Leeds 2013 Review
Granted British bank holidays are notoriously wet affairs, but nothing could have prepared Leeds for the biblical rain that hammered down on the Thursday night, unfortunately halting Dutch Uncles headlining slot. However, battered and bruised and somewhat damp, Bramham Park had 80,000 revellers to entertain and they weren’t about to let a bit of the wet stuff and a few mud baths ruin the merriment.
Due to our own logistical nightmares, sadly, Friday was a write off and we didn’t even make it as far as the entrance gates, missing Phoenix and Haim the rotten icing on a particularly bitter cake. Nevertheless, Saturday was soon upon us, and with a smattering of sunshine and a few patches of grass still visible we got well and truly stuck in.
Kicking off our wet and wild weekend was Stockport’s finest; Findlay. Having burst on to the scene this year with enough gumption and attitude to rival any of her male peers, she prowled the stage with the same raw nature The Kills’ Alison Mosshart evokes. Fat riffs, swathed in blues accompanied by a frenetic deliverance, saw the likes of ‘Your Sister’ and ‘Gin On The Juke Box’ soar. Despite the meagre early doors crowd she most certainly proved herself worthy of all the hype.
Over on the Radio 1/NME stage we were greeted to Irish charmers Kodaline. Hot from the success of debut ‘In A perfect World’, the teeming tent served as an obvious sign of their ever growing popularity along with the mass crowd rendition of the stirring ‘All I Want’.
Top of our ‘must sees’ were New York’s Parquet Courts. Having only played a handful of UK shows and since NME declared their debut album ‘Light Up Gold’ “one of the best debut albums you’ll hear all year” in January, we were curious.
Bursting through riffs; unintelligible lyrics were submerged in urgent, infuriated garage-rock. A back to basics approach with no bravado, staccato pauses were punctuated with compulsory restarts and reprises making for a highly charged 30 minutes. ‘Stoned and Starving’, with its thumping post-punk basslines, serving as their set highlight. A heftier crowd and a more intimate venue will undoubtedly lead to all manner of chaos from these four.
It was then time for Kettering quartet Temples to unleash their psychedelia. Glittery threads and glistening face paints from front man James Bagshaw definitely putting the ‘glam’ back into rock. Having had them down as just another band du jour, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there’s real substance behind the aesthetic, and that they’re not just trying to make a fashion statement.
Whimsical and velveteen, each track built to a heavy climax with sophisticated guitar solos complimented by just the right amount of backing vocals. Refreshingly, Temples subscribe to the ‘less is more’ pack, allowing the intricate melodies and harmonies to reign rather than the discord.
Nestled between Skrillez and Major Lazor on the NME/Radio 1 stage was A$AP Rocky who brought some Harlem ardour to our evening. Unsurprisingly the crowd was largely made up of youngsters keen to flex their potty mouths to ‘P*ssy, Money, Weed’. With every crescendo and dropping of the bass, the tent erupted and it was quite easy to forget you were stood in all manner of mud in Yorkshire.
Drawing our Saturday to a close were Glaswegian trio CHVRCHES. Armed with a plethora of infectious pop goodness, they skyrocketed. Appealing and accessible, their secret weapon was their ability to merge tangled electronic soundscapes with a sweet-sounding vocal.
Pitch perfect and powerful, Lauren Mayberry’s lilting Scottish accent was both dynamic and vulnerable. The driving synths pulsated through our bodies and insisted on making our feet move. And with that, Saturday was done.
Thankful for our hot shower and proper bed but feeling for the thousands of soggy souls, we returned. And as a self-confessed guitar girl, Sunday’s line up was the one that had really got this scribe excited. Wasting no time, we joined the overflowing throng for The 1975; a band that have really grown on our delicate ears in recent times.
It’s easy to be snobby about bands like The 1975 and disregard them as un-original and mere chart fodder. There seems to be a strange mentality that you can’t be a “real” band if you make a popular song. Baloney. These boys can play.
Drawing the biggest crowd of the weekend at the Festival Republic stage, we didn’t actually get to “see” them such was the sea of bodies oversplilling from every part of the tent. But what we lacked in visuals was more than compensated for in razor sharp licks. Having gone from backroom boozers to headline slots at the likes of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire almost instantaneously, the quartet have fast become an incredibly tight outfit. And then there’s that playful edge that has seen them steal hearts and smash the charts.
‘Sex’ literally romped with growling guitars and the off-kilter vocals of coy Matt Healy whilst the supercharged ‘Chocolate’, with its cheery tropical riffs, secured its place as one of the catchiest songs of the year. Noticeably agog at the reception and declaring that it a dream come true to be on the other side of the barrier; it’s obvious that they fully intend to enjoy every step of this ascent and good on ‘em is all we can say.
Providing our first foray over to the main stage were White Lies. Having been quiet for the last year and a half, last month saw them make a triumphant return with third album Big TV. Known for toying between doleful, angst laden goth and big guitar pop; they’ve come back a little brighter.
The uniform of black has been replaced with splashes of colour and there’s a new found energy. Harry McVeigh’s commanding voice still intriguing and robust, lending itself perfectly to the big stage. Indie-disco favourite ‘Farewell to the Fairground’ and the menacing ‘Death’ both shone with revived force whilst the eighties synths of recent single ‘Getting Even’ saw abundant pogoing. They chose to close with the anthemic ’Bigger Than Us’, which represents White Lies at their best – heavy and tenacious pop-rock that really gets under your skin.
A quick change over and it was time for Foals. Riding on the crest of the Holy Fire wave and after their first festival headline slot at Latitude, they treated Bramham Park to a real spectacle. Foals’ set has become more and more dynamic, whereas once they would power through with guitars interplaying tenfold they now have the likes of ‘Bad Habit’ to inject with a more brooding, dark sensibility.
‘My Number’ and ‘Inhaler’ inevitably ignited push pits; the type of juggernauts made for festival consumption. Yannis’ beguiling showmanship that saw him launch into the crowd with frenzied strumming only adding to the giddiness.
‘Spanish Sahara’ provided, as always, an electrifying moment, and the pinnacle of the weekend – foreboding and poignant. Ending on ‘Two Steps Twice’ with its glorious instrumental echoing around the park; headline festival slots are destined to be the norm from here on in.
Bringing the weekend’s revelry to a close were locals Alt-j. Critically acclaimed debut album An Awesome Wave is one of those albums that needs to be experienced live. It translated in a most enchanting fashion, each track a story of sorts. Added bite and zeal saw the likes of ‘Tessellate’ and ‘Breezeblocks’ enthral; the pounding of the bass drum and jaunty keys filling every corner of the tent.
Alt-j are the masters of pace, and a suitably balanced set saw slower new track ‘Warm Foothills’ slotted in with the likes of ‘Taro’ perfectly. Their lyrics sometimes obscure and sometimes affable and touching, engaging each and every one of us. The spine tingling mass rendition of ‘Matilda’ providing a serene finale, closing another triumphant weekend of music at Leeds.