A lot of the TSR team made the journey to Bramham Park for Leeds Festival, and so we’ve decided to review the whole occasion for those unfortunate enough not to be there, or those who simply want to see what others thought of the bands on show. After each review, the authors have recommended an album and some of their favourite tracks, and we’ve also included links to the BBC’s Reading footage after each band where it’s available. So, without further ado…
by Adam Kadow
As the rain started to pour down upon our already soaked selves, we decided to hide away in the sheltered NME tent and put up with whatever music was thrown at us. After ten minutes, we decided that the rain was preferable to the god-awful mess of a band named Fucked Up. Screaming vocals and a constant hammering of guitars and crash symbols filled every second of our short visit, and the ever repetitive tones of heavy metal once again sounded through the tent. The three songs we put up with were just as bad as each other, mainly due to the fact that you couldn’t tell them apart. It just droned on and on and on, and the rather large, rather old and rather sweaty lead singer taking his shirt off did not improve the situation. The only reason we lasted more than thirty seconds is the lead singer attempting to crowd surf and collapsing due to his weight had us in fits of laughter, but the laughter soon faded once the music kicked back in. To conclude, just avoid this band if you aren’t into generic metal and never-ending screaming; our short experience was enough to show us their true colours, and they weren’t pretty. Not at all.
by Elliot Davies
Frank Turner was not a musician I had encountered prior to chancing upon him at Leeds Fest, and I was not only pleasantly surprised but in fact delighted to discover such talent. Blending acoustic guitar and a strong, English voice with rock and roll drum beats, the audience was treated to catchy, sing-along tunes about growing up, romance and, despite his Eton and LSE education, anti-establishment sentiments. For his final track, Photosynthesis, joining in with the rousing chorus of “And I won’t sit down/And I won’t shut up/And most of all, I will not grow up” was a must.
Frank’s music was invariably feel-good and merry, and couldn’t have been better suited to a sunny summer morning outdoors. Since returning home I have made an effort to find more of his music, and I would highly recommend anyone to do the same.
Recommended album: Love Ire & Song
Recommended songs: I Still Believe; Substitute; Photosynthesis
by Simon Perkins
Suffice to say Enter Shikari are not everyone’s kind of thing. You have your people who like metal and rock, and your people who like techno and dubstep, and in that particularly skewed Venn diagram, the tiny intersecting portion of people, standing alone in the ditch dug between the metal fans and the dubstep fans (and they dug that ditch for a reason, you know), are the people who will like, nay, love Enter Shikari. I know that I, for one, love them… or at least, what they once were. Now, I still like them a great deal, but they have offered a great deal of disappointment in recent years with their lacklustre second album and their disappointing live renditions of previous songs, and so it was that I went to their show expecting something good, but not great.
I really enjoy being proven wrong – although that happens about 90% of the time, so I find myself constantly pleased – and boy, was I proven wrong big style. They played awesome songs from both albums, and the good thing was, the majority were from their first album, Take To The Skies, which is by far the best work they have done. Their initial song, Destabilise, one of their most recent releases, was brilliant, and their latest song, Quelle Surprise, was actually remarkably good, and I enjoyed everything they played immensely (although I can think of a fair few people who refuse to acknowledge their later songs are any good). I was expecting to be disappointed, and I got much better than I expected. Egg and my face were in alignment (if you get that reference, I might give you a cookie. Might).
Enter Shikari are not, as I said, to everyone’s taste, but I don’t know anyone who thought they played badly, and the crowd who had assembled before them seemed to get really into it, so I think I’m backed up when I say that they played a really good show. The riffs were especially beefy, the techno bits were energetic and lively and each song was played with gusto. Admittedly, they improvised with one of their better known songs, Sorry You’re Not A Winner, but I really enjoyed the extra bit of dubstep they added to the end, although I am aware there were certain stubborn people in the audience who really don’t like people changing their favourite songs. In my eyes though, Enter Shikari played one of the best sets on the Friday, and I am well aware that this comment is going to earn me some disrepute among my friends and colleagues here on the site. If I end up dead, blame Gohardani. He’s probably the one who did it.
Recommended Album: Take to the Skies
Recommended Songs: Sorry You’re Not a Winner; Today Won’t Go Down In History; Destabilise
by Elliot Davies
When the most memorable part of seeing a ‘famous’ band live is mocking the lead vocalist for growling “and if you do it again I’ll bite your fucking fingers off”, you know something has probably gone wrong. And I do have to say ‘vocalist’ here, because to claim that Rou Reynolds was actually singing would be hyperbole of the order usually reserved for Soviet propaganda. In fact, the whole experience was a little like being imprisoned in a gulag, as we stood in the churned mud getting cold and wet while tuneless, tortured shouting occasionally reverberated around us.
There really is little to say about the noise – sorry, ‘music’ – itself. The band might as well have been playing one long, dreadful song punctuated by occasional cheering from the crowd, because I certainly couldn’t tell the difference between tracks. Backing vocalists Liam Clewlow and Chris Batten did attempt to make up for the growling by introducing some sort of keening wail over the top, but it didn’t really help.
Brief entertainment was provided as the hooded Reynolds – looking entirely like the type of person who might have inspired the dress code adopted by so many of the London rioters – pranced and pogoed around the stage, sometimes stopping to put the microphone into what looked like a drinks holder and twiddle some dials, but mostly we were just disappointed when he failed to garrotte himself with the microphone lead a la Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday. At least that might have provided a respite.
