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Reading and Leeds Festival 2024: The best bands to see this year

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Featured image: Georgina Hurdsfield

Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of choice on offer at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. We’ve trawled the lineups to bring you a cluster of acts to watch on the August bank holiday weekend. From jungle to riotous punk, there’s a bounty of brilliant bands and artists to check out.

Nia Archives (Chevron Stage)

Friday: Leeds | Sunday: Reading

In a music world where originality is a rare treasure, Nia Archives is a brilliant, gleaming garnet. Already a MOBO winner long before her Silence is Loud debut album dropped in April, she fuses jungle and drum and bass with anything that comes to hand. Fancy chucking a bit of indie-rock onto ‘Crowded Roomz’? No problem. How’s about a cheeky Columbo sample on ‘Forbidden Feelingz’? Easy peasy. While you’re at it, could you enliven ‘Baianá’ with a line or two from a novelty Brazilian band? Of course!

Wunderhorse (Radio 1 Stage)

Saturday: Reading | Sunday: Leeds

According to our very own music journalist George Wainwright, Wunderhorse main man Jacob Slater is “one of the best lyricists of our generation”. Having served an apprenticeship opening for Fontaines DC, Foals and the Pixies, their Cub debut cemented their place as headliners in their own right. Two years on, and with plenty of songs from their upcoming Midas album already entrenched in their live set, this could be a prelude to an exciting 2025.

Overmono (Radio 1 Stage)

Saturday: Reading | Sunday: Leeds

Head back to the Radio One Stage about an hour after Wunderhorse finish to catch one of the country’s smartest dance outfits, Overmono. Melding deep house with UK garage and an obsessive attention to detail, their Good Lies debut album deservedly found itself in plenty of 2023’s album of the year lists. Plus, their third-place billing means there shouldn’t be a schedule clash with Barry Can’t Swim, who is second-top over on the Chevron Stage.

Kneecap (Main Stage)

Friday: Reading | Saturday: Leeds

Aside from their headline-grabbing antics – 2019 single ‘Get Your Brits Out’ would be enough to turn UK news presenters into steaming bowls of righteous jelly – Kneecap now have the tunes to justify the hype. The trio, who were in danger of becoming Belfast’s answer to Goldie Lookin’ Chain, took a giant leap towards wider credibility with last year’s ‘Better Way to Live’. While they’re unlikely to become pipe-smoking pontificators any time soon, they’re at least being taken more seriously now.

Swim School (Radio 1 Stage)

Saturday: Reading | Sunday: Leeds

The Radio One Stage is the place to be on Sunday at Leeds. Kicking off proceedings is Swim School, much beloved by our photographer of the year, Gracie Hall. The Edinburgh group have seen a steady uptick in quality since their debut Volume 1 EP in 2021, with their profile swelling on the back of tours with Inhaler, Grandson and The Amazons. Their new Seeing It Now EP is comfortably their best work to date, and you suspect that the future starts here for a band shaking off their self-proclaimed ‘Tesco Value Wolf Alice’ tag.

Spiritual Cramp (Festival Republic Stage)

Friday: Reading | Saturday: Leeds

Mike Bingham might just be the best frontman at this year’s festival. A mix of “The Fonz and every 80s Kieffer Sutherland villain”, is how we described him on Spiritual Cramp’s debut Manchester show back in December. Spiritual Cramp’s self-titled debut album is a solid enough piece of punk ‘n’ roll, but Bingham’s sheer presence helps propel the San Francisco quintet onto another level.

Lambrini Girls (Festival Republic Stage)

Friday: Reading | Saturday: Leeds

There’s no time to put your feet up, because Lambrini Girls are on straight after Spiritual Cramp. The Brighton band’s live shows are notoriously chaotic, and with tunes like ‘Big Dick Energy’, ‘Help Me I’m Gay’ and ‘Terf Wars’, they refuse to hide behind subtle metaphors. As fantastic as they are in a tiny club, they’re perfect for an afternoon inside a massive marquee, too.

The Japanese House (Festival Republic Stage)

Friday: Leeds | Sunday: Reading

A much-deserved tent headline slot for The Japanese House, after Amber Bain’s crystalline indie pop incursion into the UK album charts with her second LP In the End It Always Does. Far more developed than her Good at Falling debut, she stunned the Albert Hall into silence on her recent tour, while more upbeat moments such as ‘Touching Yourself’ show that she has a devastating gear change in her back pocket.

The Prodigy (Chevron Stage)

Friday: Reading | Saturday: Leeds

28 years after headlining the Main Stage on the back of the game-changing ‘Firestarter’, and 15 years since their last appearance at the festival, The Prodigy return once again to Reading/Leeds. Still unmissable live – even though there’s always going to be an unfillable Keith Flint-shaped void – and with whispers of a new album on the horizon, this one’s going to be emotional.

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Ian Burke

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