What you missed at Leeds Festival
Check out a gallery of the madness here!
I was sent to Leeds and given the Relentless stage to cover, and when I heard this news my first thought was “…But I know nothing about dance music, deep house, and DJ sets.” As it turns out that wasn’t an issue- the stage was fantastic; full of nice people, good music, and mud. Lots and lots of mud. Because the Relentless stage is set down in the shelter of the trees between Orange and Red camping, the mud was ever-present. Ankle deep in some places, it certainly made it hard to get around, but it definitely didn’t stop the keen crowd from having a good time each night, keeping going until 03:00 a.m. The Friday night’s Relentless line up was Luke Hassan, Icarus, Jax Jones, and Feed Me. Icarus were my highlight for the night; Bristol-based brothers Ian and Tom who have a passion for electronic music. They signed with FFRR/Parlophone recently and released their first EP under the label. Their EP is called “Don’t Cry Wolf.
The light show at Relentless stage is incredible, with lights lining the alley of trees up above the whole way down, and more strobes and moving lights than you can shake a muddy stick at. It must have taken a lot of time and precision to get it all set-up right, and you can really tell. Halfway down the Relentless stage area there’s a bar, serving beers, ciders and spirits, and most importantly- Relentless. Being a stage sponsored by Relentless, there sure is an emphasis on the energy drink.
I was surprised how friendly everyone was, especially when you’ve got a camera! They see a flash go off and it’s like a homing beacon, people trying to seek you out to get a picture taken; it’s a good way of meeting and talking to people too. Given the fact that a vast majority of the crowd were drunk (it’s a festival, what else would you expect?), there was no feeling of aggression or hostility anywhere. Everyone seemed laid back, trudging through the mud to the Relentless stage to listen to some good music. Saturday night’s lineup was Luke Hassan, Camelphat, Monki, and Hannah Wants. Hannah Wants had already played a well-received set on the BBC Radio 1 Dance stage earlier that evening at 20:20-21:20, and had headed over to the Relentless stage to play yet another set, starting at 02:00 a.m. The weekend was closed off with Andy C, with his set going on until 03:00 a.m., which was a great end to a great weekend of music.
After solving some issues attaining my press pass, I managed to get into the arena in time to catch Sleeping With Sirens’ half hour set on the main stage. There wasn’t much that stood out for me, both musically and in terms of their stage show- generic sounding pop rock/core for troubled teens. The set didn’t pull in many new fans, with much of the crowd not really showing a lot of interest, apart from the existing fans of the band who were crammed in down at the front. If I’m honest I saw more people walking away from the main stage during their set than walking toward the main stage, which speaks volumes for their performance. I think Sleeping With Sirens would have done much better on a smaller stage, such as The Pit, which was the festival rock/metal/punk tent. Up next on the main stage was Five Finger Death Punch, who really got the crowd going from the minute they took to the stage. Each member of the band came out was clad head to toe in Five Finger Death Punch merchandise, ya know, just in case you forgot who they were… Unlike their main stage predecessors, Death Punch were drawing in crowd members from elsewhere and holding their attention, with setlist stand-outs such as “Got Your Six” and their Bad Company cover of “Bad Company.” Among the chaos there was a FFDP shirt thrown up on stage, which lead singer Ivan Moody picked up and signed, before throwing back to the owner. At 17:10 I headed over to the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage to catch Rat Boy, who I’d heard great things about so I was looking forward to seeing what he had to offer. After entering the stage to the sound of police sirens, Rat Boy (who’s real name is Jordan Cardy) worked up the crowd into a frenzy, creating a real party atmosphere and diving straight into the crowd to sing the first song “Move” from the crowd. I’ve heard a lot of people saying he copies Jamie T, and although there are definite similarities in both of the artists music, I don’t see it as a problem. Having a packed tent for your show at a festival speaks volumes. Either way, Rat Boy’s live performance shone through, and was definitely a highlight of my weekend.