Enter Shikari? Fine, but only if they exit again immediately afterwards.
by Joanna Starzynski
Originating from Hertfordshire, Friendly Fires have come a long way to make it onto the main stage in Leeds. However it was the lead singer who was integral to making this performance unique for Leeds Festival. Why, you ask? Well, there’s one reason and one reason only: his insane dancing, which is pretty much indescribable other than maybe an animal having a spasm in a weirdly hypnotising way.
Although there were a few stellar songs from Friendly Fires, a lot of the vocals got lost in the instrumentals from the drums and guitars, which was a bit of a disappointment – but this was the only disappointment. Other than this, there were plenty of positives, such as the use of the instruments which, although over powering McFarlane at some points, were unique synthesised sounds or African drums rather than just relying on the basic guitar and drum ensemble.
Recommended Album: Friendly Fires
Recommended Songs: Paris (a great crowd pleaser which allows Friendly Fires to really show off their unique sound); Jump in the Pool (this song is a great song and also made it into the favourites due to McFarlane’s unique dancing and the African drum-like sounds accompanying it.); Love Sick (a great bass line and a retro style make this song an awesome partying track)
Panic! At the Disco
by Amy Proudfoot
Going to see Panic! started with a decision. Whether to see them, a band I had liked since not long after their debut album in 2006, or to see the newly-discovered Interpol. In the end, loyalty won and I went to see Panic!, filled with foreboding that they weren’t going to play anything from the first album (my favourite by far) and be generally crap after losing half of the original band and hence causing me to miss what could be a good Interpol set. However, my fears proved unfounded, as they played as good a set as I could have hoped for, with 4/10 of the songs being from the first album and only one from the second album, the one I know the least.
The opening song, Ready To Go (Get Me Out Of My Mind), was a great choice, with even the title setting the scene for the energetic set that followed which was completed by Brendon Urie (the lead singer) slowly stripping throughout. The crowd was enthusiastic all the way through but went crazy when the song I Write Sins, Not Tragedies (which Urie revealed his mother still has as her ringtone, 5 years on) was played. The only negative I can think of was that the closing song, Nearly Witches, is quite slow and whilst it is a nice song, I thought they would have been better choosing a more up-tempo song to leave people with the same buzz that had been present for the rest of the set.
Recommended Album: A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (by far)
Recommended Songs: Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off (yes, lots of their song titles are like that); Hurricane; But It’s Better If You Do
by Sep Gohardani
New York based post-punk band Interpol have produced four albums of very high quality since their inception in 1997. Their debut album Turn on the Bright Lights was lauded as one of the best albums of the decade and whilst it isn’t my favourite of theirs, I can certainly see where they’re coming from. In my opinion, it’s their second album Antics that really gives you the best idea of the brilliant way in which everything about them fits together. Their mysterious, dark sound blends fantastically with lead singer Paul Banks’ melancholy baritone voice and what results is smooth, balanced and stylish music which, when mixed with Banks’ profound lyrics, helps the band on the way to being one of the best in their genre, even matching up to the founding fathers of their style Joy Division in terms of the effect they can have on the listener.
Their set at Leeds included examples of tracks from each of their four albums, and I’m very glad to say that they sound just as good live as they do on their records. Not feeling the need for a banner on the back of the stage, their no-nonsense set kicked off with the eerie Success and following up with the intricate and fantastically paced Say Hello to the Angels got it all off to a great start. The rest of the set certainly didn’t disappoint, sporting a mixture of their more famous tracks (Slow Hands, Barricade) and gems from within the depths of their albums (Hands Away). The crowd at Leeds seemed more appreciative than knowing, making for a slightly disappointing atmosphere, but watching back highlights from sister festival Reading I could see that they are followed by a fan-base that they most certainly deserve, and respect to all of the Interpol fans that were at Leeds. I’m sure they’d join me in saying they were a real highlight and definitely a band to check out if you haven’t already.
Recommended Album: Antics
Recommended Songs: Slow Hands; Say Hello to the Angels; Barricade
by Joanna Starzynski
It’s 19:30 on Friday evening, it’s been raining all day and you’re completely soaked. Despite the awesome people you’re with and the festive spirit, by now there’s only so much you can take without being a little annoyed. Then Guy Garvey (the lead singer) heads onto the main stage to perform, sharing the headliner with Muse for the day. Now Garvey started his career at Leeds Festival on the BBC Introducing stage through Elbow, so through moving from a small act to a headliner Garvey can appreciate the steps he’s taken.
Anyway, opening with The Birds and including their major hits like One Day Like This, Elbow truly lit up the stage. The acoustic backing from the live orchestra helped create vibrant sounds, which were more like the soundtrack than previous bands had been. Even though I had previously never heard any Elbow songs, watching them live has definitely inspired me to follow them and listen to their music.
The main highlights of the Elbow set were Garvey’s audience involvement such as getting us to clap or sing along to songs, and also the high quality live performance and backing instruments. The main negatives? The rain, and the fact that the performance wasn’t longer.
Recommended Album: The Seldom Seen Kid
Recommended Songs: One Day Like This (this song really helped unify the audience and is well known for being a chart topper, so many people could sing along); Grounds For Divorce (a song that you probably wouldn’t know off hand but the instrumental and lyrics are easy to sing along to); The Bones of You (not as well known, but yet another great song allowing Garvey to show his off his vocal talent)
by Elliot Davies
Routinely acclaimed as ‘the world’s best live band’, Muse certainly had a reputation to live up to as the curtain lifted on one of their most impressive sets to date. Opening with Tom Waits’ What’s He Building?, accompanied by a suitably unsettling video whose nuances were a little lost on the restless, rain-soaked crowd, the stage revealed itself to have been invaded by towering metallic structures straight from the album cover of Origin of Symmetry. Looking like an eerie combination of tuning forks and electricity pylons, they provided the perfect setting for a full rendition of Origin.
