Oskar Rice spent the weekend at one of the country's most famous festivals.
Date published: 27th Aug 2018
Image: Leeds Festival
The Leeds Festival 2018 buzz began earlier this year after the festival announced their headline acts to a polarising response. Fans typically fell into two categories, one set of prospective festival goers were elated, taking to twitter to express their excitement and rushing to buy tickets as soon as they could. The other however, claiming the festival had strayed too far from it’s roots as a primarily rock festival. With such conflicting opinions amongst fans, the weekend was staged to be very interesting.
Although officially billed as Friday, day one really began on Thursday. Across the festival arena fans were treated to a plethora of food stalls, carnival rides and warm up acts across multiple stages. Whilst the main stage was off limits until Friday, fans walking by the Festival Republic and Alternative stages were drawn in by the sounds of acts they likely had never heard of. A particular highlight was the soothing sounds of Anteros on the Festival republic stage, who eased fans into the festival with a welcoming and heartfelt performance. Later that evening, Kurupt FM, Heartless Crew and The Manor would also regulate the dance floors on the late night Relentless stage.
Friday provided fans with their first taste of the main stage acts with a trio of heavy weight bands. The Vaccines, Courteeners and the Kings of Leon, all gracing the main stage. Despite cooler, and wetter weather than w've seen this summer, large crowds welcomed all three acts to the festival. The Vaccines, who claimed Yorkshire as their home, were well received and rolled off a slew of tracks from their ‘Wetsuits’ EP, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines’ and their latest Album ‘Combat Sports’.
Perhaps the best example of the split opinions on the line up was the performance of Lil Pump, who had the crowd divided between dedicated fans braving huge mosh pits at the front of the Radio 1 Stage, and crowds at the back of the tent, who seemed to be there in a purely observational capacity, watching inquisitively. Closing the night, Friday’s headliners Kings of Leon ended their set on a high, performing back to back renditions of some their biggest hits, including ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Waste A Moment’ before climaxing with ‘Sex On Fire’ which fans had been eagerly anticipating all evening.
A sunny morning was a welcome sight to fans on Saturday and the good vibes spilled over into Post Malone’s Main Stage performance. Mixing rapping, singing and guitar playing, Malone’s performance provided a middle ground for fans of both traditional rock music and hip hop. The hip hop theme would continue later on the Main Stage with Travis Scott’s blistering headline performance. Fresh off the release of his already platinum album ‘Astroworld’, Travis fed off the crowds excitement, throwing tour merch off his back into the mosh pits and even embracing a stage rusher by passing him the mic and letting him take the lead, playing the role of Drake on ‘Sicko Mode’.
High octane energy flowed straight from the main stage to the Radio 1 stage as the sun set and Nothing But Thieves took the stage. Whilst Travis Scott and Nothing But Thieves may make music which exists on completely different planets, fans had no difficulty traversing between the two, mosh pits erupted in both crowds and fans were equally in awe of the level of production and performance of both acts.
In the wake of controversy surrounding the decision of head promoter Melvin Benn not to sign up to a scheme which aims to have equal number of women being booked to play festivals as men, Wolf Alice’s triumphant headline performance on the Radio 1 Stage was particularly poignant. Benn, who favours schemes which aid female recording artists from the ground up over quotas for booking female artists, was quoted before the festival as saying that there was ‘no reason’ Wolf Alice won’t headline the entire festival in a few years and if lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s crowd surf at the end of their set was anything to go by that scenario is looking increasingly likely.
Sunday’s line up provided the most varied acts of the entire weekend. Beginning with Mike Shinoda’s touching tribute to Chester Bennington on the Main Stage, fans were then treated to the likes of Dua Lipa and a comeback performance by N.E.R.D. Further into the arena, the infectious energy of Brockhampton (who recently announced the released date of their new album ‘Iridescence’) had the crowd jumping whilst newcomers Sunflower Bean channeled classic American rock vibes on the Festival Republic stage. Finally, after dark and in a misty rain, Kendrick Lamar closed the festival with a headline performance which included songs from all four of his studio albums, tracks from his Black Panther soundtrack and a classic features from ScHoolBoy Q’s ‘Collard Greens’ and Saturday headliner Travis Scott’s ‘Goosebumps’. All of this set against an impressive stage design, spliced with Kung-Fu style interludes and a live band which added an extra layer to the performance.
Ultimately Reading and Leeds festival will always be known for being a rock festival, and whilst this years line up may be a reflection ‘what sells tickets’, it is as much a reflection of a young audiences changing music tastes and a blending of popular genres. Post Malone for example, who many die hard rock fans were upset with being booked, doesn’t consider himself a rapper and recently shared the stage in collaboration with Aerosmith at the VMA’s. Travis Scott, another headliner that drew criticism has long been blending the line between rock music and hip hop both aesthetically and musically on tracks like ‘Oh My/Dis Side’. The way the crowds at Leeds reacted to Brockhampton’s ballads, Travis Scott's bangers and Nothing But Thieves’ breakdowns, was with the same energy that has always been at the core of rock music festivals and was still very much alive at the core of Leeds Festival 2018.