Leeds fest! Or to this music fan’s judgemental and short sighted imagination, the land of indi, chinos and teen angst. It turns out, there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s foot-long hot dogs too. Sorry, that’s a joke at your expense. There’s all sorts of crazy, exciting shit going on at both Leeds and Reading, one part disturbing to two parts average, with a pinch of mind-blowing. In all honesty, where else does one find such a broad and versatile spectrum of genres, and where else is it possible to walk twenty metres from one to the other? Pfft, Reading? Well, yeah, sure, you’re right, but…well, you know.
Amongst the marching, breathing chaos we find sickly flashing rides, shitty expensive (albeit deeply satisfying) toasties and pasta, and colourful oxygen bars. Props to the latter, festivals are extortionate places at the best of times, but when they’re actually selling air…Also, respect to the Boob Cube! Breast cancer awareness after all, is as peachy as our manly pecs. Then there’s the music. The core of this delicious toffee apple.
The reason every man, woman and their collective dogs haul their chino-laden arses down to Bramham Park this weekend. What do we say? Are the bands, to coin an original and genius phrase, any good? Well, to tell it true, the retrospective feelings are complex, and if you continue Reading (see what I did there? Eh? Eh? Yeah, it was shit) you will have to put up with some belligerent, but we believe, fair opinions, but honestly, what do you want out of this? Yet another sycophantic nodding approval of every folly that went down? Or do you want the truth? If your answer is the former, then you may as well leave, because that’s not what you’re gonna get here.
Amongst the chaotic maddening insanity we stumble across Leeds’ Allusondrugs, or as we’ve taken to calling them, Nirvana and Then Some. Yeah, these guys are probably sick to the back teeth of hearing and reading statements like that, but at the end of the day (don’t know about you but we’re sick to the back teeth of that phrase) it isn’t without foundation in reality. This band have certainly caught that vibe and more, and an excellent live example is ‘Fortnightly’. We’re deeply saddened that ‘MyCat’ doesn’t get played, but hey, we’ll see them again for sure. Allusondrugs are essentially nuanced rock’n’roll, which might seem like a broad sweeping statement, but it’s all that needs to be said. They are as raw as punk live. Check ’em out.
Next, we head to the main stage to catch Tonight Alive, who are like musical ibuprofen. Jenna McDougall’s twenty-two year old vocal chords both sooth and excite in equal measures while the pace of the drums and power of the guitar and bass serve to amp the crowd. They might not be the most epic and grandiose of bands, but they’ve certainly captured something decent, if you discount the thousands of bands that sound exactly the same as them. Papa Roach on the other hand bring noise and nostalgia with tracks from ‘Infest’, namely with tunes like ‘Binge’, and ‘Last Resort’. The latter never gets old, does it? Wooh! ‘Between Angles And Insects’ never loses its grip either. Every time those melodic opening notes and Jacoby Shaddix’s incredible voice meld together a vibe that only Roach could create is recreated. Here’s to hoping these four dudes will be around for a long time. We’re just slightly disillusioned by how the older material dominates the set, especially with a new album looming. It’s as if time hasn’t moved, which could certainly be viewed ambiguously. It is brilliant to hear tunes we were more familiar with, but at the same time we were itching to get a broader sense of where Roach are heading with the new stuff. Guess time will have to do.