This consecutive play-through was to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the album and is something Muse have never done before, and although intended as a treat for the fans, it was perhaps clear why not. Despite being an excellent album some of the songs are not especially suited to a live performance, particularly a few of the slower ones which, after faster tracks earlier in the album, seemed to cause the audience to lose interest a little. However, the album did pick up again towards the end, after which Muse launched into their typical compilation of fast-paced, big-hitting tracks designed to get the crowd going; and they succeeded.
Playing the first three songs from The Resistance and the obvious choice picks from Black Holes and Revelations and Absolution, as well as the instrumental Helsinki Jam, the impeccably-timed two hour spectacle all too soon came to its stunning conclusion in the form of smoke, pyrotechnics, fireworks, impressive lighting manoeuvres and the much anticipated Knights of Cydonia, Muse’s signature encore.
Overall, there is no denying that Muse deserves to be contending for the title of ‘world’s best band’. Their show was stunningly choreographed, their stage presence enormous and their set list faultless aside from the lull during Origin. Absolutely a must-see performance and a must-see band.
Recommended Album: Origin of Symmetry
Recommended Songs: Supermassive Black Hole; Time Is Running Out; Uprising
by Sep Gohardani
One of the best bands Britain has ever produced, Muse have put out fantastic album after fantastic album for over a decade, and they were certainly the band I was looking forward to the most at Leeds Festival. They are regularly voted as the world’s best live band, and have had part of their H.A.A.R.P album tour voted as the best Wembley experience, defeating opposition from the 1966 World Cup Final amongst other large events. As well as fan approval, they have received much critical acclaim, with 2001 album Origin of Symmetry being received with admiration by critics, and finding a place in many lists as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Knowing their set at Leeds would comprise the entirety of that album would fill any Muse fan with joy, and it certainly did for me. The tenth anniversary celebration promised a large amount, and it most certainly delivered. Decking out the set with the eerie white posts from the album cover, the Origin of Symmetry feel was there for everyone to sense, and the packed crowd loved the rousing and remarkable first song New Born, getting us off to a great start. Matt Bellamy’s undoubted talent on the piano never fails to amaze, and third song Space Dementia definitely showcased that. One of my personal favourites, it portrays the uneasy and unusual feel of the whole album fantastically, blending fantastic instrumental ability with suitably unnerving lyrics. My personal favourite from the album, Citizen Erased, was performed impeccably, complete with the booming, distorted riff that makes it so recognisable. The celebration of the album ended with a display of flamethrowers to bring it to a suitably epic conclusion.
The rest of the set comprised of a compendium of the band’s biggest hits, all sounding amazing, and all proving big hits with the crowd, who were singing and jumping along to every word. Hysteria, Uprising and Stockholm Syndrome stood out in particular, enthralling the crowd with everything from superb ability to immense stage presence. The encore, the infamous Knights of Cydonia, was probably the highlight however. Packed with drama and boasting an incredible guitar riff, it is the perfect closer to any concert and is sure to have left all Muse fans buzzing afterwards. All in all, an amazing set, and my favourite at the festival altogether, but who would have doubted that fact? If you haven’t heard of Muse (where have you been?) I couldn’t recommend them any more strongly.
Recommended Album: Origin of Symmetry
Recommended Songs: New Born; Stockholm Syndrome; Knights of Cydonia
Pulled Apart By Horses
by Simon Perkins
I get the awesomely awesome job of reporting on this little band from Leeds, who opened the second stage on the Saturday, and I mean it when I say awesomely awesome, because these guys were fantastic. I had never heard them before going to their set, as I was intending to go watch Architects but instead decided to tag along with some friends to these guys… and I don’t regret that decision in the slightest. These guys were the best combination of crazy and co-ordinated, and their music was brilliant. They had a really good vibe to them, and (yes, I use this word a lot, because it’s hard to find another one to act as a substitute) energy that you don’t find in many small bands. I don’t even think these guys are that small, considering the size of their crowd and how enthusiastic they were.
If you have never seen or heard of Pulled Apart By Horses before, I recommend you do so, ASAP. Go search their music on YouTube, Spotify, or whatever you happen to have access to, because these guys play some kick-ass music that just makes you want to dance – and considering the circle pit that erupted in the crowd about five feet from my position, I’m not the only one who feels that way. I would definitely suggest going to see one of their live shows now, while they are still small, because trust me when I say these guys are going to get big.
Recommended Album: Pulled Apart By Horses
Recommended Songs: Back to the Fuck Yeah; High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive; Yeah Buddy
by Simon Perkins
You know, for a lightly toned screamo (or alternative/post-rock/whatever pretentiously named genre you want to label them into) band, The Blackout were not the usual disappointing live affair. They aren’t exactly heavy on the screaming – although I’m not one to talk, because I love screamo (or whatever, as aforementioned) bands, live or otherwise – but they played a decent show. There isn’t much that separates them from the gargantuan amount of bands who are, let’s face it, exactly the same band, but The Blackout make a decent show of making good music, playing a good gig and getting the crowd going, which they did, although to be fair, with their jolly Welsh accents, who could resist chuckling at their wise cracks or smiling when they spoke to you. Was that just me? Moving on…
As I said, musically, they aren’t exactly unique or overly special, but the way they presented that music was what made them stand out as a good act. They had some energy to them and they got the crowd going, and made the crowd laugh, and not just the fans at that. You won’t hear me say that The Blackout were one of the stand-out acts of the festival, but they played a good show and were a good watch, although it was slightly marred by the poor weather and the fact that it was quite an early slot, so the crowd wasn’t best keen on moving about or getting overly involved. The songs I recognised were really well played and fun to listen to, and those I didn’t recognise were okay, although once I heard the three I was waiting for, I departed from the outskirts of the crowd to go catch Does It Offend You, Yeah? in time for their song We Are Rockstars, which, as an aside, I definitely recommend.
