Reading and Leeds 2019: no longer relevant?

In August 2000, a £33 day ticket to either the Reading or Leeds Festival would have got you to see Stereophonics, Eminem, Rage Against the Machine, and Blink 182.

 Sourced from: https://www.readingfestival.

Sourced from: https://www.readingfestival.

Or Oasis, Primal Scream, Foo Fighters, and Muse. Or, if you really broke the bank, £80 would have let you in for the weekend and you could have seen Pulp and Queens of the Stone Age as well. 18 years ago, all of those bands were relevant. Oh, and tickets were available on the door.

In August 2019, if last year’s prices are anything to go off, £245 will get you in to see Foo Fighters (again), Twenty One Pilots, Post Malone, The 1975 and … Bowling for Soup. Something has changed. 

Of course, line-ups like these always look better in hindsight. And inflation is a thing. Blink 182 are hardly the most listened to band in 2018 and Muse, despite apparently still putting out music, haven’t exactly aged well. But Twenty One Pilots are hardly Pulp, and The 1975 aren’t quite Oasis.

And £80 in 2000 is only £130 today.

Perhaps the Reading and Leeds crowds in 2000 were just strangely lucky. Would they have guessed that four bands from that year’s line-up, two of whom weren’t even on the main stage, would later go on to headline the festival multiple times? Oasis and Pulp, despite not having made it very far into the 2000s, are still popular today. Eminem is certainly still talked about.

At Woodstock in 1969, I doubt that crowds were looking back longingly to the 1951 music scene.

 Sourced from: http://photos.readingfestival.com/2018/gallery/79e6f546-a989-11e8-8f07-ba969e967f96

Sourced from: http://photos.readingfestival.com/2018/gallery/79e6f546-a989-11e8-8f07-ba969e967f96

But let’s look forward to August 2038. For the small sum of £600, will we be seeing Bastille and Blossoms headline at Richfield Avenue? Maybe. But it might be telling that, at least concerning rock and indie music, the majority of the biggest names on the Reading and Leeds line-up in recent years have been regulars since the mid-90s. The only recent contemporary headliner (remember, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is old enough to be in secondary school) in the last eight years has been Kendrick Lamar in 2018.

This week’s line-up announcement has of course been disappointing in comparison to some years. Similarly, many have been unimpressed with the news that Stormzy will be headlining Glastonbury. But the same generation of bands can’t headline UK festivals forever. If Reading and Leeds want to remain relevant, they need to encourage a new batch of headline acts instead of reverting to the old favourites.

At Woodstock in 1969, I doubt that crowds were looking back longingly to the 1951 music scene.

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MusicJohn SheridanComment