We are mere days away from Reading & Leeds Festival, the annual August Bank Holiday weekend celebration of alternative music which also functions as one last blowout before Summer ends and we all have to masquerade as productive members of society again. Soundsphere are going to have a few people roaming the Leeds Fest grounds to provide coverage and (hopefully) interviews and other fun stuff. But before then, let’s wrap up the three-part preview series of whom we think are worth checking out on each respective day. Friday and Saturday have already been covered, so that naturally leaves Sunday to do. Got an act playing that you’re super-excited to see? Let us know on the Facebook, Instagram, or The App Formerly Known as Twitter before Elon makes tweeting a Twitter Blue exclusive privilege!
Main Stage West headliner
Melvin Benn probably has The 1975 on speed-dial, at this point, since it’s the second year in a row where they’ve had to parachute in on behalf of a previously-announced headliner pulling out. And, look, I know. I’ve heard the complaints. But they’re going to do a full run-through of their 2013 self-titled debut, just like they did at Manchester Gorilla back in February! If you’re going to repeat-headline at a festival, doing a one-off special event like this – complete with the old (best) logo on the poster and press photos – is the best possible way to mitigate any grumblings. Also, they’re The 1975 and they’re currently one of the very best live bands on the planet and I get to finally hear “Pressure” live. I may have blagged myself onto the Soundsphere press coverage team for this festival solely so I could hear The 1975 played live in full. So long as Matty Healy can avoid causing any more international incidents or public-cancellations between now and Sunday, this will be a perfect way to wrap up the weekend.
BBC Music Introducing Stage headliner
Swaggering bollocks-out Rock music seems to be a rarer presence at Leeds Fest this year than it once was. The kind of Rock you can imagine soundtracking a bar fight or gives you the kind of confident peacocking strut when you walk down a street which makes you believe you’re hot shit. Fortunately, Hastings-based trio HotWax are here to provide that kind of crunchy Dead Weather rock-and-roll in spades. They’re extremely new at this – as in, literally just put out their first EP, the tantalisingly more-ish Hole-reminiscent A Thousand Times – and, as the press release frequently notes, barely out-of-school, but they’ve already got the kind of audible charisma of a significantly more seasoned band. That Introducing Stage headline slot is more than justified.
Festival Republic Stage
We here at Soundsphere are big, BIG fans of High Vis; the hardcore-adjacent post-punk shoegaze quartet borne from the ashes of Dirty Money, Tremors, DiE, and The Smear. Head honcho Dom couldn’t stop praising their sophomore album, the earnest and pained Blending, to both the staff chats and on his socials last year. I was actually supposed to cover their gig at Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Studios back in February only to get sick literally hours before. Still, second try’s the charm, eh? They’ll be fresh off of supporting Turnstile at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse, too, so undoubtedly in hungry ‘convert some sceptics’ mood. Have you heard “Trauma Bonds”? Fucking rules, mate.
Radio 1Xtra Stage
Don’t let the fact that he only played his first Manchester show three weeks ago, as the opening act for Pusha T, make you think Jordy’s some wet-behind-the-ears newbie. He’s rapping since he was 8, officially dropping music since 2017, and already been co-signed by and guesting on tracks by Ghetts and Kojey Radical. The Tottenham-born Jordy cites Skepta, JME, and James Blake as influences, but I can also hear a little bit of the compelling moodiness of Drake in his most recent THE LOVE TING EP. Capable of switching between bangers and vibes on a track-by-track basis, whilst maintaining an enthusiastically relaxed stage presence, I was really impressed by his Pusha T set and look forward to seeing where he goes from here. He is a Manchester United fan, though; try not to hold that against him.
BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage
Boy, Summer 2022 was real good for British dance music making a surprise chart-dominating resurgence, huh? Conor Larkman and Sean Finnigan, the Scottish house duo who were working as a roofer and petrol station attendant not fifteen months ago, were responsible for perhaps the biggest song of last Summer, “Afraid to Feel,” which reigned over the UK charts for eight uninterrupted weeks and finished as the #9 song of 2022. But did you know that pair have more songs? Ones that weren’t opportunistically jumped on by David Guetta for the remix treatment? It’s true, and they’re really bloody good! I am drawn to disco/soul-centric house music like a cat to a bag of Dreamies, so I am fully willing to buy as many soul-sampling, tempo-switching, queer-y dancefloor fillers as LF System can sell me. If you’re not also like that, then I imagine you must be even more boring at parties than me.
