I haven’t been to Leeds Festival for a few years now because I don’t feel the festival is value for money anymore. I’m not naive enough to suggest they should go back to œ30 a day as it was a decade ago and I know why it’s œ70+ in 2010 – and why it still sells out before bands are even named. For me, as a tight arse, I just don’t feel it’s great value. That said, I must admit that everything is so well organised nowadays that you have to tip your hat at the backroom staff who make everything slicker than a BT oil spill. Shuttle buses are great value, run to time and frequent, ticket queues were quick and dealt with super efficiently, there are plenty of stewards and signposts and the backstage toilets, by festival standards, were 10/10. All of this runs like clockwork and has been improved immeasurably since I last attended.
Now onto the bands I saw. I only attended the Saturday of Leeds and the main stage seemed to have been booked by someone plucking bands out of a hat who had played in previous years. MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK are a great band, but a main stage band in a gust of wind they most certainly are not. ‘Make Out Kids’ just drifted across the West Yorkshire fields and off to the right and MCS look like a fish out of water. Stage is too big, sound is diluted…it just doesn’t work, for me. A fault more of the bookers than the band.
So after a few songs I walk over to the Dance Tent to catch LIGHTS. I find Lights to be pretty dull and sappy on record but she’s bubbly and engaging in a live setting. A healthy crowd are woken up by her gentle synth-pop and there are even a few singalongs on the way. The right setting and a nice way to start the day – Lights is better live than on record.
A quick walk back to the main stage for THE KING BLUES and their cringe-worthy GCSE politics dressed up as pop songs. There are rants about the BNP and the EDL – worthy messages, don’t get me wrong, but the way in which they’re delivered with the word ‘fuck’ repeated over and over again dilutes it – and then an ultra-cringey line which went something like ‘hey UK ska-punk scene, we’re here on the main stage’ as if it was some kind of badge of honour to sign to a major, write pop songs, lose members in controversial circumstances and then make out everything is OK. I’m cool with whatever any band wants to do. I don’t believe in selling out (or selling in, for that matter), but The King Blues are a pop band now and they’re kidding themselves if they think otherwise.
I’ve heard lots about FOXY SHAZAM and their live show and they were absolutely brilliant fun. They remind me of Queen and some camp 70s rock. The keyboard player plays with every part of his body except his fingers, the singer throws himself around with glee and the rest of the band are tight and great to watch. The songs are almost the sideshow while the band entertain you with their mic-swinging antics. Highly recommended viewing.
THRICE are another band booked on the wrong stage. Great live band, don’t get me wrong, but the atmospherics are just lost when there’s a stiff breeze taking the sound from one side of the festival site to the other. They’d be much, much better within the confines of a tent. I was stood with a few people and everyone looked a bit perplexed – Thrice can be a bit over people’s heads at times anyway, chuck in messy sound and you’re going to lose most of a crowd who’ve probably never heard of them.
I think it took about 2 minutes for ALL TIME LOW to talk about boobs. It’s like Blink 182 never existed. I know I’m old and jaded, but the band have enough good pop-punk songs to impress an audience, they can shed the fart jokes and everything that goes along with it. It’s boring to watch and ultra predictable too. ATL, however, are the first band of the day to suit the main stage. That’s saying something when you’re four bands in…
YOU ME AT 6 are a really polished live band now, no two ways about it. They can work a crowd, they suit the big stage well and they sound great, even despite the wind. The set seemed a little heavy on newer material which I’m not that familiar with, but the crowd loved it. How much further can YMA6 go?
I’ve always wanted to see LIMP BIZKIT. I think the 2000-era nu-metaller inside me can still bust out every word to ‘Rollin’. Just like the massive, massive crowd who sang along to every word of the 40-minute set. They bust out all the classics, except ‘Nookie’, and even despite my fears this would be a sentimental set played by a bunch of old men wanting to recreate their youth (which essentially it was), it’s immensely enjoyable and a great nostalgia trip. Limp Bizkit are no longer relevant and I would hazard a guess that their new album which will be total dogshit, but they’re the perfect festival band so kudos for that.
I missed CYPRESS HILL to go for food and drink but got back in time for WEEZER. I saw the band in about 2002/3 on the ‘Maladroit’ tour and I just remember the band being super tight but Rivers just stood there and played and sang. They were great but not engaging. You certainly cannot say that about them now. Rivers is everywhere – in the crowd, on the drum risers, backstage, in the pit, in the mud, playing football…he’s like an ADD-riddled kid who has forgotten his Ritalin. For the last month. ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Memories’, “mY Name Is Jonas’ and a tonne of other hits are blasted out. It’s the perfect festival set – so yeah, not much from ‘Pinkerton’, granted, but Weezer have more singles than most bands have in the back catalogue so they can be forgiven. Genuinely engaging and hugely entertaining, Weezer were easily band of the day for me by a country mile.
PARAMORE were never going to compete against a performance such as the one Rivers wowed everyone with. After the set Hayley did state the band had a few technical problems so we can excuse them, but the singer sounds flat, misses words out as she throws herself about the stage and it all looks and sounds a bit, well, fluffed. I gave up after about four or five songs, a huge anti-climax after Weezer.
A large hop, skip and a jump later and I catch the second half of WE ARE SCIENTISTS who are great fun live. Great songs, great banter, great band. You forget how many hits the band have had until they reel them out one by one.
And so on to BORING 182. Now before you all get your knickers in a knot, I was listening to ‘Dude Ranch’ before most of you started nursery. I’ve loved Blink for more than a decade and have seen them live in both tiny venues and huge arenas. No Blink, probably no PT. I know they’re sloppy, I know they’re fuck-ups and I know what to expect. I couldn’t resist seeing them again, even though I knew it would probably be a letdown. It’s like eating a big bag of Haribo – you look and think ‘yes, please’ but when you’ve devoured the whole lot you’re left thinking ‘I knew that would happen so why did I scoff them?’ Tom looked drunk and was even sloppier than usual. Mark seemed a bit pissed off that Tom wasn’t exactly sticking to script. The setlist never really flowed and featured too heavily on the ‘self-titled’ record. The band have so many singles yet they never seemed to play two together. Predictably Tom fucked up both the riff and the words to ‘What’s My Age Again’ – how on Earth a ‘professional’ musician still does this is beyond me. Limp Bizkit were a bunch of old men re-living their youth and it worked. For me, Blink were a bunch of old men re-living their youth and the spark had gone. By the time Travis is doing his spinning drum solo the crowd had heavily thinned out so I left. Trust me to miss ‘Damnit’ and ‘Carousel’ – but it was too little, too late for me by that point.