LIVE: Leeds Festival 2022: Friday

By Jess McCarrick

A staple of British culture and somewhat riddled with controversy, this year’s Leeds festival was set to take a stride forward into new territory. What used to be a lineup filled with primarily rock and indie offerings has morphed in line with the music zeitgeist. Whether part of the party who rules this changing as an abomination or you’re eager to see what’s currently popular take centre stage, the billing was certainly varied enough to excite fans. With the weather choosing mercy on the usually damp hillsides and a sense of refreshed excitement at new lineup additions (albeit some disappointing ones too), lets dig into the acts that made this bank holiday weekend one to remember.



Given the tremendous growth in popularity she’s faced over the last year, it was surprising to see Willow play only second on the Main Stage East on Friday afternoon. However, the slot didn’t hinder her performance as she quickly made her large crowd swarm with her breakthrough tracks ‘Meet Me At Our Spot’ and ‘Wait A Minute’. Her set came from the depths of punk pop’s past, spurred on by the drum patterns that are inseparable from Travis Barker and his 90’s punk influence. She manages to bring new life and energy to the genre and judging by the crowd that clung to her soft syllables – they love it! Her voice is so delicate at times but is still powerful to cut through her ravenous band’s production, expertly straining over the emotional climaxes of her set list. [JM]

Pale Waves

Adorned in a gothic black outfit, front woman Heather Baron-Gracie had lace on her fingertips and magic in her voice. The band moved succinctly into their reimagined punk sound that features all the notes of post grunge angst, as well as a fresh, clearer sound that is cleaner than the harsh distortion that sometimes falls into the genre. Given their Manchester roots, it wasn’t hard to see the northern edge presenting itself as they continued, running widely across the stage with energy galore. There’s something intimate about the way the band play their respective instruments – it feels as though we’re watching them practise in a garage, a pure and candid look into what they have to say, and we’re listening. The bassist was working intricately and stole the spotlight at moments throughout with solos and riffing. Their delicate pop offerings kept the crowd light and flowing as their subtle stylistic choices rolled over the crowd’s upthrown hands carried across the whole vicinity. [JM]

Run The Jewels

Before the performance began it was shocking to see the minimal crowd that had formed in front of the iconic rap duo but as soon as the first beat dropped a surge of people seemed to rush forward and pits opened up across the huge spaces in the front section. The crowd involvement from this moment forward was unparalleled, screaming RTJ between each song with hands stretched in the air making their classic fist and finger combination. The duo are pure professionals who command the attention of all as they strut across the stage cheekily interacting with one another. Their hard hitting, infectious beats set a focused backdrop to irreverent and aggressively performed lyrics, speaking of self worth and general mischief. This act is so much fun as they merge their heavy rock infused production over passionate wordplay that you can’t help but feel energised by – a highlight of the day thanks to this fact. [JM]


In the opening song ‘Nightmare’ there was a montage of abortion rights protest imagery that fit perfectly with the themes in the song, the empowered crowd singing along to lyrics like “I keep a record of the wreckage of my life // I gotta recognise the weapon in my mind”. It was a powerful moment for Halsey as she expressed her surprise at how well the slot was working for her; she was exactly what the crowd needed, especially given the political happenings that have fuelled her anger. The crowd were gripped by her mesmerising performance, chanting along to every word and watching an act that we generally don’t see take slots like these at UK festivals in total awe. Her music is littered with pop rock influences that the live setting only enhanced, the whole performance was a punky and gritty take on her discography. She performed a cover of the recently revived Kate Bush song ‘Running Up That Hill’, giving the song a more ominous feel; a great dark and moody choice. With hits like ‘Gasoline’ and ‘Without Me’ she even pulls in passers by as she commanded the stage with no excessive production, just passion and a god damn great voice. [JM]