//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsI hadn’t planned on staying to watch Savages’ set, but after speaking to an extremely enthusiastic fan in the crowd who said they were a must see, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to stay. This meant I would miss The Vaccines main stage performance but as it happened, it turned out to be worth it. The tent had emptied a little bit since Rat Boy’s performance, but it was still a good crowd turnout. Their first song didn’t sit well with me- I was confused, the song felt uncoordinated, and I was disappointed after hearing such great things from people about them. This feeling didn’t last for long as during the second song they really hit home, bringing everything into focus. Savages are a completely different experience to what I was expecting, and it took a bit to get used to. After this they just kept getting better and better with each song they performed, and I was blown away by the energy and passion displayed during their set. As an all female post-punk band Savages promised something different, and that is definitely what they delivered. Driven by harsh, punky drum beats and thundering driving bass guitar, topped off with Camille Berthomier’s spectacular vocals. Savages kicked ass. Plain and simple.
In an explosion of hot, sweaty power, Cage The Elephant burst on stage, lead singer Matt Shultz continuing the trend of jumping off the stage and down to interact with the crowd. This set the mood for the rest of the performance. They started with “In One Ear” and finished with the energy packed song “Teeth.” I like their music a great deal, but their live set didn’t do much for me; it felt gimmicky. They gave a hell of a performance though and the crowd couldn’t get enough of them.
The 1975 were the headliners for the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage, with an hour long set from 22:00-23:00. I got there a while before 10 to ensure I got a good spot in the crowd, as I knew it would pack out quickly. Listening to the buzz of conversations going on around me before the show started, I heard some people who had seen them on multiple occasions already, and some people that were seeing them for the first time that night. Before the performance even started I was amazed by the complexity of their simple looking stage set up- the four monoliths lined up along the back of the stage, and the three rectangles suspended up above. Each monolith, along with the backdrop, changes with each song; different shades of pink, cityscape, silver shimmering effect, etc. Seeing all the work that goes into making sure this all works flawlessly was incredible and really gave me an understanding and appreciation of the work that set designers and the crew put into it all.
By 22:00 the tent was packed, not a space left in sight. Outside the tent there was another large crowd that had gathered to watch the show on the outside screen- luckily the rain had stopped by now! Running a few minutes late, the anticipation for The 1975 was building fast with every minute that passed. Finally they came on stage, opening with the funky lead single ‘Love Me’ from their second album, ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’. This was then followed up by ‘UGH’, which features one of my favourite bass lines from Ross MacDonald. Crowd reactions to the band were great, and the atmosphere was friendly and chilled, The 1975’s one hour set started on a high and carried that right on through until the end. The 1975 have been on my band-bucket-list for a long while now, so being able to see them was brilliant.
A Change of Heart
If I Believe You
I went to check out Austrian rock/punk duo, White Miles. Having never heard of them before, and not knowing anything about them, I was unsure what to expect! White Miles describe their music as “dirty pole dancer stoner blues rock”- make of that whatever you wish. Their sound felt dirty and raw, really rhythm driven, with guitarist Medina Rekic’s riffs hitting you like a truck and drummer Hansjörg Loferer backing it up with relentless drumming. Medina had such confidence up on stage, and seemed so happy to be there, grinning all of the time. Toward the end of the set she jumped down off stage and down to the barrier, running up and down while continuing to belt out monster riffs.
Making my way over to the main stage and looking up at the screens I saw the ever-charming Frank Carter in the middle of a huge circle pit while he performed a song, also hurling verbal abuse all over the place. That’s all part of his charm- his strange, cocky, asshole-y charm. For Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes to be playing the main stage at Leeds festival is a massive achievement, considering they were formed just 18 months ago and the last time they played Leeds they were on the much smaller Pit stage. In all fairness, that’s a pretty damn good reason to be cocky, it’s a hell of an achievement; an achievement they seemed really proud of. Toward the end of the set is where it got really fun, with Frank tossing a go-pro into the crowd telling them to ‘record the mayhem.’ Needless to say, mayhem definitely ensued. I’d not listened to Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes much before the festival but their performance really won me over, I won’t be forgetting The Rattlesnakes in a hurry!
