The Leeds and Reading Festivals are two of Britain’s most popular rock festivals. Leeds first started in 1999, with Blur, The Charlatans and Red Hot Chili Peppers headlining. It was twinned with Reading festival after the success and popularity the southern music venture had gained since 1971. As the festival established itself over the years it also hosted greats such as Nirvana, The Jam and The Ramones, among others, earning itself the “rock festival” title. Since the two have been twinned, the stages have seen Oasis, Eminem, Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Pixies, and more recently Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and Blink 182 — and those are just a handful of the huge acts that have headlined there.
Ever growing, the festival now has five other smaller stages as well as the main stage showcasing more artists in different tents throughout the weekend. Some 70,000 people attend Leeds every year, from young festival first timers to the old pros, some of which have attended it religiously for over a decade.
Some eager festival goers turn up at Leeds’ Braham Park on the Wednesday before the festival weekend, setting up camp well in advance. Those that don’t arrive on Thursday, wide eyed, wellington boots in hand and excited in anticipation of the weekend’s non-stop music. The campsite was a buzz of people wondering around looking at the processions of stalls, discussing bands and waiting eagerly to get a first look at the music arena. Opening at around 7pm on Thursday, an influx of people dashed through the entrance, many excited at the prospect of indie band Little Comets playing a pre-festival set that night. The crowds were rowdy but friendly, with everyone at the festival for one purpose – to see great music being played.
Two Door Cinema Club’s Undercover Martin
With celebrations of being at Leeds carrying on until the early hours of the morning, many weary heads popped out of tents on Friday. Typical of a British music festival, campers were awoken by the disheartening sound of rain on their tents, but nonetheless with a day full of the opportunity to see some of their favourite bands, people were up and at ‘em in time for the arena to open at 11:30 am. By band time the rain had cleared and the sun was beating down, people zig zagged across each other, all hankering for their first band of the weekend whether it be on the main stage or otherwise. I ventured over to the main stage, and although the crowd was small everyone there was anxious to see the first live band — local boys Pulled Apart By Horses. The northern rock band were the self proclaimed wakeup call of the festival, playing a heavy and energetic set, inspiring conga-pits in the crowd with enthusiastic interaction. Towards the end of the set they played their 2010 single “Yeah Buddy,” and their fans went crazy for it. The crowd was full of sweaty moshers and fans in true festival spirit by the time the band finished. Pulled apart were closely followed by Southampton Rock band, Band of Skulls. The blues rock trio played a flawless set; instrumentally perfect with songs from this year’s album ‘Sweet Sour,’ and classics from 2009 such as ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls’ and ‘I Know what I Am’. Their hard hitting rhythm beats and bluesy guitar got everybody moving and if you weren’t already a fan of Band of Skulls fan before their Leeds set you certainly would’ve been afterwards.
As the day went on the heat beat down on us festival goers and the arena and stages filled up. Whether in the midst of a crowd or around the festival making your way to a music tent there was a great vibe in the arena. Wherever you were you could hear live music; there were new talents on the BBC introducing stage, giving the crowds of music fans a chance to discover new music, as well as the bands that everybody had gone there to see. On other stages throughout the day there were bands such as up and coming indie group, Tribes, as well as a day filled with comedy acts at the alternative stage, along with a festival full of fairground rides nobody was ever short of something to do. With all of this going on, the band I was most anticipating on Friday was soon to play the main stage.
After being around since the mid 2000’s, The Black Keys have exploded onto the music scene over the past few years, playing festivals across the US and Europe over summer after touring with latest album ‘El Camino’ earlier in the year. Playing before headliners Foo Fighters, the band entered the stage with Dan Auerbach telling the crowd he wished we were closer to the stage, and boy did everyone agree. Playing all the hits from “Howlin’ for you” to “Lonely Boy,” it was by far the sexiest music set at Leeds this year. When Dan Auerbach went into the first half of “Little Black Submarines,” the crowd was left in silent awe at the beauty of the song. The bands bluesy rock and roll was even better live and in the flesh and as the sun sank, and the night air started to draw in, despite a calmer atmosphere in the audience than previous bands, I left in a crowd full of people who like me, were amazed by The Black Keys.
The headliners on the Friday night were the incredibly famous rock band, The Foo Fighters. Although most people flocked to the main stage to see Dave Grohl and co. at what I heard to be an amazing live set, ending in fireworks and splendour, I made my way to the NME stage to see Two Door Cinema Club, an indie-pop band that over the past two years have broken through to the music scene. The NME tent was packed to the rafters with fans. As soon as the first song kicked in the whole of the crowd were singing and dancing, jumping to the music and shouting the lyrics back to the band. Two Door Cinema Club played the majority of their album “Tourist History,” and added a little surprise to the set by giving fans a sneak preview to their new album “Beacon” which was due to be released a week after the festival. They also played new single ‘Sleep Alone,’ using Leeds as not only a place to play to screaming fans, but a way to experience firsthand fan reaction to new material. The crowd, itching to be able to sing along enjoyed the new songs but welcomed what they already know and love from the band. Two Door Cinema Club played a high energy set full of upbeat melodies and new tunes.
The Shins’ New Slang
As I left the NME tent the rain had snuck back up and was pouring, I ran to the Festival Republic stage to wait for the last act of the night and stumbled across an acoustic/ a capella set by indie boys, The Futureheads. The Sunderland group had played at Leeds in previous years but this time in a much more personal setting. Playing a mix of their own hits and old folk songs, the set was much different to any other performance that weekend, just 3 men and their guitars, the band were both cheery and endearing, connecting with the crowd and exuding warmth in an otherwise cold and rainy tent. They finished with their most famous song; an interpretation of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love,’ a faster paced version that the crowd sang a long in unison to, getting them pumped up for the high energy set that last band of the night, The View delivered.
