Reading & Leeds boss Melvin Benn has confirmed to NME that “three and a half” out of six main stage headliners have already been booked for 2023’s festival – as well as revealing his highlights of this year’s event.
This past weekend’s edition of the twin-site iconic festival at Bramham Park in Leeds and Little John’s Farm in Reading was the second year of having two main stages and six headliners – with Arctic Monkeys, Megan The Stallion, Bring Me The Horizon, Dave, The 1975 and Halsey all topping the bill, alongside performances from the likes of Wolf Alice, Fontaines D.C., Run The Jewels, Pale Waves, Charli XCX, Polo G and many more.
Speaking to NME backstage on the final day of the event, Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn said that significant progress had already been made securing many of 2023’s big acts.
“We’ve booked three and a half headline acts,” he said. “Three are booked and one is pretty close to finishing. There’s the current usual back and forth about how many pounds or dollars they should get and that sort of stuff.
“In theory, we’ve nearly got four done but we’re not quite done with the fourth.”
Asked how many of those acts had headlined R+L before, he replied: “Two of those four have.”
Benn also revealed that tickets for 2023 to go on sale this week at 2022 prices, and that “the line-up should be revealed before Christmas”.
Arctic Monkeys live at Reading 2022. Credit: Andy Ford/NME
The festival organiser went to to say how “having two main stages is clearly working for us” as “we can get six proper headliners, it works in terms of layout and musical composition”.
With each year of R+L having a very different feel, we asked Benn what he felt the thread and mood running through 2022’s event had been.
“One of the really interesting things for me has been just how many young women have been in front of the stages, knowing every word of every song,” he replied. “Obviously there have been a lot of female acts, but it’s been noticeable to me in that sense.
“The diversity of the line-up is really fantastic in terms of hip-hop, grime, pop, guitars – the breadth of it is really fantastic. We’ve seen some absolutely incredible performances.”
Megan Thee Stallion at Reading 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
As for his own personal highlights of the line-up across the weekend, he said:“It’s difficult not to talk about the show from Bring Me The Horizon. It was off the scale. I don’t always go and talk to the acts, but I went and talked to their manager and I was like, ‘Where the fuck have you been hiding them?’ It was literally extraordinary. They really put everything into it.”
He continued: “Obviously Arctic Monkeys put on an incredible set for an incredible audience. It was just so much joy to be able to see them back on stage. I’d go and watch them every day of the week if I could.
“Dave felt like a moment really. It felt like another level for the festival and for him. I couldn’t have been happier. I was genuinely moved and it felt like a privilege to be there. It was a great set and really well-thought out. It still moves me to see how important music is to people. It’s great.”
Credit: Andy Ford for NME
Quizzed about acts lower down the bill that could step up to headline in the future, Benn was unsure but highlighted the wealth of acts that certainly had big and bright futures ahead of them.
“I don’t necessarily want to talk about headlining, really,” he said. “Willow was really, really amazing. She’s doing well and has a couple of nights at Brixton sold out. Everybody knows every word and she’s definitely going places.
“Denzel Curry – wow, what a show! Could he go all the way to the top? There’s no reason for him not to. There are a huge amount of acts who have got that capability. I don’t know why one does and one doesn’t. It’s all about what the audience think and whether they want it.”
WILLOW at Reading Festival 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
The weekend also saw The 1975 stepping in as replacement headliners for Rage Against The Machine, due to frontman Zack De La Rocha injuring his leg. Benn described the process as “difficult” but “was definitely worth it.”
“The starting process is that you want to replace with act who have got headline status with Reading & Leeds festivals,” he said. “A) There’s not’s that many, and B) finding an act of that stature who is show-ready and where all band members are in the country and not otherwise engaged and finding one with availability is really complicated.
He continued: “There aren’t a lot of those acts around. We were talking to The 1975 about future years anyway, we’re always talking to them about arena shows and their plans. We knew that they were in Japan, we knew that they were working, and it was a fairly obvious call for us to make.
“Our talent booker had a very tough 48 hours trying to pull a replacement together. He did it, the band did it, and The 1975 didn’t let anyone down. A huge amount of the campers were really happy about it.”
The 1975 live at Reading 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
This year also saw Reading & Leeds partner with the environmental organisation Music Declares Emergency as part of their No Music On A Dead Planet campaign – displaying climate messaging throughout the weekend and engaging festival-goers and artists on-site.
“Ultimately, their desire was to have a greater presence at the festival and to get the message across that there’s No Music On A Dead Planet,” said Benn. “We’ve been pretty successful at that and have been trending across the weekend on that.
“It’s great to see a lot of bands embracing it too, and I’m pretty happy with it overall.”
Benn added that another goal of their long-term partnership was to “work together to use mains power that’s green and from a sustainable source and take it off-grid so that we don’t have to bring as many generators in or buy fuel”
“It all boils down to a carbon footprint,” said Benn. “Single-use plastic and non-sustainable materials are the two issues. With most festivals, the largest piece of that is audience travel. The age profile of Reading & Leeds is such that not that many people here have got cars, in Reading you can walk from the train station, in Leeds we’ve got great shuttle buses.
“For audience travel for us, that footprint is pretty low, but like any festival we’re powered by generators and bought oil and all that sort of stuff. We’re entirely green on bio fuels so that’s straight forward.”
Tickets to Reading & Leeds 2023 are expected to go on sale later this week, with the line-up revealed in the winter. Last year, the initial line-up was revealed in early December.
Check back at NME here for the latest news, reviews, photos, interviews and more from Reading & Leeds 2022.
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