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

Shame ... ‘Britain’s most exciting new band.’
Shame ... ‘Britain’s most exciting new band.’ Photograph: Holly Whitaker/PR

‘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 for 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 for 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

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.

This article titled "Does the Reading/Leeds lineup prove rock is dead? (No)" was written by Dave Simpson, for The Guardian on Wednesday 14 February 2018 05.36pm


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