This ‘Leeds Festival’ article was written by ‘Lorna Gray’, a GIGsoup contributor
August Bank Holiday weekend can only mean one thing – a bunch of 16 year olds celebrating their GCSE results by getting pissed in a field and listening to good music. While the rain hammers down in the counter festival Reading, Leeds is soaked in sun and it brings out the best in the festival fans. With a line-up consisting of a broad spectrum of genres, including indie rock, rap, dance as well as heavy metal – and headliners of the Libertines, Mumford and Sons and Metallica – it also brings together a broad spectrum of music fans for this one hectic and fun-filled weekend.
Despite the early 12 o’clock start, there was quite a crowd gathered at the BBC Introducing stage to catch local lads and competition winners NARCS. Contagious guitar hooks and melodies stopped passers-by in their tracks as they joined the audience in nodding their heads and ignoring their hangovers to appreciate the sounds of grungy alternative rock. It became clear when lead singer Wilko announced that their final song was written after the UK elections, that is band aren’t just about making noise, but making noise about current issues they’re passionate about. This was without a doubt shown through the raw energy surging throughout each one of them and emulating into the crowd as members began singing along and clapping their hands enthusiastically. As an introduction to the weekend, NARCS set the standards high and managed to get their audience hyped for whatever else Leeds Festival had to offer.
It’s their eighth time playing Reading and Leeds, and Yorkshire’s own the Cribs could not look more comfortable and at home than they do on Main Stage. The brothers play a set consisting of mainly well-known and popular hits to please the crowd, one of the only bands to be able to get away with a “greatest hits” set list as frequent returners of the festival. Ryan Jarman smugly jokes, “I remember when we played the comedy tent in 2002 and there was 50,000 fans there and it was fucking great” before playing Men’s Needs, Come On, Be a No One and Another Number. A video of Sonic Youth member Lee Ranaldo is shown for his contribution during their performance of Be Safe, before the band close with Pink Snow, were chaos breaks out in a mosh pit showing they’re worthy of their main stage slot.
There’s no disputing that Kendrick Lamar is easily one of the most important voices of our generation, and judging by the size of the crowd gathered before his set, it seems many festival-goers agree. The roaring success of his recent release “To Pimp a Butterfly” made Lamar one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, and with a crowd expecting to hear their favourite tracks off the record, Lamar blew them away and blew it out of the water by performing a rendition of A$AP Rocky’s Fuckin’ Problems. He continued to tease as he performed older tracks such as Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe and M.a.a.d C.i.t.y. That didn’t phase the crowd though, as the majority began to chant “Oh, Kendrick Lamar” to the tune of Seven Nation Army in total admiration for the Compton rapper – who seemed genuinely humbled to be performing for such an audience. After a patient wait, Lamar performed new tracks including the Ferguson-fuelled I and King Kunta which got everybody moving. He finished his set with an improvised and jazzy rendition of A.D.H.D, which the crowd enjoyed thoroughly as not one member was silent or motionless throughout. It’s a real shame that some members had missed the point of Kendrick’s artistry entirely, as lyrics such as “2015 – n**gas tired of playing victims” and “how many n**gas we lost, this year alone?” were sang out to absolute dickheads wearing blackfaces. Something festival organisers really should have tackled as racist pieces of shit should not be allowed to enjoy such an incredible artist, who honestly, would not have been out of place in the headline slot.
As the sun sets over Bramham Park, crowds gather to catch headliners Libertines for their first appearance at the festival in five years. We’ll Meet Again plays out and the patient audience – which have quite obviously stewed in beer and sun all day – begin to sway and sing to the Vera Lynn classic. As Doherty walks on stage, wearing a long leather coat and obviously donning his staple trilby, the audience cheer in appreciation for the front man. The indie rockers get stuck in and begin with their 2002 hit Horror Show, the jangly guitar riff and catchy drumbeat has everyone up and dancing to one of the most infamous British indie bands of our time. With barely enough time for the audience to show their full appreciation for a band that during points of their career, were set for failure, they begin Vertigo. Carl and Pete’s chemistry becoming almost contagious as they share a the microphone on stage and gaze into each other’s eyes and smile, Gary plays the drums perfectly while topless and glistening with sweat – they’re full of passion, look to be genuinely enjoying themselves and it’s wonderful to witness. Classics from their self-titled album such as Can’t Stand Me Now, What Katie Did and Music When the Lights Go Out are obvious crowd pleasers while new single Gunga Din has fans itching to hear more from the new album. As it’s only to be expected as the big finale of what has been a terrific comeback gig, the unmistakable intro to Don’t Look Back Into the Sun echoes out and the band play their instruments expertly and enthusiastically. Ending the first day with a bang.
