Taking over from Glastonbury for a year as the UK’s number 1 summer festival of 2012, Reading & Leeds had a lot riding on it, but did it deliver? Let’s find out, starting with Day 1, Friday, at the Leeds site, the first day of my first ever festival ever!
1) Of Monsters & Men
Officially, the first band I saw at Leeds 2012, Of Monsters & Men were excellent. Cruelly shoved onto the NME/Radio 1 Stage at 12.00, the Icelandic outfit proved they had more to them than just lead single ‘Little Talks‘. Infact they had a wealth of clap-a-long tunes for the packed crowd to sink their teeth into. It should’ve been expected given that they were the first ever artist from Iceland to break into the American top 10, surpassing long-standing Icelandic greats such as Bjork and Sigur Ros in the process. They were a refreshing, cheerful way to start off the weekend, and the only band I saw who had a trumpet solo, which deserves credit in its own right! Their latest album was released just yesterday, and I will certainly be checking it out after this cracking set, but if you want another taster of their work, check out ‘Six Weeks‘ below.
2) Mongol Horde
Perhaps the complete opposite of what I had witnessed just half an hour beforehand, the Lock-Up Stage saw only the third live show of Mongol Horde, the new ‘hardcore’ band set up by cult folk man Frank Turner. 2012 was to be the first time for 6 years that Turner was absent from the festival, or so many thought, until the mysterious ‘special guests’, were revealed to be Turner’s side-project. Now, I’ll be honest, usually I don’t find ‘screamo’ entertaining as a genre, but as it was Frank Turner I was willing to give it ago…plus I was dragged along by friends anyway. He came out screaming ‘CHECK! CHECK! CHECK!’ into the microphone, ripped a hoodie off and started going crazy! It was energetic and surreal for me, as one moment Turner was launching himself into the baying arms of the crazy crowd, the next he was dedicating songs to the TV programme ‘Watchdog‘, and with titles like ‘Stillborn Unicorn‘, the humour was still evident. I enjoyed the oddness of what I experienced, never expecting to see such a thing when I woke up that Friday morning. Below is a snippet of said strangeness!
3) The Gaslight Anthem
Next up was a wander over to the Main Stage, to see The Gaslight Anthem, a band I knew only one song of, ‘The 59′ Sound’. Despite this handicap, they were enjoyable enough, allowing me time to recover after what I’d just experienced at the Lock-Up Stage, whilst still proving to be a tight unit of a band. Lead singer Brian Fallon, is a mini-Springsteen, and the contrast between his singing voice and normal is drastic, sounding a much gruffer, weathered man when in full flow. The crowd were up for it though, and they were interesting too, so a good mid-afternoon showing was the verdict here.
4) The Kaiser Chiefs
The first ‘big’ act of the day, the Kaiser Chiefs’ inclusion so high on the Main Stage, may have raised some eyebrows when the first announcements were made. However, despite a lack of recent success, their strong back-catalogue of songs came through to save them, with their hometown Leeds crowd totally on their side. It was a triumphant set, led by the enigma that is Ricky Wilson, who at times comes across as a bit too weird, but had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He continually gawked at the cameras covering the event, instructing the crowd in scenes reminiscent of some sort of Communist rally. Very surreal once again. Hit after hit came along, with ‘Ruby’ gaining one of the biggest cheers, with ‘Oh My God’ and ‘The Angry Mob’ also going down very well with their instant singability (that’s not even a word!). They got the crowd going and buzzing for the rest of the night’s events. Job Done.
5) The Black Keys
Now, The Black Keys were something of an unknown entity for me. I knew a couple of their songs at best, through adverts and ‘FIFA 12’, but had to acquire a decent spot for the Foo’s, so was prepared to ‘put up’ with 45 minutes or so, of them. What followed in those 45 minutes was incredible, enough for me to buy their t-shirt and the latest album almost as soon as I returned home! It wasn’t just their energy, it was the soulful vibe their tunes carried, with shades of 70’s glam-rock and a whole host of influences thrown into the mix. What also astounded me was that they’re only just gaining mainstream media attention, despite 7 albums in 10 years, putting them amongst the most hard-working bands around right now! From now on, I’ll follow them a lot closer, as their wealth of catchy songs seemed never-ending, providing all of us in the crowd with a memorable, if not uncomfortable set.
6) Foo Fighters
The moment the Foo Fighters took to the stage was fantastic, the culmination of five months of waiting, and they had finally arrived. As they kicked off with ‘White Limo’, the surrounding crowd and myself went crazy, a sense of euphoria as everyone’s favourite band were in the zone, headlining Leeds 2012. A hit-packed set of 22 songs squeezed into 2 and a half hours followed, with a couple of covers thrown in for good measure. Personally, my highlights were ‘Walk’, ‘Best of You’, ‘All My Life’ and drummer Taylor Hawkins’ signature tune ‘Cold Day in the Sun’. Hawkins was close to upstaging Grohl for me, but it was the frontman’s sense of humour that entertained me as much as anything. At one point, he’d acquired a blow-up doll, presumably from the crowd, and starting making love to it right there and then to 75,000 people, which was unexpected to say the least. It’s undeniable that the Foo’s are on top of their game right now, as ever, with 2011’s ‘Wasting Light’ touring finally coming to an end with these pair of festivals, they can have however long they fancy to have some well needed downtime, and come back whenever fully charged, and as Grohl himself stated (many times) ‘ready to rock the f**k out!’. Based on last Friday’s excellence, for me, they are the greatest rock band on earth at the moment, so to experience them in their prime, from start to finish was something I won’t forget in a hurry, my first full festival day coming to a close in spectacular fashion!
Probably my favourite day of the festival, culminating in an evening to savour, with the Kaiser Chiefs’ constant stream of sing-a-long hits, The Black Keys becoming a favourite of mine and Dave Grohl and co. delivering a barn-storming two and a half hour show to round things off perfectly!