have evolved since their stunning, reminiscent, Britpop-esque debut record in 2016. Today’s set opener ‘The Glow’ feels a world away from those innocent tones, trading sickly sweet guitar lines for throbbing production through tracks from their third LP of the same name. Bouncing between the two styles, frontman Tommy O’Dell’s piercing vocal shimmers through an array of bucket hat-touting favourites. Despite a new single, ‘I Don’t Need To Hide’, seemingly providing a teasing glimpse of new projects in the works, the band stick to the safe favourites for their biggest UK performance of the summer. Whipping out the silky ‘Delete’, ‘Lay Down’ and a high-reaching cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’, the crowd certainly aren’t complaining. (FH)
There have been many standout breakthrough bands who’ve claimed festival season as their own, but Crawlers may just steal the crown. At Reading today, it’s nothing short of emphatic. A Festival Republic tent crammed to the rafters with fans new and old follows every command. Latest blazer ‘I Don’t Wanna’ sets pogoing masses alight, ‘I Can’t Drive’ opens pits, and when ‘Fuck Me (I Didn’t Know How To Say)’ and ‘Come Over (Again)’ drop, it’s not just pure release but emotion that rings through the crowd. The mixtape they announce on-stage is but a glorious tease of what’s next (‘Loud Without Noise’, out in October, btw). To be a buzz band is one thing, but to cut through and turn trauma into triumph is another. That’s Crawlers, and they’re just getting started. (JM)
After Rage Against the Machine pulled out due to injury, their tour support and hip hop heavyweights Run The Jewels became the odd one out on the Sunday main stage lineup. If they’re daunted by the prospect of playing to an audience of Charli XCX and The 1975 fans, they don’t show it. Bounding on stage demanding the crowd put their hands up, El-P and Killer Mike are masters of hyping up an audience. Bangers from across their back catalogue soon win the crowd over, with Mike grinning from ear to ear as he dad-dances across the stage.
RTJ have always been a socially conscious duo as well as an incredible live act, and today is no exception. Mike stops between songs to say to the crowd: “We just wanna say, if you didn’t come with her, don’t put your fucking hands on her, or we’ll stomp your fucking face in.” It’s a heartening message to hear blasting out of the main stage speakers and the cherry on top of an already stellar performance. (JH)
Following a switch around so she didn’t clash with her label mates, beabadoobee takes a slight demotion from headliner to tea time slot on the Festival Republic stage, but it doesn’t stop her bringing her A game.
Running through bangers from debut ‘Fake It Flowers’, the Crown Princess of Dirty Hit is charismatic with and without the guitar. Calling out her bassist in (of course) ‘She Plays Bass’ before dropping the last chorus again for a second helping, the reaction to her set (all shoulder rides and shouting lyrics) proves she’s writing future indie classics, and closing this tent on Sunday would’ve gone down a treat.
Sending in TikTok hit (she’ll hate that we’ve called it that) ‘Coffee’ early keeps the energy high, but it’s recent single ‘10:36’ that goes the hardest. Bea’s only getting bigger, and it’ll be back to the Main Stage for her in no time. (AF)
From sombre indie to bombastic pop, Bastille are an enduring four-piece who always offers a moment to please each and every member of the crowd. It’s recent fourth album ‘Give Me The Future’ that steals the spotlight today, as the thrashing, warbling chorus of ‘Distorted Light Beam’ kicks off their multifaceted set, following a prelude that flexes the group’s ability to traverse sophisticated and snappy narratives.
Dan Smith’s shy fronting is, as ever, full of subdued charm, with a stage full of friends and skilled musicians bolstering his confidence as he jumps around to smash hits like ‘Happier’ and their ever-entertaining
cover of ‘Of The Night’, before the iconic echoes of ‘Pompeii’ boom across the southern fields. For a band almost a decade into their careers, Bastille’s ability to continually reinvent their own output is astonishing – with their recent ‘Dreams Of The Past’ drop, it’s clear this stream of creativity isn’t going to end anytime soon. (FH)
Stepping in at the very last minute to replace Maneskin, knocking Run The Jewels down the bill and filling in as The 1975’s warm-up, all while playing to a mixed bag of Rage Against The Machine fans reluctantly clinging onto their day tickets, 1975 stans waiting at the barrier and angels who’d shown up just to see her, it’s fair to say Charli XCX was up against it.
Thankfully, Charli is a Reading festival veteran, climbing the ranks over the years and always hitting the sweet spot between cult classic and bestseller. Sunday’s Main Stage performance is a combination of the curated ‘Crash’ tour set she’s been playing since the album’s release, and the greatest hits she usually brings out to remind the masses she’s always had smashes in her back pocket.
Catering to the diehards and the general public, she opens with ‘Lightning’ and immediately swerves into 2013 Icona Pop feature ‘I Love It’, flipping that method later on when she performs the rabid fan favourite ‘Vroom Vroom’ immediately after recent Tiesto collaboration ‘Hot In It’.
