Leeds Festival Friday:
Leeds Festival kicks off with equal measures of anticipation and annoyance – anticipation for 3 days of music and too much cider/warm beer/vodka&RedBull* with mates (*delete as preferred) – and annoyance that it appears to be raining. Heavily. And persistently. Suddenly those trendy wellies that you thought were simply compulsory dress code for entry into the festival actually prove useful. Although the hotpants (for the girls) and shirtless look (for the boys) probably still aren’t such a good idea.
So on with the music, and the tented stages are especially popular given the increasingly slippery and mousse-like mud across the arena. Dutch Uncles are a perfect antidote, full of characteristic energy and yelping vocals, followed by Little Comets’ bouncy The View-like enthusiasm. Young Legionnaire provide the high octane rock quota for the Festival Republic tent, you can sense all the kids in the crowd copying guitarist Paul Mullen’s every rock pose and feral scream. But none of these posturings were a match for Cage the Elephant’s huge and dirty, meaty and bassy, Grungey and shouty rawk, flooring the human contents of the Radio 1 / NME stage with the volume knob turned up to 11.
Friendly Fires take on the Main Stage, and the questions is, can they brighten everyone’s mud-congealed spirits? Yes they can – Ed Macfarlane’s endless gyrating and sunglass-requiring Hawaiian shirt manage this on their own, so it’s no surprise that his vocals are almost inaudible over the crowd singing along - the line ‘jump in the…’ reverberates across the field in between songs and we know this is just the beginning of one big party for the rest of the day.
The Streets gladly take on the mantle of party-band, although their always-inspired (and often-inspiring) wordsmithery is a little lost in the huge tent amongst the teenage ravers up to their eyeballs on overpriced lager, vibing off the machismo of some of Skinner’s greater hits ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’ and ‘Fit But You Know It’. A mesmerising performance nonetheless, and a privilige to be at what will probably be one of their last live shows. The Balearic mood is one that 2manydjs run with later too, teasing the audience with tantalising half-songs mashed in with equally elating counterparts, and a backdrop of painstaking animation, the tent is heaving with hands-in-the-air revellers, who you now know just don’t that it’s still raining outside, nor that all they’re wearing is still hotpants & wellies. Day 1 – sorted.
Leeds Festival Saturday:
Day two of Leeds Festival 2011 is little better weather-wise than the Friday – while there may be less actual precipitation, the churning of 75,000 pairs of wellies (or plimsolls for the less-prepared) create a vast lake of suctioning brown ooze, sprinkled with bits of straw in a vain attempt to soak up the moisture.
The Computers don’t care about this though, as they screech through their set in blinding prison-white suits, their deafening screamo pop threaded with a hammond organ’s nod to the class of 50s rock n roll. With more than a hint of the polar opposite, Cerebral Ballzy are every glorious cliche known to slacker punk. With baseball cap slung backwards and swigging a bottle of whisky, Honor Titus’ Brooklyn vocals drawl between songs, proclaiming how skateboarding and pizza will fuck the system as he climbs whatever bit of the stage rigging he can lay about on. The band’s furious punk is a no-brain winner though, bringing a hit of New Yoik back street earsplitting noise from 1981, whether you’re one of the kids in the committed moshpit, or silently grinning to yourself at the hilarity of how perfect a charicature they are.
Metronomy are the perfect antidote to this hedonistic frenzy, and the full Radio 1 / NME tent laps up the funky falsetto disco, as infectious and classy as you’d expect. But no-one so far has harnessed the adrenaline of playing to a home crowd – that honour this weekend goes to Leeds’ own Pulled Apart by Horses, easily filling the massive stage with the electricity of their signature powernoisepoppunk, new and old songs delighting their audience. If this is one band that you’ve been wondering what the hype was all about, this festival’s set is your answer.
Leeds Festival Sunday:
ast some sunshine! Although set against a backdrop of icy, near gale force winds, festival goers don’t embrace it with abandon as you might expect. Still, it’s not raining, the mud is drying up, and there are bands to be seen and music to be heard. The Introducing Stage hosts brand new bands who’ce won the chance to play the festival, and it’s opened today by Castrovalva whose psychedelic thrash and scremaing, with between song rambling and impressive rock posing has the crowd in equal measures of bemusement and joy.
Seasick Steve is the first big name of the day, and with his refreshing honesty and joy he holds the crowd in thrall, hands waving in their air and toes tapping along. His breathtaking ability to play proper rhythm and blues gain him huge respect from his crowds, but it’s his cheeky quips, bushy grey beard, seadog tattoos and penchant for JD that endear him to the everyone.
Now one thing that seems to make an appearance at festivals more than elsewhere is glitter. On faces mainly, sometimes other body parts, but if you want the musical equivalent of glitter, look no further than Two Door Cinema Club. Their songs are great fun, and will have you perk up your ears and go “ooh, shiny!”, but then you’ll find that the shiny indie pop just doesn’t stop, and before you know it, you just can’t get rid, and you’re humming along all day. But fear not! Grouplove, a band that should be even more nauseating, but in fact appear to be the perfect antidote, are playing straight afterwards. They have feelgood pop. They have balloons in the crowd. They have an irritatingly happy demeanour. But they have balls too, a little bit of cynicism to balance everything out just enough to stop you being engulfed in a sickly syrupy mess, as single ‘Colours’ has the crowd singing along with nigh-on celebrational enthusiasm.
The band everyone’s talking about seeing though is Pulp, who’ve had nearly a full summer of festivalling to hone their craft after nearly 10 years’ absence – not that if reports are anything to go by they need it. And sure enough, they amaze and delight, Jarvis Cocker making a point of chatting to the crowd right the way through, whether that’s to express concern for the people at the top of the fairground rides who he’s worried might have to remember the time they puked at a Pulp concert, or to introduce a song in a characteristically roundabout and anecdotal fashion. Jarvis is of course every inch the showman, geography-teacher cords and angular elbows playing musical statues on his makeshift podium. Pulp as a band are no less impressive, recreating the full gamut of hits from ‘Babies’ through to ‘Disco 2000′ with unending energy and electric precision: it’s as if it’s still 1998 and 2011 all rolled into one, this isn’t just a trip down memory lane, it’s the greatest hits resurrected and rebreathed the life and spirit they deserve. The songs are now so familiar it’s easy to forget there’s serious sentiment behind Cocker’s lyrics, but that detachment is wrenched away when faced with Jarvis singing live with all the vehemence and passion that’s behind this working-class-band-made-good’s success. Cocker nods to this as he introduces their finale, that classic anthem of the absurdity of the class divide, ‘Common People’: “This song still has meaning for us – we hope it does for you too”. It does indeed Jarvis, it does indeed.