We are now one month out from the unofficial climax of Summer festival season, Reading & Leeds, held as ever on August Bank Holiday weekend (25th – 27th).  The full line-up has been officially announced and there are loads of names worthy of catching during the big Summer blow-out.  Over the next three weeks, we here at Soundsphere are gonna give you a day-by-day rundown of the acts on the line-up we think you should make time for if you’re heading down to either campsite.  This week, we’re looking at the Friday line-up for Leeds Fest.  Feel free to let us know which acts you’re most excited to see in the comments or on whatever Elon has decided to call Twitter this week!


Billie Eilish

Main Stage East Headliner

In 2019, the last Reading & Leeds prior to the pandemic and overhaul of the stage arrangements, Billie Eilish was upgraded at the last minute from headlining the Radio 1 tent to a late-afternoon Main Stage slot due to the rocket-ship ascent of her popularity following the release of debut WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?  Arguably, it still wasn’t enough given the mind-melting size of the crowd that turned out to watch her set.  Despite having just one album and an EP under her belt at the time, many pegged her as a future headliner.  Four years, another smash-hit album, an Oscar, a UK #1 single, a lengthy sellout UK arena tour, and history-making Glastonbury headline slot later, Billie is back to fulfil that prophecy.

It’s arguably rock journalist cliché to say so at this point but, having attended that arena tour, I really do believe Billie Eilish to be a generational talent.  Her stage presence is captivating, her command over and inclusiveness with the crowd is exceptional, and Happier Than Ever proved that she can mature as an artist without sacrificing her specific voice.  A Happier follow-up is still yet to materialise or even be teased, so these festival dates she’s on in 2023 appear to be more of an encore performance of that 2022 show.  Still, said show was my favourite of the many, many gigs I saw throughout the year, and anybody who didn’t manage to make that tour should beeline for the Main Stage East.

Ethel Cain

Festival Republic Stage

One of the wilder rises to mainstream-adjacent stardom over the past twelve months undoubtedly has to be that of Ethel Cain, the alter-ego of Hayden Anhedönia.  After a few years of buzz-building EPs, Cain released her debut full-length, Preacher’s Daughter, a hauntingly bleak and sprawling gothic-downer concept album with little in the way of accessible pop hooks about religious cults, sexual abuse, and eventually cannibalism.  Incredibly, this has resulted in the kind of intensely-online cult stardom which gives those at its centre existential crises.  A testament to the heart-stopping power of Cain’s genre-agnostic, achingly vulnerable, and unapologetically queer music that people are embracing it in enough droves to land her boygenius support slots.  Her Friday afternoon Leeds slot will mark only the sixth time she’s played in the UK and, with her additional headline dates in the country having sold out instantly, is the best chance for a casual fan or neophyte to hear what the fuss is about.

Hot Milk

Main Stage West

We here at Soundsphere have been bigging up Manchester-based emo-pop-rock four-piece Hot Milk pretty much since they first burst onto the scene.  Years of increasingly hooky and rocking EPs, major support slots with Foo Fighters, co-signs from Radio 1 and Kerrang!, and constant touring are finally about to culminate in their debut LP, A Call to the Void.  In fact, Void will drop the very day that Hot Milk open the weekend’s Main Stage festivities, making said slot a de facto album release party!  If you’re into this kind of energetic, genre-crossing, snot-nosed emo, then you’ll want to get down to Bramham Park early.

Eliza Rose

Radio 1 Dance Stage

Much of the latter-half of Friday’s Dance Stage line-up is dedicated to drum & bass standbys – the one-two closing punch of Shy FX and headliner Andy C should be a real fun time, in that regard.  But before then, Dalston-born DJ Eliza Rose is gonna take the field back to the cool minimalist throb of late-90s house and garage.  Perhaps best known for last Summer’s surprise #1 smash “B.O.T.A. (Baddest of Them All),” Rose has been gaining a real reputation for fun-as-hell sets which push classic underground rave vibes right up to the verge of mainstream commercial dance music.  If you spot an awkward-ass NB in the crowd busting out a grand total of one-and-a-half dance moves during this set, that’ll probably be me.


BBC Music Introducing Stage

The brainchild of Welsh songwriter, vocalist, and producer Chloé Davis, twst is one of the most potential-filled hyperpop acts I’ve come across in a hot minute.  Her rise may have been stunted a little by the pandemic – there’s a pretty lengthy gap between 2020’s introductory TWST001 EP and the great singles she’s been putting out since 2023 kicked off – but she’s already gotten the Hudson Mohawke remix treatment, and Reading & Leeds will mark her festival debut.  In particular, recent single “Off-World” is a giddy digital rush of a tune, whose breakbeat charge sounds both futuristic and nostalgic all at once when combined with twst’s softly cooed vocals.


