Live Review: Leeds Festival – Saturday

Saturday at Leeds Festival is usually the point where the rules of civilised society begin to fray a little, and anarchy begins to reign.

By Graeme Smith

Photos by John Hayhurst

That’s usually only true of the punters but this year we saw it with the acts too. Lil Tjay was supposed to play yesterday, but was a no show. Though clearly a naughty boy he was given a second chance by opening the Main Stage West, and proved popular enough to get a lot of late night revellers out of their tents early. The anarchy continued at the Festival Republic Stage with the Essex punks of Bilk and the no-f*cks-given energy of Lauren Hibbard.

We then had a bit of a change of pace thanks to the cinematic operatic alternative rock of Haunt The Woods. I interviewed the band after their set and asked them what they thought of comparisons between them and fellow South-westerners Muse. They were appreciative.

The afternoon was capped by Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls and their politically-charged folk punk. They’re no strangers to Leeds fest, having played it a record breaking ten years in a row between 2007 and 2016. This set was their 2,799th show and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. A definite highlight.

The evening felt a little bit more clean cut thanks to the crowd-friendly pop and rock of Mimi Webb and You Me At Six, but there were still sniffs of rebellion in the air at the Climate Live bus. Having been drawn out there by a dance-worthy set from York Calling favourite Coupdekat, I couldn’t help but wonder if the message of climate action would have been more widely received if the stage had been inside the arena.

ALT BLK ERA played a subversive headline set on the BBC Introducing Stage. The group are doing something new and interesting and it’s clear they’re going to be onto a winner as their career develops. Their genre-blending sound and freak-friendly message reminded me a little of Ashnikko.

On Main Stage West we got our first headliners in the familiar form of Foals. Yannis and the guys have collected so many hits at this point that their set is the proverbial all killer no filler but it was the early work that brought a smile to this reporter’s face the most, especially epic closer Two Steps, Twice.

And last word went to Sam Fender who, along with Foals, channelled all the anarchic energy into a massive party. The revolution was, once again, put on hold in favour of dancing.

And here’s a little bonus set of other acts and atmosphere.

Leeds Festival is taking place at Bramham Park, Leeds between 24 and 28 August 2023.