Transviolet were a disappointment. Much like Cage The Elephant, I like their music, but their live show just didn’t cut it. Transviolet’s show just wasn’t captivating, and felt like another generic female fronted electro-pop band whose music doesn’t particularly transfer well in a live performance, which is a real shame as they have a lot more potential.
Lower Than Atlantis were a pleasant surprise! I’d never listened to them before because I didn’t think they sounded like something that would interest me- and after seeing them live I have no idea why I didn’t listen to them sooner. They performed a really enjoyable set. The crowd were worked up from the minute they came on stage; opening the show with “Get Over It,” a single from the special Black edition of their self-titled album. Mike Duce, singer and guitar player, had some really good interactions and jokes with the crowd, one of my favourites being “sing your tits and dicks off, and if you don’t have tits or dicks, sing anyway.” Mike also got the crowd to circle pit to a slow song, after he claims he forgot to ask them to circle pit during the fast one before. It worked surprisingly well and the crowd loved it! Overall Lower Than Atlantis gave a great performance which was enjoyable for all, whether you know their music or not.
Playing Leeds and Reading as part of their first full length tour, Otherkin are on the way up; and you’ll understand why when you see their live show. Energetic, charismatic, and extremely fun. Luke Reilly, vocals and guitar, was jumping around shirtless all over the place, and he really looked like he was having fun. That’s one of the things I enjoyed so much about them- they were having genuine fun up on stage. During the last song Luke jumped from the stage and into the crowd, singing and playing guitar the whole time.
I was at the main stage when South African rap rave band (band? Unsure if that’d the word I’d use) Die Antwoord came onstage, but when they started playing I left extremely quickly to find something better to watch. By the time I’d returned toward the end of their set they definitely had not improved at all. If I had to sum up their set in one word, it’d be ‘cringeworthy.’ The awful and outdated voice effects used by Yolandi Visser were just awkward to listen to, with the pair of white tracksuit outfits were equally awkward to look at. I can’t tell if this is the image they’re going for, perhaps a sort of irony? I’m unsure what they were aiming for. The highlight of their set for me was when lead vocalist Watkin Tudor Jones dove into the crowd to surf, but as he was surfing his trousers were being pulled down by crowd members, exposing his bare ass to the cameras that were broadcasting the footage up onto the big screens. Although their set was the worst thing I’ve seen live, it was also the funniest thing in ways- you’ve got to get some enjoyment out of it, right?
Now I’m not into rap and grime, but BBK (Boy Better Know) were honestly one of my favourite acts at Leeds Festival. It was surprising how enjoyable they were even without knowing the first thing about them. BBK is comprised of Skepta, JME, Wiley, Jammer, Frisco, Shorty, DJ Maximum, Solo 45, Bassboy and Preditah; together they put on a crazy show. They provided a set of non-stop energy, opening with Skeptas “That’s Not Me,” and carrying on with a variety of covers, including Solo 45’s “Feed ‘Em To The Lions,” JME’s “Man Don’t Care,” and “On A Level” by Wiley. Some members were weaker than others, while others shone through- Solo 45 and Skepta being the two stand-outs. Lots of BBK t-shirts were thrown out into the crowd during the set which worked them up and added some extra excitement to the performance. There was also a hell of a lot of girls lifting up their tops whenever the cameras were pointed at them- not that anyone was complaining. Each time it happened it was greeted by a wave of cheers, laughter, and applause. On the whole it was a great show; I’d recommend you keep an eye out and try to catch a BBK show.