Day two and Sheffield rock duo-turned trio Drenge take the main stage to show Leeds what they have to offer from their back catalogue of dirty, heavy sounds. “Reading were better,” says Eoin as the crowd is less than enthusiastic to hear such noise so early in the day. It’s obvious that it’s more to do with the crowds’ hangovers than the talent of the lads, who played songs from both their debut self-titled album as well as their latest release Undertow with ease and enthusiasm. When the crowd heard the opening for I Wanna Break You in Half energy surged throughout and a mosh pit started creating a livelier atmosphere. Perhaps a noisy band like Drenge would be better suited on a smaller stage or at least later in the day, as playing before emo band Panic! At The Disco made very little sense.
Playing hits from all four of their albums, Panic! At The Disco know how to put on a good show on main stage. In a recent interview, lead singer Brendon Urie stated that he was sick of playing Panic! At The Disco’s most famous song I Write Sins Not Tragedies, but it was pretty obvious that fans were expecting for it to be the finale of their set. “We’ve got one more song” he said, before playing Journey’s Anyway You Want It followed by AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long absolutely pitch perfect – teasing fans who had come to see their one well-known hit. Of course they then played it, causing the crowds to erupt into dance and sing every word.
Teenage fans gathered into the NME/BBC Radio One tent and spilled out of the sides to catch a glimpse of Peace’s set. Beginning with 1998, 16-year old girls clambered onto the shoulders of anybody willing and began singing every lyric word for word to show their appreciation and admiration for the Birmingham quartet. Playing songs from both of their successful albums, In Love and Happy People, Peace managed to pack out the tent and put on a memorable show for their return to Leeds Festival.
A stage often forgotten about at Leeds and Reading is the Dance tent, but this year had some incredible acts on, including DJ Dillon Francis. Entering the sweaty, busy tent was like going from broad day light into the witching hour as an impressive light show of lasers and strobes filled the darkness and accompanied Francis’ blatant skills in mixing some of the most well known and recent dance tracks. The thumping bass had the crowd chanting “Leeds, You What ? You What?” and the tease before the beat dropped had everybody’s arms up in anticipation, before the inevitable drop came causing the audience to jump, dance, mosh and chant “Whoop! There it is!”
Headlining the Festival Republic stage on Saturday were Scottish psychedelic pioneers, Django Django, who began their set with a pretty predictable Introduction before flowing straight into Hail Bop. The harmonies of the band echo effortlessly throughout the tent and the timing of every element of live percussion is no less than perfection. Every audience member is dancing to the upbeat and obscure sounds, including Peace lead singer Harry Koisser, who stands nonchalantly at the back of the crowd watching the group.
Folk-farmers turned indie rockers Mumford and Sons are tonight’s headliners and by beginning their set with well known hits such as I Will Wait and Little Lion Man, the audience begin to twiddle their thumbs as it’s obvious they were expecting to be singing along to these in the bands’ grand finale. So when The Cave was played just over half way through the set, people began to disperse, they’d seen what they came for. As disappointing as it was for the performance to be over for the majority of the audience, it’s undeniable that the bearded Marcus Mumford’s voice is rich and full bodied, and carried over the other instruments with ease. It becomes evident that his talents don’t stop there when Dustbowl Dance is performed and he takes his place behind the drum kit, singing and playing as the stage is showered with fireworks. The encore included two tacks from their latest release, Hot Gates and The Wolf, which despite the frequent radio play, seemed to go down like a tonne of bricks on what seems like a now very bored audience. Perhaps Mumford’s weren’t the most ideal band to headline a rock festival, especially when their new direction in music has mixed reviews.