Charli’s been saying she’s in her main pop girl era since the very start of the ‘Crash’ campaign, so subbing Reading’s Main Stage on its final day feels like a fitting bow out after a summer of smashing stages across the globe, even if it only happened by chance. (AF)
The one word you may not expect to hear at Reading is wholesome. Yet that’s precisely what Chloe Moriondo’s Sunday evening set on the Festival Republic stage is – full of joyous fun and earnest excitement. It’s a genuinely overwhelming moment for Chloe, recognising the countless smiles and adoration that comes from start to finish whilst also expressing the joy seeing so many gathered brings. ‘I Wanna Be With You’, ‘I Eat Boys’ and ‘Take Your Time’ jump between crunchy riffs, singalongs and sheer bliss, whilst ‘Hell Hounds’ bounces with future-pop flourishes and latest number ‘Fruity’ thrives like the greatest house party you’ve always wanted to go to. From start to finish, it’s an uplifting jukebox of fun that’s impossible not to enjoy – where everyone gathered – Chloe included – may have just had the most fun of the weekend. (JM)
When the internet talks about a 2014 Tumblr revival, it’s right on the money when you look at Reading’s Sunday evening lineup. Charli XCX into Halsey into The 1975 would’ve sent the platform into a meltdown in the early 2010s, but the thing is, these artists are all in very different places now.
Halsey couldn’t be further from the artist she started out as, which is why her closing out Main Stage West, something that would’ve once seemed bonkers, now makes complete sense. Their set, much like that of Miss XCX’s, consistently reminds you they’ve got hits for days, but aren’t afraid of pushing pop’s boundaries.
“It’s probably not gonna be what you expect it to be”, she says of the set she’s got planned, as if anything they’ve done since 2015 has been predictable. The tour they’re currently on is for 2021’s surprise album ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’, a bold, theatrical rock record that explodes live, particularly on central track ‘I am Not a Woman I’m a God’.
When integrated with her latest material, older tracks like ‘Gasoline’ and ‘Nightmare’ shine even brighter, proving it’s Halsey’s attitude that’s always been centre stage. (AF)
This is how it starts. Whenever The 1975 kick off a new era, it’s not just a case of plugging in a familiar ride and watching the results spin off in every direction. They’re a force who’ve come to define the past decade of British music. Simply trying to name another who’ve come close to having the same influence and presence is a futile exercise.
When it comes to The 1975 at Reading, there’s something even more special in the air. The fact that, less than a month ago, their headline set wasn’t in the diary makes it feel even more The 1975 than usual. Whereas in 2019, their crowning appearance as a Reading bill-topper felt like the culmination of a journey, 2022 proves a night where one of the best to do it ride their white chargers into frame to not only save the day – but light the fireworks on their next chapter. It’s like it was written in the stars.
While we’ve been teased with forthcoming fifth album ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ for a while now, tonight at Reading is The 1975 At Their Very Best. Like there’s ever been anything different. Taking on the feat of closing one of the biggest festivals on the planet is something that would daunt most, but for The 1975 it’s destiny.
“It’s just fucking bangers,” declares Matty Healy two songs in – and he’s not wrong. Declared as a 1975 “greatest hits” by the man himself, what follows is a run through a discography unrivalled in its current cultural resonance. ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ rolls into ‘Love Me’. Then into ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Me & You Together Song’. Then ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’, and from there, the night is theirs. Nodding to their black-and-white, self-titled era throughout, if there’s a celebration of the road travelled so far, then it comes tonight. “This is one of our favourite places in the world,” shouts Matty, leading a band who, at this point, play by their own rules and watch as the world follows.
Any issues with the stage volume are thrown to one side as Matty states, “Let’s pay the fine and play it really loud”. Recent post-pandemic setlist addition ‘Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)’ grooves, while ‘Robbers’ sees the voices of a Sunday night at Reading reach top-tier levels. ‘A Change Of Heart’ and ‘Paris’ (introduced by Matty as “arguably the best 1975 song”) are but indicators of the sheer scale of the band they’ve become. Whereas Reading 2019 felt like their step into the top division, tonight feels like a jaw-dropping spectacle of The 1975 firmly cemented at the top of their game.
Although the greatest hits light a fuse, the pair of tasters into ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ we’re presented with tonight hint at a newfound understanding of what The 1975 are, and, most importantly, what they can be. ‘Happiness’ is met with just as wild a reaction as the hits, while ‘I’m In Love With You’ already screams out as the sort of anthem that’ll get tattooed on countless people from the moment it drops.
It’s a set that, last up on a Sunday, sweeps away any sense of anything we’ve seen before. What should be the closing curtain on one of the biggest festivals on the circuit becomes The 1975 Show. From the mascara-soaked tears of ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ to the ripped-raw drive of ‘Love It If We Made It’ and the desperate, feral clawing of ‘People’ – it truly is the most incredible spectacle. ‘The Sound’ definitively shuts down any last questions as pogoing masses ripple through Reading’s fields before ‘Sex’ and ‘Give Yourself A Try’ crown out the night. There’s no doubt that not only are The 1975 back, but they’re more focused and hungry than ever before.
At this point, four albums in, it feels silly to suggest that The 1975 get better and better, but tonight at Reading is your favourite band cast through a different lens. It’s one we may have thought we were looking through already, but only when laid out in such stark focus is it apparent just how important and vital they’ve become. It’s not about them slotting into a festival bill at the last minute, but defining the entire weekend – no matter the scale and lustre of any other headliners that adorn the bill. This is a band where special doesn’t feel enough. It’s The 1975, At Their Very Best. It’s how it starts. It couldn’t be any other way. Now, let the show begin… (JM)
Words: Abigail Firth, Finlay Holden, Jake Hawkes, Jamie Muir
Photos: Frances Beach, Patrick Gunning