Live Review: Leeds Festival 2013 [Bramham Park, Leeds] August 23 – 25, 2013

Ah Leeds, you muddy, wet and ever so beautiful festival, you.

Image: Daniel Boud

Leeds Festival Crowd

After a day of mostly interviews we get to check out the ever so majestic alternative rock sounds of And So I Watch You From Afar. This band are incredible, and they smash it during their set. ‘Big Thinks Do Remarkable’ stands out for its intensity and melody. One of the biggest surprises of our weekend for sure. One of the most exciting ones too.

After what seems like a massive delay, we get to catch some of the mighty Filter. It’s been a while since Richard Patrick and co has been over here, and apparently they’re going to be over some more soon. The set starts well with notable track ‘Trip Like I Do’ (from the ‘Spawn’ soundtrack), and despite being notably annoyed at whatever backstage politics led to Filter’s lateness, new tracks like ‘What Do You Say?’ also come across very well.

Filter

Photo: Jonathan Sillence

Now, like most of our readers we’ve seen Nine Inch Nails a few times, and tonight it’s business as usual, despite the fact that it’s been so bloody long since we last saw Trent and his troops. It’s not a very energetic show, but the lights are pretty amazing. These days, it does seem like Trent Reznor relies too heavily on clever tech to get his band lots of claps and screams through shows. Performance-wise, the audience engagement hasn’t been there for a while. But then, maybe that’s part of the mystic? Still, ‘The Wretched’ sounds suitably venomous live.

Trent

Photo: Jonathan Sillence 

Mon the Biff! What a bunch of legends. Without doubt the performance of this writer’s weekend (sorry, Slim…). The energy and the drive behind this fantastic headlining performance makes me truly believe that this band are the very best in the country at making vast, uplifting and utterly anthemic alternative rock music. Tracks like ‘Mountains’ and ‘The Captain’ sound nothing short of incredible here. Probably the best headlining set we’ve ever seen in fact. And we’ve seen a few. Insanely good! So, the UK’s best live rock band in 2013? Without doubt. See them before you die as you will be completely taken over by the performance.

BIFFY_DN-6

Photo: Danny North

SATURDAY, AUGUST 24

We start Saturday in smashing fashion watching Deap Vally rock through a storming set including ‘Lies’ and ‘Make My Own Money’ – an great show, and one that will doubtless remain in the minds of those watching on the NME Stage (and those watching the highlights) for years to come. Indeed, this is a truly evocative performance that readily showcases just how fantastic the state of proper decent rock music is right now. Future main stagers for sure. Big vibes!

Deap

Photo: Jonathan Sillence 

Next up we catch an epic punk show on a small stage (Lock-Up) with Cerebral Ballzy! This vocalist (Honor Titus) has got a serious punk swagger. He’s up there with Rotten and Ramone – the lip curl, the energy and the moves! The songs are pretty mint too. ‘On The Run’ is sufficiently vitriolic and smashing. A powerful statement of intent for the new record which will arrive…at some point. Focussed guitars meet with fast-paced drum beats throughout the set, captivating hardcore punk fans and indie music fans alike. We’ll look forward to catching this band on tour soon.

Cerebral Ballzy

Photo: Jonathan Sillence 

A lot of people don’t believe this writer when he refers to Kate Nash as a punk rocker? I guess though, why would they? She’s had a series of very accessible radio hits. Thing is, if you see her live, everything is so amped up. It’s a rock show, from a proper rock band. A band that deserve to be playing dirty festival bills, and topping them. To be fair, Soundsphere magazine was skeptical until we saw Nash at Sziget last year, and from then on, we’ve been sold. ‘Foundations’ and ‘Mouthwash’ sound ace, and we are just dead chuffed to catch her again on the Festival Republic Stage. Give Nash a try when you next have the chance to see her. We’re damn sure she’ll surprise you.

Waiting for Surfer Blood, we caught The Strypes. Put simply for those that don’t know, it’s 60s-influenced blues rock done by some very motivated young lads, and it sounds bloody mint. The foursome from Ireland. The band has some major fans already from Elton John to Dave Grohl, and that’s pretty impressive in itself. Today though, ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’ really stands out. A top show from a band that honestly, we weren’t expecting to see, let alone enjoy.

