For even the biggest of operations, the course of festival planning rarely runs smooth. Throw in a global pandemic and you’re dealing not only with the lingering effects of health-based chaos, but also the bottleneck of artists rushing to recoup their lost activity.
In the eyes of some Reading and Leeds fans, certain acts have maybe become a little too comfortable with the ability to cite ‘scheduling conflicts’ as a way of getting out of their professional obligations. Just weeks before the event, fan favourite Måneskin and Jack Harlow both pulled out of their mainstage slots in favour of attending the MTV VMA awards, happening in New Jersey. Harlow, who will be co-hosting the ceremony, seemingly made things up to his audience by swiftly announcing a UK tour, but for Eurovision champions Måneskin, some fans felt that their no-show was a bit of a slap in the face for their UK audience, especially given how many could not get tickets to their solo sold-out Brixton academy show earlier in the year.
To add further insult to injury came the biggest swap of all, one that could not have been foreseen. After singer Zack De La Rocha sustained a leg injury, Rage Against The Machine cut short their world tour, meaning that their already-postponed headline set had to be cancelled for a second time after 2020’s COVID year. With The 1975 being drafted in to fill the slot, rockheads were understandably frustrated at the lack of like-for-like replacement, demanding refunds and overall complaining that the festival was not delivering what they had waited so long for. With a cost-of-living crisis exacerbating people’s anger, feelings of ill-will towards Reading and Leeds on social media became less about the festival itself, and more about a general sense of frustration about the uncertainty involved in live events in 2022, still reeling from the impact of COVID-19.
With COVID, train strikes and various other unpredictable hurdles, it is somewhat inevitable that any festival will have to deal with last-minute changes. But amidst all that disappointment can also come great opportunity. With the bigger names in flux, there has never been a better reason to go with the festival flow, seeing what fresh new names you can discover. This year especially, Reading and Leeds seem to have made an effort to engage with long-term criticisms of its male-heavy line-up, bringing noticeably improved balance, particularly to its smaller stages. If you’re feeling frustrated about the state of live music, channel your angst into positive energy; here are 10 new names that will more than makeup for any missed big-name slots.
Lime Garden (Festival Republic Stage, Leeds Thursday)
For all those eager early birds, the Thursday night showcase is a great way to ease yourself into the weekend, discovering artists you may not have noticed on your initial clashfinder. Brighton’s Lime Garden will be warming things up at Leeds Festival, their psych-laden Britpop likely to win over Fontaines-Wolf Alice-Arctic Monkeys punters.
Mallrat (Mainstage East. Leeds Friday, Reading Sunday)
Hailing all the way from Brisbane, Grace Shaw (aka Mallrat) has been knocking around the alt-pop circuit for some time, but it was 2019’s ‘Groceries’ that really cemented her knack for an impossibly catchy chorus. Blending elements of rap, electronica and lo-fi chill, she’ll be showcasing her recent debut album Butterfly Blue as a mainstage opener. Grab a Berocca and get down early; this is the perfect set to shake off any hangover.
Chloe Moriondo (Festival Republic Stage. Leeds Friday, Reading Sunday)
If Charli XCX’s set isn’t tickling your Måneskin rock-replacement needs, skip over to the Festival Republic to catch Chloe Moriondo. Signed to pop-punk royalty label Fueled By Ramen, their cute ‘n’ quirky tunes are rich with macabre imagery; not out and out emo, but certainly a solid dose of Emily The Strange aesthetic.
Flowerovlove (BBC Introducing Stage. Leeds Saturday, Reading Friday)
Model, schoolgirl, singer; is there nothing that Joyce Cisse cannot do? Just 16 years of age, the South Londoner tells hopeful stories over boppy, lo-fi beats, keeping things intimate so you lean in closer to really catch every one of her lyrics. It’s early days in her career, but if you want ‘I was there’ bragging rights, get down in time to hear the brilliant ‘Will We Ever Get This Right’.
PIRI & TOMMY (BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage. Leeds Saturday, Reading Friday)
If you’re looking for a sign that you should indeed exchange numbers with the cutie you keep spotting at the silent disco, the lovestruck funk of PIRI AND TOMMY provides the perfect encouragement. A couple both personally and professionally, ‘It’s A Match’ was their breakout hit of 2021, showcasing their light touch for feel-good dance. They’re good mates with Charli XCX and PinkPantheress too; if schedules line-up, who knows what sort of surprise onstage collab might take place?
Anorak Patch (BBC Music Introducing Stage. Leeds Friday, Reading Sunday)
It’ll take fair nerve to go up against Beabadobee and Run the Jewels, but if anyone has got the young pluck and determination, it’s Anorak Patch. Recalling the glory noughties days of underage-club indie, their colourfully scrappy singles ‘Delilah’ and ‘Cousin Sam’ hint at a growing confidence that should see them ascending the bigger stages in no time.
Scene Queen (Festival Republic Stage. Leeds Saturday, Reading Friday)
A little bit nu-metal, a little bit bubblegum, a little bit Soundcloud rap, Scene Queen’s chaotic take on ‘Bimbocore’ is brilliantly subversive, guaranteed to be a riot in the flesh. Shaking up a genre that can often take itself a little too seriously, ‘Pink Rover’ will be brutal, but it’s ‘Pink G-String’ that’ll truly get the moshpit going; ‘Barbie breaking off a dick’, anyone?
Gayle (BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage. Leeds Friday, Reading Sunday)
Leading the charge of unapologetically bolshy pop, Nashville’s Gayle knows the value of keeping her tongue firmly in her cheek, using sarcasm and melodrama to create moments of musical catharsis. TikTok-slayer ‘abcdefu’ is a guaranteed phones-in-the-air moment, but she’s got plenty of other sassy anthems to help you safely exorcize any pent-up angst.
Nia Archives (BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage. Leeds Saturday, Reading Friday)
Deeply rooted in her Jamaican heritage, Nia Archives has been making a name as a must-see artist and producer, conjuring up a sense of late-night atmosphere with her cut-and-splice approach to jungle and contemporary drum and bass. Leeds will be her hometown show, but her warm, loving approach to performance will surely make Reading feel just as special.
Jazmine Flowers (BBC Music Introducing Stage. Leeds Sunday, Reading Saturday)
Raised on a diet of emotionally resonant melodies, Jazmine Flowers is carving a path for herself as an intimate, affable kind of songwriter. Debut single ‘Awkward’ will have introverts everywhere nodding along in furious self-recognition, it’s smooth, woozy RnB providing the perfect opportunity to chill out in a busy festival day. Away from the hustle of the main stage, it’ll be a welcome moment to really sit back and soak things in.