Recommended Album: The Best In Town
Recommended Songs: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things; I’m A Riot; Children of the Night
by Amy Proudfoot
Rise Against are a band I only got into relatively recently (indeed, it was the Leeds Festival line up that first introduced me to them), the Appeal to Reason album gradually easing me into their punk-rock style. Their set at Leeds was a break from the rest of their tour promoting their latest album Endgame, as only 4/12 songs were from this album. I enjoyed the chance to hear some of their other albums, although some fans may have been disappointed that they didn’t play anything from their first three. However, I was completely satisfied with what they played, even though I didn’t know the song they played after Tim (the lead singer) gave a speech about the London riots, White Riot, a cover of a song by The Clash. This wasn’t the only part of the set to have a message; many of Rise Against’s own lyrics have their own, often slightly anti-American point, although not to the same degree as Rage Against the Machine who they played alongside in late July. The only thing lacking for me was enthusiasm from the crowd; despite being quite close to the front, it very much felt like they were just there to get good places for the later acts and even the impressive high-kicking from the guitarist couldn’t spur the crowd into excitement. Still, nobody around me seemed to dislike them – I think it was more a case of they didn’t know them. I liked them so much that I have now booked to see one of their recently-announced UK tour dates; I just hope more people there know the words!
Recommended Album: The Sufferer and the Witness
Recommended Songs: Hero of War; Prayer of the Refugee; September’s Children (Make it Stop)
by Liam Morgan
You’ve got to pity the guy that has to follow Tim Minchin. Billed at around mid-afternoon on the Alternative Stage (a slot usually reserved for unknown comedic hopefuls) Minchin’s name stands imperiously above all those before and after him. The vast swathes of people flocking to the tiny tent somewhat vindicates this, also standing testament to how much of a cult figure he is; to borrow a lyric from the man himself, he truly is “an icon for the disenfranchised masses”. Such is his influence and importance to a largely adolescent audience that he actually doesn’t have to say much. His entrance alone was greeted with rapturous applause and near hysteria; the sight of his shaggy ginger mane bouncing on stage clearly more than some audience members could take. He is a mesmerising performer. Whether it be his rock star persona, hilarious one-liners, frantic yet incredibly talented piano bashing, or, I daresay, his raw sex appeal, there is something about him that makes him inherently watchable.
Among Minchin’s set list were some well known crowd pleasers, with Rock and Roll Nerd, Prejudice and If You Really Loved Me the obvious standouts. Let down by poor sound quality however and the victim of a criminally short set allowance, his stand-up comedy used to bridge his songs was lost on the two-thousand strong audience, which is a shame as these interludes can be what make Minchin’s shows unique. All in all then, a crowd-pleasing selection of songs that felt more like ‘An Introduction to Tim Minchin’ rather than the deeper cuts a lot of the rest of us were looking for. Still a great way to spend a rainy afternoon though, even if he didn’t play Ten Foot Cock.
Recommended Album: Ready For This?
Recommended Songs: Ten Foot Cock (and A Few Hundred Virgins); Storm; Rock and Roll Nerd
by Jess Kadow
A small but ever-growing band from Devon, Metronomy have been slowly working their way up in popularity through their own brand of alternative, electronic music since they formed in 1999. With a collection of synthesised sounds and very distinctive voices, Joseph Mount (composer, singer, keyboards and guitar), Anna Prior (drums), Oscar Cash (saxophone, backing vocals and keyboards) and Gbenga Adelekan (bass guitar and vocals) have won the hearts of many, including the Radio 6 DJ Mark Riley. Their sound requires a few listenings to get accustomed to, as their slightly odd melodies seem quite unfamiliar at first, but the originality of their sound and song writing really does have a great impact. In order to slowly lower yourself into their world, without being alienated by their quirkyness, I would recommend the song She Wants from their third album The English Riviera as their most , but still not very, mainstream track, moving backwards in time to their first album Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe) for an experience with stranger, instrumental tracks. Playing live they were fantastic – their talent really came across when, apart from a few differences in the sound balance, they sounded just the same as their recorded tracks. They came across as friendly and approachable, just normal people who love to make music, and they deserve all the attention they’re getting. Metronomy were much more than just a frantic attempt to escape into the NME tent from the rain; they are ultimately an incredibly cool new band with a sound unlike anything I’ve really heard before, and I would definitely recommend them for people bored with the stagnant sound of mainstream rock and pop, looking for something interesting and new. A fantastic feel-good band.
Recommended Album: The English Riviera
Recommended Songs: She Wants; The Look; Heartbreaker
by Liam Morgan
Playing through the vast majority of their debut album What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? on Leeds’ coveted NME/Radio 1 stage, London-born English indie-rock band The Vaccines must have been continually pinching themselves. Here they are, just 5 months after the release of their debut album, having formed together only a year earlier, playing the last in a long line of 2011’s summer festivals. It’s been a massive year for them. And rightly so.
