Proving there is a Leeds Festival for everyone, Bill Adamson was at his 48th (Leeds/Reading) this year – Check out what he saw on the Friday
Words – Bill Adamson, Photos – John Hayhurst
Main Stage East was my first hit of the Friday, and it was a powerful set from Reading band the Amazons. I sense a lineage through the best of 60s and 70s British Rock from the Small Faces to Bad Company. Their recorded stuff is good, but the band takes it to another fabulous level when they play live. A perfect way to warm up the Friday crowd, although more audience interaction earlier in the set would have made it even better. On this basis, I think the next Amazons album will be classy indeed.
Next, it was Hot Milk on Main Stage West. They have an underlying pop-punk sound with some incredible metal injections and old-school punk. The crowd was properly up for this and would have moshed until the sun went down. To be fair many of them probably will!
Next, it was the Snuts on the same stage they are purveyors of pop-infused, anthemic, indie rock songs that are perfect for a sunny festival afternoon. A quick dash to the Festival Republic Stage to catch the Royston Club. A bit like Pulp spliced with the Housemartins with an injection of heavier sounds. Some great hooks and yet more sounds for summer. My first visit to the BBC Introducing Stage allowed me to catch TWST, clearly someone who embraces the strange, but in a very good way. She is a great performer with a touch of Barbie, Madam Misfit, Gwen Stefani, and a Disney Princess with attitude. She has a gorgeous voice that works on proto-power ballads and some awesome dance bangers.
Don Broco played the Main Stage West and for me they get better and better every time I see them. This was a thunderous set from a fantastically talented band. The crowd went batshit crazy for them. I love their positive message and confidence. Huge shout out to the drummer, he is not only good with the sticks. He has a great voice too. The Festival Republic Stage was packed tight for Scottish sensation Dylan John Thomas. He has some delightful, devilish, dervish-style songs that are filled with electro-folk and alt.country stylings. I feel that Mr. Thomas has a great knowledge of the history of Scottish music from the battle hymns of Bannockburn to Andy Stewart, the Proclaimers, Big Country, and Franz Ferdinand.
The Main Stage East played host to Rina Sawayama, and she put on a spectacular performance. She has some excellent funky, poppy, hook-laden tunes constructed with dance in mind. Janet Jackson fans and anyone with a pair of disco trousers will have loved this supremely confident set. The costume change where Rina changed into a dominatrix in her boudoir red vampish corset-style outfit with tassles and then gave a mild BDSM routine with a whip, a riding crop, and light bondage. Probably not one for the kids but entertaining nonetheless!
I made another visit to the BBC Introducing Stage, this time for Grandma’s House. This trio is punk with a hard-hitting, well-played sound with what feels like a DIY ethos. I felt some echoes of early White Stripes and oodles of riot grrrl vibes. A short hop across to the Radio Xtra Stage for Lost Girl, she was damned good. Tons of sublime dance and R&B sounds and some boundlessly, energetic, and stylish dancing from two stupendous and perfectly syncopated dancers. There were some fine beats from the DJ, which included some magical African-style percussion. Lost Girl was signed to a label when she was 17, she is now 23 and has not been able or allowed to release any music. So, she has left and is now independent. I am looking forward to new stuff from her.
I just managed to catch the last three songs from on the Main Stage East from Steve Lacy. He first came to prominence as the guitarist in the alternative R&B band The Internet from 2015. He is a talented guitarist and vocalist and somewhat Princelike in his style and performance. He closed with “Bad Habit” which was a US number and a UK top 10 hit last year. I am so glad I got to catch even a small part of his set.
Imagine Dragons were on the Main Stage West next as one of the joint headliners. Personally, I think whoever closes the night is the real headliner. But to be fair to them they played like headliners. “Thunder” and “Follow You” were highlights for me.
Finally, it was time for Billie Eilish, and it felt like everyone on site had converged on Main Stage East for her performance. Like many headliners, she has had her own stage constructed, a huge ramp. She put on a fabulous performance and as expected the crowd loved her. She was like a feminist alt.Barbie with a hugely colourful outfit.