Main Stage West
…I am yet to watch Heartstopper. Yes, I know, I’m a traitor to my fellow queers and a certifiable Old at 28. As such, I can’t speak to how the Twitter-beloved Netflix queer rom-dramedy has or has not raised the profile of South Africa-born London-based “anti-pop” artist Baby Queen by association. I’m guessing the dedicated Heartstopper playlist currently on her Spotify artist page indicates her music a recurring presence. What I can speak to is the fact that her music slaps. Again, perpetual late-bandwagon joiner, but these are some wonderful technicolour indie pop jams which tickle a real nostalgia pleasure centre – these feel like songs I obsessed over as a teenager – whilst being firmly rooted in the now. This kind of candid lyrical vulnerability and efforts to be a voice for teenagers today puts her in the same lane as Lorde, Taylor Swift, and The 1975. Her debut album, Quarter Life Crisis, finally drops in October, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her much further up the bill next year.
Festival Republic Stage
A few days ago, this objectively funny photo of Jeremy Corbyn stood next to an intimidatingly androgynous twenty-something went viral online. That non-binary hardcore-looking twenty-something (who shared the image in the first place) is ZAND and they are on the ascension. Crafting nasty, horror-inflected, even trans-ier takes on industrial hyperpop – like if Poppy went even further down the darkness hole of her best work – they’ve been gradually winning over a hardcore fanbase since going all-in on their self-styled “ugly pop” in 2020. Tours with the likes of Bob Vylan and Peaches, buzzy cover splashes on Kerrang!, and (yes) activist bills with Jeremy Corbyn have followed in their wake. Something tells me a lot of unprepared minds are gonna be blown on the Festival Republic Stage that Sunday afternoon; I fucks hard with this.
Main Stage West
It’s been almost five years, yet the untimely death of Mac Miller still hurts. His influence continues to live on, however, perhaps most surprisingly in the form of Leicester indie pop group easy life. Press play on nearly any of their songs and you can instantly spot the DNA of Swimming and the posthumous Circles in their laidback funk and soul soundscapes backing tongue-twisty raps of masculine vulnerability/longing. Fortunately, easy life also decided to jack the shimmery comforting production, disarmingly witty lyrical turns of phrase, and hooks of Mac’s best moments, so the comparisons are both justified and very flattering. You don’t bag Arlo Parks and Kevin Abstract guest spots if you haven’t got the chops.
BBC Music Introducing Stage
Some people get seemingly all the talent. Fresh off of contributing to the Oscar-winning short film An Irish Goodbye, Belfast’s Chalk are now busy setting teeth on edge with their unnerving, oppressive noise-rock take on post-punk. The trio – Ross Cullen, Benedict Goddard, Luke Niblock – met when studying film before pivoting to creating music and that initial influence of cinematic composition is all over debut EP Conditions. The siren squall which rings throughout “Velodrome,” the menacing snarl underpinning “Static,” the violent snap of the jabbing guitars bursting into “Asking.” Little wonder that their first gig was opening for kindred spirits PVA on their Dublin tour date; I’m honestly shocked that mandy, indiana haven’t also called Chalk up to support their upcoming tour. All about this.
BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage
I’ve seen Georgia Barnes – yes, daughter of Neil Barnes, co-found of 90s dance innovators Leftfield – twice, supporting Carly Rae Jepsen and HAIM, and both times I’ve been really impressed by her sticky, studied, soulful synthpop. Have you relistened to “About Work the Dancefloor” lately? That thing should’ve been huge in the same circles which venerate Robyn and other queens of the sad dancefloor. 2020’s Seeking Thrills was a really solid album whose impact unfortunately got kneecapped by dropping pre-pandemic, and this year’s Euphoric blows things up to an even prettier (and more concise) widescreen. Those live sets, where she sings and operates her complex drum machine pads at the same time, were really fun, packing all the killer into a constrained time. Also, she was on the “Running Up That Hill” cover industry pre-pandemic, long before every other artist on the planet ran that particular moment into ground last Summer, and hers is one of the best.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Leeds Fest? Let us know! Keep locked to Soundsphere for coverage and, if you are going, be sure to drink plenty of water!
Words: Callie Petch