 The Strypes

Photo: Jonathan Sillence

Surfer Blood are an interesting band. On record tracks like ‘Demon Dance’ promise so much – all well-written collection of songs and strong Pixies-style melodies. But live for us here, the energy doesn’t quite replicate. This band is just one of those “okay” bands you know? They’re pretty good and what they do. Nothing groundbreaking here though. Perfectly…fine.

Bring Me The Horizon up next on the main stage. Probably the fastest rising heavy band on the planet right now? Maybe. We can see why they’re a loved. One, because they are from Yorkshire (obviously…). Two, because, really, they are a pretty good looking bunch of lads. Three, because they make the kind of music that not only fits all the modern musical trends (dubstep, crossover etc), and all that aside, it sounds amazing out live on a rainy day at Leeds Festival 2013. Legions of female fans swoon, male ones relate in some way every song (‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘Shadow Moses’ are standouts) back to their last painful break-up and cheer a very angry Oliver Sykes on. There is an undeniable strength to this material, and to be fair, the people behind it. Arenas around the world beckon, and you know what, this lot fu**ing deserve it. Truly. A great showing today.

Ah, good old Frank Turner. A fine ambassador for folk and British rock if there ever was one. We’ve seen, and spoken to Frank at various venues all over the country, and it’s great to see his sound translating so very well to a national and international audience. ‘Recovery’ sounds utterly accessible and world-beating. Despite the disgusting amounts of rain and mud, Frank and his Sleeping Souls (band) bring the crowd out of their slump. Everyone loves Frank Turner. Everyone feels very wet, and just bloomin’ great. ‘I Still Believe’ is of course another incredible hit that motivates fans (and band alike) to rock through all the rubbish (probably literally too), and just celebrate being at Leeds Festival with great sounds. Bloody great. Bit wet though. Did we mention that?

Deftoooones! We love Deftones. If you’re a rock fan, how do you not love Deftones? This band has been through a lot over the years (the death of bassist Chi being at the forefront), and yet, the consistently manage to smash it on main stages around the world. We’ve seen ’em a bunch times, and each time they look good and sound incredible. Deftones are one of the greatest alternative acts on the planet and they will always deserve to be high up on this kind of wide ranging bill. Their music is as intense live as it is on record, and songs like ‘My Own Summer’, ‘Swerve City’ and ‘Tempest’ come across incredibly well. Chino is smiling and the band are making the most of the opportunity. We’ll be seeing you again soon, boys. Ever awesome.

Deftones

Photo: Jonathan Sillence

Missing out System Of A Down to do another interview, we catch the legendary pop-punk act, Green Day. It’ll be the first time we’ve seen ’em since 2004. Breaking out newer “classics” like ‘American Idiot’ and ‘Know Your Enemy’ before playing the now iconic ‘Dookie’ album this is the ultimate in pure feel-good rock brilliance. You can’t really go rock with the crunching riffs and playful beats of ‘Burnout’ or ‘Basket Case’, can you? Minor highlight. Well, major actually is Billie Joe’s choice to bring an avid fan on stage to sing with him. The did does a good job too. It’s that kind of thing that makes festivals so amazing – a fan gets to perform his arse off in front of thousands of people. Wonderful stuff. Dreams do come true, as they say.

Greenday

Photo: Jonathan Sillence 

Skrillex! Man, what’s this lad doing at a rock festival? destroying it (in a good way), that’s what! From start to finish Sonny (who let’s not forget entertained millions of metal kids with From First To Last), has the crowd eating from out of the palm of his sweaty, sweaty palms. ‘Bangarang’ is a proper banger, and ‘First Of The Year (Equinox)’ is a definite highlight. Dance music for the alternative generation, surely. It’s okay to like Skrillex, guys. Seriously. Okay, so the stage presence isn’t there, but the massive space ship-type booth more than makes up for it in this instance. It’s a huge show with all kinds of great lights and sounds. To be fair, it’s probably the most packed out that the NME Stage has been all weekend. We thoroughly enjoy getting our rave on and throwing some mega shapes. Stunning stuff. On record this stuff doesn’t come across nearly as well as it does live. If you get a chance, get yer glowsticks out and mosh to some mad beats. Yeah, we went there.

