SO.CO Team

9 months ago

The Best New Acts We Found At Leeds Festival 2023

Leeds Festival - Leeds

Featured Photo

Whilst the majority of the festival likes to stand (or sit) around the two main stages, we prefer to hang out with the cool kids in the far corners of the festival, finding the hot new acts that might well be gracing those main stages in a few years time. We found some gems this year. Here’s the best of them. 

Ethel Cain @ Leeds Festival 2023

Ethel Cain @ Leeds Festival 2023

Ethel Cain - Festival Republic Stage

 

Far and away the best thing we saw at Leeds 2023 (Billie Eilish’s triumphant set included) was Ethel Cain. Cain is the stage name and alter-ego of Hayden Silas Anhedönia, the 25 year old daughter of a Southern Baptist deacon who came out as gay at 12, and as a trans-woman at 20, causing a split within her community - “we were house divided - it was me versus my whole town”. Cain’s performance at Leeds was a tour de force of emotion, passion and a lot of pain. It’s not what you expect to see so early in the day, but it set the bar for the rest of the weekend. As an aside, Cain’s debut album - Preacher’s Daughter - is nailed on to be near the top of all of those album of the year lists we’ll see come Christmas. 

Chalk @ Leeds Festival 2023

Chalk @ Leeds Festival 2023

Chalk - BBC Introducing Stage

 

I’m not sure what they’re up to in Northern Ireland, but the quality of guitar bands coming out of that part of the world right now is unreal. Chalk have been called ‘the most exciting Northern Irish band in years’ and on this showing, it’s not hard to see why. They packed out the tiny BBC Introducing stage and their all too short twenty minute set gained them a whole lot of new fans, and showed there’s still a home at Leeds Festival for the punks and the hardcore kids. 

Fousheé @ Leeds Festival 2023

Fousheé @ Leeds Festival 2023

Fousheé - BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage

 

With a string of big-name collaborations already under her belt, Fousheé’s star is already in the ascendency, so her debut Leeds Festival appearance was a highly anticipated affair. Despite her early booking on the Dance Stage, the enthusiastic crowd was both sizeable and appreciative. Feeding off the fervour, Fousheé delivered a thumping set that leaned heavily on her 2022 album softCORE, and got the whole tent moving early doors. 

HOTWAX @ Leeds Festival 2023

HOTWAX @ Leeds Festival 2023

HOTWAX - BBC Introducing Stage

 

HOTWAX turned up right after Chalk on the Introducing stage, and the scheduling couldn’t have been smarter. There’s a time when bands like HOTWAX would have been ten-a-penny at this festival, but these days, when TikTok and reality television and changing tastes and booking policies have shifted the focus of Leeds (and Reading) away from being a pure rock festival, bands like HOTWAX are a breath of fresh air, and a reminder of just how exciting seeing brand new bands on tiny stages at massive festivals can be. It helps that they were bloody brilliant. 

Joey Valence @ Leeds Festival 2023

Joey Valence @ Leeds Festival 2023

Joey Valence & Brae - Festival Republic Stage

 

License to Ill is a great album. I know that, you know that, and Joey Valence & Brae know that. They’re not messing around. Puerile lyrics, hard beats and shit-hot wordplay… they’ve taken over the fight that the Beastie Boys started, and they’ll be damned if they’re not going to party. Bouncing around the stage like a pair of pubescent zebedees, with a lyrical point and counterpoint to match, it’s nigh on impossible not to get swept up in it all. And they filmed a music video on a Nintendo DS, so really, what’s not to love? 

Words and Photos: Thomas Jackson