The band’s songs are simple, catchy and instantly likeable. They have a classy, authentic sound – a rarity in this computerised, auto-tuned age, and as a result are refreshing and familiar all at once. The Vaccines write good songs, no more, no less. The atmosphere was truly electric when they came out on stage, and that energy was preserved throughout their hour long set; a romp through their first album was greeted with a loving audience who seemed to know every line of every song. We were also treated to a new number – a similar sounding venture but with a thicker quality of sound. More guitars, more layers, more of the same but bigger and better. If it in any way represents the sound of the new album, Vaccines fans are in for a treat.
Recommended Album: What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?
Recommended Songs: If You Wanna; Blow It Up; Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
Noah and the Whale
by Elliot Davies
This Twickenham indie band are notorious for dressing smartly and didn’t disappoint despite the Leeds mud, with vocalist Charlie Fink in a beige suit, buttoned-up shirt and braces, looking ever so slightly like a lost member of a barbershop quartet. Of course, Noah and the Whale are also notorious for their simple, feel-good music and they brought plenty of this along too.
Playing much of their latest album, Last Night On Earth, with a smattering of songs from their earlier releases, it was impossible not to cheer up and match Charlie’s quirky dancing as the band worked through their biggest hits. After what felt like a suitably lengthy set, punctuated only by the band stopping to throw some sweets into the crowd, I don’t think anyone wanted the show to end, but that didn’t stop the entire tent rocking out loudly to a 5 Years Time finalé.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable experience and one certain to cheer you up, if not one substantially different from listening to their recorded albums.
Recommended album: Last Night On Earth
Recommended songs: 5 Years Time; L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.; Tonight Is The Kind Of Night
by Sep Gohardani
Indie rockers White Lies were a recent discovery for me. Indeed, their first album, To Lose My Life…, was only released in 2009 and their follow-up album Ritual came out earlier this year, so they are very new. Their catchy riffs and memorable refrains quickly hooked me, with lead singer Harry McVeigh’s powerful voice adding a suitably epic feel, with lyrics packed full of dark meaning, including musings on death and fear of loss. Already highly popular with a large brigade of hardcore fans, they could easily have headlined the Radio 1/NME stage in my opinion, but they had to make do with second on the schedule.
This did not take anything away from their performance, however, as they started off with the hard-hitting Farewell to the Fairground and built up to the furiously catchy and dark track To Lose My Life, with McVeigh belting out about the nightmarish choice between losing your life and losing your love. The crowd responded extremely well to the whole set, and you could see the joy on the band members’ faces as they appreciated the way the crowd took to them. The highlight of the rest of the set was undoubtedly Death, another dark but very catchy number about fearing the end. Overall catchy, talented and oddly uplifting despite their dark lyrics, White Lies are definitely a band that have delivered and promise a lot in the future. Dare I say I’m looking forward to a third album in a few years’ time?
Recommended Album: To Lose My Life…
Recommended Songs: To Lose My Life; Death; Strangers
Headliner: Beady Eye
by Sep Gohardani
I must make explicitly clear here that the reason I went to see Liam Gallagher’s new incarnation of Oasis is not because I’m a fan, but because I had to get away from My Chemical Romance at all possible costs. After wandering aimlessly around the festival site, I finally settled down to see Beady Eye who, I must say, I had low expectations of. Liam Gallagher, sporting a khaki overcoat, is as cocky as ever, even displaying a Manchester City shirt to the crowd, for reasons I am yet to fathom. Despite the departure of troublesome but talented brother Noel Gallagher, I’m pretty sure you, like me, would be expecting more of the Oasis sound we have become familiar with, and in that sense we definitely aren’t disappointed. Beady Eye’s debut album, aptly named Different Gear, Still Speeding for the way they have continued on the same path, comprises the usual old-style rock-and-roll feel, laden with hooks that are intended to ensnare the listener a la Champagne Supernova.
They manage it with some of their tracks – The Roller in particular has the makings of a classic – but sadly their songs are hit-and-miss, and for every would-be classic there’s an ineffectual, half-hearted attempt that cancels it out. I must say, the entire set was technically sound, Liam sounded good, and the hardcore Oasis/Beady Eye fans appreciated it all. There were, however, plenty of cheeky shouts of “Where’s Noel?” as people took the opportunity to poke fun at the rift between the brothers. Overall, I’d say that they were better than I expected, managing to play a set comprising of enough quality to keep me satisfied. There is always something missing though, and they certainly aren’t yet as good as Liam seems to think they are. Liking Oasis is probably an imperative for liking Beady Eye; there’s enough here to satisfy your needs if you do.
Recommended Album: Different Gear, Still Speeding
Recommended Songs: The Roller; Bring the Light; Standing on the Edge of the Noise
Headliner: My Chemical Romance
by Simon Perkins
It is probably apparent that I’m a bit of a My Chemical Romance fan, but if you are unaware of this, I am a huge MCR fan. One might even stretch to say fanatic. Saying that I like My Chemical Romance is like saying most humans like breathing (I’m pretty sure Jared Leto can survive on the pretentious fog emanating from his every pore). It might be unfair for me to review them, because I have been waiting to see this band for eight years. Eight years. That’s almost as long as people had to wait for Duke Nukem Forever, although we won’t mention that particular pile of trash. However, despite my worries that My Chemical Romance would disappoint me in some way, considering just how much I was expecting from them, I was surprised.
