As 70,000 or so revellers descended on Bramham Park in Leeds, the sight was nothing short of impressive. Apparently pacing themselves for three days of incredible music and minimal sleep, the bar lines told a different story. Thick with intoxicated English larrikins, many of who were already stumbling, this scene set the pace for the rest of our unforgettable weekend.
Having regrettably missed Modest Mouse the first act on our agenda was English quintet, The Maccabees, who’s Friday afternoon set was indie rock at its most cultivated. There were no surprises here, nor did the band push any boundaries, but that’s simply their style. Despite having a number of album hits, this band has hardly made a dent on Australian shores, but I think their basic structure is just why. In contrast however, punters at Leeds seemed to adore them. Having played the festival twice before, this was the bands first time on the main stage and ask anyone who is familiar with their music, they will tell you The Maccabees put on a killer set. Their Friday performance no doubt expanding their already doting UK fan base who were singing along with every word.
Shortly after, the main stage welcomed on fellow English act, The Cribs. Playing a heavy collection of the bands back catalogue, including crowd pleasers Mens Needs and Mirror Kisses, the trio put on a stellar performance. My only criticism of the band was the horrific hairstyle of Jonny Marr, which epitomised the bowl cut and made him look more like a Lego Man than a rock star. Just before the final track singer/bassist, Gary Jarman announced “These are our last shows for along time, you won’t see us for a bit”. The booing and moaning of the audience subsided shortly after the first few chords of City of Bugs took flight.
Perplexed by the addition of Dizzee Rascal into the line-up on the main stage, this abrupt change in pace kinda killed the musical flow and for me, the mood! The Maccabees, The Cribs, Dizzee Rascal???, The Libertines, Arcade Fire. No one else seemed to give a toss and as the opening beats of Jus’ a Rascal erupted, the rascal himself entered the stage and people bolted into the thick of it. Call it bling or call is cheese, Dizzee performed his 45 minute set, gold microphone in hand. Despite being renowned for his ability to create abstract musical blends that fuse together genres including hip-hop, grime, regga, electro and his regular use of samples, on Friday Dizzee lost all sorts of credibility when he tried to take on Nirvana. Butchering Smells Like Teen Sprit by rapping over the top. Kurt Cobain having just died a second time over. Bonkers and Holiday went off but its going to take a lot more than that for Dizzee to redeem himself.
Having been offered a supposed £1 million for the shows, the much anticipated UK act The Libertines were enticed on to the stage by a mammoth wall of applause. Although Arcade Fire were set to play the headline slot for Fridays main stage, The Libertines were by far the most eagerly awaited. The return of Pete Doherty, Carl Barat, Gary Powell and John Hassall was phenomenal and despite rumours of Doherty’s early apprehension about performing The Libertines put on one hell of a show what covered material from their entire (yet all to short) career. Half expecting a doped up Doherty to match the chaotic history and unravelling that was so sadly the Libertines, fans enjoyed faultless renditions of favourites including Can’t Stand Me Now (where the lads shared a mic), Death on The Stairs and Boys In the Band. Their 19 song set was an amazing come back for the quartet and an unforgettable experience for fans.
Playing off the back of their most recent album, The Suburbs, Friday night headline act Arcade Fire delivered a stand out performance. Full off energy this band was well deserving of their slot (although many Libertines or even Pendulum fans would disagree). Filling the stage with special effects, lighting and larges faces as a backdrop the bands set was full of musically grand statements and festival anthems. Opening with Ready to start and No Cars Go, Arcade’s musical presence engulfed the gathered mass. The immense church organs and vocal arrangements were a perfect note to end on! Or so I though. But the band even encored with Wake Up where the harmonies on stage were echoed by that of the audience to create an almost surreal finale.