For good few years now the August Bank holiday weekend means only one thing to me — Leeds Festival!
Going to music festivals is certainly one of the things I have embraced wholeheartedly since moving to UK ten years ago and Leeds festival holds a firm first place on my list of favourite festivals. The only other festival that comes close would be Bloodstock, which I also absolutely love but for different reasons.
This year’s experience was slightly different than the previous years as I didn’t attend with a photo pass. During the weekend my heart was bleeding a bit at the sight of some of the amazing performances I would have loved to photograph, however, my press pass forced me to spend more time actually listening to the music rather than running around like mad trying to shoot as many performances as possible. Not to mention it still gave me access to fancy toilets in the press area, which judging by the state of affairs around portaloos in the main arena can be considered priceless to say the least.
The festival site is rather compact considering the 80,000 visitors and 6 stages. This can be ok if you don’t fancy walking for miles to get from one stage to another, however, it does get very crowded and making a short journey between stages can turn into an almost impossible task. It also means that finding a place to sit down and eat or just relax away from the crowds isn’t something that can easily be achieved unless you have a pass that gives you access to guest/press area which is quieter and definitely less crowded.
But on to the important things like music…
I didn’t arrive on site until midday Saturday so I missed the Friday line-up. Most of the bands have already played at Leeds over the past few years so there wasn’t anyone I was particularly interested to see. There were a few bands I wasn’t familiar with and it would be good to see them (I love it when I see a band I don’t know yet and they surprise me in a positive way) but if they have staying power I’m sure I’ll get the opportunity to check them out in the future.
Easing myself gently into the festival spirit I had a quick wander around to check out some of the stand up comedians at the Alternative stage. A great addition to the festival programme for those who want a little break from the music and also a rather popular choice as the tent was pretty full every time I walked by.
I missed The Joy Formidable at the NME/Radio 1 stage but I did see The Drums, Kele and Band of Horses. I was curious about Kele as I missed his gig at Birmingham Academy few weeks back. I always liked his voice so I wanted to hear what he is like as a solo artist. The sound is dancey and cheerful and I thought there were interesting elements in his music but there is something missing to pull it all together so for me it all sounded a bit disjointed.
Over at the main stage, the members of the late 90’s nu-metal band Limp Bizkit are certainly no spring chickens anymore (even if Fred Durst still dresses like a teenager) but they proved there’s still energy in them old bones by attracting one of the biggest crowds of the Saturday and inciting mosh action. They opened with crowd pleaser Rollin’ and closed with George Michael’s Faith.
American pop/punk band Weezer excited the fans with a headline-worthy set lead by their frontman Rivers Cuomo, who literally went mental on stage. Their set included classics such as Island in the Sun, Hash Pipe, The Sweater Song, Say It Ain’t So, Buddy Holly. This was a race of a set that left everyone, including the frontman gasping for breath.
Paramore had a hard job following Weezer on the main stage and I have to say they left me cold although the punters around me certainly seemed to enjoy themselves. One reason I probably didn’t enjoy Paramore as much as I hoped I would was the quality of the sound. The lead singer sounded quite muffled and the sound in general was coming in waves. I’m guessing strong wind could have something to do with that.
I moved closer to the stage for Blink 182 and had no issues with the sound there. With jokes about their dads’ sexual habits, catchy pop-punk numbers and a revolving drum kit, Blink 182 may be older but still a whole lot of fun to watch.
Sunday at Leeds is known as the ultimate rock festival day, and up-and-coming Young Guns kicked off proceedings on the main stage.
Pulled Apart By Horses packed the Festival Republic stage with a set that, in true rock’n’roll style, included the lead singer leaping into the crowd and the guitarist trashing his instrument and throwing it in to the excited audience.
Current folk darlings Mumford And Sons took the stage in NME/Radio 1 stage and performed in front of a jam packed tent, thousands of fans inside and plenty more gathering outside watching the gig on the giant screens.
Large crowds started to head towards the main arena when Lost Prophets hit the stage followed by NOFX for a late afternoon set
For me the highlight of the Sunday afternoon was Biffy Clyro who managed to attract the majority of festival fans. The shirtless Scots (Simon Neil also sporting a nicely bleached out hair and beard) whipped the crowd into frenzy with their energetic set. They played 13 songs that included early singles ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake’ and ‘Glitter and Trauma’. Not to mention that a piece of equipment was unceremoniously thrown into the pit after failing to perform to lead singer’s satisfaction. I may be biased as Biffy Clyro are one of my personal favourites but reactions of the crowd around me certainly showed a lot of appreciation for them as well.
Queens Of The Stone Age who took the stage after Biffy Clyro started their set with a promise by their frontman Josh Homme “Leeds, we’ve got what you need”. And, boy, did they keep their promise! They rocked their way through an hour long set which included among others Long Slow Goodbye, Monsters In The Parasol, Feel Good Hit Of The Summer, The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret, 3s & 7s, Sick Sick Sick, Misfit Love and their biggest hit No One Knows. The frontman made a joking comment about the latter “This song everyone knows unless, of course, you’ve had your head up your arse for the last 10 years.”
Fighting off the arctic temperatures throughout the day, by the time Guns’n’Roses were due to close the festival weekend, I was in a less than a forgiving mood. Having heard about their Friday fiasco (starting an hour late and having to cut their set short) at Reading I was determined not to wait around for Mr Rose to hit the stage if he was running late again. Against my better judgement I waited for 15 minutes while watching festival goers in the arena burning empty food packaging to keep themselves warm before deciding I’d had enough and headed off to the much warmer climate of the NME/Radio 1 stage for the LCD Soundsystem. Twenty odd years ago perhaps I would have waited but these days a middle-age has-been isn’t something I’m likely to waste my time on.
To sum up this year’s Leeds festival…a great experience as always and well organised (a special thanks to Hall or Nothing staff who were friendly and helpful throughout the weekend).
The crowds at Leeds are certainly not the best behaved, however, they give this festival a genuine buzz and excitement and if you can accept the possibility of having beer poured all over you then this is THE place to be during the August Bank holiday weekend. And don’t forget the weather is almost always better than in Reading!
Review – Katja Ogrin
Photos courtesy of Leeds Festival/Festival Republic