Another indie-pop band, The View played a lively set which inspired a raucous crowd, full of energy. Jumping in with hit ‘Wasted Little DJ’s’ the band were just as wild as the crowd. A brilliant end to a jam-packed day the set was enthusiastic, upbeat and more than anything entertaining to watch. I left ready to do it all again the next day.
The arena and site were filled with excited faces again by Saturday afternoon. With stalls, henna tattoo tents, and fairground rides to explore, even between bands you aren’t left short of something to do. It was another talent packed day in the arena, with bands such as The Maccabees, Foster the People, Paramore, The Hives, Lucy Rose and Bombay Bicycle club playing. The highlight of the day though, was the classic 80’s indie-pop, new romantic rock band, The Cure.
The band played a two and a half hour set; a back catalogue of all their greatest hits in one gig. Whether or not you had been a fan from the beginning, or were seeing them after stealing their material from your parents record collection, their set felt like a once in a lifetime milestone. Frontman Robert Smith has anything but lost his touch, in the same make-up the ‘original Goth’ was pitch perfect and the band couldn’t have sounded better, refined and faultless throughout. The crowd were a mix; some bouncing around, others swaying with admiration. Influential icons, The Cure blew everyone away, ending the set with half an hour full of their biggest hits including ‘Friday I’m in Love’, ‘Lovecats’, and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, at which point everyone was dancing. Finishing amongst screams from fans they disappeared off the stage, and as everyone began to leave the arena they relished that they had seen a band which will go down spectacularly in history. One for the Bucket List, The Cure played one of the most memorable gigs I’ve had the honour of witnessing, their musical influence throughout their career, and their performance during that set reaffirmed why they take pride and place in my music collection.
The happy campers in Braham Park almost arose tired and weary on Sunday morning but the prospect of the impending music that day kept everyone going. With the end of the festival looming everyone was determined to make the best of the last day, and with the bands that played that day
it wasn’t difficult. The cloudy sky didn’t stop bands from playing some brilliant set; Los Campesinos, Blood Red Shoes and Mystery Jets started off the day on the Main stage. It was only as American Indie-rock band, The Shins, from New Mexico that the clouds broke and the rain poured. The Band who has been kicking around since the 90’s played a set that was worth standing in the rain for. James Mercer’s beautiful, almost dreamy vocal set an emotive atmosphere on the main stage. Playing a variety for their fans, they played the mellow ‘New Slang’, from debut album ‘Oh Inverted World’ and went on to play songs from ‘Port of Morrow’, their latest album. A sometimes darker, eerier album, it also has more upbeat songs, such as ‘Simple Song’, which they also played.
The shins are a band who make music which will suit any mood you have and they played an utterly charming set, not just pleasing to the ear but inspiring sentiment and feeling in the crowd. Despite receiving a smaller audience than other bands they played an exceptional set.
With so many bands and artists playing at Leeds and Reading Festival it can be a struggle to choose between them all, especially when so many of them star on your home made playlists! Sunday night stages sported headliners such as Feeder and At the Drive In. The Main headliners, and last act of the weekend, were British Rock band, Kasabian.
Florence and the Machine’s Spectrum
Before their set were British Indie-pop band, Florence and The Machine, fronted by eccentric indie chick, Florence Welch. The band put on a hell of a performance, with Florence as excitable as the crowd, seemingly genuinely moved whilst singing her own lyrics. Playing hits such as ‘Rabbit Heart’, and ‘Spectrum’, the crowd screamed the lyrics back out to the band at the top of their lungs. Asking as many people to crowd surf as possible during ‘Raise it Up’, Florence stirred a huge energy in the crowd. As the sun set behind the stage there was a vivid atmosphere watching Welch and co. finish the set. The only complaint anyone could make was that two of their most famous songs ‘Kiss with a Fist’ and their cover of ‘You’ve Got the Love’, weren’t played which left many disappointed.
This disappointment quickly diminished as Kasabian took the stage and hurtled themselves into one of the best, if not THE best live performances I have ever seen. The main stage was filled, from the front right back to where the burger vans stood. The band played all of their hits and the crowd was a sea of people, singing every lyric and jumping to every beat relentlessly throughout the whole set. Fire, Velociraptor, Underdog….every song a fan could have wished for them to play was played; they even mixed it up a little with a mash up of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ and ‘L.S.F’. Twisting and turning the gig with surprises, one half of the two front men, Sergio Pizzorno kicked into a rugged, rough cover of The Korgis, ‘Everybody’s gotta Learn Sometime’, which shook the crowd into the only two minutes where they were still, amazed by the moving effect of the cover. Having never seen Kasabian live before this, but always being a fan, this gig rekindled my romance with the Leicestershire band. Tom Meighon exuded attitude and flair and ended the gig by bringing on a hoard of people dressed as skeletons, bouncing around the stage with him and the band and ending the gig with a bang.
Kasabian signify what British Rock music is and should be today. The boys have come a long way from playing local pub, The Charlotte in their hometown, now headlining Leeds. They certainly deserve the headliner title, playing an unforgettable gig that still give you shivers of excitement when thinking about it.
The festival was then over, live music finished and campsite closing the next day. But the fun didn’t end there, with dance tents and a silent disco carrying on until the early hours of the morning everybody jumped in with two feet and finished the weekend in style. The morning seemed unimportant and nobody was ready to end the weekend. Why would they want to? One of the best festivals in Britain, Leeds 2012 will be etched in the minds of those who attended it forever, a mind-blowing experience.
Written by Rhiannon Drew
OurVinyl | Contributor
Below you can check out a couple cool videos so as to see/feel a bit of the vibe from the fest…