New York pop-punkers, State Champs kicked off the weekend’s festivities on the Main Stage and, considering the fact that it was barely gone noon, garnered a decent sized crowd. Frontman Derek Discanio did an admirable job of getting the crowd involved from the get-go as the relatively young crowd bounced to an 8 song set split between uber-catchy numbers from their debut, ‘The Finer Things’ and last year’s ‘Around the World and Back’. ‘Elevated’, ‘All You Are Is History’ and ‘Secrets’ all went down a storm and ignited the first circle pits of the weekend complete with one young chap clinging for dear life to his inflatable banana – it set the tone for a good-humoured weekend.
Next, it was over to the NME Stage for Ipswich lads, Basement. Off the back of their return-from-hiatus effort, ‘Promise Everything’, the quintet has enjoyed a well-deserved renaissance on both sides of the pond – to think they almost hung it up completely doesn’t bare thinking about. Much to the band’s credit, they steered away from the easy option of a ‘Promise Everything’ set; instead trusting heavily in their material from 2012’s ‘Colourmeinkindness’. Once Andrew Fisher’s vocal chords were warmed up, after a slightly shaky start on their latest’s title track, the band crunched through their 40-minute collection and opted not to waste time with chatter. ‘Whole’ and ‘Aquasun’ sounded massive whilst ‘Pine’ and ‘Oversized’ offered a mellower approach. Stopping only for a snare drum emergency, which a band backstage rescued them from, they also finished strong with the dirty, chugging ‘Spoiled’ and the anthemic refrains of ‘Covet’. An impressive set, probably more suited to the Lock Up stage, though.
Mid-afternoon saw a curious appearance from acclaimed punkers Beach Slang; curious because they have indeed been so acclaimed over the last 12 months yet the size of the crowd was surprisingly modest. Maybe the set clash with Tonight Alive affected the turnout, who knows? Anyway, for those that were there, James Alex & Co put on a rollicking performance despite being hampered by the odd sound issue – a problem that did look to distract their frontman at times. That being said, the songs are what counts and they never fail to deliver. It was always going to be difficult to replicate their euphoric, small venue shows with a mid-afternoon slot in a big tent but the sing-a-longs still ensued; ‘Noisy Heaven’ and ‘Ride the Wild Haze’ are perfect examples of what this band are all about and ‘Punks in a Disco Bar’ provided a great insight of what to expect from the upcoming ‘A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings’. ‘Dirty Cigarettes’ even got an airing, which is always great. They finished, rather unexpectedly, on a new one – ‘Atom Bomb’ was a great burst of energy, befitting of its name. Whether you caught them here or not, keep your eye on these guys over the coming months.
Remaining at the Lock Up Stage, the Leeds masses finally got their Modern Baseball fix. The loveable Philadelphia-based quartet were forced to cancel their appearance last year as co-frontman Brendan Lukens dealt with some mental health issues – their long-awaited performance almost felt like a homecoming on account of this. The tent was rammed, and rightly so. Circle pits and crowd surfing began early doors, most were more successful than the young lady that got 3 yards on a tiny rubber dingy! Music-wise, in spite of a seemingly reoccurring problem in this tent over the day, sound issues slightly tarnished the first few numbers but ‘Wedding Singer’ still went down a treat.
Their 40-minute set flew by so quickly that it was a delightful blur but memorable at the same time; a sure-fire sign of a job well done with the atmosphere being one of extreme positivity especially as Lukens addressed last year’s cancellation, everyone was just thankful that him and the rest of the band were here. They definitely know how to bring people together, that’s for sure.
The rest of the day was dedicated to headliners and co-headliners alike. With Fall Out Boy and Biffy Clyro on co-headlining duty, one band had to take an earlier slot than you’d really consider a headline one. It was probably for the best that Fall Out Boy took that hit – it may have even worked in their favour in terms of turnout considering the clashes later on. They hit the stage around 7:30 with the sky yet to go dark – it did slightly lessen the impact of the fireworks and flame-heavy stage show but this was rectified by the arrival of darkness.
It’s safe to say things have changed since Fall Out Boy first graced the festival in 2007 in support of ‘Infinity on High’; back then they were still a (very popular) pop-punk-rooted band but nowadays, since their reformation, they are a different beast altogether. They undoubtedly have a muscular and diverse back catalogue to choose a headline-worthy set from and that is just what they did. Mostly centred around ‘Save Rock and Roll’ and ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ whilst dipping into their previous 3 pre-hiatus efforts, the four-piece put together a set that covered all the bases whilst going big with the stage show. Who would have thought Fall Out Boy would have flame-throwing female dancers ten years on? On a side-note, in the midst of Patrick Stump going full-Elton John on piano and Pete Wentz throwing himself into the crowd of thousands, guitarist Joe Trohman looked a little bored by it all – maybe he was feeling upstaged by the dancers eh? Either way, cheer up Joe, you’re meant to be living the dream!
Choosing between the headliners will have been enough to give many a headache; after working their way up the Leeds and Reading ladder since forever, Biffy Clyro occupied the Main Stage headline slot whilst near-certain future headliners, The 1975, were tasked with closing the NME Stage. On top of those, Good Charlotte also provided a pop-punk nostalgia option on the Lock Up Stage. What to do then? A time-split seemed like the logical option.
With Biffy Clyro arriving at 9:30, there was ample time to catch 40 minutes of each set – not ideal but both them and The 1975 were must-watches. It has to be said, that as soon as Biffy’s stage set up was unveiled and the band had blasted through ‘Wolves of Winter’ and ‘Living is A Problem…’, it was clear that the Scottish trio belonged in the headline slot. With a set that only strayed from the last 4 albums once (with a pleasing, “one for the old school” airing of ‘57’) it quickly hits home that they now have a set made for these massive shows with very little, if any, filler. Admittedly, they did stick mostly with the singles but a Biffy Clyro single isn’t usually your typical single. There was thankfully enough time to witness them throw a curveball in the shape of ‘In The Name of the Wee Man’ – a song deemed to be a bonus track from ‘Ellipsis’ despite being the album’s strongest track. It was Biffy with the reigns off for a moment, the best kind of Biffy.
So, after a short trudge through the mud, the next thing to do was try and get inside the NME tent for The 1975 – not the easiest of tasks. A place at the back is the best one could hope for arriving 3 songs in but it mattered not to the enjoyment of the occasion. Like Biffy, the Manchester boys relied heavily on their 80s aping singles but did squeeze the odd album track in. It is no surprise at all to hear the quartet being touted as future headliners of the festival, though. Whilst completely different stylistically to Biffy, their ability to please a crowd is the same. Festival headline slots require sets to be accessible to the majority (usually through the hits) but fans of both realise the depth to each and are forgiving for the lack of deeper cuts. Besides, with singles as strong as the shimmering ‘She’s American’ and ‘Somebody Else’, they manage to satisfy all comers. A beautiful cocktail of heartfelt sincerity and cheesy pop with rockier moments made this the perfect end to a Friday evening. Saturday had a lot to live up to.
This Leeds Festival article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor. All photos credited to Simon Carline except featured image. Featured Image credited to Sarah Jeynes. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.