Probably one of the most bizarre festival bookings of the year, Baby Metal, a Japanese mix of heavy metal and K-Pop, take to the main stage first thing and draw in a huge crowd. Sharp and slick heavy metal riffs accompanied by pop-like vocals and dance moves that would not be out of place in a Britney Spears music video sounds like the weirdest clash of oxymoronic music genres, but it actually works. The young girls are extremely talented singers, being able to effortlessly sing over thrashing drums and guitar, while using the full length of the stage to show off their dance routines. As the camera focuses on the audience, it’s clear to see that the band have a cult following as a sea of the bands merchandise flows throughout and fans are mouthing the words in Japanese.
It’s disappointing to see a relatively small crowd for L.A garage and surf punks, FIDLAR as they take main stage and give it their all. Lead singer Zac shouts out lyrics while complicated and distorted guitar riffs are played with passion and skill. Songs from the bands self-titled album including Cheap Beer and No Wavves instigate the crazy energy of their audience as they jump up and down and shout back the lyrics, and tracks from the bands’ new to-be-released-album including Drone and 40oz On Repeat left everyone wanting more.
Every year at Reading and Leeds there’s a secret set. Usually, you have to be lucky and in the right place at the right time to catch it, as it’s only announced on the day. However, this year, festival organiser Melvin Benn’s clue was less than cryptic and his hint of “wild horses” pretty much let everyone know that it would be Foals. So the NME stage was packed out to see the band a few days ahead of their album release. Kicking off their set with their hit My Number, which had absolutely everyone pumped and singing. “Are you ready Leeds? Are you fucking ready?” Yannis shouted before the indie favourites plunged into another well known track, Inhaler. The band finished their set with the title track of their new record What Went Down, and with that, the short six song secret set was over.
Slaves were next to take the NME and the punk duo bounced on and straight away started playing Are You Satisfied, which had the entire audience singing along. Popular songs from the album titled with the same name, including The Hunter and Where’s Your Car Debbie? were played with passion and enthusiasm which became contagious as energy surged throughout their head-banging audience. Despite Slaves somewhat controversial lyrics bringing punk and protest music back into the mainstream music scene, the band clearly haven’t lost their sense of humour as they dedicate a song to their recently passed goldfish and play it with real heartfelt emotion.
Wolf Alice have gone from strength to strength this year and their slot on the NME stage at Leeds only proved that there’s no sign of them stopping any time soon. Their clever teen-relatable lyrics are howled by the talented front woman Ellie Rowsell over repetitive and memorable grungy guitar hooks and pop-y drumbeats. Songs such as You’re a Germ and Giant Peach were universally enjoyed by a versatile audience and their finish on Moaning Lisa Smile was a sweet end to an even sweeter set.
Back to the dance tent were Charli XCX was proving that she’s worth more than a few collaborations that helped her rise to fame. The stage presence she held was something else entirely as she bounced around the stage and pleaded for audience participation “I say pussy, you say power” she exclaimed as the crowd joined in on unison with her feminism-inspired chant. Hits such as Break the Rules and Fancy – in which she rapped the entire part of Iggy’s – allowed the crowd to show their enthusiasm for the singer, who sang every note perfectly while maintaining a crazy amount of energy. She finished on Boom Clap which proved ever so popular as at one point, the crowd could be heard over her own voice.
Metal heads gathered for the grand finale of a fantastic weekend of music as Metallica headline the main stage of Leeds on Sunday night. Beginning their set with Fuel, long-haired fans of the classic metal band bang their heads to the fast beats of the crash cymbal and bass drum and complex screeching guitar riffs. Insane bass and guitar solos filled the gap in between songs and well known anthems such as Master of Puppets were recognised by all as the huge audience shouted along to Lars Ulrrich. An Encore of Whiskey in the Jar, dedicated to Cliff Burton followed by Nothing Else Matters left the audience in anticipation for the bands’ most infamous track. When the unmistakable riff for Enter Sandman rang out, fans cheered and screamed and sang along with huge passion for the classic rockers. With choruses accompanied by fireworks and metal heads showing their appreciation with bull horn hand gestures the weekend draws to a close with a literally explosive set by Metallica, as fireworks finish off their grand finale.