Because they didn’t. They were awesome. For me, they were the highlight of the show (possibly because of the aforementioned eight year wait, but that’s just a technicality). Each song was delivered with an energy that some bands lacked, and I think it safe to say that each song was essentially flawless. I am not a big fan of The Black Parade, their third album, and every time Teenagers comes on the radio or out of some computer speakers, I really do want to pull out my wand and start blowing shit up, Voldemort style, although I haven’t yet (for some reason) but when they played any song from that album, even that hated, hated, hated song, I was singing, dancing, and generally acting like an idiot. I became ‘that guy’, the guy nobody likes at a gig, because he’s dancing like an idiot, singing louder than necessary and getting way too into it. Do I regret being that guy? Hell no.
From my vantage point, I could see all the stage, and true, they didn’t put on the elaborate show that Muse put on, with dancing robots and a spaceship (apparently, considering I wasn’t able to see any of it), but by the beard of Zeus they played an awesome set nonetheless. Ray, Frank, the new bald drummer dude Michael Pedicone (though let’s call him Archibald because we can), Gerard and Mikey… oh Mikey… (this man-crush is only because we’re both bass players, so don’t get started). They were all awesome, with no one falling out of step or letting the team down, and I can honestly say that to me, the show and everyone in it was completely flawless, but maybe that was because I was overtaken by the sheer childish joy of seeing the band who are my heroes. That’s right. Captain America can suck it. Party Poison could kick his ass. Plus he has an awesome jacket.
Recommended Album: Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
Recommended Songs: Vampire Money; It’s Not A Fashion Statement, It’s A Deathwish; Headfirst For Halos
by Amy Proudfoot
My Chemical Romance are, for most fans, something that has come with them from childhood and early teendom, but for me they were fairly recent discovery, unfortunately made after reading the terrible-yet-awesome fanfiction My Immortal, and that is what they have always been for me: slightly melodramatic music to dance around to or indulge the emo in me. Bearing that in mind, their set delivered excellently and it was great fun dancing around, especially during their well-chosen final song, Welcome to the Black Parade, which had everyone singing along. However, had I not known all the words and had a soft spot for that sort of music, I might have found their performance wanting. Lead vocalist Gerard Way’s voice seemed a little shoutier than it had done on the albums, although this could be due to the fact I was quite far back, having dashed over from White Lies and just getting there in time for the beginning. I was also disappointed when they finished 7 minutes early considering their set was only an hour and a half and they have 4 albums, especially as I couldn’t help compare it to Muse’s precise two hour set, although I guess the fact that I was disappointed shows how much I was enjoying the experience.
Recommended Album: Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
Recommended Songs: Welcome to the Black Parade; The Only Hope For Me Is You; Teenagers
by Amy Proudfoot
The Pigeon Detectives are a band I first discovered at a festival and later saw them again at Leeds, so I knew they were good live but I didn’t know much after their first album Wait For Me, having listened to parts of the other two and not thought much of them. So it was much to my surprise when I found myself enjoying their entire set, even dancing along to the newer songs I have previously disliked. I really think that they are a band that comes across better live, and somehow when you listen to their music afterwards it’s been magically improved, or perhaps I was just lazy about listening to them in advance. They have a fairly good stage presence despite only being second and having a fairly empty audience, although their traditional tactic of setting up a chant of “Yorkshire!” (the band comes from Leeds) works better on the smaller stages, where the tent helps push people together and contain the chant.
Recommended Album: Wait For Me
Recommended Songs: This is an Emergency; Take Her Back; Romantic Type
by Oliver Nott
I thought it strange at first that the classic ska band played a mid-afternoon set rather than a later gig. However, it didn’t bother me in the slightest to have a cheeky jig to Madness under milky-grey clouds as opposed to the stars. When Suggs and his merry men jauntily jogged onto the main stage, the audience was eager for some of their classic hits, which we were delivered, as Madness belted out a great rendition of One Step Beyond, lifting everyone off their feet for the next few minutes.
However, after this classic was over, Madness became somewhat uninspiring as they performed lethargic and meek renditions of some of their newer, less popular songs. Suggs’ stamina was poor and his showmanship looked contrived, and at first it even seemed as if he didn’t want really to be there. The crowd was kind though and gave Madness a chance to collect themselves. We were patient and let them, Suggs especially, slip into more comfortable form. Although the set list remained the same, Suggs’ banter improved dramatically and despite maybe one too many references to the youthfulness of the audience, his cracks about Neurofen and a siege tower were greatly appreciated.
As Suggs’ rapport with the audience grew, so did Madness’ musical performance, as, after what was a rather long set, they brought out the big guns and fired out their very best. House of Fun got me dancing like a crazy man, which was not really welcomed by those stood nearby. However, it was tough shit for them, as I repeated my erratic dancing throughout a great performance of Baggy Trousers. By this point, Madness were in full swing and Suggs’ energy was contagious. A magnificent rendition of It Must be Love, followed by a long, but nonetheless lively, conclusion and Madness finished on the highest of highs with self-titled track Madness and Night Boat To Cairo.
Recommended Album: One Step Beyond…
Recommended Songs: Baggy Trousers; House of Fun; One Step Beyond
by Jess Kadow
Formed in 2007 and only releasing their first album, Man Alive, last year, Everything Everything are a new and fresh band currently residing in Manchester. Their style is funky and electronic, using plenty of synthesizers and odd guitar sounds, combined with a really unique set of vocals in the hands of Jonathan Higgs. Whilst their sound is very original, I would argue that they are perhaps not the most easily accessible band; their lyrics are difficult to fathom and sung at incredible speeds, using melodies that jump wildly around the scale of notes so no one without a very large range could even attempt to sing along. Even the fans couldn’t keep up with the scrambled mix of words that seemed to fall out of his mouth, not helped by the fact that the high notes became lost in the whirl of the bass and keyboard.
