For almost as long as we can all remember, there has been the Reading and Leeds Festival. Two different locations across England, the same acts on all different days but the same level of excitement and atmosphere throughout both. The festival has played host to some of the biggest rock bands in the world. The likes of Black Sabbath, Metallica, Thin Lizzy and Foo Fighters have headlined the festival while bands such as Biffy Clyro, Radiohead and Coldplay have kickstarted their careers with sets there also. The festival’s rock aesthetic has not stopped hip-hop acts from around the world converging to England year round. Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Run D-M-C and 50 Cent have all played the main stage in the past and this year it was the turn of Asap Rocky as the sole hip-hop artist on the biggest outlet of the festival. However out away from the main stage there was some of the biggest names in hip-hop at the moment spread throughout the smaller stages and I went to take it all in.
With a tent, sleeping bag and not nearly enough sleep the night before, I headed to Reading on Thursday and slept through the day, waiting patiently for Friday to come. Giggs was the first act I went to see, putting on a storming set of hits from his new album, Landlord. The crowd loved every minute and the atmosphere was electric. Maverick Sabre was next up. The Wexford man played songs from his debut album “Lonely are the Brave” and it was these songs that were appreciated the most.
Metro Boomin and Fetty Wap were no shows, but Anderson Paak made up for all that. With his live band in tow, they blew everyone away with their musicianship and precision. The sound engineering was an issue however, as the bass was too high in the mix, meaning that the audience couldn’t pick out any word that Paak was singing. Despite that glitch his set was undeniably a roaring success.
The final grime event of the evening was Stormzy, who stepped in last minute for Travis Scott. The excitement entering the tent was palpable, as the English crowd were psyched to finally see their cult hero in the flesh. When he did appear, it was clearly the entrance Stormzy has always dreamed of. His popularity has reached a level he never expected in recent months and weeks and he soaked it all in exactly like 23-year-old should in his position.
ASAP Rocky proved to be the last major act with any hip-hop leanings. His set on the main stage was one of the most popular early day performances. He rapped over a constant backing track throughout which took away slightly from the performance, but the presence of inflatable dollar bills, use of smoke and bass-hitting choruses added theatrics as well as the mosh pits in the crowd along with them. The set had a lot frills but was ultimately poignant and impressive, due to tributes to ASAP Yams and the rappers’ natural ability to assume the position of superstar.
An incredible weekend to be a part of and one this writer will never forget. Reading, you’ve been good.