We’ve curated a short and sweet 52 minute mixtape of our top recommendations for who to see at Reading and Leeds 2016.
Your opinions on the tracks and bands, and opinions of the author, are invited. What did we get right? What did we miss? Is the playlist so bad that we have reason to be concerned about our music taste?
1) Cassius - Foals
This frantic indie noise sums up a teenager at their first Reading festival: disjointed, carefree, fun, but also definitely annoying in retrospect.
Through rose-tinted nostalgia spectacles this is a great song, ideal for the festival experience. Just don’t keep it in your playlist after August bank holiday weekend or you’ll look like a berk.
2) xxzxcuzx Me – Crystal Castles
Further frantic mayhem, this time from Crystal Castles. In ’07 the then-singer Alice Glass was told off for climbing all over the PA system and leaping into the crowds, and she collected various injuries in the following years from similar antics.
Festival organisers hated it, but the crowd got more pumped every second. A new singer led to a subtle change in vibe, but the show promises to be a good one.
3) Fatty Boom Boom – Die Antwoord
The first song in this playlist that was released after 2008, hopefully proving that we are qualified to write about who you should see at festivals this year, rather than coming across as fusty and out of touch with the kids.
Die Antwoord combine manic and relentless basslines – probably perfect in a festival crowd - with an aloof vibe and their own Zef aesthetic, and it’s deeply compelling. The guest stars they got in their Ugly Boy video attest to this: Marilyn Manson, Jack Black, Dita Von Teese and Flea carry a lot of cultural clout.
Which brings us to:
4) Give it Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers
It’s hard to pick a song that encapsulates a band, especially when that band have been active in four consecutive decades and have over 200 songs under their belt. And especially when their most famous songs were released with a now-absent guitarist.
There was debate internally with Californication almost being chosen, but we settled on one with raw energy and undulating bassline that continues the precedent set by Die Antwoord, while simultaneously transitioning us toward a different genre.
The fanboy in us hopes that the Chilis put on a better show this year than the famously lacklustre performance in 2007, though. Don’t disappoint another generation of impressionable teenagers, lads!
5) Save the World, Get the Girl – The King Blues
Every festival needs an anthem. A song that will get caught in the crowd’s collective consciousness, and that will bring a grin to each of their faces whenever they hear it in the future.
This track’s refrain of “but I will save the world, yeah, I will get the girl” provides the feel-good hook to throw your fist in the air to, and the thought-provoking line “going to war, to prevent war, was the most stupid thing I ever heard” is convincing enough to create the illusion that the experience was profound.
6) I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous – Frank Turner
The King Blues know there way around a catchy singalong track, but Frank Turner is the master of the genre. His ability to capture formative experiences, usually involving some combination of alcohol, friends and travelling is unmatched.
He kicks of the main stage on Friday (Reading) and Saturday (Leeds), and if he opens with this rousing call-to-arms of all young adults who are trying to make their lives matter, it will be the set the tone for the day perfectly.
Bonus points if you learn all the lyrics in advance and sing along to the whole thing.
7) Rhymes – Hannah Wants
You won’t see Daft Punk at any festivals this year, but this track by Hannah Wants may be the closest alternative.
At that undefinable time of day at a festival where the focus shifts from having beers in the sun to partying in a hot and sweaty tent, this slightly unsettling reimagining of ‘Technologic’ will lay a perfect foundation for a dance-fuelled evening of ecstasy.
8) Rinse & Repeat – Riton
This track continues the danceable vibe that Hannah Wants established previously.
The lack of emotion in Riton’s voice as she outlines how the evening will proceed makes you wonder: is it actually an ideal evening? Or is it a deadpan commentary on the unfulfilling but seemingly obligatory behaviours that are expected on a night out?
Or maybe we’re overthinking it. The bassline is catchy and that’s all that matters.
9) Whare are Ü Now - Jack Ü
This song’s pulsating bassline and off-kilter samples cap off the DJ segment of our playlist. The cryptically named duo consists of Skrillex and Diplo – giants of dubstep and rap respectively.
Bieber’s vocal contributions to the track will most likely be pre-recorded at Reading and Leeds, but the chance to dance to this tune shouldn’t be missed just because you won’t be close to the Biebs.
Note: the Ü in their name looks like a big smiley face, isn’t that lovely?
10) Hurt Me – Låpsley
Each year an act captures the zeitgeist with 100% accuracy, and this year it’s Låpsley.
From the ethereal and disjointed vocal samples, to the sparse reverbed piano chords, to the unnecessary circle above the ‘a’ in her name, she ticks all of 2016’s hipster boxes. And this is by no means a criticism.
Her songs are thought-provoking and mellow, providing a good chance for respite after an active day.
11) Stingin’ Belle – Biffy Clyro
Biffy have spent over a decade touring, growing, and gradually climbing up the Reading line-up. It’s nice to see they’ve reached the headline slot.
They are one of the bands who have an aggressively divided fan-base: half adore their first three albums and loathe anything released afterwards; half are addicted to the carefully crafted stadium rock hooks of the latter four albums. Neither group is correct, but the divide defines their fan-base nonetheless (writing their festival set-list must be a nightmare, all things considered).
Stingin’ Belle is a song that captures the magic of both sides. It’s got mosh-able jaunty rhythms, a bit of shrieking, but with an eminently catchy anthemic chorus alongside them. And it has a bagpipe solo at the end, just to remind you that they’re Scottish.
12) Blood and Thunder – Mastodon
The heaviest song on this playlist, included mainly to show the spectrum of artists waiting for you at Reading and Leeds if you’re prepared to look.
At a festival, treading the balance between seeking out new and different bands and genres but not missing the stuff you genuinely like is the hardest thing to do. Especially with the pressure of knowing that your tastes will inevitably change later and paint your teenage self’s decisions in an unforgivingly idiotic light.
13) Something Good Can Work – Two Door Cinema Club
If Mastodon show how big the spectrum of artists at Reading and Leeds is, having Two Door Cinema Club next to them in the playlist shows the two extremes next to each other. Jangly guitar work, danceable rhythms, and sentimental lyrics underpin their act, and it’s guaranteed to leave you with a spring in your step.
14) Greek Tragedy – The Wombats
Another indie (boy)band to complement Two Door Cinema Club. These guys combine the cheerful with the melancholic on their albums, and Mathew Murphy’s witty and astute lyrics describe formative situations we’ve all been in perfectly. The quasi-soul searching you’ll do while listening to his accounts of your life are a vital part of the festival experience.
The temptation to include one of the songs from 2007’s A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation was strong: it was uncanny how well the lyrics described the target audience’s day-to-day lives, until they all realised in retrospect that every teenager has the same whiny experience and that there was no coincidence or deep connection at all.
(The nostalgic among us can listen to ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ if they really want to relive summer 2007).
15) Stuck in the Metal – Eagles of Death Metal
As well as a catchy anthem, every festival needs a great cover version, and the Eagles of Death Metal’s cover of Stealers Wheel’s famous hit ticks that box. Once described by a petulant Axl Rose as “The Pigeons of Shit Metal”, these two desert rockers seem intent on proving the ageing Chinese Democrat with an Appetite for Destruction wrong.
A special shout-out goes to these guys after the sad events of November 11 2015, too. Their decision to keep touring in the face of such events is inspiring.