Now the sky darkens and the crowds thicken, but we don’t care one iota because we’re in the Lock Up seeing the most emotional show of all time. Seriously, if you haven’t experienced Letlive. live yet, make it a priority. No, that’s not hyperbole, this band are truly something else. Forget the music, forget what tracks are played…you know what, we genuinely don’t know where to start. First and foremost, Jason Butler is off his nut. No sooner has he torn his shirt off and crowd surfed three miles than he tangles his mic cable around every metal pole and oriphis in the room. Then he spots the camera on him, turns to the guy behind it, and says: ‘Don’t point the fucking cameras at us, point it at them! They’re the ones who are important!’ and a big screen showcase of every fan in the room ensues. As an anxious, nervous wretch of a man my initial reaction is ‘Holy shit, don’t point that fucking thing at me’, but then I open my eyes. People are crying. One guy in particular has his arms around Jason like he’s the answer to every issue in his life, and…well, I’m gonna sell my self respect a little here and tell you the honest truth. I actually weep a little, and that isn’t normal for me. Despite this, I am a little worried about how well the melodies would transfer in a live environment. They’re so powerful on the albums, there’s no way they’re gonna sound that good live, right? Wrong. Butler might turn his attention to the audience rather than to hitting all the notes, but when he does hit them, he hits them with an iron fist.
Right. Gogol Bordello. The single most amazing-awesome thing ever. Okay, that’s a knee-jerk reaction. The wait for this band is a hell of a long time, and drives a few people crazy, and a few more away, but once these guys get on stage they amplify the entire room, and create ten atmospheres at once. It’s impossible to focus on the instruments on an individual level, but with the first energetic few notes it becomes obvious that it would be foolish to even try. The enthusiasm is plastered on the face of every GB member, the love for what they are doing is clear, and the songs are unforgettable. Unlike Blink 182, who are, to put it bluntly, a train-wreck.
Sure, they’re funny, they banter together, and Travis Barker is an incredible drummer, but what exactly is the appeal of a trio of forty year olds whining ‘All the Small Things’ for the million and oneth time, and for the record, if we have to hear that stupid song one last fucking time we’re going to commit genocide. At a festival, that’s not what you want, right? Sort this madness, stop fronting underrated bands, and you could prevent that train wreck. Tom DeLonge’s voice is the same irritating whine it always has been, but live it barely hits the notes. The guitar is almost non-existent, the ‘ensemble’, if you could even call it that is just drum and bass rubbing against each other like two impartial lovers. No, this is not a band we ever intend to see again. Our gut instinct told us to stay the hell away, and you know what? Not enough credit is given to the gut. It clearly has quite a sense of right and wrong. Ah, well there’s two headliners left. We couldn’t be disappointed three times in a row now, could we? Could we?
Eh…well…let’s start from the top. After a soaked performance from Tokyo’s Crossfaith on day two (this band still suck, but they’ve got quite an energy on stage that can’t be argued with), we catch Twin Atlantic on the NME stage. Again, you’ve heard a lot of similar bands, but nevertheless, they’re a pleasure to the ears, with the occasional acoustics to boot. The crowd are singing along to ‘Heart And Soul’, a great song fuelled with clean smooth vocals and melody. Sam McTrusty throws a few moving sentiments in too, referring to the pressure and dread the band have been through the past few years. Now, the new album is out there and they’re rocking Leeds fest. Congrats guys.
If Blink disappointed you last night as much as they solidified our hatred for them, then Queens of the Stone Age should bring your spirits back. Like, holy shit, they’re so good! They’re loud, clear, and even more awesome live than on the records. It’s a first time thing for this writer, but one time is enough to confirm that this band are worthy of endless sycophantic praise. ‘No One Knows’ comes early, and ‘Go With The Flow’ does so in perfect time. All the tracks you would expect are played, the set is exciting, epic, and best of all, humble, without a whole lotta interruption. Then comes Paramore, the second (co?)headliner of the weekend, and a great improvement compared to Friday’s headliner. This time, the energy is moderate, there’s plenty of interaction, and it’s explosive, flashy, and a constant surprise. If you’re not epileptic you’ll have a great time. The set list, made up solely by popular tracks, and a few from the first album, is crisp and, for want of nothing more, good. They just fail to move us at all, as they always have. Although ‘Ignorance’ is a pleasure to hear. A guilty one, admittedly, but still. Towards the middle things get a bit predictable, as the tone gets broken down to a keyboard and a serenade, with some sentiments to the fans for good measure. Said sentiments get ever so slightly drawn out, but they seem to mean a lot to the fans, so hey, good show. The energy picks up again for the final leg, and then Hayley Williams brings her sister on stage for a final sickly moment. Can we just ask why on Earth that had to happen? Seriously, who cares? We’re not here to meet your relatives, guys, we’re here for music. Ah, whatever. It’s the end of day two. A cliched performance performed well.