That’s Not Me (Skepta cover)
Funny (Frisco cover)
Detox (Skepta cover)
96 Fuckries (Jme cover)
What’s Going On (Shorty cover)
It Ain’t Safe (Skepta cover)
Feed Em To The Lions (Solo 45 cover)
Them Man There (Frisco cover)
On a Level (Wiley cover)
Shutdown (Skepta cover)
Too Many Man
Don’t @ Me (Jme cover)
Man Don’t Care (Jme cover)
Man (Gang) (Skepta cover)
I got to The Pit a few minutes late after being held up and was worried I’d miss the beginning of Crossfaith’s set, but when I got there they hadn’t started yet. It had got to 15 minutes late and there were still crew running about the stage, apparently trying to sort out an issue with keyboardist Terufumi Taman’s mic. Finally the issue was sorted, evoking cheers from the frustrated audience! Once the show got underway they just went crazy- each member giving it their all, especially Hiroki (bass), who was jumping around the stage with his hair flailing everywhere, his body paint on his hands, arms, neck, and face glistening with sweat. This was my second time seeing Crossfaith on a small stage- I was ready for madness. And that’s what I got. Crossfaith know how to party, using their unique blend of dance music and metalcore to keep the energy pumping. According to vocalist, Kenta, the last time Crossfaith played Leeds was on the main stage, and it feels much better to be playing a more intimate stage again. Terufumi climbed up the side of the stage and hung from it like a monkey, microphone in hand, much to the horrified look of the stage managers etc- which made it all the better. Crossfaith dedicated their last song to Architects guitarist Tom Searle, who unfortunately passed away of cancer in early August. It was a touching sentiment, and a fantastic close to their set.
Scottish band Fatherson were the first band of the day to play on the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage, and they pulled a hell of a crowd! Especially for the first band and their first ever time at Leeds; the tent was packed. Their happy vibes transferred into the crowd; you could tell how happy Fatherson were to be there playing at Leeds and how grateful they were to have pulled such a crowd. The turnout was fantastic. They seem to have a fairly large fanbase already, with a vast majority of the crowd singing along, already knowing the lyrics.
Sunset Sons have been rising in success recently, gaining fans and recognition with each show they play. They got a lot of exposure after touring with Imagine Dragons- playing to crowds that large each night must have felt amazing. I found their set strange and I can’t fully pinpoint why- they gave a really good performance, but their actual live show and presence left a lot to be desired, quite underwhelming. There wasn’t much in terms of variety in their set. Having said that though the fans all loved it, and they all seemed to have a brilliant time.
I managed to catch a couple of minutes of The Japanese House’s set before I walked over to the main stage to check out Skindred. The short part of the set I witnessed was really atmospheric, with vocals layered with effects, masking singer Amber Bain’s voice. One thing I like about them is the similarity in their sound to The 1975, but with less confidence. George Daniel from The 1975 has helped Amber co-produce her music, which is an interesting thing to note. Being a solo artist of sorts, writing music on your own, it must help to have a band available to help you envision the music you’re creating. That is one thing that could be holding The Japanese House back slightly- the lack of confidence. I’ve read in an interview that Amber still doesn’t like talking on stage, and that was evident in this performance. In terms of her on stage confidence though I didn’t see any problems as any cocky, confidence fuelled energy would have contrasted the laid back, atmospheric sound.
Hailing from Newport, Skindred’s reggae/rock crossover was a great addition to the main stage talent this year at Leeds Festival. Entering the stage to the sound of the Imperial March, they bring something entirely different, which I feel drew in a lot more members to the crowd- both Skindred fans and curious on-lookers. Beni Webb was amusing to watch, calling out members of the crowd for not paying attention and then mocking them up on the big screen, eliciting a lot of laughs. Setlist highlights were “Doom Riff,” “Sound The Siren” and “Kill The Power.” They closed out the set by asking the crowd to get involved in their signature crowd craze- The Newport Helicopter. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically taking off your t shirt, hoodie, scarf, anything, and whirling it around your head like… Well, like a helicopter I guess. In writing it sounds strange, but in the midst of the crowd it’s pretty damn cool.
After seeing Milk Teeth on the bill for The Pit stage I got quite excited- I saw them play at Exeter Cavern back in May, supported by Eat Me, and they were fantastic. Their performance this time was alright, but not great. Lots of high kicks from vocalist and bassist Becky Blomfield, which looked cool but that was about it. They sounded good, but not great; in their defence, about three quarters of the way through their set I think I heard them say they couldn’t hear much through their monitors, which if that’s true then they did a great job at keeping it all together.