But these drawbacks didn’t stop me loving the experience. Having only one album, which I own and adore, the band played through fifty glorious minutes of beautiful songs I knew, bar one new track, and were relaxingly familiar in comparison to some of the unknown, generic and rather boring rock bands I found myself watching earlier in the day, who generally had the effect of sending me into a trance-like state where I just stared at the wellies of the person in front of me. Not this one. The original song that grabbed me when I first heard them was MY KZ UR BF (My Keys Your Boyfriend), when I discovered the incredible bass line and synth rhythms blaring out of the radio, and I haven’t looked back since.
Recommended Album: Man Alive
Recommended Songs: Photoshop Handsome; MY KZ UR BF; Two For Nero
Bombay Bicycle Club
by Jess Kadow
These beautiful people, unlike most of the bands I most enjoyed in Leeds, were relatively new to me before I arrived, but were recommended to me as an alternative to The National (who I was surprised to find that anyone had ever heard of) and I discovered that they were much more my style. Finding myself in a surprisingly good position to see the band, trapped among all the hardcore fans, I danced and jumped along as well as I could in my small circle of private space, and loved every minute of it. I wish I’d known the songs before I arrived because since I got back they’ve been playing them on a loop on my iPod and I can’t get enough of them. Their sound is light-hearted and indie but they’ve been developing over the course of their albums – their first album, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, is fairly guitar based, and the majority of their Leeds set were played from this one, whereas their second, Flaws, is more gentle. Their third album, A Different Kind of Fix, hasn’t been released yet, but their first single Shuffle is out and is an amazing song with a brilliant piano riff, which kept me dancing the whole way through.
Recommended Album: I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose
Recommended Songs: Magnet; Shuffle; Always Like This
by Sep Gohardani
The National have always been critically acclaimed, but they only really came into the public eye with their fourth studio album Boxer, which reached number 68 on the US Billboard 200 and sold 300,000 copies worldwide. Their newest album, High Violet, has maintained that success and continues to do well with critics. Lead singer Matt Berninger’s deep voice brings a level of originality to their style, and their usual melancholy tone makes for some beautiful pieces of music, wonderfully crafted and full of emotion.
Their set at Leeds was comprised of a large proportion of High Violet, with the pick of the bunch being the moving Anyone’s Ghost, the unsettling Afraid of Everyone and the iconic Bloodbuzz Ohio, all of which were performed impeccably. For a band with such obvious talent, the crowd was a lot sparser than I would have liked, but the band put on enough of a show so as to take away this disappointment. I’m pretty sure their favourite festival will be Reading where the crowd, regrettably for me, was a lot more involved with the band and were singing along eagerly. The same cannot be said for Leeds, but we can half-heartedly bring up the excuse that it was a little cold and windy, thus taking every ounce of festival spirit out of them. No, I don’t believe it either. The band themselves were very good, and are certainly one to keep an eye on in the future. I recommend a look at High Violet in particular for anyone new to them.
Recommended Album: High Violet
Recommended Songs: Fake Empire; Anyone’s Ghost; Bloodbuzz Ohio
by Oliver Nott
The Strokes, like for many others, were one of the main reasons I bought a day ticket for the Sunday and although they were slightly eclipsed by a mind-blowing performance from Pulp, Julian and the boys delivered a sensational show. When the coolest men in music calmly strolled onto the stage, although I was buzzing with frenzy, I couldn’t help but worry that they were just going to use this performance as an opportunity to promote their most recent, and most disappointing, album, Angles.
However, my fears, much like the flock of hardcore fans stood metres from the stage, were completely trampled, as they played an Is This It-heavy set, throwing in a few songs from all of their other albums. Julian was his usual aloof self; his skinny jeans, sunglasses and monosyllabic conversation went hand in hand with his god-like rock and roll status. He remained as inactive and wooden throughout The Strokes’ whole set, which beautifully complimented his perfect performance.
Maybe conscientious of their responsibility to please their North Yorkshire audience, The Strokes included fan favourites, such as New York City Cops, Reptilia and Last Nite. Each performance was outstanding and the crowd responded in kind, as together we vociferously barked each and every lyric. These big-hitting songs were interspersed among a collection of rhythmic genius, ordered in a way which kept everyone singing and everyone dancing. From Trying your Luck and Juicebox to one of my personal favourites, 12:51, The Strokes proved themselves as truly fantastic musical connoisseurs.
Although Julian and the crew themselves were spot on with every song they played, the weather was especially brutal for a Sunday in August, and whenever I turned around to face the periphery of the audience, they looked middle-aged and about as bored as I was during The National’s set. However those with dampened spirits didn’t manage to ruin it for the rest of us and, as The Strokes finished on an astounding rendition of Take It or Leave It, Julian and the lads, in all their garage-band glory, could amble off stage with their heads held high (metaphorically of course; they are way too cool to actually do that).
Recommended Album: Is This It
Recommended Songs: Last Nite; Reptilia; Under the Cover of Darkness
Headliner: The Midnight Beast
by Jess Kadow
I’m not going to try and pretend that The Midnight Beast are the height of musical talent in the highly developed world of song writing that we have in the present day. Consisting of Dru Wakely, Stefan Abingdon and Ashley Horne, they are primarily a band that writes parodies and satirical songs using other people’s music. The trio of boys themselves are singers and lyricists, none of them playing other instruments in the band, although they are capable of doing so, preferring to place all the emphasis on the lyrics themselves. And this is their forté. Whilst other bands may write songs with a good tune but fairly meaningless or confusing words, The Midnight Beast focus on providing a comedic and often satirical style which is humorous and intelligent at the same time. They do write their own songs too, which always have great bass lines and melodies, but primarily focus on a certain message being conveyed.