Skrillex

Photo: Jonathan Sillence

SUNDAY, AUGUST 25

It’s the last day, and we are really, really muddy. Like ridiculously muddy. More muddy than we’ve ever been. Still, it’s a bit nicer. Any way, to business. Starting off a little late because of interviews and whatnot, the first band we venture to see is Big Black Delta – a band made up of some serious talent, and two drummers. Two drummers! How cool is that? Mega cool! ‘Betamax’ and ‘Side Of The Road’ are cleverly produced and crafted. The drummers look good and provide a decent backbone, but don’t distract too heavily from Jonathan Bates’ soothing vocals. A very impressive new-ish band on a very cool stage in the R1 Dance Stage. What an awesome start to a (slightly) better day weather-wise.

Following another interview, we tread over to White Lies on the Main Stage. This lot have a great knack for penning emotive songs that appeal to rockers, indie kids and goths. Tracks like ‘Big TV’ and ‘Bigger Than Us’ soothe and emote incredible emotion. It’s kind of weird that on a day where the sun finally shines, White Lies perform their triumphant set.

White Lies

Photo: Todd Owyoung

After another short chat (in the press area), we head back over to the Main Stage for Foals. We saw them a while back in Hull at Freedom Festival, and they blew us away then, proving that they are not just a simple indie band. That they are in fact one of the more inventive progressive, alternative and indie bands on the planet. They take to this top stage bill very well. Incredibly well in fact. ‘Inhaler’, ‘Spanish Sahara’ and ‘My Number’ are great standouts from a brilliant set of complex inventive songs built by a band made for arenas worldwide. The band champion passion and adrenaline through their set and it’s a bloody great affair on the whole. Heavier songs like the aforementioned ‘Inhaler’ sound just ace.

LEEDS13_AWH_6342

Photo: Andrew Whitton

Chase & Status follow-up directly on the Main Stage, and man, they rule. We’re not really into pure electronic stuff, or band’s that shamelessly rip-off The Prodigy. Fortunately (and not without our own doubts), the band (complete with actual live guitarist and actual live drummer) put on an amazing show with tracks like ‘No Problem’ starting things off with fine form. As the set progresses and everything gets louder and faster, the crowd forget they’ve been trapped in the mud most of the weekend. It’s pretty feel-good; all the chavs and indie kids are getting on. To be fair, that’s something they’ve got in common with The Prod, an almighty ability to bring people together. We would definitely see them again, and can easily understand why they were booked for Download Festival earlier this year – major crossover appeal. Massive!

So, it’s the end of the weekend. The end of Leeds Festival 2013, and what’s the best way anyone could possibly think to end it? Well, if we didn’t know that Slim Shady was headlining already, then our money might have been on Eminem. Running through condensed versions of his extensive back-catalogue including ‘Love The Way You Lie’ (with excellent backing from a band made up of guitarists, two drummers and keyboards). A fantastic female backing singer also deserves a really special mention for her excellent parts, as does Em’s hype-man Mr Porter. Dido makes a great guest appearance for ‘Stan’. Particularly emotive is the rapper’s version of ‘Airplanes’ (originally by B.O.B but guesting Shady) which comes across fantastically well as a full-band spectacle. On a similar note, it’s worth mentioning the epic aggression that is embedded in a track like ‘White America’ (which also sees flames blaze on stage). That’s a particular favourite tune for this writer, so it is nice to hear it performed with so much vigour. It should be on that bucket list for you to see this guy and his mega stage show, even if you’re not a hip-hop fan. The range of emotions that this performer can take you on is well worth applauding. Yes, there’s a lot of hype around him, and at times it does seem over the top occasionally, but well…that’s Eminem, right?

Eminem

Photo: Daniel Boud

Thank you Leeds, it’s been fun. We’ll see you next year. Come rain or shine. Probably rain. You get a four because we got stuck in the mud. A lot.

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Dom Smith

About Dom Smith

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