Old enough to know better, but…

It’s that time of year again.

The fag end of summer where all the great sunshiny things seem far behind us and early summer is a lifetime away. For me, the end of summer is always signposted by Leeds Festival and it’s one of the highlights of the year.

I’ve been going to Leeds since it started and before that, the one off Virgin Festival and before that, Roundhay park one dayers. When the kids were little we’d do a day at the festival and then head off home and as they got older and more adventurous, we’d camp. Our weekend without mum (who couldn’t bring herself to brave the toilets and who would blame her) has grown into a dad, kids and mates weekend that is so much fun.

Anyway, I thought I’d preview this year’s festival because a) if you’re going it might be vaguely useful and b) if you’re not attending you may derive some vicarious pleasure from my ludicrous enthusiasm.

I believe one of the basic principles of music festivals is that the festival is never about the main stages, it’s about the small tents where the joy of discovery is to be had. I discovered my favourite band British Sea Power this way, so it’s copper-bottomed as far as I’m concerned.

This year the headliners look a little dull: Muse, who I’m sure will deliver bombastic rock nonsense, will definitely be worth a look; My Chemical Romance will have teenage girls 760 deep at the front will be deeply tedious and finally joint headliners Pulp and The Strokes will be definitely worth a dibble especially given the last time I saw Jarvis et al was about 15 years ago.

Other highlights in no particular order have to be:

Elbow – bloke rock for men of a certain age, choking back the beer fuelled emotion.

Frank Turner – singer songwriter protest rock a la Billy Bragg.

Anna Calvi – fresh and arresting female vocalist.

Madness – sure to be the hit fuelled pinnacle of Sunday.

Discopolis – bright new indie things.

The National – lulling audiences into a false sense of security.

Seasick Steve – delivering his loveable hobo schtick for the umpteenth time.

Leeds’ own Pigeons – local heroes railing agains the fading light.

Finally it’s impossible to resist the throbbing dance tunes of Simian Mobile Disco.

Plus there’s lots, lots more.

One of the beauties of a festival like this is that there’s loads of new stuff I’ve never heard of. Thankfully I’m of an age where it’s not my job anymore to seek out new talent – I leave that to the young folk. But it IS my job to enjoy the full on punk, the laid back trance, the jangling indie and the awesome new thing that’s going to shake it all up.

But every year I have to remind myself that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

Leeds Festival rewards the careful festival goer – go at it too hard on Friday and Sunday can be just too much like hard work. It’s hard not to give it all a good bash…but what is interesting someone said to me today that festivals turn them in to ADD freaks and it’s true: if a band fails to nail your attention then we’re off in search of something else. The bands that deliver the ultimate festival set are the ones that keep the crowds – it’s an art, that’s all I can tell you.

As I write this I’m getting a little bit giddy with excitement and there’s not many things that do that these days.

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