Live Review: Leeds Festival – Thursday and Friday

After a year’s COVID-enforced hiatus, Leeds Festival is back and we were keen to get down there and soak up the festival atmosphere once again. Here’s part one of our review, including the action from Thursday night and Friday.

By Graeme Smith

Photos by John Hayhurst (Snapapig)

Thursday Night

On the first night of the festival, the live music was confined to the Festival Republic Stage. Martha Hill kicked things off proper, with the unenviable task of following a populist DJ set to a tent full of festival goers who had peaked too soon. It didn’t phase her and she delivered a powerful set on acoustic and electric guitar.

Following her were Leeds-based group English TeacherTheir sound was difficult to pigeon-hole, running the gamut of prog rock, funk, noise rock, math rock and shoegaze. However you want to describe it, it was something special and I look forward to following the band’s career.

Up next was the Liverpudlian Zuzu, who had a vivacious stage presence and delivered infectiously melodic pop rock. The night was then finished off with a crowd-pleasing set from Vistas who got the set jumping with their brand of indie rock.

Friday Afternoon

Fast forward twelve hours and, while Hot Milk were opening the Main Stage, Nottingham’s Blondes were playing to a somewhat less rowdy Festival Republic tent. Nevertheless, their indie dream pop rock went down a treat. If you haven’t heard them before, think The Smiths but slightly cheerier (but only slightly). Also on The Festival Republic Stage were Sheffield-based funky electro pop group Sophie And The Giants. Frontwoman Sophie sang her heart out and they closed with their greatest hit to date, Hypnotise.

Over on The BBC Introducing Stage was Lauren Hibbard who delivered a unique-style of attitude-laden storytelling. With a quirky stage presence and fast-talking verses, she proved to be a breath of fresh air.

The afternoon closed with an early highlight of the weekend – KSI on the Main Stage. The vibe in the crowd was the definition of the phrase ‘festival atmosphere’ and YouTube sensation KSI was clearly suitably humbled. Not bad for his debut festival appearance.

Friday Evening

It was back to the Festival Republic Stage to catch Baby Queen. Playing only her fifth live show, she delivered sassy alt pop and a string of Gen Z anthems including Internet Religion, F*cked Up and Dover Beach. She then did some shots of tequila with her fans in the crowd afterwards. I think that’ll end up being a moment they’ll tell their grandchildren about.

Following her was a surprise set from Jake Bugg on the same stage. With a new album out, the Nottingham singer songwriter is having something of a renaissance and the packed tent showed their appreciation.

We closed the evening out on the Main Stage, firstly with Wolf Alice. Like the animal they’re named for, they have a soft coat but a hell of a bite, and their set lurched from gentle rock to all out noise, ever delivered by their frontwoman’s inimitable vocals.

Then it was the time for the headliners. Before Liam Gallagher closed the night, there was enough time for an incredible set from Scotland’s Biffy Clyro. There isn’t much to say about Biffy Clyro’s music that hasn’t already been said so instead I want to shout out the unsung heroes of the rock world – the lighting and AV techs. With their expertise, the band’s incredible performance was lifted to new heights, with innovative visual effects and one hell of a climax.

Two days down, two to go. What a start it’s been! Keep your eyes on the site for part two coming soon.