Day three! The climax. The end. And a hell of a climax it is. The fields are now totally rammed, and everyone settles into their new and improved tenty homes. It’s a shame they’re hours from being ripped away, but hell, we still got those hours, so let’s enjoy ’em.
Jeez, do we have some good shit to report. Pop punk is done right with Gnarwolves who give a raw and unfiltered performance, not unlike their studio goodness, then at The Pit we catch Brutality Will Prevail, a healthy dose of hardcore music. If you’re a stereotypical chino wearer you’re probably not familiar with this incredible genre, and most likely missed BWP delivering a violent, unrivalled performance. We’re confident While She Sleeps would have been unforgettable, but sadly there is no time in our rock’n’roll schedule. The Pit showcase plenty of heavier artists, more notably Marmozets, a band with an average age of seventeen. Kidding, fifteen. Kidding, twelve. Kidding, totally. The guitars are distorted and brutal, the drums are hard and full of emotion, and the vocals…this girl might be pretty as all hell, but her voice ain’t, though it can when she wants it to be. Yes, that’s a compliment. The screams rip into us like scissors through wet tissue…Hmm, we’re gonna need a much bigger metaphor here…it rips through us like a massive pair of scissors through a gigantic sheet of wet tissue. There.
If you thought that shitty metaphor was absurd, wait til you see Die Antwoord. This is not a performance you see every day. This is something you see once only to then spend the rest of your days thinking “What the hell was that?!” Both members of this duo indulge in innuendo (not the subtle kind), androgyny (ook to the side of the stage and you’ll see feminine dancers with no tits, with ambiguous apparel covering their faces) and the gangsta imagery you hear in the Wu Tang Clan’s music. This, combined with intensely surreal video clips and ambiguous neon lights, makes for an unsettling and unforgettable gig. Much love, guys, that was awesome.
And now…oh dear. No sigh, scream, or suicidal gesture can portray our lowered opinion of Arctic Monkeys anymore, because this set is the pinnacle of uninspired, uninspiring, mundane music performed with zero enthusiasm, and that’s honesty, not meanness. You’d think that we are negatively predisposed towards this band when that’s our attitude but that isn’t the case at all. Personally, our opinions are generally unmoulded at this point. Hopes aren’t high, but they certainly aren’t low either. The music is pretty clear and faultless for the most part, and all the expected tracks are played, but there was so little engagement that the whole set becomes background noise, when it should be a fixation. Furthermore, the band themselves come across as moody, bored, and uninterested in their own music, and there is nothing worse than that. Oh no, wait, forgive us, of course there is. When the arc of a performance doesn’t even attempt to change. When you’re slapped in the face with slow track after slow track, with ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor’ rammed in the centre like the obnoxious bastard that it is, and then the structure of the final track (don’t ask what it’s called, we genuinely don’t care now) is regurgitated over and over. Are we missing something here? We thought this band had some spunk. Damn.
We walk away from Leeds with our heads low, and our belief in the mainstream faction of the music industry sincerely damaged, though let’s not pretend that this is an apt way of summing the festival up. There has been plenty we enjoyed, and a great deal of experiences we will carry with us for years to come, it’s just that the headliners will not be one of them, which is a shame. Then again, what a wonderful thought that is. To find the gold, we had to mine deep and extensively (well, kind of). The main stage might have been the obvious place to go for musical satisfaction, but it wasn’t the be all and end all. For that, we had to search elsewhere, and that’s what we will continue to do, now and always. Cheers.