LIVE: Reading Festival ’21 – Sunday

By Yasmin Brown

Dust off your bucket hats and unearth your favourite pot of biodegradable glitter because after two long years away, Reading Festival and its northern counterpart are back from the grave. With a lineup that saw more changes than the bar has poured pints over the years, it was finally confirmed and frankly, it was a belter (thank you, Gerry Cinnamon). The rain kindly held off, and with a new set up of two main stages, there was even more talent to be found in the confines of Richfield Avenue in 2021. From a surprise set from Frank Carter to a last minute appearance from You Me At Six, this year’s Reading Fest really was everything we’d hoped for and more.

Words: Yasmin Brown; Images: Tash Greene

Hot Milk

Sundays at Reading Festival are best spent powering through the mightiest of hangovers, leaning heavily on hair of the dog to survive, and this process is significantly easier when the first bands of the day are as energetic and motivational as Hot Milk. Despite the somewhat off key vocals of co-vocalist Jim Shaw, the band comes in all guns blazing, as his counterpart Han Mee fights hard to further raise the spirits of the modest yet enthusiastic crowd that stands before them. It’s her charisma and attitude that carries the band today, encouraging more cheers and bouncing around the main stage with all the energy of Tigger on drugs. That’s not to say, however, that Shaw doesn’t also bring the energy, but with his “fucked” voice, there’s something lacking that it feels Mee is forced to make up for, which she does so with apparent ease. Hits such as ‘Candy Coated Lies’ and ‘I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD’ go down a treat with this early crowd, and suddenly we don’t feel so hungover anymore. 

The Hunna

The Hunna are no strangers to Reading Festival and today it’s clear just how much of a following they’ve built for themselves over the years as the main stage crowd fills rapidly and excitedly ahead of their highly anticipated performance. Their signature sound immediately incites carnage, with dust flying and lungs reaching full capacity as every word is screamed aggressively from the second the band kick off with ‘I Wanna Know’. After Leeds Festival, this has been their first full show back since 2019 and since the release of their third album, ‘I Would Rather Die Than Let You In’, and the passion and effort that’s going into the performance is already tangible. Despite the break from touring, The Hunna remain one of the most talented live bands on the Reading Fest bill, a fact that’s only cemented during the Joshua Dun co-write, ‘Dark Times’, where front man Ryan Potter shows just how talented he really is, hitting that long note and causing jaws to drop crowd-wide. The only moment that sees fans take a break from singing along is during the band’s performance of a currently unreleased song with friend Kelsy Karter, but they dance along all the same, loving every moment of it, resting their vocal chords for the inevitable performance of ‘She’s Casual’. It finally comes hand in hand with the sun, as friends clamber on each other’s shoulders to really make the most of the moment – the most emotional part of the set so far, but still nothing compared to what was to come when Potter mentions the recent death of ‘King Kev’ – a brother in law who would always be in the crowd for these shows. As Potter screams ‘King!’, the crowd responds with ‘Kev!’, a beautiful nod to the late family member, and one that is enough to bring tears to even the most hardened of us. As the band closes out their set, one thing is clear: The Hunna really are one of the best bands this stage has seen across the weekend, and it won’t be long until they rise up to the top of the bill. An honour that once achieved will be more than deserved. 

Lauran Hibberd

The BBC Introducing stage is well known for hosting artists that go onto be global superstars, and today, as Lauran Hibberd jumps around in her vibrant green tutu, you can’t help but feel she may well be one of them. When she addresses the crowd, she’s chatty, excited and even a little awkward at times, but the moment the music starts, her game face is on and the amount of attitude she exudes is immediately enough to make you want to be her best friend. Not only is she insanely talented but she’s just so damn cool, too. With the crowd that gathers around this small stage, you’d never believe Hibberd needed introducing at all, and it does feel like this may be one of the last opportunities we get to see her perform in such an understated and intimate setting. With an undeniable talent and a personality that’s so charming a likeable, Lauran Hibberd is absolutely one to watch in the coming years. 

Baby Queen

You’d never guess, but today is Baby Queen’s sixth show. Like ever. It’s amazing, then, that she’s brought in a decent sized crowd before she’s even appeared on stage, and the buzz that is leading up to her performance sees the tent almost vibrating with excitement. This only escalates when she does show, dressed in an adorable patchwork dress and donning high pigtails, this artist is not to be underestimated. You can tell she’s a little overwhelmed by the sea of people before her – her biggest crowd yet – but if she’s nervous, it doesn’t show at all as her faultless voice never once falters as she makes her way through her setlist, playing what are already verging on hits such as ‘American Dream’. Baby Queen’s pop rock sound is relatable and accessible yet still unique in many ways and even as she leave the stage, you’ll find yourself sufficiently endeared and desperate for more. She may only be six shows in, but if today’s response is anything to go by, there are almost certainly thousands ahead of her. She is going to be amazing. 