Radio 1Xtra Stage

Closure Tapes may be labelled officially as an EP – despite being 10 songs and half-an-hour long; yes, this does annoy me – but it’s one of my favourite releases of 2023 so far.  A concise, focussed, and gorgeously-produced exploration of a failing relationship centred around a classically UK R&B voice, threading the needle between early-00s North London R&B and modern vibes-based atmospheric texture.  It’s the kind of release which should really herald big things for its creator, 25-year-old Monique Amelia, and hopefully she should be on the way to her goal of “world domination” with this Friday slot on the 1Xtra Stage.


Main Stage East

They may not quite be dominating Radio 1 dials just yet, but that crossover ascension I felt Los Angeles queer-pop trio MUNA were about to embark on during a sweaty November night at Brudenell Social Club in 2019 is undoubtedly underway.  And all it took was shifting from a major label to an indie imprint, plus a killer Phoebe Bridgers collab!  Have you heard “Silk Chiffon?”  “I Know a Place?”  “It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby?”  “Home by Now?”  “Crying on the Bathroom Floor?”  “Pink Light?”  Bangers, all!  And they’re ferocious as a live act.  Hopefully we’re not too far away from them scraping the underside of a main stage headline slot.

Austin Millz

Radio 1 Dance Stage

Wanna vibe in some R&B-adjacent chillout?  You’ll want to find time for Austin Millz, a Harlem-born DJ making waves with his recently-released debut (not actually debut) EP, Breathwork, a six-track collection of smooth-af deep house that collabs with vocalists like Justine Skye and Estelle.  But he can also bring the bangers when needs be, as evidenced with his ‘has no right to be this decent’ remix of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.”  Assuming the weather is a horrendous scorcher, Millz’s soul-centric take on electronic music could be just the cooldown tonic.

Royel Otis

Festival Republic Stage

Australia’s guitar scene has been in extremely healthy form the last few years: The Beths, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Ducks Ltd. (technically since half of them are now based in Geelong).  Add to that list Royel Otis, a portmanteau of the duo Royel Maddell and Otis Pavlovic.  They craft sunny, jangly, carefree-sonics guitar pop of the kind that online indie blogs used to utterly adore; nostalgic in feel but not detrimentally beholden to the past and in a charming rush to offer up their hooks.


BBC Music Introducing Stage

Even as the pop (and specifically chart-pop) world becomes more open to non-English-speaking musicians, the sonics can still be reticent to musical ideas which come from outside the Anglosphere, at least in the UK.  A large part of what draws me to Tamil-heritage R&B artist Pritt is how her music melds the vibey dream-like atmosphere of our current R&B wave with the sonic touchstones of South Eastern genres.  The tabla rhythms that provide the base of her viral cover “Unakkul Naane” grab the attention so much more than yet another trap preset or sparse xx-y kick-snare, same with the snaking string sections which rise in and out of “Kaalam,” and Pritt’s voice sounds exquisite over both tracks.


Radio 1Xtra Stage

I fully admit to just not really ‘getting’ the UK drill scene, so I’m not gonna speak with any authority on this particular topic.  But the cuts I’ve heard from hometown (Leeds) hero Temz are a current exception.  Perhaps that’s because of his prominent Leeds accent, an instant standout in a scene which is otherwise mostly situated around London whose voices (and music) can start to blend together for me.  Perhaps that’s because his self-described “stylish drill” has enough roots in the more traditional rap and hip hop which is my preferential speed.  Perhaps that’s because he has bars which I can pop at (“Twist of fate like Hardy, flip that script, I change that tone”).  In any case, I rock with Temz.

Rina Sawayama

Main Stage East

Rina’s been making proper Superstar moves these last couple of years.  Collab-ing with Charli XCX on the latter’s most mainstream-baiting record in half-a-decade, streamlining her own ‘every genre of 00s pop in a smoothie blender’ music for sophomore album Hold the Girl, duetting with Elton John during his farewell Glastonbury headline show, and making her acting debut in John Wick: Chapter 4.  Most all of them have paid off to some degree or another, raising her cultural stock without losing the adoration of her original (often queer) fanbase, even if it’s also contributing to rising discontent with her own label.  She also, by all accounts, puts on one hell of a live show – I wouldn’t yet know cos my hip broke just before her last tour and, yes, I’m still upset about that – with the potential to steal the entire weekend.  Don’t miss this one, cos who knows what’ll happen if Lionsgate end up greenlighting some kind of Donnie Yen/Rina Sawayama John Wick spin-off.

Next week, we’ll bring you the ones to watch from Saturday’s Leeds Fest line-up.

Words: Callie Petch