The boys have taken the mick out of many things, including political parties, Ibiza culture and Rebecca Black, and parodied songs such as E.T by Katy Perry and All Time Low by The Wanted. These boys are really worth a listen and their work is packed full of fun. Watching them at Leeds Fest was an exhilarating experience; they played the crowd really well, performed at least sections of all their most famous songs and put on an amazing show with dancers and some very funny props. The atmosphere was incredible – with Pulp being on at the same time only the dedicated fans were there and everybody knew the words to all the songs, verses and choruses alike. I felt utterly elated and finally didn’t mind being so crushed up against so many other random strangers when they were all screaming the same things as me. So, type them into YouTube, indulge yourself by playing a selection and have yourself some fun.
Recommended Album: N/A
Recommended Songs: Just Another Boyband; Tik Tok Parody; Pizza in Ibiza
by Liam Morgan
If this is the last ever Pulp festival gig, what a way to bow out. The reformed Sheffield 6-sometime-7-piece proved they are as good as ever by closing Leeds Festival 2011 with a hit-filled set focused on ‘warming up’ a by this point frozen crowd. Jarvis Cocker, working class music legend, lyrical genius and world-beating frontman was phenomenal; strutting his stuff as if the last fifteen years never happened, gyrating about the stage like a horny schoolboy. He connects with the audience like no-one else. Narrating an imagined journey through the evening, he assumed the audience the role of his date and him the hopeful bachelor, punctuating our date with related songs. The set list spanned Pulp’s best years, from 92’ to 96’, and the songs selected felt natural and fitting for the band’s farewell. The songs are so different on stage that it felt as if new life were being breathed into them: I Spy in particular was given a dramatic transformation. It was a creepy and ethereal incarnation, in which Cocker extended a camera on the end of his microphone into the first few rows of the crowd, broadcasting the images in night vision to the giant screen over-looking the arena. Magically, it felt like an all-together different, entirely new song, showing how many layers of meaning great Pulp songs have.
The highlights were undoubtedly Disco 2000 and closer Common People, the band’s two most enduring works, both centering around working class pride and loss in relationships. Common People, which I have to say looking back is the best song I have ever seen performed live, captured the hearts of everyone present and became once again the anthemic cry of working class youth. Compared to the bitterly disappointing, lazy sell-out Strokes set beforehand, Pulp were (forgive me) in a completely Different Class.
Recommended Album: Different Class
Recommended Songs: Mis-Shapes; Disco 2000; Common People
by Oliver Nott
It was 27 minutes past the hour and the northern chill, which had somewhat marred The National’s performance earlier on, had been eradicated by the thousands of anxious fans huddling around the main stage. The sky was dark and the audience was eager. Suddenly, amidst the sea of premonition, a strawberry-milkshake coloured light appeared high above the platform, boasting the letter ‘P’. One signal from them, one scream from us – Pulp had arrived.
The dark translucent curtain, which hung audaciously at the front of the stage, dropped, and there stood, in his idiosyncratic attire and looking as cool and seductive as ever, Jarvis Cocker. The first song was a no-brainer, Do You Remember The First Time?, which they played with an energy that only Pulp could exercise.
After a mesmerising start, Jarvis invited us into his world of poetic ecstasy and voluptuous rhetoric. From his inane conversation about choking on a pear, to his provocative dancing, he had the audience begging (some of us almost literally) for more. Jarvis then gently uttered the words Pink Glove, which was then proceeded by me screaming lyric after lyric, probably ruining for those nearby what was a flawless performance.
Throughout Pencil Skirt and Razzmatazz, Jarvis teased the more serious fans by hinting at each and every song, but I doubt even the hardest of the hardcore fans could guess Disco 2000 when it came. As soon as I heard that spectacular and unforgettable guitar riff, my feet were off the muddy ground, and I bopped in the crowd, singing every single syllable in time with Jarvis. For that immense performance, Jarvis was our Deborah.
Although I briefly sank after this, since my favourite song had now been and gone, this feeling was completely annihilated by some more extraordinary performances; Sorted for E’s and Whizz and Babies kept me dancing away. At this point the audience was swinging and everyone had left behind the reality of being stood in a freezing cold field in North Yorkshire. Instead, we were guests in Pulp’s musical nirvana, especially when Mis-shapes started, for which I personally went mental.
The performance of the night however, came next. Pulp decided to humiliate every band that had ever played at Bramham Park by casually inviting Richard Hawley onto the stage to perform the most incredible rendition of This Is Hardcore. The chemistry provided by Hawley’s talent and Cocker’s genius was breathtaking. Jarvis sensuously moved around stage in some act of rhythmic foreplay, which even made the lyrics seem clean.
Then the night was drawing to a close and as Jarvis continued his idyllic verse, there was only one song on everybody’s minds. His farewells were lost in a sea of the audience’s anticipation. “She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge…” Common People was sublime; it danced into the atmosphere and even those unfamiliar with Pulp were screaming any and every lyric they knew. By the end, I just felt privileged to even stand in the presence of such an iconic band. If Pulp do decide to tour one last time, I implore you get yourselves a ticket; I paid for a whole day at Leeds and Jarvis alone was worth every penny.
Recommended Album: Different Class
Recommended Songs: Do You Remember The First Time?; Disco 2000; Common People
The full line up for Leeds Festival 2011 can be found here.