Saturday’s jam-packed line-up at this years’ Leeds Festival did not disappoint.
After a pretty stellar start to the Leeds Festival the previous day, Saturday had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, the line-up for the second day was also pretty impressive; enough to make trudging from stage to stage through the endless mud worth it. The good people of Leeds were initially lulled into thinking the weatherman’s ascertain that this day was going to be a wet one was incorrect as the sun beamed down at lunchtime. Perfect weather for a spot of snotty US punk, right?
Right on cue, west coast punkers SWMRS delivered just that in The Pit (formerly the Lock Up Stage a mere 12 hours ago). If there was ever a way to start the day with a bang, this was it. It was clear that this was going to be an interesting wake-up call for anyone still struggling to shake off the Friday night excess when frontman Cole Becker emerged rocking the ‘Kurt Cobain in a dress’ look. SWMRS are a certainly a carefree bunch, no doubt about that.
Fashion sense (or lack of it) aside, the set was attention-grabbing for all the right reasons. The opening explosion of ‘Harry Dean’ was enough to make the casual observer rub the sleep from his or her eyes and give the closest person an impressed nod; those that were already invested get right into the swing (and pushing-rumble-tumble) of things with more early lunchtime circle pits.
The secret to the success of this band is arguably their ability to mix things up and keep it fresh as poppier moments break up the set once they’ve grabbed your attention. The light and summer-soaked ‘Turn Up’ and tongue-sort-of-in-check ode to Miley Cyrus (funnily enough, titled ‘Miley’) showcase an act with more strings to their bow; it’s a set that is tailor-made for this sort of festival stage and definitely proves them worthy of a later slot next time around especially after they further endear themselves to the crowd with a jesty dig at the south on their debut’s closer, ‘Drive North’. Who needs caffeine, eh?
Once the dust and pint cups had settled in The Pit, a short trek over to the Main Stage area was in order. Whilst the mission was mostly focused around the obtaining of a well-needed bacon sandwich, it also resulted in catching the tail-end of a Frank Turner set that had, by now, descended into a roll call of his backing band and crowd participation as the ex-Million Dead man proclaimed his love for this bandmates. No cheese was ordered with the bacon sandwich so tracks were made soon after.
Back at The Pit, it was soon time for grungy rockers Superheaven. With the band announcing their hiatus this spring, the appearances at Reading & Leeds Festival, along with a London date, represented a last chance to catch them for a while – the problem is, it appeared that a lot of the crowd were oblivious to this as large portions didn’t seem to be familiar with the Pennsylvanian quartet, at least based on the rather flat atmosphere. Admittedly, Superheaven haven’t been particularly massive on these shores but they have plenty in the way of good tunes. They were, perhaps, a touch hampered by having a distinct sound, one that can cause songs to blur in a festival setting if the crowd haven’t heard many of them before. It’s a shame, as songs like the opener ‘Sponge’, ‘I’ve Been Bored’ and ‘Life In A Jar’ are well worth anyone’s time. The festival circuit is a tricky customer sometimes.
One band that shouldn’t struggle on the festival circuit is The Neighbourhood. Billed as the US equivalent of The 1975 just a few years ago, the Californian atmospheric indie-hipsters attracted an impressive crowd in the NME tent in the early evening. A cynic could attribute part of this to the downpour outside of the tent but, with a set that has singles and catchy album cuts crammed into it, they would like to think the crowd would be there regardless of the elements. Whilst they have never quite scaled the heights reached with ‘Sweater Weather’ in 2013, the haunting ‘How’ and ‘Wiped Out!’ cuts, ‘Prey’ and ‘Cry Baby’ help carry the show towards a penultimate trio of ‘I Love You’ favourites towards the end of the set. The 1-2-3 of ‘Afraid’, ‘Let It Go’ and the aforementioned smash, ‘Sweater Weather’, really capture the crowd’s imagination before the ‘RIP 2 My Youth’ closer. Barring the annoying over-use of vocal effects on Jesse Rutherford‘s voice, they can mark this down as a success.
As with the previous night, headlining duty is again to be split on the Main Stage. For reasons unknown, it is Foals that take the earlier slot with electronic duo Disclosure closing the stage. For the second night running, this causes a co-headliner to clash with another must see in one of the smaller tents. Half-Foals and half-Thrice it is then.
Put simply, Foals are electric. A relentless decade of graft, ladder climbing and exemplary discography building has gotten them to the point were they are a late-main stage act at most, if not all, festivals they grace. With their first five numbers they touch on all four of their albums but so strong is the sound that they’ve created for themselves, an uneducated spectator wouldn’t know that what they were hearing spanned ten years or so.
That’s not to say they haven’t progressed since their ‘Antidotes’ debut, far from it; they’ve just mastered the art of a well constructed set that keeps old and new devotees happy. The crowd unsurprisingly comes well and truly alive three songs in with ‘My Number’ – it’s enough to make a merry crowd forget about the rain that is beating down on them and is one of those joyous festival moments that make the slumming-it worth it. Shortly after, the eternal Foals set-list favourite ‘Spanish Sahara’ is bestowed on a crowd several thousand times removed from dry, desert-like conditions. It never gets old that one does it? There’s time to witness another nod to their origins with ‘Red Sock Pugie’ once the bombastic and frantic culmination of ‘Providence’ has occurred. If anyone walked away from watching Foals in action without being impressed at any point it would be very surprising indeed; they should have headlined – but that’s just one, totally unbiased man’s opinion.
The day finished on an unrelenting high. Aside from last year’s Hevy Fest, it’s been much too long since Thrice took to a UK stage (apart from a Thursday night date in London, obviously). Their set would sadly be a lot shorter than the one played two nights ago and is mostly focused around lead tracks and singles from as far back as ‘The Artist in The Ambulance’ right up to this year’s ‘To Be Everywhere is To Be Nowhere’. Essentially a streamlined version of their ‘Headline show’ set, you could say the Orange County quartet played it a little safe with a set littered with singles and more well-known tracks as the deeper, album cuts were cut down to a handful of old favourites. That being said, many Thrice fans could pick three hours worth of songs and still begrudge some missing out.
Despite performing live much less since their reformation, a conscious decision from the band, there was no signs of rustiness creeping in. Thrice have always been an incendiary live act with impeccable musicianship across the board with Dustin Kensrue adding the finishing touches with one of the most powerful and adaptable voices around. Their set flowed seamlessly as they, like Foals before them, touched upon four albums straight off the bat, displaying an understandable confidence in their catalogue. ‘T.B.E.I.T.B.N’ does enjoy a healthy share of the action with latest single ‘Black Honey’ being a particular highlight before they head straight into a superb run through of ‘The Long Defeat’ but there are glimpses of their heavier side with the manic ‘Hold Fast Hope’ breaking up the moody, atmospheric stylings that they’ve made their own since ‘Vheissu’.
It is hard to judge quite how big Thrice‘s following is these days, though. Whilst there is plenty of the crowd yelling every impassioned howl along with Kensrue, it is undoubted that the biggest reactions are still drawn from songs that date back to the mid-2000s. They do seem aware of this too and, after satisfying the long-standing fans, opt to end on the hugely popular ‘The Artist in the Ambulance’ before leaving on usual set closer of ‘The Earth Will Shake’ which disappoints with its opening chords – purely because you know that that signals the end. It’s a shame that they don’t still have the same pull as The Pit headliners Asking Alexandria as a longer set would have been more than welcome but those that know, know that was a special end to another fantastic day at Leeds Festival.