Two years ago, Bloxx played to a tiny crowd in this very field. It was a name few had heard of, let alone invested in, yet here we are today in 2021, and it’s clear that this band have made waves over the past two years, despite the majority of that time being spent indoors. Today, they play to a comfortable crowd who sing along proudly to the songs being played on stage, calming the nerves of the very anxious vocalist, Fee Booth and provoking the biggest of smiles on the face of drummer Joe Kinton. This progress is so well-deserved, as made evident through the perfectly executed performance, endless energy, and overarching personality that defines this young band. They are open and relatable, with Booth explaining just how much ‘Everything I’ve Ever Learned’ means to her, as well as awkwardly joking about the unfortunate acronym that is their latest single ‘Pop Culture Radio’; this is a band you want to love and it is far too easy to do so. After a set to remember, the band leave the stage on a high, and the crowd is left longing for more.


Fitting in perfectly with the Reading Festival decor, Yungblud leaps onto stage all dressed in red, supported by a giant red punk-style rubber duck, red amps and red hair. Because why not, right? Say what you will about this northern artist but there’s no denying he knows how to not only make an entrance, but hold your attention too. Within three songs, he’s calling for a pit in his overtly brash accent and begging for the creams that, quite frankly, he more than deserves. His late afternoon main stage slot calls for more than your average stage setup, and the use of pyro only adds to the theatrics that made this show so special. From front to back of this sea of people, fans are jumping relentlessly, their energy more than matched as Yungblud runs across the stage with a level of stamina rivalling even the fittest of runners. With a fairly extensive catalogue of music, every song is a hit and each is met with equal enthusiasm as he makes his way through his set, fans eating out of the palm of his hand as in between songs he continues to shamelessly demand attention. With Machine Gun Kelly being stuck in the US and dropping out of the festival last minute, their collaboration of ‘I Think I’m Okay’ takes place via video, with MGK appearing on the huge screens either side of the stage. This really is the kind of performance we should be seeing on the Reading Fest main stage in 2021, and with an ever growing fan base it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if we see him headlining in the not-too-distant future. 

Biffy Clyro

It’s finally dark on the final day of Reading Festival and the crowd for co-headliners Biffy Clyro already reaches back as far as they find themselves faced with the extravagant stage setup – a multi level situation that allows for a far more dynamic presence than the stage would ordinarily allow. It’s the band’s entrance, however, that really sets the tone as we’re met with every colour imaginable and Frank Zappa playing over the speakers, and we prepare ourselves for 90 minutes of sheer perfection. And boy do Biffy deliver. This crowd doesn’t just look huge, it feels it too, as every fan from the front to the back is heavily engaged, singing along as if their lives depend on it. It’s a rock show, for sure, but Biffy never shy away from the softer songs such as ‘Biblical’ or long time favourite, ‘Mountains’, and it’s these moments that really hit hard, creating a more intimate feel despite the magnitude of the performance. Nothing hits harder, though, than the stunning string arrangement that accompanies ‘Space’ or that follows ‘Many of Horror’, and nothing makes you want to dance more than the über catchy and subsequently chaotic ‘Bubbles’ – this is an effortlessly dynamic performance that sees Biffy at their absolute best, proving that ‘their absolute best’ can be found in almost any side of this versatile band. Closing the main stage with ‘Machines’, the band set off fireworks just in case you haven’t quite had enough excitement for one evening, and it suddenly hits you just how perfect this entire experience has been. This is a band that somehow continue to improve with every year that passes, and to see them here tonight is nothing short of magical. We couldn’t possibly love them more. 

Mon the fucking Biff.

Girl in Red

Closing off our Reading 2021 experience is the unbelievable Girl In Red. Despite her late night performance, the Festival Republic tent is probably the busiest it’s been all week, and suddenly it’s clear that the girl that’s been going under the radar since 2018 isn’t quite the underdog anymore. She doesn’t even make it past opening song ‘Serotonin’ before crowd surfers start flying, and in barely any time at all there’s a fan on stage, delighted at having her boobs signed by Marie Ulven Ringheim herself. The whole thing feels manic in the best way, with no warm up time required, and Ringheim interspersing each song with rapidly spoken anecdotes or random thoughts – often unintelligible among the chatter and cheering coming from the crowd. ‘Summer Depression’ sees the crowd being asked to get low before jumping up excitedly for this 2018 hit, and ironically spritely move considering the sombre context. In fact not once do you feel anything other than absolutely euphoric as dancing and singing is mixed with laughter at this endearing artist before us. It’s a celebration of being open about mental health and of queerness, as Girl In Red speaks openly about both, launching into ‘girls’ with a very simple, “Speaking of gay… let’s go” and later wrapping herself in a rainbow flag just for good measure. The set coincides directly with main stage headliner Liam Gallagher, and his fireworks coincide perfectly with the final chorus of Girl In Red’s ‘We Fell In Love’, only increasing the sense of celebration as though it were all perfectly planned. ‘Bad Idea’ sees the biggest mosh pit of the set right before she closes off with ‘i’ll die anyway.’ – an interesting choice to close out the evening, but one that works exceedingly well. It may be one of her first few performances in the UK but Girl In Red is clearly a favourite, and her popularity is rising fast. Other than a short pause to allow a passed out fan to safely leave the crowd, the set is built on foundations of happiness, acceptance, and chaos and we could not wish for a better way to see out the weekend.