The Geordie Prodigal Son – Sam Fender headlined a busy Saturday for Bill Adamson as he checked out another 10 or so artists across the Leeds Festival stages, but Wet Leg may as well have just stayed on their Chaise Longue!!
Words – Bill Adamson, Photos – John Hayhurst (@snapagig)
Kicking off things on Main Stage West it was Lil Tjay who, for reasons currently unknown, failed to turn up yesterday. He is clearly a good rapper, and his DJ had some great beats and, MC skills. But the bottom line for me was I felt that Lil Tjay has all the stage presence of a used tissue. Also, was he lip-syncing at times? Maybe he was just having an off day!
Next on the Main Stage East, it was superb Leeds band Yard Act who were accompanied on stage by a bunch of mannequins dressed in trench coats, who turned out to be dancers. This band is so refreshing, every bit as good as the Blockheads with some Talking Heads influence. Vocalist James Smith is just a one-off with perhaps some Mike Skinner and Ian Dury influence. A momentous set from a band who will headline this festival one day. After that, it was a dash back to Main Stage West for the god-like genius that is Frank Turner, along with his Sleeping Souls. I always feel positive and emotional when I see Frank play live. He is one of the most passionate performers in rock and this was a truly formidable set. Too many highlights to mention but “Photosynthesis” and “I Still Believe” were special indeed.
I took time out to interview the wonderful ALT BLK ERA next, and more of them later. Then it was over to the Festival Republic Stage for the Last Dinner Party. They are the subject of quite a bit of hype, did they live up to it? I think they did, in bucketloads. Musically they evoke classic seventies sounds like 10cc, Supertramp, and even Queen. But vocally they are simply first class in both lead and harmonies. I would love to hear singer Abigail Morris take on a cover of the odd seventies classic, “See Me, Feel Me” by the Who, maybe. It was keyboard player Aurora’s birthday today and the whole crowd sang Happy Birthday to her. This was an impressive set, “Nothing Matters” was perfect. I caught a few songs from Sea Girls on Main Stage West. I thought they were good. Inoffensive indie pop rock like the Pigeon Detectives and Scouting For Girls.
Mimi Webb was on Main Stage East next. She played a hit-packed pop-fuelled set which hit the spot for most people in the crowd. After a short break, I was back at Main Stage East for Wet Leg. I like some of their songs and they played well and were clearly enjoying themselves, I am guessing you know there is a “but” coming right? Yes, there is. Personally, apart from one or two songs I find them a little bland! I was wandering past the BBC Introducing Stage, and I spotted that Antony Szmierek was about to start. I discovered his music recently via the weird algorithms that Spotify has with a great tune called “The Words To Auld Lang Syne”. He played that and did a great Sugababes cover. The highlight for me was “Twist Forever”. Mr. Szmierek appears to be a teacher as a group of kids all around 16 years old rocked up with a “Mr. Szmierek” sign. One of my favourite sets of the day.
I said there would be more on ALT BLK ERA later and this is it. They headlined the BBC Introducing Stage and after overcoming a few issues during soundcheck they played a set the force and power of which could be measured using a seismograph. Supported by an extraordinarily good drummer and a guitarist who might well be called Mr. Riffage. Together they produce a gargantuan metal hybrid sound which is often like the Prodigy on steroids. There were rough edges, but this is a young band that I believe has many fabulous years ahead of them. They played the title track of their upcoming EP, “Freak Show” which sounds classy. The Arctic Monkeys cover was so different from the original that it was perfect. But the highlight was set closer “I’m Normally Like This”.
Next, it was a stroll across to Main Stage West for a thumping set from Foals. I have seen them a few times and they are an immensely good live band with phenomenally good songs. At their base, they are essentially a funk band with musical muscle who overlay those huge bassy beats with great rock guitar and vocals. They clearly have an affinity with the sound of James Murphy’s LCD Sound System. They opened with the 2021 single “Wake Me Up” which brought a tired audience to life. They followed with some of their finest songs from their increasing canon of work. I think “(summer sky)” was the top choice for me, especially as they played it just when the sun was about to set.
Finally, it was time for the mighty Sam Fender to grace the Main Stage East. The crowd was awash with hundreds of Newcastle United shirts waiting for a triumphant headline set from their Geordie Prodigal Son. He gave Bramham Park what many are already calling a career-defining set while showing his love of the North by wearing an Angel Of The North t-shirt. The encore came with waves of love from an adoring crowd.