Reading Festival 2021: Ones To Watch

Though little is certain in this chaotic world, frivolous punters descending on Richfield Avenue for August Bank Holiday weekend, all civility and dignity left on the Great Western, is a fine guarantee. So when an unspecified ‘C’ word saw Reading Festival postponed for the first time in its fifty year history, teens and once-teens the nation over were left frothing at the mouth and solo- skanking to SHY FX in their bedrooms. Luckily for them (and their parents), Britain’s favourite hedonistic summer ritual is back and bulkier than ever, with double the main stages and half the clashes. Nice!

Producing moments like Kurt Cobain’s wheelchair-bound media bonanza, Dephne and Celeste’s brave battle with an onslaught of piss-filled bottles, and Rage Against the Machine’s Guantanamo Bay-style mega-set, it’s become a mainstay in the contemporary festival diary. A “rite of passage”, I shrug, entering my sixth consecutive year. With this in mind, RIOT have put together a list of artists that aren’t to be missed at this year’s jaunt. Tuck in.

BAKAR

Festival Republic Stage | Sunday | 8:35 pm

Camden-bred, Stussy-clad, and wildly unphased by the parameters of genre, Bakar feels like the next generation of rock-star. His scruffy love songs and pill-popping anecdotes call shamelessly on facets of jazz, hip-hop, lo-fi, and indie-rock to carve a snapshot of Britain’s youthful eclecticism, as well as his boyhood diet of burnt hand-me-down compilation CDs and anything Kele Okereke (Bloc Party). The result is nothing shy of a millennial marvel. A sound that is at once obscure, fascinating, and wildly contemporary, and has earned fans in the likes of Skepta, Virgil Abloh, and Elton John. If you find yourself anywhere near the Festival Republic Stage on Sunday at 8:35pm, Bakar’s omnivorous approach to genre is well worth seeing in the flesh. Expect streetwise perusals, King Krule-esque jazz-grunge, and phones illuminated en masse.

LAURAN HIBBERD

BBC Music Introducing Stage | Sunday | 3:05 pm

Humorous, irreverent and charismatic in equal measure, Isle Of Wight’s rising starlet Lauran Hibberd is another weekend must-see. With slacker-pop tendencies and whip-smart lyrics, her tracks articulate the unspoken struggles of millennial existence – balancing two jobs and some semblance of a social life, navigating the baggage and drama of your mate’s toxic new fling, and the seedy allure of online Sugar Daddy sites. Shaking off the stresses of a deadbeat boyfriend, the onomatopoeic mega-bop Bleugh is sure to be a set highlight. Fresh off July EP, Goober, it sees the young star combine bouncy riffs with yellable Dream Wife-esque quips, all set to a track that is so summery you could catch a tan from it. Expect pastel finery, hilarious word-play, and lyrics that are guaranteed to strike a chord.

YARD ACT

BBC Music Introducing Stage | Sunday | 6:30 pm

“What a day to be alive! The state of everything.” The opening line of Yard Act’s The Trapper’s Pelts tells you almost all you need to know about the Leeds mob. Rowdy, sardonic, and wildly enraged by the state of the state, their BBC Introducing set will likely be one of sonic catharsis after a deranged year. Though the band are yet to have a full-length to their name, tracks like Fixer Upper and Dark Days have wedged themselves into the post-punk zeitgeist, enthralling all in their way with barbed lyrics and an unadulterated groove. Expect vertical bass lines, sharp socio- politics, and Tory-hating in fine abundance.

NOISY

BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage | Saturday | 12:00pm

After undergoing a genre-busting reinvention, Brighton-based trio NOISY are rocketing rave culture into the mainstream, one euphoric bassline at a time. A sweltering hybrid of hooks, beats and goodness-knows-what-else, they are a band for the playlist generation. Their tracks, forged on friendship, community, and blurry nights on the town, go out to all the twenty-somethings; the weekend warriors spending five days aching only to get back out and do it again. For this reason, they are a Reading requisite. Expect Prodigy-inspired hooks, gobby vocals, and a severe lack of inhibitions.

BABY QUEEN

Festival Republic Stage | Sunday | 3:40 pm

A no-prisoners pop diva with the bops to match, Baby Queen currently resides on just about every Hype List in the industry. The latest in her long line of pop bangers, and explaining precisely why, is You Shaped Hole. A brilliantly bittersweet account of her ex-boyfriend dating a supermodel after dumping her in Clissold Park in North East London, armed with biting wit and unbridled emotional honesty. Since moving to London when she was eighteen against her parents’ wishes — and probably her own better judgment – the young star has been meticulously crafting this image and sound, and the result is a lilac-purple marvel. Head down to the Festival Republic Stage at 3:40pm on Sunday to see for yourself.

CALVA LOUISE

BBC Music Introducing Stage | Saturday | 8:25 pm

Sharp, conceptual rock for the modern age. Calva Louise are one of the smartest bands on the block. At once a familiar ride through punk, alternative and psychedelic tropes, whilst also being a wondrous, spry injection of energy and goodwill to any music scene lucky enough to get a hit. Hailed as “an absolute face melter” by BBC R1’s Jack Saunders, Belicoso will be a likely stage highlight. From their debut, concept album EUPHORIC, released on August 20th, it sees the ferocity of The Prodigy meet the relentlessness of Wolf Alice, and the result is utterly electrifying. If you peruse the BBC Intro Stage at 8:25pm on Saturday, expect searing guitar hooks, dashes of Latin-rock, and eye-liner galore.

Author avatar
Olivia Stock

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