Reading Festival is one of the summer’s biggest music festivals in England and Grown Folks Music was blessed to have eyes and ears at the spot. Friend to GFM and guest contributor Victoria Clarke had her feet planted firmly in the grass during last Friday’s performances and came through with a review of a few acts — UK Rappers Lady Leshurr and Giggs, and groups Fickle Friends, CHVRCHES and Disclosure. Read it and get into it.
A few years ago the organizers of Reading festival took a gamble and decided to move away from its traditional roots in rock and create a more diverse line up. A gamble that has paid off. As I navigated my way between groups of young adults, drinking copious amounts of cider on a sunny first day of the three-day festival, it quickly became apparent what the key talking points would be and about whom.
Lady Leshurr @LadyLeshurr
“The First Lady of Grime”, had the 1 Xtra tent in “lockdown” Her unique freestyles from her “Queen’s Speech” series and album Mona Leshurr are what set her apart from other female rappers. Having amassed over 30 million
views across various blogs and social platforms, it was perhaps unsurprising to see a packed tent for her 30-minute set. Flanked by two female dancers, the set flowed effortlessly by mixing in old school Hip-Hop tunes to get the crowd warmed up and she ended her set with “Where Are You Now”, a track making waves both here and in the US. Having landed a deal with Columbia in the US, she recently signed with RCA and it’s no wonder Leshurr was named as the hottest female rapper by Vogue.
Fickle Friends @FickleFriends
Filling a tent when you’ve only been signed a year and you are still working on your first album is an impressive feat, so one can hardly blame lead singer Natassja Shiner for taking a selfie with the crowd. Hailing from Brighton, the five piece provide the perfect blend of synth pop. The single “Swim”, which showcases Shiner’s effortless vocals and is the perfect tale of modern day relationships, resonated with many in the crowd. “For You” is a slightly more subdued track and the ultimate synth pop end of relationship ballad for the under 25 generation. With over 100,000 plays on SoundCloud and a growing fan base, it would not be surprising to see the band moved up the billing in 12 months time.
The anticipation for Giggs’s 4:00pm set in the Radio 1 NME tent began around lunchtime, and by the time he hit stage an hour later then planned due to rapper Fetty Wap pulling out under doctors’ orders, the tent was full to capacity. Early this month Giggs released his album Landlord to critical acclaim and as he hit the stage the crowd erupted. Building on his reputation for his gritty take on modern life his style is fast-paced and his onstage energy is relentless. He moved around the stage like he owned it! Pausing only briefly to perform the retrospective track “Just Swervin”, he then turned the packed tent into a club by performing “Lock Doh”– a track about an issue most rappers encounter– having too many girls coming onto you. Covering peer tracks is a common theme at most festivals and Giggs did not disappoint. Performing “Three Wheels Up” by Kano ( featuring Giggs and Wiley) set the crowd into a suitably frenzy and “Man Don’t Care” by JME, ensured Giggs earned his place in Reading folklore.
The Scottish band had the diffcult task of keeping the early evening crowd entertained as it waited for the first of Friday night’s co-headliner Disclosure. Despite the fact this was the bands third time at Reading it was their first time on the main stage. However, it proved it was more than up to the challenge. The 2015 album Eyes Open won numerous awards with various critics and it’s clear to see why. CHVURCHES’ set began with “Never Ending Circles”, which mixes lead singer Lauren Mayberry Celtic-tinged light vocals with ’80s-inspired beats. As Mayberry bounced around the stage the crowd soon followed suit. The group also performed its latest track, “Leave A Trace”, described by the band as “a middle finger mic-drop” which is rather hard to believe as Mayberry’s likability shines through on each track. The set ended with “The Mother We Share” which may have a slightly more melancholy subject matter, but it didn’t seem to dampen the crowd’s spirit as the sun began to set.
“Mind Blowing” was the phrase the duo used to describe the audience response to co-headlining the main stage. It’s probably fair to say the feeling was mutual. Much like Frankie Knuckles and DJ Ron Hardy who pioneered a change in the Chicago music scene in the late 1980s, for the last three years the duo from Surrey have been changing the face of electronic dance music and propelling it into the mainstream. With two number one albums and one Grammy-nominated album, choosing a set list was no easy task and there was only one guest vocalist– Brendan Riley (who performed “Moving Mountains”). The duo created a light show that Muse would be proud of featuring silhouettes of the various singers they have collaborated with.
The set started with “White Noise”, a synth-heavy track with a funk twist provided by a live guitar and they moved seamlessly between tracks even singing along under their breaths. At the start of the summer, the duo released the EP Moog for Love and they performed “Boss” (from the EP) with Howard providing the lead vocals which are distorted throughout the track. “Bang That” never made it onto either album, and the extended live version sent the already pumped crowd into overdrive. By the time they performed “When A Fire Starts To Burn”, even the most hardened rock fan would find it difficult to be critical of their promotion from the dance tent to the main stage. Minus the presence of Sam Smith, there could be a suggestion that “Omen” and “Latch” may fall flat, but this was not the case at all as the crowd ramped up the tempo another level. Before they left the stage the duo informed the crowd that this was the first festival they attended seven years ago. How fitting it is then that Reading should play host to the their first main stage headlining set and I am proud to say I was there.
About our guest writer: Victoria Clarke is PR professional who enjoys attending and volunteering at music festivals and concerts across England and writing freelance reviews.
I have questions. Artists have answers.