Thursday, September 9, 2010

LEEDS Festival 2010 (StereoDan)


So the fine people of north England have built themselves quite a reputation, and it's not exactly without reason. One particularly nasty habit that seems to have got out of hand is their desire to piss in a cup and throw it about. I'm not sure why they do it exactly, but after watching one serial offender douse audiences I wanted to march him over to the urinal and drown him in it.

Excluding this small minority, the northern people generally seem very warm natured and at ease with themselves. Compared to Australia people they were much more likely to share a bit of friendly banter with a random stranger standing near them. However more then anything they seem to embrace their music and of course Leeds Festival with a vivacious outpouring of energy and excitement. Add on top of that a sprinkling of sunshine and you're guaranteed a party where they'll let everything hang out... Literally!

Musically every taste is was catered for and when it comes to high profile acts on the lineup we were all spoilt for choice! My personal musical selection for the first day included: Chapel Club, The CribsDizzee Rascal, Crystal CastlesThe Libertines and of course Pendulum... not bad for a day's work I tell you! So I headed down towards the Festival Republic Stage to enjoy Chapel Club who were recommended to me by a good friend. I was very impressed with their casually relaxed yet oh so cool vibe. Musically their compositions are very well constructed and were a really nice way to kick off the day. They've recently been picked up for the Emerge NME Radar Tour so no doubt we'll be hearing more about these talented lads soon! Anyone want to bring them to Oz please?

Special mention must go to Pete Doherty for making it to the festival to front for his band The Libertines. After attempting to see this band a number of times (and almost seeing them play together) I had given up hope of ever seeing this band perform with it's original founding members. So when I saw Pete up there on stage I was very surprised. Not only that he was vocally coherent and musically together which made for a very unexpected but enjoyable set. Something did feel a little missing in terms of raw musical passion in their performance, however I was happy enough to hear the band perform. Fingers crossed this trend continues for the future and I hope to see them perform live again soon.

The highlight of the day for me was easily seeing Pendulum rocking out the NME tent to thousands of their crazy fans (myself included).  It may seem strange to travel to the other side of the world to see an Aussie act but they really seem to have come into their own element here in the UK. Add on top of this the atmosphere of everybody going off like a frog in a sock and you know we were in for a treat! Their setlist was a nice mix of tracks from their back catalogue and also some of their more grimey tracks from their recent album "Immersion."


So the big difference between Leeds and any other music festivals I've experience on the My World Tour so far, was the complete ease of getting to and from the festival with the minimum of fuss. Just a short 15-20 minute bus ride back to Leeds and you could purchase a multi-pass wristband that entitled you to as many rides as you wanted. It sounds like a little thing but when you're staying offsite it makes a world of difference! Arriving back at Leeds Festival for day two of music I headed down to watch "The Joy Formidable" who have been getting around the world with their music.

One of my favourite things to do at festivals is stumble upon diverse and interesting bands. "Holy Fuck" are an exciting experimental electronic ensemble which should probably change their name if they want to reach broader audiences.  With lots of knob twiddling going on stage it sounded to me as if their set was a fairly improvised affair, however listening to music on their website I realised it's fairly pre-planned. Modulating filter, reverb and delay effects are served up effortlessly with synthesisers, live drumming and electric bass grooves. It takes a little while to get into the feel but once you're there it's hard to shake off those happy feet. Think along the lines of PNAU from back in their early Sambanova days. For now Holy Fuck's live set seems a little unpolished but no doubt these guys will gradually rise up the festival time slots with their funky loops and electro-psychedelic mayhem!

Next on my list of bands not to be missed was none other than the mighty Limp Bizkit. Despite their earlyish 4:30pm time slot the atmosphere around main stage was buzzing with anticipation. I clearly wasn't thinking about the consequences of pushing my way down to the front of the mosh pit with a full pint of beer in my left hand and SLR in the right. Things were fairly sedate as frontman Fred Durst walked onto stage but as soon the music started everybody around me went mental. My beer went everywhere... mostly over the poor guy in front of me... luckily he didn't seem to mind too much as he told me between songs... I held onto my camera for dear life thrusting it into the air to prevent it from being smashed by all the crazy moshing. I did loose the lens cap somewhere amongst the action but lesson learnt. I pushed my way back out of the 'danger zone' to a more comfortable distance away from front of stage. It's nice to know that Limp Bizkit isn't showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. If I can rock out that hard at the age of 40 I'll be a happy man!

Next up on the main stage was the old school classic act "Cypress Hill" who are well known for their Weed Anthems and onstage bong antics. You can pretty much bet anyone with a spliff was lighting up as the band dropped their set to a glorious sun drenched audience. Those that didn't come prepared could be seen to migrate toward those that had and bumming/begging for a puff. One pair of youths were so desperate for a joint that even offered 20 quid to anyone that would give them one.

But back to the business of music.... the band stuck mostly to their all time favourites including: Insane in the Brain, Dr Green Thumb, I Ain't Goin Out Like That and When the shit goes down amongst others. Not afraid to banter with the audience rapper B-Real turned to the audience to ask "Are you motherfuckers high right now?" A resounding yes could be heard from where I was standing as the band continued on with their performance and lit up some large hand rolled 'cigarettes' onstage. The set had great energy which was further supported by the audience knowing all the words and singing along to their tunes.

I could have happily finished of the day with Cypress Hill but the festival was only just getting started! Still on my list of bands to see for the night were Tame Impala, Band of Horses, Foals, We Are Scientists and Klaxons. I wandered off in search of food and drink refills and was met by some rather funny and unusual characters on the way.


