It’s official, Leeds Festival rocks! With probably the best line-up of the UK Summer Festivals, we went to the northern leg of the Leeds/ Reading festies for a weekend of drinking, rockin’ and standing around in a big muddy field.
As usual we arrived there a bit later than most on the Friday. Fashionably late enough to miss the likes of Feeder, Alexisonfire, Plain White T’s and the Dropkick Murphys on the main stage and the likes of Lightspeed Champion and Lethal Bizzle in the smaller arenas.
But we did get there in time to see American masked rockers Slipknot, only to hear the news that they’d cancelled their show due to the drummer breaking his ankle. Couldn’t they have carried him to the stage or summat?
A bad start then, but made immediately better by the wit and general rambunctious of Jack Black’s Tenacious D. They played through material from their two albums and were amusing enough to while away half an hour to.
Then the rock behemoths that are Metallica (pictured right) came on and out in a performance that would set the marker for the rest of the festival. These guys are loaded enough to not need the money from gigging, but as they played through classics like Enter Sandman, Nothing Else Matters and One you could tell how much they love doing it. CSS and The Cribs were headlining on the other stages, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away.
Got up out of the tent early enough on Saturday to catch a bit of Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. I don’t have his album or anything, but he’s pleasant on the ear and not a bad choice of soundtrack to my morning coffee and donut. A whole world better than James Blunt or James Morrison anyhow.
But I dashed off halfway through to go to the alternative tent to catch a bit of spoken word. First up was a cheeky dreadlocked chappy by the name of Beans On Toast. He was quite amusing, particularly his teenage rendition of Rage Against The Machine (‘Fuck you, I won’t tidy my bedroom’).
Then on came the man we were all waiting for, Mr Henry Rollins. I have to admit I am a big fan of the former Black Flag frontman and his spoken word sets, which are equally amusing and educational. Going from Vietnam to Van Halen in a hair’s breath, everyone should go and see him talk.
After Rollins had finished we dashed off to catch a bit of Dizzee Rascal on the main stage, but his set was marred by problems with the soundsystem and from where we were standing (admittedly quite near the back) you could barely hear him. Next on came Serj Tankian, former lead singer of System of a Down, whose new material is, in truth, fairly dull. Nice top hat and suit though.
A quick nip back to the tent for some food and we were back in time for the penultimate act of the evening Queens Of The Stone Age (pictured above right). These guys know how to put on a show and they blazed through an hour long set including classics like Go With The Flow and Feelgood Hit Of The Summer. Notable mentions must also go to Nottingham’s own nu-ravers Late Of The Pier, who were on at the same time on a different stage giving much excitement to a crowd of electro-loving teenagers.
Saturdays headliners included Babyshambles, Pennywise and Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - all decent acts in their own right,. But it wasn’t a hard choice to make to go and see the recently reformed Rage Against The Machine. After a seven year hiatus working on other stuff (singer Zak De La Rocha had a low key solo career and the rest of the band joined up with Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell for Audioslave) they reformed last year and the Leeds crowd loved it. Despite a few sound issues during their set (the crowd around us were shouting ‘turn the volume up’) they absolutely killed it! They might be nearing their forties but De La Rocha jumped around the stage like a teenager and the rest of the band, led by Tom Morello, held it together. Great to see them back!
Sunday on the main stage started off with the forgettable duo of The Automatic and British Sea Power. But things livened up when The Subways came on, for their fifth straight year at the festival, showing a lot of energy and begging the crowd to interact with them.
We then went to the Alternative tent to catch a set by Nottingham punks Lovvers (pictured right). Bloody good they were too! We particularly liked the way the lead singer tried to start a personal war against Black Kids (the band – before anyone out there gets too excited). Beefing with bigger bands is always a good way to get your name out there. Well done chaps!
Editors then followed on the main stage, while at the same time Mystery Jets were protesting after having their set cut short on the NME Stage. However we thought it was time to check out something we’d never heard of before, so we pitched up our camping chairs on the BBC Introducing Stage and watched a tight set from Belfast three piece General Fiasco.
Dirty Pretty Things were then on the main stage and were okay. Nothing really to write home about, they know how to write a tune it’s just they don’t seem to be having that much fun when they’re playing them. But their cover of Nirvana’s Lithium went down well with the Leeds Crowd.
We Are Scientists, on the other hand, had bags of energy and knew how to play an audience. At one point the bass player tried to dissuade the crowd from throwing bottles of urine at them (“It’s been proven that 85% of the time, people who throw bottles of piss actually end up with them landing in their own mouths”). A touch of comedy as well as a good old rock and roll show.
The Raconteurs (aka Jack White’s other band) took to the stage and played a concumate set of songs from both Broken Boy Soldiers and Consolers of the Lonely. You can see the relief for Jack of playing in an old school band just to have a good time, although they don’t exactly push the barriers like The White Stripes do. Also we thought Jack (pictured right) might have been taking his name a bit too literally, with a complexion so pale it would make Michael Jackson look like he’d just come back from the Caribbean.
Bloc Party know how to put on a show and they did so with a blitz of old and new. Their new album Intimacy has just been released as a download-only (if you want it in physical form you have to wait until October) and they ploughed through some tracks off this as well as older ones like Helicopter and The Prayer. Enjoyable stuff!
The choice of who would be the last band we’d see at the festival was not an easy one. We watched a couple of songs by The Killers and was hugely impressed by their light show, if a little underwhelmed by their music and general stage persona.
So we made the journey over to the NME stage and watched the Manic Street Preachers. After so many years at the top it was heartening to see them play in a smaller venue than their usual arena gigs. They also appeared to choose their set list carefully and included some early classics like Motown Junk and Motorcycle Emptiness, as well as the day’s second Nirvana cover, Pennyroyal Tea. A set to make you remember why they were such an important British band in the nineties.
Towards the end of the Manics set we dashed off to see Gallows on the Lock Up Stage and managed to catch the end of their set, including the awesome spectacle of Frank Carter trying to tear down the stage at the end. It’s something of a cliché for bands to smash up a guitar (usually they have them specially weakened beforehand) but there is no faking with Gallows and the energy they bring is what makes them so damn good. They were still there a good five minutes after the music had finished breaking stuff and by the end Frank had pushed a massive Orange amp into the crowd to be passed around over their heads. A comedy moment to end a damn good rock festival!
Leeds Festival website