Typically the last ‘big’ festivals of the summer months in the UK, Reading & Leeds are a special pilgrimage a combined audience of hundreds of thousands of people make every August Bank Holiday weekend. This year I headed to Leeds Fest to check it out, here’s what happened!
Arriving on Friday morning, the site was buzzing with campers dampened slightly by a little storm on Thursday evening, but nothing to put off the masses from what was hopefully going to be a great festival.
Bury Tomorrow, a British ‘metalcore’ band who were the first of the weekend to land on the Main Stage. They weren’t my type of music, a mate being the man reason why I ventured to make them the first band of Leeds 2013 I saw, but they were energetic, and constantly grateful towards their loving audience. They said it was amongst their best gigs ever, and they were honoured to be included. Nice modesty in a profession not usually known for the positives!
Next up were Wavves, a Cali quartet who’re known for being a bit tipsy every now and then at their gigs. They may well have been last Friday too, as they exclaimed their delight at being in ‘San Antonio’…oh and lead signer Nathan Williams’ first words to the crowd were, ‘We’re too drunk’. Alcohol-infused banter aside, the band were okay, not straying too far from a surfy-rocky-punky vibe which was present in every song, which made every song sound very similar to the last…not brilliant! But again not a bad way to warm up.
Seann Walsh, a comedian I didn’t find funny. He may well be reminiscent as ‘that fella who looks like Justin-Lee Collins’, something which he plays on, or ‘the fella from Mock The Week’, but his reputation and TV appearances don’t live up to the live billing. He was pretty flat, boring and just a bit generic, there was no ‘spark’ about him, it was as if, as he most likely has, performed the material so much, it’s lost its humour to him even! He often substitutes genuine humour for just shouting LOUDLY and REPEATING things over and over and over and…you get the picture!
Don Broco, a Bedford-based alternative rock band took to the Main Stage, and were an unexpected surprise. ‘Hold On’, probably their most popular tune got everyone going, as did the band’s in-time dance moves, steps to the side, hand-claps, a cheeky boyband touch for the popular quartet, who’s lead singer had an Elvisy-look going on.
After a bad experience about an hour before at the Alternative Stage, I was ready for round two, this time with Russell Kane. Now again he’s another I’d caught glimpses on the TV. He’d never appealed to me. But he lit up the tent, and had his crowd laughing away, with Northern jokes, jokes about his sexuality and the British psyche. It was all relatable and hilarious-good things for a comic to hit. His hyperactive brand of humour is great, as you never lose of track of whatever the hell he is going on about, an achievement given how he resembles a 5-year old child after a bag of Haribos…funny stuff!
Then it was time for something different, a rapper by the name of Wacka Flocka Flame took to the brand-new Radio 1Xtra Stage, to a huge crowd. His hype man got things bouncing, as the man himself finally arrived 15 minutes late. Wacka wore a Leeds United shirt and some appropriate bling, as his set saw him get a few headbanging fans up onstage,along with a girl plucked from the crowd who ‘twerked’. It was an interesting 40 minutes or so.
Just over the way to the NME/Radio 1 stage, where American girl trio HAIM were the main attraction, bringing their guitar-laden hooks to the masses. They played favourites like, ‘Forever’, ‘Falling’ and new single, ‘The Wire’, all from their much-anticipated debut album. One of the best things about HAIM is Este, their bassist. The older sister likes to have coarse, blunt banter with crowds during gigs and is famed for her ‘bassface’. You can watch her facial expressions for 45 minutes and be easily entertained. Overall, their performance was better than expected and I left happy, as did many others who had squeezed into the tent.
I took a bit of a wander around the Arena site afterwards, taking note of the wide variety of stalls, grabbing a few ponchos for the oncoming storm and taking in some pizza (note: this was at a time when you could actually SIT on the ground and not get covered in mud…)
Then it was time for the sub-headliners, Nine Inch Nails, almost a cult band, such is their feverent support. Being a few rows from the front barrier, I couldn’t tell the size of the crowd at the time, but having seen so afterwards, it wasn’t very busy, but then that should be expected given Trent Reznor and his merry band have never been notable to a mainstream audience.
NIN were good. They missed out a couple of hits, like ‘Closer’ and ‘Hurt’, but if a newcomer like me could get into it, I’m sure the hardcore fans were ecstatic with their 80 minute set. Reznor is a tense, serious stage presence and if memory serves me right, he didn’t interact with the crowd one bit. At the time I didn’t question this, but afterwards it turns out he put out tweets suggesting he was ‘lied to’ by R&L boss Melvin Benn, which Benn himself has since said is a lie.
It’s all very confusing but what we are led to believe is that Reznor was promised a more extravagent stage show than the one he got, as headliners Biffy Clyro would’ve had stage priority, it resulted in a bank of lights instead, still impressive but not the full NIN experience.
There were probably the perfect set-up for what was a definitive headlining performance, from Biffy-motherf***ing-Clyro, as they were known for the evening.
Some doubted they had it in them to headline a major UK festival, but they delivered in spades, with a strong set packed full of their more recent mainstream hits, with a few golden oldies squeezed in for long-time supporters. Simon Neil, lead singer, was very appreciative of the crowd, telling them, ‘”It all goes downhill from here…I’m only joking”‘. Their ‘banter’ was limited, but the shirtless trio let their epic music do the talking, which really got the crowd going too.
Lasers, fireworks, smashed up guitars, sing-a-longs, a massive tree prop, mental mosh pits; the show had it all, and despite the swirling wind and rain it was a fantastic way to close the first night of Leeds 2013.