Festival Republic chief Melvin Benn has discussed the triumph of Reading & Leeds 2023 – in addition to teasing the lineup and venue modifications for next year’s edition of the event. This year’s co-hosted festival showcased incredible headline performances from bands such as Foals, Sam Fender, The 1975, The Killers, Imagine Dragons, and Billie Eilish, as well as sets from a variety of artists including Sleep Token, Steve Lacy, Central Cee, Wet Leg, and many more. Experience all the action as it unfolded in the NME liveblog.
In an interview with NME at the end of the Reading festival, Benn, the boss of R&L, stated: “I am extremely content with how things went this weekend. We are currently discussing the event while Rina [Sawayama] is on the main stage. One of the notable highlights of this weekend has been the success of many female acts, who have become an integral part of the festival.”
“Mimi Webb drew a massive crowd and gave an excellent stage performance. MUNA put on a fantastic show and Becky Hill will do the same,” he added.
When asked about the overall atmosphere at Reading & Leeds 2023, Benn responded, “We had a diverse lineup that was not dominated by any specific music theme or genre, and that has been a real strength, especially for the Women (Women apparel Here) on the bill and in the audience. There has been a sense of unity in that regard. It was palpable.”
Benn also spoke about his expectations for rising acts who may eventually headline the festival, mentioning, “Yes, there are [acts] . I actually spoke to Foals about this weekend. We talked about the NME article, and it’s great to see that they appreciate it. In my opinion, they are a great band, one of my favorites, and their success would have happened regardless. However, they believe that the festival has played a role in their success, so there is mutual respect between us.”
He continued, “There will always be acts that break through, and I believe that at least two or three of them, one of which isn’t performing this weekend, a UK-based act, will undoubtedly succeed. We are always on the lookout for new talent.”
Regarding Central Cee’s potential as a future headliner, Benn shared, “Central Cee’s trajectory is astounding. Last year, he played at Wireless Festival and had a massive crowd compared to what he had before. He has been working hard since then, making strides in the US and collaborating with significant artists. It feels like he has a bright future. However, I am hesitant to burden him by labeling him as a future headliner, as I did with Foals. They handled it well, but I don’t want to repeat that.”
Benn addressed Lewis Capaldi’s withdrawal from the festival, saying, “It was a difficult time when Lewis had to cancel, but it was the right decision. I saw him perform in Dundee and Glastonbury, and both shows were tough for him, so I was not surprised. We had more time to react compared to last year when Rage Against The Machine pulled out. The 1975 stepped up and asked if they could replace Lewis, which was great. It was a genuine offer driven by their love for Lewis. The fact that they wanted to make it different from their performance last year by focusing on their first album made it even more appealing.”
When asked about the possibility of Lewis Capaldi headlining in the future, Benn responded, “There will always be an open offer, but Lewis’ health is the main consideration. We would not discuss it until his health is in the right condition.”
Regarding the potential return of Rage Against The Machine after their cancellation last year, Benn stated, “It is not currently on our agenda. Rage is a US-based band and rarely does one-off shows. It would require careful scheduling.”
As for the lineup of next year’s festival, Benn revealed, “We have one of the headliners already confirmed for next year, and we have known about it for some time. They have headlined before, so we know they are capable, and we are pleased with that. I am also planning to make some changes, possibly including slight modifications to the stages. Reading & Leeds are always evolving, reflecting the current trends, so there will be some changes. New artists always come into the picture, and there will be changes to the stages as well.”
When asked if the format of having two main stages would be altered, Benn replied, “It will involve a mix of various things. I am not ready to announce it yet, but I am genuinely excited about it.”
Aside from Reading & Leeds, Benn’s company organizes numerous other festivals and events. When asked about his highlight of the summer, he said, “My highlight of the year was Boygenius at Gunnersbury Park. It was an incredibly special show, and there was something about it that resonated with the 25,000 people in attendance, the band, and the supporting acts. Most of my staff also consider it their show of the year. It was truly awesome.”
Benn confirmed that they will organize more significant standalone shows in London next year, including Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park and three days of individual gigs at Finsbury Park. Crystal Palace Park will also be back on the agenda, and discussions about Gunnersbury Park are going exceptionally well.
Benn concluded on a high note, saying, “Live music is in a great place. Stadium and arena shows are thriving. Despite the challenging global economy, people are making time for live music. This year, there have been an incredible number of stadium shows. I can’t recall a year with such strong demand. Reading sold out, Leeds nearly sold out, Latitude sold out, Wireless sold out, and the shows at Finsbury Park, Gunnersbury Park, and Crystal Palace sold out. It has been an outstanding year.”
When questioned about the lineup for Latitude 2024, Benn revealed, “Sunday night is already confirmed, and Friday night looks likely to be confirmed this week. We are still discussing many fantastic ideas for Saturday.”
Finally, when asked about the accuracy of online rumors regarding headliners, Benn said, “It is unbelievable where people get their information from. Some rumors are quite accurate, but not always.”
Stay tuned to NME for the latest news, reviews, interviews, photos, and more from Reading & Leeds 2023.