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5 Key Questions For Reading & Leeds 2014

1. Will either Paramore or Queens Of The Stone Age walk away from R&L 2014 looking like real headliners?

We could of asked “who will come out on top in this wannabe headliner duel”, but, in truth, both Queens Of The Stone Age and Paramore caught a massive break from the bookers. Despite Jimmy Eat World bringing some broader appeal to the Lock Up, the competition is noticeably weak: Metronomy, The Courteeners, Netsky, Giggs and Palma Violets, while all credible acts in their own right, are unlikely to send thousands-upon-thousands of fans scurrying away from the Main Stage (think Disclosure vs. NIN last year).

Josh Homme’s rock behemoth struggled to retain a headline worthy crowd in the face of Mumford & Sons last time out, but this year he will have Reading and Leeds’ full attention. The question now changes: who is better placed to make the most of what is sure to be a giant audience?

Paramore certainly have the feel of crowd pleasers. They have hummable hits, hooks that even the most stubborn detractor couldn’t hope to avoid and a new album that earned genuine critical kudos. They are the natural party starters. Queens Of The Stone Age on the other hand, whose shows can vary wildly in style and approach, have the heft and the musicianship to pull of something awe inspiring – the kind of show that grinds the audience into the dust while sending jaws crashing to the floor.

Strictly hopes both bands live up to their potential, but in truth, we expect wobbles. Thankfully, a clever piece of booking should ensure that one headliner covers up for the other’s weaknesses, Paramore provide the zip and the sugar, QOSTA supply the heft and atmospherics – expect a solid one-two combination, rather than a devastating one punch knock out.

2. The Sunday main stage – what the hell? 

Every act on the Sunday main stage could and should thrive at Reading and Leeds in isolation, taken together, the line up appears messy and underpowered.

Blink-182 will always carry a weight of nostalgia and have improved drastically as a live outfit, but there is no doubt that their second headline stint in five years lacks both gravitas and impetus. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis should hope to provide the latter. They represent the “risky booking” that isn’t remotely risky – these guys have the hits and are still close enough to their pop cultural moment in the sun that they should inspire a big crowd and bigger moments (presuming they are competent live).

[They both best deliver because Disclosure and The 1975 will take no prisoners and draw huge crowds on the NME stage]

Lower down the line up big opportunities have been given to You Me At Six and A Day To Remember, two R&L favourites who have slowly creeped up the line up. Their rise, while not undeserved, does feel arbitrary. They haven’t snatched their top billing with a clear breakthrough moment, instead they’ve hung around and put the work in (something that R&L can both rewards and dismiss).

Sunday doesn’t inspire on paper, but some of the stranger looking line ups have triumphed in the past.

3. Where has all the momentum gone?

Reading and Leeds Festival is enjoying a bounce back year by bucking the slumping sales trend – unfortunately this positive momentum isn’t mirrored among the festival’s young and upcoming bands.

The Festival is packed with talent (it always is) but, with the notable exception of dance’s big hitters, bands appear to be working their way up the line up on tenure rather than with a tangible groundswell of support. Warpaint and The Horrors enjoy prime placing despite making underwhelming comebacks. The Kooks have returned to the festival’s good graces for, presumably, nostalgic reasons, while bands like Temples, Cage The Elephant and Peace have seemingly stalled upwards.

Success stories still abound. The 1975, Chvrches and Vampire Weekend can all point to stellar years, while the big return of SBTRKT and the debut of Schoolboy Q should have festival fans licking their lips. Unfortunately, on paper it all feels a little stilted. Certain acts have been elevated above their station, but rather than looking at this as a failing – it should be seen as an opportunity to ask: who will use this platform to shine, who will stumble and which bands will make up for lost time?

4. Which acts from the smaller stages are worth finding time for?

Brody Dalle’s return to R&L on the Lock Up should be a must see for long time attendees and newcomers alike, not simply because of her long history with alternative music, but because her recent album, Diploid Love, was fantastic. If she’s still got it live, her new sounds should go down a storm at R&L (whisper it: it’s better than the old stuff). The Wonder Years might not have a top slot on the line up but they have the kind of back catalogue most headliners would kill for, expect an effortless triumph. What While She Sleeps have done to earn this massive demotion we will never know, but don’t miss this chance to see them in an intimate setting.

Danny Brown/Kwabs/Vic Mensea: not inspired by Sunday’s heavy hitters? Seen it all before? Well why not sample some of the finest hip hop around. Danny Brown is a ball of cocaine-fuelled energy capable of doing anything he sets his mind to,  Vice Mensa is a wunderkind blending house with irresistible hooks and a natural charisma that justifies his already ballooning hype and, finally, Kwabs is something a bit more chilled, something of a slowburner that rewards deeper listening. Not a bad Sunday night combination.

Wolf Alice/Circa Waves/The Amazing Snakeheads: Saturday night on the Festival Republic Stage certainly looks intriguing as three great young rock bands take play in short succession. Circa Waves are the rawest, but have the biggest pop potential with their easy indie hooks. Wolf Alice have been attempting to find their way for quite some time, trying their hand at different sounds and mastering pretty much all of them: expect beauty and disillusion. The Amazing Snakeheads are pure brutality. These post-punks will serve up a nightmarish Glaswegian Saturday night.

5. Will the Arctic Monkeys make up Reading for 2009? 

A lot was made of the Monkeys return to Glastonbury: they had headlined too soon and underwhelmed, 2013 was their chance at grand redemption and they smashed it. However, while a group of shy kids on their second album can be forgiven for succumbing to the bright lights of Britain’s biggest festival; the same lads, older, wiser and on their third album, should not have been given the same leeway at Reading 2009.

Many fans enjoyed their Humbug driven performance, but the majority made it known that they were underwhelmed and, perhaps worse, disappointed. The Monkeys have come on leaps and bounds as a live act since. They now understand that a headline performance is about satisfying a crowd and artfully arranging a setlist, rather than staring at their sneakers. More importantly, Alex Turner seems to legitimately enjoy playing live – it no longer feels like an inconvenience – and this is AM’s chance to repay the festival that gave the young band their big break in 2005.

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Author: david

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