Or at least what I remember of it…
Ok so I only actually went for one day to this years Leeds festival so this review isn’t actually that ‘big’ but when you have reached the age where you make a noise every time you sit down or stand up, as I have, then one day at Leeds Festival doesn’t just feel big, it feels bloody massive.
After emerging from the shuttle bus of doom into the glorious West Yorkshire sunshine it was clear that my hangover required me to be in constant motion, not unlike a shark. Standing still brought nausea, despair and pain. Walking through the entrance was a truly emotional moment for me. As a veteran of nine Leeds Festivals it is not hyperbolic to suggest that I literally grew up in the campsites, mosh pits and muddy puddles of Bramham Park. I had felt my five year absence keenly but boy did it feel great to be back. To be home.
It seemed sensible to make our way to the main stage first of all, via a bar and and an eye watering £5 pint of Carlsberg. First up were London band Judas and while I only caught their last three songs I liked what I heard. Very rock ‘n’ roll, all bursting guitars and shouty refrains. Presumably they were paid with thirty pieces of silver…
Deap Vally followed but the LA duo made too much of a racket for that time of a bloody morning so we went elsewhere after a couple of songs. It just wasn’t melodic enough for someone still tentative about my place at a festival typically reserved for a younger generation.
We sadly just missed Marika Hackman on the NME stage but found a lovely spot for a pair of gentlemen to take in the catchy indie prowess of The Magic Gang. The Brighton band are yet to release their first album proper but have caught my attention with a couple of catchy singles, most prominently ‘How Can I Compete’ which received a spirited run through here. It is satisfying to see the band have already built up a sizeable following and they earned a positive reception throughout. A bright future beckons.
The Orwells provided the only real disappointment of the day with a set plagued with sound issues as singer Mario Cuomo struggled to make himself heard above the din going on behind him. The Orwells are a band that seem to struggle to translate their records to a live setting in any kind of meaningful way which is perplexing because they should sound great.
We stayed on at the NME tent to witness most of Declan McKenna. The 18 year old has gone from strength to strength since winning the emerging talent award at Glastonbury back in 2015 and he also holds the prestigious title of being the only musical artist I have ever discovered by watching Jools Holland. McKenna is a confident and imposing live presence for someone so new and ‘Paracetamol’ and ‘Brazil’ already sound massive.
Unfortunately, we had to miss the end of McKenna as Circa Waves were due to start on the Main Stage. I first caught the latter supporting Interpol on the NME tour a few years ago and it was clear they were destined for bigger things. I didn’t predict their rise would be so meteoric but their album Young Chasers is one of the most accomplished debut albums of the decade. They followed that up with this years equally good Different Creatures and they picked liberally from both albums in a barn storming set that united Leeds festival in a frenzy of dancing, air punching and sing alongs. ‘T-Shirt Weather’ was arguably the highlight of the entire day and there is no question that the band won a number of new followers.
It was all main stage from there kicking off with the band I had been most looking forward to. I love Jimmy Eat World. Properly love them. The band launched into a blistering rendition of ‘Bleed American’ almost from the off and everyone went mental. The bands self titled album is a bona fide classic for my generation so to hear five songs from it was a joy. Happily, tracks from new album Integrity Blues slotted in seamlessly alongside old classics for a set that couldn’t have been more perfect had I picked it myself.
The beer must have really taken hold around this time because while I definitely saw Two Door Cinema Club I can barely remember any of it. As trips to the toilet were taking about 20 minutes due to my inebriation, it is possible that I didn’t see as much of their set as I thought however. Bastille followed, a band I have never been overly fond of, but I must admit they are a different beast as a live band. There was a lot of ‘oh yeah this song’ throughout so perhaps I like them more than I initially thought.
We had planned to watch most of Kasabian before heading over to the Dance Stage for Fatboy Slim to end the festival. Unfortunately we kept changing this plan which meant we actually spent most of our time walking between stages being confused. After deciding that neither Kasabian or Fatboy Slim were for us, we made the maverick decision to check out Billy Talent at The Pit. They are a band that I have often overlooked in recent years but they have some great anthems and while we only saw the last four songs, it was enough to confirm we had made the correct decision. ‘Fallen Leaves’ is a bruising, unstoppable song and a fitting end to an unforgettable and triumphant return to Leeds Festival for a pair old bastards. Leeds Festival 2018? Just maybe.