Heading over to main stage to see the big Slaves banner hanging at the back of the stage, I had no idea what to expect from them in the slightest- in my mind I was expecting something entirely different to what Slaves turned out to be. What Slaves were was pure, filthy, garage punk, and boy did they do it well. I’ll admit that I was taken aback after the first song, confused as this was not what I was expecting at all; feeling like this really wasn’t main stage material, but once I got over the initial confusion of ‘wait, what?’ the set was extremely enjoyable. It’s hard not to like Isaac Holman and his cheeky demeanour, his little off the cuff comments and childlike humour working well with the crowd. My favourite song from the set was “Cheer Up London,” featuring an infectiously catchy chorus which had the crowd all chanting.
The atmosphere for Imagine Dragons was different to anything else I’d seen all weekend, a real ‘feel good’ evening. The set was kicked off with “Shots,” followed by “It’s Time” and then “Gold,” for which guitarist Wayne Sermon donned a fully gold plated guitar, (made by Bilt Guitars) which looked cool in an ironically cheesey manner. Either way it was a hell of a statement. A song later and Wayne Sermon was blasting through a blistering solo that lasted a good few minutes, which featured riffs that everyone knows; such as “Seven Nation Army” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” among others. Throughout the whole set, singer Dan Reynolds was racing all over the stage, full of energy- even jumping down to see and sing with the crowd a few times. As cool as this was, it was somewhat overshadowed by the large hole he had in the crotch of his jeans from the very beginning of the set, being broadcasted up onto the big screens for everyone to see. If he noticed the hole then he did a good job at ignoring it! Either way, whether he noticed it or not- still funny. But anyway, holes in crotches aside, Imagine Dragons smashed their set and really set the stage for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to headline.
I’m So Sorry
On Top of the World
I Bet My Life
At last, it was time for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers; lots of people’s most anticipated act of the entire weekend. After speaking to a few folks I found out that they’d only bought day tickets for the Sunday, purely just to see RHCP. Just after 10 they took to the stage, firing off into their usual into jam, which slowly makes it’s way along and turns into the funky intro to one of their best known singles, “Can’t Stop.” Everyone knows this song, Chilli Peppers fan or not, which led to an explosion of excitement in the audience. Unfortunately this also means that the crowd is full of extended arms clutching at phones, desperately trying to record an awful quality, shaky, video that you’ll never watch again. I had someone in front of me attempting to record nearly the entire show on his iPhone, which I will never see the point in. Anyway, deal with it and move on- I feel so old complaining about technology.
After “Can’t Stop,” they went on to play “Dani California,” another Chilli Peppers hit. Their set consisted of a good blend of classic material as well as songs from the new album, such as “Dark Necessities” and “Go Robot,” which was my favourite song of the whole set, but to me sounds very close to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”- maybe I’m the only one to notice that.
Musically RHCP were phenomenal, but their performance felt very regurgitated. I guess that’s a side effect of playing shows for years on end, but other bands in the same boat seem to keep things feeling fresh, and the same should be expected of the Chilli Peppers. It felt like playing Leeds was more of a chore to them than it should have been, and I was surprised at the lack of crowd interaction. As standard for most headlining acts, they headed off stage for a false finish and then returned for an encore, playing “Goodbye Angels” and then closing the night with “Give It Away.” They finished playing and exited the stage 10 minutes early, which confused and annoyed a lot of the crowd. I’ve no idea what went wrong, but finishing 10 minutes early is an annoyance. Overall it was a really good set, really enjoyable, but it was lacking in a lot of areas which is a great shame and I was disappointed with that.
Snow ((Hey Oh))
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Close My Eyes (Arthur Russell cover)
Under the Bridge
By the Way
Give It Away
Check out a gallery of the madness here!
Five Finger Death Punch
Cage The Elephant
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Lower Than Atlantis
The Japanese House
Red Hot Chili Peppers