Leeds Festival

Last weekend thousands of campers headed to Bramham Park for a weekend full of music, entertainment and as always rain and mud.

By Jane Howkins

Photos by Chris Mackins

Last Thursday, we headed down to Bramham Park near Wetherby for the annual Leeds Festival, occurring alongside the more well-known Reading Festival. Despite torrential rain on the Thursday and the Saturday, we braved the weather and managed to make a fine weekend out of it all.

The festival is considered to properly start on the Friday, but a few smaller bands do play on the Thursday (with people even able to camp from the Wednesday with early access passes), such as the grunge influenced Forever Cult. Their music played out like early 1990s grunge mixed with a harsher sounding Alex Turner, lending itself to a rough, if surprisingly melodic style. Certainly one to watch for the future.

We planned on spending a lot more time watching bands on the Friday but due to the extreme weather had to spend some time hanging our clothes off tents in order to dry them, meaning that the next band we saw was Five Finger Death Punch, in the middle of the afternoon. Their sound was excellent, with heavy riffs and screams playing alongside melodic guitars. Bad Company was a particular favourite, and whilst the band unfortunately did not play their cover of the Animals House Of The Rising Sun, this was played afterwards as the band came towards the barrier to meet the fans. The next band we saw was The Vaccines, with lead singer Justin Strong running around like a crazed madman on stage, to an audience well-rehearsed in their songs. Afterwards, it was time for the headliners to take to the stage, with Fall Out Boy up first. A touching moment of the set was the David Bowie tribute halfway through the show, and frontman Patrick Stump was very lively onstage, but it was a bit disappointing to see that the rest of the band weren’t as animated, with Pete Wentz looking downright bored at times.  The songs were good, but a bit more stage presence would have been nice. After that, we left to go catch the end of the King Blues in the pit, who had a lot more charisma to them and played some very entertaining songs, including fan favourite My Boulder. After that, it was time for the grand return of pop-punkers Good Charlotte, who recently reunited after six years apart. They were brilliant, with a packed crowd singing along to all their songs, as well as big queues outside the tent showing just how much people had missed the band in their absence.

Palace

Saturday was opened by festival regular Frank Turner, with 2016 being the tenth consecutive row that he has played Reading and Leeds in a row as a solo performer. He was excellent as ever, with a wall of hugs replacing the usual wall of death that usually features at such gigs. After that, we headed to the alternative stage for an afternoon of comedy, with Shappi Khorsandi up first. She was very funny, with jokes about her Iranian background being very poignant in the current political climate. Next up was Sara Pascoe, who was not quite as funny as Shappi, with a few of her jokes sadly falling short. After that, it was time for Angela Barnes, who was our favourite comedian of the afternoon. She had an excellent persona, with almost everything she said being laugh out loud funny. The penultimate comedian of the day was Mark Steel, who also got a lot of laughs, although not as many as Angela. He touched upon race and the concept of gay marriage (as all the comedians did), but managed to do it in a way that wasn’t preachy, which occasionally some of these comedians can come across as. Last but not least, it was funnyman Russell Howard’s turn to shine, with it becoming immediately apparent why he was headlining the alternative stage. He seems to have a brilliant penchant for comebacks, and seemed to be able to make a joke out of everything, although the biggest laughs of the set came at a moment when Russell was momentarily surprised by the full tent screaming ‘STEVE!’ when he mentioned the name ‘Alan’, relating to an old Youtube video of two gophers that was apparently very popular with the young crowd.

After Russell, we had a bit of a beer break, before heading down to see twenty one pilots in the NME Tent. The tent was extremely busy (to be fair they probably should have been on the main stage) and the duo showed exactly why they were so popular with the stage show they put on, which included drummer Josh Dun drumming in the crowd, and frontman Tyler Joseph zorbing across the heads of the fans. An excellent end to the Saturday, before a flit back to the campsite to hide from the rain.

Luckily, the Sunday stayed dry, and we managed to get out to see Skindred early on in the afternoon. Benji Webbe and co. were great, if let down by a slightly lacklustre crowd, although with the weather it wasn’t really surprising that people were tired. We stayed to watch punk duo Slaves perform (unfortunately Parkway Drive had to cancel otherwise we would have watched them) and they were pretty darn ferocious, with drummer and lead vocalist Isaac Holman impressively managing to still perform, even with a dislocated arm.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

We later headed down to see a few of the smaller bands on show at the Festival Republic Stage, with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard being a particular favourite, sounding very much like a modern day Pink Floyd mixed with the folk stylings of Jethro Tull. After that, it was time for female  singer-songwriter Lapsley to perform, and although her stage presence was lacking a little, her voice and fandom more than made up for it. Next were indie rockers Palace, who had the unfortunate displeasure of having to play during the first half of headliners the Red Hot Chili Peppers set, meaning they had a very small crowd. However, they soldiered on and did very well out of the experience.

Brian Fallon and The Crows

For the last band of the festival, we had the choice of seeing the Chili Peppers, or of staying at the Festival Republic Stage and seeing the very brilliant Brian Fallon and the Crowes perform, and of course, we stayed. Brian Fallon is perhaps better known as the frontman of folk-punk band The Gaslight Anthem, and as anyone who has ever seen him perform before can testify, he never puts on a bad show. He was very much worth seeing over the main stage headliners, and with a very dedicated fanbase turning out to see him, Brian played humbly, with songs such as Sugar and Rosemary giving everyone goosebumps. An excellent band to close the festival, and hopefully one that will be performing on the main stage very soon. Special thanks also go out to the Jack Rocks Stage for quenching our thirst throughout the day, and for putting on a selection of smaller bands that went down very well.

Leeds Festival took place at Bramham Park on Thursday 25 to Monday 29 August 2016