The best Reading & Leeds Festival moments: By the Music Week staff

The best Reading & Leeds Festival moments: By the Music Week staff


This extended weekend marks the return of Reading And Leeds Festival. From Kurt Cobain emerging onstage in a wheelchair, to Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose singing through a megaphone after they broke their curfew, to the infamous 50 Cent bottling, R&L has provided some of the most memorable moments in festival history. Here the Music Week staff look back at their own personal favourite memory...


"I’ve been going to Reading Festival since the late 1980s, which means I’ve been lucky enough to see plenty of sets that will live long in the memory. But more than that: from Nirvana in ’92 to the Foo Fighters in ’95; from Blur in ’93 and Elastica in ’94 to Limp Bizkit and Slipknot in 2000; from The Prodigy in ’96 to Boy Better Know in 2016; Reading is where you go to watch music’s tectonic plates shift on their axis. And rarely was that more true than in 2005 when, way down the bill on what was then known as The Carling Stage, a band from Sheffield with a silly name made their festival debut. Sandwiched between Mystery Jets and Dogs might not look like the most auspicious spot in festival history but the tent was so over-subscribed that there were probably more people pushing to get in than watched some of the Main Stage headliners. Freshly signed to Domino, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor was still several months away, but the buzz was clearly already over-whelming. Thankfully, it was also entirely justified. Elbowing our way in to the tent, we found a fully-formed indie rock sensation with classic songs (Fake Tales Of San Francisco, …Dancefloor, Mardy Bum) and a frontman with the confidence to declare: “This is a moment.” He was right, too. Just weeks later, Arctic Monkeys were the biggest band in the country and their silly name didn’t matter one bit."

Mark Sutherland, Editor




"Alongside the prospect of death and taxes, it was something I simply grew up accepting: I would never get a chance to see Rage Against The Machine perform live. It hurt. When they reformed and played Leeds in 2008 it marked the culmination of years upon years of waiting and anticipation, the kind that only an extraordinary performance could actually satisfy. From the moment they came onstage to an air-raid siren, it was exactly that. It remains the only time I have felt at risk of collapsing at a gig - the crowd energy and movement even causing the band to stop performing Bombtrack. I think I left a good chunk of my heart and soul behind on that field. Even the fact that I lost my trainer to the vice grip of the mud on the way back to the car didn’t dampen the experience. I will never ever forget the first time I saw Rage Against The Machine, and I will always have Leeds to thank for that."

George Garner, Deputy Editor




"Sometimes the worst moments are the best moments. The bottling of Daphne & Celeste at Reading 2000 entered the annals of festival history. But it's always slightly annoyed me that Reading gets the credit, because the boisterous US pop duo got their first bottling at Leeds Festival 24 hours earlier. As a tyro music journalist, I had somehow managed to breeze past security for a vantage point at the side of the stage for Rage Against The Machine, Blink-182 and Placebo. But it was the confrontation between the crowd and the ballsy American girls that's stayed with me. Their surprise booking did hold out the intriguing prospect of a meeting with Brian Molko, who they had delighted in mocking in the music press. In the event, it was their abrupt performance that became the story. D&C's brief set, including such classics as Ooh Stick You and U.G.L.Y., seemed to last an eternity as they braved the onslaught of plastic bottles and worse (your correspondent managed to dodge the missiles). By the end you had to admire both sides: Daphne & Celeste were beaten but unbowed, while Leeds reasserted itself as a rock festival. The bottling at Reading got the headlines but it was really just a rowdy encore. Pop stars have never really put themselves in the Reading & Leeds firing line since that weekend." 

Andre Paine, News Editor 



"Being chaperoned by my dad to see Rancid at Reading Festival was about as punk rock as it was going to get for me in 2001. Unless you count sitting in the smoking carriage, writing ‘P U N X’ on my knuckles in history lessons or being bought cans of Foster’s by a guy of indeterminable age known as ‘Budgie’. Another older kid we knew struck up a conversation with my two mates and I as we walked towards Richfield Avenue from Reading station. Pretending not to know him as he offered us weed was the day’s first potentially awkward moment.

Reading was near where we lived, and we’d wanted to come to the festival since first seeing the big yellow line-up adverts in Kerrang!, but this year was different: Rancid were on. We had Tim Armstrong, Lars Frederiksen, Matt Freeman and Brett Reed on the highest pedestal possible, dreaming of them as our crusty surrogate guardians. It was our first time at Reading. It was also my dad’s first time, which now speaks volumes for his lack of enthusiasm. I’m not sure why it was my dad that ended up taking us, but it was, and what he did pretty much became the story of the day.

Rancid played – as did Mad Caddies, Snuff, Reel Big Fish and some of the other bands I had Tipp-Ex’d onto my Quicksilver CD case – and I remember nothing about that day bar seeing them. Lars made everyone stick their middle fingers up and start a circle pit during the first song, Radio. It smelt of shit and sweat and the guitars sounded like trains. My dad was holding two pints of Carling, a festival programme (which was massive) and a couple of studded belts someone had bought on the way in.

I looked round after Radio and saw someone bump into him, and apologise. After a few more songs, we turned to see him tottering about a little bit closer to the pit. That’s what we called it, the pit. Anyway, a while later he was locked together with the bloke who’d knocked into him earlier, grappling. They shoved about for a bit, jabbing their knees at one another then, suddenly, the other guy doubled over and fell to the floor. He got up laughing and slapped my dad on the back, they were ‘having a laugh’. We pushed back into the crowd, my dad drank his pints and that was it. I went back to Reading for the next six or seven summers, without him."

Ben Homewood, Senior Staff Writer



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