Does the Reading/Leeds lineup prove rock is dead? (No)

The bill at this year’s festival has revived the argument that guitar bands are over. But newbies, from Starcrawler to the Sherlocks – and some old favourites – offer hope

‘That lineup is absolutely shocking!” “I’m putting my ticket up for sale for 17 pence because that’s all the lineup is worth.” This year’s Reading/Leeds festival bill has been met with howls of outrage from those who think the event should remain the preserve of hoary old guitar bands, not an eclectic mix of grime and hip-hop. The appearance of headliner Kendrick Lamar and grime star Skepta – alongside some particularly hoary old rock faithfuls – has revived an old argument: that rock music is dead. So is there anyone out there who can save it? Here are a handful of contenders.


“Britain’s most exciting new band” are surely in pole position. Last month, this paper hailed Shame as a band “as ferocious as the Fall, with big, anthemic tunes to go with the anger”. Alas, saving rock music seems to have been ruled out by the band themselves, who admit that, today, dreams of rock stardom are more likely to amount to “a gram of speed in a Travelodge”.


Starcrawler at The Deaf Institute, Manchester.
Starcrawler at The Deaf Institute, Manchester. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

This Los Angeles-based band, led by 18-year-old, bright-haired frontwoman Arrow de Wilde, are also being tipped to save rock’n’roll. It’s early days, but they certainly make a headrushing, buzzsaw racket.

Shed Seven

Shed Seven in 2017.
Shed Seven in 2017. Photograph: Tom Oxley

Perhaps rock will have to be saved by a veteran York Britpop band named after a railway building. Titter ye not – the reformed Sheds are a bigger live draw than in their 90s heyday, although herding their enormous fanbase into the Reading field will require the services of a sheepdog who can bear 60,000 mums and dads bellowing Going For Gold.

The Sherlocks

The Sherlocks in Bolton upon Dearne.
The Sherlocks in Bolton upon Dearne. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Also from Yorkshire and with an equally daft name and huge, singalong tunes, Bolton upon Dearne’s finest soared into the Top 6 last year on the back of a huge northern following. Sadly, they’ve proved less popular nationwide.

Big Joanie

Big Joanie at Decolonise Fest 2017.
Big Joanie at Decolonise Fest 2017 Photograph: Publicity image

A wild, hopeful, mischievous card, but perhaps rock can be saved by a band of riot grrrl afro punk women whose discordantly melodic anti-racist, anti-establishment anthems would certainly irritate the heck out of conservative rock bores.

A cavalry of old faithfuls

Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys at Leeds festival 2014.
Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys at Leeds festival 2014. Photograph: Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images

Judging from the outcry on social media, what Reading and Leeds fans really want is the return of the old guard. The 2005 and 2008 headliners The Killers – who toured last year with only two original members – are potentially available. Foo Fighters seem to have headlined every other year for the past decade and are another outside bet. If there is another rock festival – if not rock music – saviour, the best hope might be Arctic Monkeys, who have filled the field twice before, have an album due this year and can certainly be relied upon to tell a field of muddy revellers: I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Did you lose anything at Reading or Leeds festival?
Will Coldwell: Money, phones, passports, watches: the list of things people lose at festivals is endless. But there are people whose job it is to reunite fans with their possessions – and you'll be amazed at the honesty of festival-goers

Will Coldwell

25, Aug, 2013 @6:30 PM

Article image
Reading and Leeds festival announces 2021 lineup
Stormzy and Liam Gallagher roll headline appearances over from 2020, but Rage Against the Machine no longer feature

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

31, Aug, 2020 @6:01 PM

Article image
How I lost my wallet and became a Reading festival drinking game
In 2003, Tim Burrows lost his wallet. Nearly 15 years later, the strangers who found it still play a drinking game they invented in his honour

Tim Burrows

21, Apr, 2017 @9:59 AM

Article image
Glastonbury, Reading or Creamfields: which 2015 festival has the fewest female artists?
The charts are dominated by female performers, but this year’s British music festival lineups are 86% male. The Guardian’s data team crunches the numbers, while Jenny Stevens asks promoters why progress is so slow

Jenny Stevens and Ami Sedghi

23, Jun, 2015 @5:15 AM

Article image
Metallica to headline Reading and Leeds 2015
Metal giants return to the festival for their fourth headline slot after winning over Glastonbury 2014, writes Harriet Gibsone

Harriet Gibsone

25, Nov, 2014 @7:25 PM

Article image
Reading and Leeds 2012: festival preview

Our guide to the event that has become a rite of passage for music fans riding an exam results high

George Sandeman

21, Aug, 2012 @11:43 AM

Article image
Kendrick Lamar is perfect for Reading and Leeds: rappers are the new rock stars | Charlotte Richardson Andrews
The outrage following the festival announcement is the last gasp of juvenile rockists, writes freelance journalist Charlotte Richardson Andrews

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

15, Feb, 2018 @10:18 AM

Article image
Reading and Leeds festival review – glittery GCSE blowout has most diverse lineup yet
From Dua Lipa’s choreographed pop to Kendrick Lamar’s rap blitzkreig, R&L expanded beyond the indie faithful – but Sex on Fire still got the biggest singalong

Dave Simpson

27, Aug, 2018 @12:02 PM

Article image
Biffy Clyro to headline Reading and Leeds festival
Scottish prog-metallers join Eminem among the bill-toppers, with Fall Out Boy also announced for the events

Sean Michaels

05, Feb, 2013 @1:14 PM

Article image
Rage Against the Machine and Stormzy to headline Reading and Leeds festival
Typically male-heavy lineup also features Liam Gallagher, the Courteeners, Migos, Gerry Cinnamon and AJ Tracey

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

11, Feb, 2020 @9:54 AM