A week is a long time in politics and music – I can’t quite believe that this time last week we were wandering around the fields of Bramham at Leeds Festival. I know this isn’t exactly hot off the presses, but it’s been a manic week and I thought I’d collect my thoughts and offer some opinions on this year’s festival.
It’s worth saying that Leeds Festival is one of the highlights of the calendar for me. It rounds off the summer and gives old fogeys like me the chance to get a taste of the current music scene across an entire weekend, whilst enjoying a few beers. In some ways, the lineup is actually not that important. It’s the vibe of the weekend that I like and if along the way, there’s some bands there that I’m interested in, happy days.
This year was no exception. The main stage lineups and headliners left me cold to be honest with Guns n Roses and Limp Bizkit well past their sell by date. I always spend a fair bit of time wandering between the smaller tents where the gems are to be found – not a year goes by without a discovery of some kind.
Weather’s important too I think. Whilst I fully support the notion that rain shouldn’t spoil a fest (it can, in fact, make it), there’s no denying the fact that everyone is in a good mood when the sun shines, even the bands. This year the forecast was mixed and we managed to avoid the deluge that Reading had (schadenfreude, anyone?). So the sun shone and although it was a tad windy, the Yorkshire weather behaved itself.
Friday, being the first day, saw us taking a fairly relaxed view to bands. It’s important to pace oneself – as on the first day its a bit like a kid in a sweetie shop. I liked the funk-indie sensibility of Darwin Deez and the nu-folk of villagers seemed out of sync with the full on rock although I did enjoy it. The lock up tent was home for the day to some pretty full on heavy rock, notably The Rats (Gallows in disguise) and Cancer Bats – the latter being one of the noisiest bands to come out of Canada. Ash provided old school indie pop tunes that actually seemed quite sweet and the Arcade Fire ploughed on admirably to a dwindling crowd feeling the cold.
Saturday is a day of promise with a day under the belt and two to come. Early treats included the harmonious Goldheart Assembly and the raucous promise of Sound of Guns. Band of Horses seemed to be at the wrong festival with their gentle melodies whilst We Are Scientists proved why they are still a festival favourite, peppering their set with big tunes to a packed tent. I left Limp Bizbik and The Libertines to their own devices I’m afraid, opting to get in pole position for British Sea Power’s headlining set. Order was restored in the world when the bear appeared and ended up being gaffer taped to the audience during a tumultous finale. Bonus, big style.
Sunday started slowly as we were feeling the pace slightly. Young Guns on the mains stage belied their lowly position on the bill, bossing the crowd and New Young Pony Club delivered a bright, poppy set to a groggy audience. Yeasayer continued the harmonic folk theme (there’s a few of these guys around right now) and Delphic delivered synth pomp at its very best. Mumford and Sons showed why their meteoric rise has been so quick – a sharp, muscular set to a jam packed tent was one of the highlights of the weekend. The lineup tailed off for me and GnR were not on the list, I stuck out for LCD Soundsystem. Art rock newcomers Everything Everything were a genuine find and they are surely destined for greater things in 2011.
All in all a typically good Leeds Festival. Not a brilliant lineup, but some gems were to be found in there. As ever, the choices you make based on word of mouth or recommendations can make or break your festival but all in all we were pretty pleased with our choices. Leeds does what it says on the tin – ROCK – and if you’rew looking for some light and shade in your musical consumption, then I’d say you needed to get along to Latitude, Bestival or even Glasto.
I think Leeds has a pretty good sense of what it does best and it certainly sticks to its knitting. The audience know what they want too and by and large they got it right I think. GnR were a gaff and as the last night of a festival headliner, they were a bad call. Limp Bizkit seemed to be a odd choice with even hardcore fans left feeling disappointed.
Generally though it evened itself out over the weekend and the lineup was a fair representation of a rock industry in transition, with the old school indie boys on the wane and a more varied raft of genres being enjoyed by ‘the kids’ (and some of us, ahem, more mature kids).