So feeling rather spritely for day three of Leeds music festival I headed into the festival relatively early (and before lunch) to see New Young Pony Club. This London based band has produced a number of tracks which have been on my iTunes "high rotation" playlist a number of times with their tracks Ice Cream and The Bomb. So I was pretty excited to finally get to see the band perform in the flesh! While NYPC had plenty of energy to give (and they were certainly putting their all into the performance) the audience just didn't seem to be feeling it. The NME tent is certainly a challenge to fill especially so early on in the day however there was a good turn out and people were bopping along to their tunes. 

One girl I was chatting with said that she felt intimidated by lead singer Tahita Bulmer's thrusting pelvic movements which were quite suggestive. We had a chuckle about it and while it was a little early in the day for such a sexy band I'd love to see them in Australia when they come play at the Forum on the 1st of October. 

I quickly headed over to the Festival Republic Stage to see the performance by LA based band Funeral Party which have recently caught my attention after a tip off from an Australia colleague. I saw them a couple of days earlier at an industry invitation only night upstairs at my favourite pub in London: the Old Blue Last in Shoreditch, which was an impressive gig to say the least!

This amazing band (pictured below left and right) stars lead singer Chad Elliott who gives each and every performance his very all. Vocally his voice has an uncompromising sound which despite it's raw edge cuts through with an abrasive/raspy sound which still remains pleasing to the ear. The band has a rather cryptic biography description on their myspace page so all I can say is have a listen and make up your own mind! They have some pretty cool videos on their YouTube Channel which are also worth a mention and I look forward to incorporating some of their production ideas (stop motion/ progressive photos) into future videos I make.

Next up was Gogol Bordello who was featured on this year's main stage at the Leeds Festival. Their music, fittingly described as 'Gypsy Punk,' has been well received by UK audiences and also international audiences abroad. As a band they are very well known for their captivating and energetic theatrical stage shows. Earlier this year I was very privileged to chat with front man Eugene Hütz at Bluesfest 2010 and since then have been keeping a very keen eye on their live performances and festival appearances around the world. From my observations they consistently provide an exciting set-list of songs that are are very engaging to western and international audiences alike. Tracks such as Start Wearing Purple and My Companjera are crowd pleasers which despite being dismissed by the band as "Fan Music," get everyone into the party mood and enjoying themselves.

Curiously I noticed during their set that the video camera mix being displayed on the stage's screens was consistently a bad choice of shots (crossing the vector, cumbersome side stage POV and unnecessary crowd shots) and the camera work could be described as unstable, rough footage at best. Perhaps there were some unforeseeable difficulties going on behind stage or that Gogol Bordello are just to quick to capture on film? :)

Continuing down the musical nostalgia path was punk/scar band "No FX" which as a band I've not been a big fan of since they inadvertently cause the demise of my high school grunge band "Deep Ascent." To be fair we only performed one live gig in front of a high-school dance of 3000 students (not bad for a first gig) which I'm sure was terrible!  If my memory serves me correctly I still owe the bassist 50 bucks for the hire of backline PA equipment (which I didn't pay at the time because he quit the band to go join a scar band) so Cameron if you're reading this... :)

Sorry I got side tracked... Anyway, I certainly enjoyed No Fx's set with their punky attitude and you could tell that this band has been on the scene for more then a while. Together since 1983 and with a sturdy 12 albums under their belt it's great to see the band on the setlist for Leeds Festival 2010. Their politically charged setlist went largely unnoticed by most as they performed songs such as "Murder The Government" and "Kill all the White Man." There was however a few eyebrows raised as they ran through the jokes of "Arming the Proletariat with Potato Guns."  A few people were weirded out by it all...

I enjoyed NoFX's set but was soon on my way over to the NME stage to grab myself a beer and a spot up close and personal with Yeasayer (pictured above right). I saw them briefly at Latitude festival and also in Australia I think, but had always been unable to get a spot anywhere near the action. Strangly the Leeds crowd didn't seem to know who they were but it didn't matter as we all quickly became immersed in their musical performance. I lost track of time which is a pretty good indication that I thought they were fantastic. In particular I enjoyed watching the interaction between the performers and instruments as we all bobbed along in time to the music. Their light show was completely mesmerising and whoever thought to sit their keyboards on clear perspex lighting boxes had a moment of brilliance! 

Still left to perform for the final day of Leeds Festival were top acts Queens of the Stone Age and Biffy Clyro (which I'd recently seen perform at the Metro in Sydney). I enjoyed listening to the scottish lads from afar as I enjoyed a couple of pints. They put on an enthusiastic set with their energetic guitar power riffs and tempestuous live performance. It was probably a good idea to hang further back in the crowd as I watched a multitude of piss filled cups being thrown around by people closer to stage. 

Queens of the Stone Age were high up on my list of must see bands (thanks to Josh Homme) however I can't say I was blown away by them. They were good but overall their performance felt a bit lack lustre (especially with the vocals) and those shredding guitar solos just weren't hitting me like I had expected. It wasn't until their final track "No One Knows" that I started to get into things, but perhaps that was just a side effect of not being closer to the stage action. In their defence it was blowing a gale and I could hear the overall music volume shifting drastically depending on which way the wind was going. For the short term I think I'll stick to listening to them on iTunes until I get the chance to see them in an enclosed venue (which may never happen).

By these final stages of the festival I decided that I had well and truly had my fill of live music, crazy antics and general festival experiences. People started lighting fires here there and everywhere and I decided to make an early exit before the riots and tent burning exercises kicked off. I did however make one last detour via LCD Soundsystem (who'd I've seen before and loved) to enjoy a few tracks before getting on the bus.

As always it's nice to finish a festival on an upper and that I certainly felt! Leeds festival was a fantastic alternative to Reading Festival and I highly recommend you take the plunge sometime and head to Northern England to take a closer look and get your dose of music festival mayhem! In summary...  DO IT!

Post and photos by StereoDan

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