You have to feel sorry for Leeds Festival, an impressive 15 years old this year, yet as far as the media is concerned it exists permanently in the shadow of its older big brother in Berkshire.
As a Reading boy born and bred, like many who grew up in the town, the festival was always the highlight of our year, what we counted down to on almost a daily basis. The bands that we saw grace its famous stages influenced our hearts and souls like no other. Reading Festival was our youth, and it will always hold a special place inside for any of the inhabitants of this otherwise small rural town. Yet, walking around Leeds Festival in 2013, it’s fascinating to see both the differences and similarities that the two share.
The first Leeds Festival was held in 1999, and moved to its current Bramham Park home in 2003. A 45-minute bus journey from the city centre to the wooded countryside is the first immediate difference from its counterpart, as is the site layout in Leeds, which is in the shape of a giant i, with the main stage acting as the dot at the top. The crowd too is noticeably a little older, but no less enthusiastic and friendly – it’s a very welcoming place and I instantly feel at home.
As the music kicks off, and Green Day plough through their classic album Dookie, people offer their chips to strangers, System of A Down dine on Chop Suey and Skindred get people doing the helicopter – it’s clear that, really, Reading & Leeds really aren’t that different. Both share that same unique air of the excitement of youth and the promise of one last party before summer ends. Radio 1 DJ Greg James really did sum it up best when he said there is ‘No better place to have a messy old time with your best mates with the biggest bands in the world.’