If you check out Chordblossom on even a semi-frequent basis you will know that we are rather fond of R51. We were absolutely delighted to hear that they had been selected to play the BBC Introducing stages at both Reading & Leeds festival this summer. The band very kindly volunteered to share their experiences in the form of words and photos.
We got this email that blew our minds about 5 weeks ago. It said “BBC Introducing would like to invite you to play our stages at Reading and Leeds Festivals.” One of the most exhilarating experiences of our lives was reading it. There’s this paragraph that says:
“The BBC Introducing Stage at Reading / Leeds is programmed in the following way. At key points across the year we ask our network of 36 local BBC Introducing shows for their suggestions of artists that have uploaded their tracks at bbc.co.uk/introducing. We then pull together a BBC Introducing panel team, made up of Radio 1, 2, 6Music & 1Xtra presenters and music producers who listen to all the music. Based on their selections BBC Introducing then make the decision as to which bands get this opportunity. So… already your tracks have been heard by many influential people and you are part of a handful of artists across the UK who have been given this opportunity.”
So before we even begin telling you about what happened while on the tour, we need to thank BBC Across the Line and all of the panel across the UK who chose us. We honestly can’t thank them enough.
Ok, so, here’s the tour diary. Overnight ferries sound as wack as they are. We hopped on the boat on Thursday 27th aug at around 10pm, got boozed up and attempted to sleep in our little cabins that sounded like they were INSIDE the engine, all in an effort to get up at 5:30 to disembark for our drive from Liverpool to Leeds. Our two cars were packed with what little backline we brought, with our very squashed sound man and roadie bloke Michael Hanvey (Fig .a) squeezed beside guitars and luggage.
The really cool thing about these big heavy duty festivals is they plan everything in serious detail, so with our (pre posted to us) backstage parking passes in big sticker form on our windscreens, we followed actual road signs to “Artist and Production car park” from nearly 30 miles away, and rocked up to our parking space at leeds festival next to Kendrick Lamar’s assistant’s car. (It was a dodgy beige peugeot 308 thingy that we can only assume was rental).
We came to terms with the fact that looming 100ft tall behind us was the main stage at the biggest festival we have ever been to, and made our way to see our stage. We were greeted by the loveliest stage team (Thank you Peter and Chris at BBC Introducing West Yorkshire!) – and were told to bring the car with gear up, where it would be unloaded into a bay for us and we could go enjoy (free!) lunch. We had hotdogs.
They do this really cool thing where they have a big poster for all BBC Introducing bands to graffiti on. They put all previous years up around the place and got to see signatures by Bombay Bicycle Club, SOAK, and Slaves. We had our turn! (Fig. b.)
Following Psych/pop band White Room, we began our setup and hastily got our shit together in the 20-minute changeover (Fig. c). Its a bit daunting, as theres usually lots of people still milling around watching. We got it sorted, went up, and went for it!
We played great. All festivals are mostly scary due to zero sound checking, so its more a test of how well as a band you can just plug-in and go. We have gigged so often and so hard that a quick setup with next to no monitors is home for us. Jonny had some issues with a pedal switch that caused him grief and there were some weird issues FOH, but we powered through and got a really great reaction from the crowd.
Because we decided to stay at Air BnB places on our tour, we didn’t have the luxury of staying particularly late to see who we wanted. With fleeting glimpses of Feed the Rhino, we made our way to Birmingham to stay in one of the coolest old houses ever…
Hazel put us up in her very cool, sorta-gothy decor’d place where we hung for the night. She was super sweet and heavy metal all at once, getting into motorised hang gliding and all sorts of cool shit.
So this has us on Friday – our day off… sort of. With the tech problems on Jonny’s board needing sorted we made our way to our next Air BnB, this time in High Wycombe. We got this dead nondescript, dodgy looking flat that was number 57 (should have been 51… fig. g) and started repairs. (fig h.)
Halfway through repairs, we get this very cool guy on Facebook send us a message saying he was gutted to have missed us, as he was at Leeds Festival. He asked if we would be playing London at any point, and we said that we hadn’t got any shows there, but were staying in High Wycombe. He replies with “I’M FROM THERE!” So he phoned his friends and asked would we do a show for them in a little pub his friend is the manager of.
We said yeah, and so we went for food and then set up in the Hobgoblin High Wycombe (only 5 minutes from our flat for the night) and played a BELTER of a show with only two vocal mics and the rest just guitar amps and drums. No monitors, nothing. The crowd were exceptional, just packed with really lovely people all out to hear a band
make a racket, and a racket we made indeed. We sold more merch there than any show we’ve played in a long time. Melyssa loved every minute, as mike our sound man captured in fig. i.
We enjoyed amazing Ales on the house and went back to our apartment and watched the start of space jam. Our tour manager and mentor Dave thought it was “a load of shite” and we mostly fell asleep from travel and being so high from the show.
We talked about how great playing small gigs was, how much more intense and real we are, and thought about how one of our finest shows previous to it was when we played a Barn in Maghera one weekend at a party our friends ran. We decided if we wanted make reading even better than Leeds, we should just do what we did in the Hobgoblin in High Wycombe, and “Be in the Barn”.
So the next morning, up early, coffee’d, showered and ready, we hopped in the cars for a short 45 minute drive to the artist parking at Reading festival. Almost identical in stage size but this time feeling way more accomplished and ready, we were set up, and good to go, we were Being in the Barn. On a massive stage. In front of loads of people. At one of the most famous festivals on the planet…
We made our way from our dressing room and up the ramp. Introduced, we turned up, and wrecked the place. We played properly from the bottom of our stomachs, doing it big style. Aaron shed blood all over his Jazzmaster and we threw out tee’s to one of the coolest crowds ever.
As soon as you come off stage at a BBC introducing show, you get pulled by lots of different people, the stage manager needs your gear to go in its place for the next band, BBC introducing presenters want to get interviews and vox pops with you, and the vision mixers want to know what song you enjoyed the most and would like to be released for broadcast, and on top of that, poor Aaron’s wound had to be looked at by First aid (he lol’d, fig. l)
We got all of the above done, and got to sign the wall at Reading. This time, we added our new motto. (fig m, n)
With 5 hours to our ferry (which was 3.5 hours away in liverpool) we had a really short time to eat, watch a band, and go. We saw Lonely the Brave nail the main stage to the wall, and ate boar burgers. (Fig o,p)
About 4 hours later, we were in Liverpool for the ferry home. We snapped this picture after we pissed off a load of old people in SUV’s around us for loitering around our cars having a laugh instead of sitting quietly inside them. We didn’t like the look of their faces anyway, so whatever.
We made it home the next day, where we’ve been planning where next we will “be in the barn”.
Special endless thanks to BBC ATL. Honest dudes who represent. We <3 you forever and can’t thank you more for this experience, and really hope to do you proud by continuing our climb!
You can watch R51 perform ‘I Hate This Too‘ on Reading’s BBC Introducing Stage below: