The annual Reading and Leeds Festivals were back with a bang last weekend, and thankfully the weather stayed with us this time, unlike the mudfest that occurred last year in the north.
Review by Jane Howkins
Photos by Chris Mackins
We arrived on the Thursday evening, and whilst that day isn’t billed as one of the main day’s the festival (more of an optional extra), we decided to head down early and have a few beers in the sun, before catching the end of High Tyde’s set – mark our words, they’re certainly ones to watch!
The main entertainment started on the Friday, and word spread quickly about a secret set by Queens of the Stone Age, being one of the worst kept secrets we’d ever heard. It was a great start to the weekend, however there seemed to be an issue with the sound in the NME tent where they were playing, meaning that a lot of the songs sounded sludgy, which was a shame considering how good this band can be live
The next band we saw was quite a bit later, with us venturing away from the campsite in the early evening to watch rock group Breaking Benjamin. Despite the fact that they’ve been a band for a long time, this was only their second time in Europe, and after a hiatus a few years ago, it seemed like they might never get here. They played one of our favourite sets of the weekend, with a rapturous crowd singing along to every word, even if it did seem a bit short. We then ran across to the Festival Republic stage to catch the end of Ash, a band that seem to have lost some stature in recent years. It’s odd really, as they were always tipped for greatness, and whilst they do have some catchy songs, they seemed like a band playing at being rock stars, without some of the charisma needed to actually become the parts they were acting out. It’s a shame really, but they still seemed to have a lot of loyal fans, so hopefully the band can get themselves out of the rut they seem to have pulled themselves into.
We then ran back across to the pit to catch a few songs from Gnarwolves, an up and coming punk band from the UK. They remind us somewhat of a harder version of The Menzingers, and we really enjoyed their frenetic onstage performance, with it being a shame that we had to run off and catch Muse, thus missing the end of their set.
However, we were glad we caught Muse’s full set, as it was truly excellent, and the best performance of the festival. They’ve gained a reputation for their live shows in recent years, and what we saw was mind-blowing. Despite little audience interaction, the band held total command of the audience, with a silent charisma that was awe inspiring. It was also great to see how excited Matt Bellamy was when walking into the crowd halfway through the set, showing that Muse are still a humble band, no matter how big they have become.
The Saturday was a better day for acts, with us managing to see quite a few. Next up were rockers Mallory Knox, who we were pleasantly surprised by. We had assumed they were just another generic rock band, but they were actually rather good, and we recommend listening if you like the genre. We then headed across to see Puppy, a band that we semi enjoyed at Slam Dunk Festival this year. They were a lot better at Leeds Festival, and seemed to be drawing a bit of a following, which was great to see.
We then headed across to catch British singer-songwriter Declan McKenna in the NME tent. McKenna has been steadily building up a following over the past year or so, and the crowd in the tent was immense for that time of day. He even started his own circle pit around him towards the end which was unexpected, so kudos to Declan for that! Indie girl group The Big Moon were on next, and it was a surprise to see the band setting their own gear up and testing it beforehand. Their stage presence left a little to be desired, but their songs have a lot of potential, and a cover of Total Eclipse of the Heart drew the crowd on board.
Leeds Festival stalwarts Jimmy Eat World were up next, and whilst it looked like Jim Adkins and co. were putting a great show on, the sound on the main stage kept going up and down, which made things sound very odd. We enjoyed them, but that ruined it a little. Last but not least, we went down to see Billy Talent’s headline set at The Pit, which was our second favourite set of the festival, after Muse. They’re an amazing live band, and always manage to win over people who are put off by frontman Ben’s voice, and we were honestly surprised they weren’t further up the bill. The mosh pit was a little lacking, but the energy the band put out more than made up for it, rounding the Saturday off in style.
The first band we caught on the Sunday were Moose Blood on the main stage, who we made a mental note to check out more of, as they reminded us of early Brand New. Next up were The Pretty Reckless, which we got pretty close to the barrier for. It took a while for them to warm up, and Taylor Momsen’s vocals weren’t as great as they should have been, but we assumed this was because they have been touring heavily, and by the end the crowd were baying for more. We then had a toss-up between At The Drive-In and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, but decided to watch the latter as we had heard great things about the Carter’s live show. We were not disappointed, and the frontman had the entire audience in the palm of his hand, encouraging them to do a circle pit around the tent. They were definitely the best band of the Sunday, and one that we can highly recommend for the frenetic atmosphere.
Nu-metal stalwarts KoRn were the penultimate band we saw, paving the way for some of the more hip-hop acts that were to proceed that evening’s headliner. Their songs can get a bit samey at times, but it was a fun performance, and frontman Jonathan Davies’ donning of bagpipes halfway through the set was unexpected for those who did not know much about the band. Finally, it was time to watch that evening’s headliner, Eminem. He performed back at the festival in 2013, and there was a lot of anger from typical Reading and Leeds folk due to his musical style. However, he must have won people over, as we didn’t really experience that so much this year, and he drew the biggest audience of the festival. He went through a mammoth 33 songs, although we were slightly disappointed that the rapper didn’t seem to finish many of them, instead playing only half of a track or even one verse before moving onto the next one. Lose Yourself was played as the encore song, and it was a fitting track for the end of such a successful festival.
Leeds Festival took place at Bramham Park between Thursday 24 and Sunday 27 August 2017.