I made my way down there on Thursday in time for Friday’s music and the atmosphere was buzzing with many festival-goers joking around and talking with a real sense of excitement about the forthcoming bands there. I entered, squeezed my tent into the crowded yellow camp and left to have a look around the festival.
I was surprised at the huge open space called ‘the village’ that occupied a few acres. It had food stalls covering its perimeter with most people relaxing and enjoying the prospect of having a special weekend. There were even a few football goals set up where people were playing a couple of 5-a-side games of football which seemed quite unusual for a festival. When the night came there were a couple of stages open and places to go that were outside of the main arena. The Relentless stage in the village proved a hit with its thumping dance music played to massive crowds till the early hours of the morning, with this stage open and it being popular every night of the bank holiday weekend. It perhaps showed that dance music perhaps should not be entirely in the background at Leeds Festival.
I woke up the next day and made my way towards the main arena. The main arena was really well laid out with people having to make their way down a slight slope to get to the main stage. Though, it was about a five minute walk to the main arena the distance was not a bother but was welcomed as it made the whole arena seem less cluttered then some other festivals.
The first band on the main stage was We Are the Ocean, and with the amount of rain that was pouring down on the crowd, it did seem like we were indeed – the ocean. The rain didn't hold this band back as they put on a spirited set, and bar a couple of technical hiccups, played with plenty of energy to wake the early birds up.
Next over to the NME/Radio 1 tent came Best Coast who tried to add a bit of sunshine to the day with their summery lo-fi songs. Keen to stay out of the apocalyptic downfall of rain that just would not quit, I headed towards the deliciously named Ham Sandwich in the BBC Introducing tent whose light cute instrumentation suited the lead singer’s gentle voice; they seem like a band who will gather a strong following in the coming years, they’re even suitable for vegetarians.
Now to a band on the main stage of which I am a huge fan: Interpol. They played a brilliantly atmospheric set list that evenly covered their four albums. It was hard to take my fan goggles off for these guys, though perhaps the crowd wasn’t too up for them. It was a treat for fans nonetheless. It was now Elbow’s turn. The rain had finally completely stopped by now, but for me an eight hour drenching of rain was preferable to the drenching of a suspiciously warm cup of liquid that was hurled towards my section during Elbow’s set. Elbow’s Guy Garvey tried to warm the crowd up in a more endearing manner by trying to get us all to move, being particularly insistent on us all keeping our hands up in the air for long periods (perhaps he should have called the band ‘Hands’ not Elbow)
Next was Muse whose live reputation is out of this world. They opened with an eerie voice (from Tom Wait’s ‘What’s he Building?’) talking whilst there were flashes of large shadows of the band, contained in a curtain. Finally the curtain raised and much to the crowds anticipation they launched into 'New Born,' the first track from Muse's second album 'Origin of Symmetry' which they had previously claimed they would play the whole way through. And they did.
Due to the massive guitar riffs on the album and Muse's amazing ability to put on a show, the whole thing was incredible. Particular highlights included 'Micro Cuts' where Matt Bellamy showed off astonishingly high pitched vocals for dramatically long periods before the song came crashing to its epic guitar crunching close.
It wasn't just Matt who was thoroughly impressive musically, Chris and Dominic were too, and they particularly got to demonstrate this during a drum and bass jam for a few minutes while Matt went off stage. The sheer power of them during this jam left me thinking that these two could do a whole live set as a duo and still produce a better show than most bands (though I'm not suggesting they should lose Matt)
Muse’s set was littered with all sorts of cool things;lasers, flames the size of the stage, fireworks, interesting videos, lights and of course plenty of gigantic eyeballs filled with confetti that were thrown into the crowd. No band should ever perform without some form of gigantic eyeball being thrown around somewhere. Muse really did throw everything at this headline slot, bar the kitchen sink, and to be honest an on-stage kitchen sink wouldn’t have been all that spectacular. At the very end – after Muse had come on and played nine of their greatest hits – a fireworks display came bursting out from the top of the stage and as this came to a close I was left with my heart racing and with a sense of awe. Fantastic!
The next day started off sunny while I made my way to see Miles Kane's set of high trousers, kicks and Indie licks. He had a cool swagger about him that made it hard to take your eyes off of him, even during his weaker songs. The next highlight of the day was Deftones. I've heard a lot about these guys but never seen them live before and they absolutely blew me away. I'm sure that, based on that set, they would have gained fans from the few people there who weren’t familiar with them before.
After having left the main stage for a bit to purchase an expensive Yorkshire pudding the size of a paddling pool, and still with the Deftones wonderfully gripping set in the back of my mind, it was now time for 30 Seconds to Mars. Similarly to Deftones I could not believe how great they were. Jared Leto spoke to the crowd in between songs and gave the whole set an intimate feel, almost as if he was addressing everyone personally in a crowd that had thousands; it was something really special. Towards the end they made the performance even more special for dozens of crowd members at the front when Jared invited them onstage for 'Kings and Queens,' and credit to the on-stagers; they all went mad.
Next up were Jared Leto's "good friends" and headliners My Chemical Romance. They came out in their album themed attire putting on a triumphant display. No sign of the trouble they had at Leeds twin festival Reading in their 2006 performance, where they got bottled by many angry Slayer Fans (who were stupidly placed next to them on the bill that year). They stormed through many songs off their latest album ('Danger Days') and put on an all round good show.
On the final day Leeds Festival we were treated to not one but two festival headliners. Just as Pulp had stepped aside for The Strokes to go on stage last at Reading on the Saturday, The Strokes returned the favour and Pulp went on last at Leeds on the Sunday. Pulp played a strong set and won over many of the youths of the festival who may have only heard a couple of their songs, as when queried on the best performance of the weekend; Pulp was a popular choice. It also seemed to make more sense to have Pulp last over The Strokes, as Jarvis Cocker and co. seemed genuinely excited to be there; dancing around the stage in his unique style, whereas The Strokes were somewhat static and let their anthems and cool approach do the talking (or singing). Earlier highlights in the day included the sing-alongs to Madness' 'Our House' and opener 'One Step Beyond', though the lesser known tracks did not go down as well with the crowd; it was worth it for the well-known ones.
All in all the festival was a major success and although the amount of rain did make it an extremely Welly-squelching affair, it was clear that behind all those festival goers mud covered faces there were big white smiles..