Discoveries come in all sorts of shapes and sizes at Leeds Festival; whether its a brand new band, a weird new drink or the delights of a ‘Monster Yorkshire Pudding Wrap’ - someone, somewhere will be having a great realisation.
At a festival that doesn't appreciate silence thanks to its beautiful, remote location of Bramham Park, it didn't matter that the bands finished at midnight as their were campsite DJs ’til 4am, a dance stage situated in a valley of trees between the Red and Orange campsites, aptly sponsored by energy drink company Relentless, amongst other stalls and rides to keep festival-goers busy at all hours - ensuring that the party never ended.
Here’s 10 things we learned from Leeds festival this weekend:
1. Royal Blood are going to be bigger than ever imagined
The NME/ Radio 1 tent was often packed to capacity, spilling out onto the nearby path while people watched on the screens outside; it happened during Disclosure’s Saturday headline slot and The Kooks triumphant live return. In the blaring sun on Sunday afternoon, Royal Blood took to the stage at 2:15pm, when most festival-goers are still nursing their hangovers and haven’t even left the tent. Despite this, the Brighton based rock duo easily drew the biggest non-main stage crowd of the weekend. Although their debut album was released on Monday, just two days before Early Bird arrivals at Leeds, singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher absolutely smashed it. Going into former single, Figure it Out, Kerr told the crowd, "I can't say what it means to see so many f***ing people here man, what the f***?" They may have been bemused by the number of people there, but not us. It definitely feels like a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ with these guys.
2. Disclosure don’t need to rely on special guests
It almost feels ridiculous to talk about guest names when approaching a Disclosure headline set. Headlining the NME/Radio 1 stage whilst Blink 182 dominated the main stage, it didn’t matter for a single second that Sam Smith or London Grammar weren’t there to provide live vocals. Things fell perfectly into place for the Lawrence brothers, who got here on their own terms after debut album, Settle was a huge UK and worldwide success. They’re certainly on their way for a main stage performance next year.
3. Brotherhood is the way forward, just ask Drenge
Drenge are just one of many up and coming ‘sibling bands’, (see Peace, Disclosure and Haim for more). Having watched them fumble their way successfully through their set at Field Day earlier in the year, it was like watching a different band at Leeds Festival. The boys are slicker, smoother and heavier than ever - developing an almost telepathic fusion to how they play. Its early days yet, with just one album under their belt, the Loveless brothers are well on their way to becoming one of the best live bands of the country. Oh, and if their performance in Reading is anything to go by - they look great in a dress.
4. Palma Violets: Brand new tunes, same old chaos
One of the most hotly anticipated performances of the festival, Palma Violets did not disappoint. The boys were as raucous as ever - opening with new track Secrets of America our crowd of five were quickly lost in the mosh pit after the first couple of bars. Known for their wild performances and equally wild crowds, the band’s unofficial member/hype man Harry Violent was there in his usual riotous form. Childhood’s Ben Romans-Hopcraft joined the boys on stage during We Found Love, contributing to backing vocals and throwing beer at the crowd. Bassist Chilli Jesson was on good form, declaring the crowd “better than Reading!" The Lambeth-quartet rattled through their Jarvis Cocker-produced, Johnny Marr-approved debut album 180, the highlights of which were all present and correct - ending their set on what is becoming a signature, rousing rendition of 14.
5. Double dogtooth is a thing and Harry Kossier rocks it
You’ve seen (and questioned) double denim, now is the time for the double dogtooth. Clad in dogtooth patterned matching top and trousers with a chocolate brown fur coat, Harry Kossier led Peace through their Sunday afternoon main stage slot. Singing hits from their first album In Love, and playing new tunes, Money and Lost on Me. California Daze elicited approval from the crowd as the sun beat down and Kossier introduced the band’s next song Float Forever saying, “to be able to play it for you on the Main Stage to you means a lot." The boys closed on Bloodshake promising to ‘be back someday’.
6. Josh Homme still has it (even in a quilted jacket)
After spending the day watching young, new bands, seeing a 41 year old Josh Homme grace the stage was slightly alarming. Kitted out in a checked scarf and quilted jacket, the Queens of the Stone Age frontman looked like he was ready to watch his son play rugby on a cold September afternoon. Three songs in and the heat of playing the main stage got the better of him and Homme took off his jacket to reveal a sharp black shirt underneath. The band displayed an incredible laser show which complimented their set perfectly. Playing hits such as Little Sister, If I Had a Tail, My God is the Sun and an elongated version of Song for the Dead to close, QOTSA rocked the main stage in the final leg of their co-headlining bill.
7. Macklemore likes a rant
Greeted by the crowd with chants of “LEEDS! YOU WHAT, YOU WHAT?", which he admitted he had no idea what it meant, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis played a surprisingly brilliant sub-headline slot. When it was announced that the American rapper would be playing the main stage on Friday, many people were dubious, however the duo proved them wrong, showing that they can hold a crowd as good as any other. Playing hit Can’t Hold Us twice because the crowd loved it just that much, a furry jacket in the crowd caught the rapper’s eye and it was passed from crowd to stage as he exclaimed, "I did not know that this jacket was gonna smell the way it does and be warm and wet – kind of like fresh urine." Before that, the rapper showed he’d been doing his homework, saying, "I know this festival has a long lineage of bands and mud and camping and probably some STDs involved in it, but to me that's what the summer is all about...," he said. Before Otherside, the rapper put the song in context in his career. "I have a lot of flaws and a lot of vices, but I can say right now if it wasn't for me getting sober for the first time in 2008 I wouldn't be up here on this stage," he said. On a similarly serious tip, a speech about equality followed by means of introducing the anti-homophobia track Same Love.
8. All white is back
See: The Klaxons & Wolf Alice. Playing a mid-afternoon slot on the Dance Stage, The Klaxons were the first of the festival to brave the mud and show off their all white ensembles. Backed by visuals of multicoloured ‘K’s, the trio filled the tent to near capacity and played crowd pleasing hits such as Golden Skans and Gravity’s Rainbow; lead singer, Jamie Reynolds got the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to Boys Noize before finishing on recent hit It’s Not Over Yet. They then headlined the Relentless stage, situated in the trees of the campsites, with a successful DJ set.
Wolf Alice played the Festival Republic Stage on Sunday, arriving 10 minutes late, causing them to rush the end of their set. Despite time constraints, the band clearly had a great time, encouraging the crowd to “run around in a circle - it’s your last day to do it."
9. Wearing a tracksuit on the main stage is not acceptable
Vampire Weekend, I’m talking to you. Looking like he’d gotten off the plane from California and walked straight on stage, lead singer Ezra Koenig donned a matching grey Nike tracksuit for the band’s main stage performance on Saturday. The band played an incredible set which finished on a ‘world première’ of California English, a song that dates from the era of their album Contra. The band performed in front of a pink, flowery wallpaper-style backdrop and started the set with most recent hit Diane Young. Before closing, Koenig said “We can always count on Leeds, on all of Yorkshire" and described the county as the band’s favourite park of the UK - if that was the case then they could have made a bit more effort with their outfits, they did for Reading!
10. Arctic Monkeys are Britain’s greatest band
It’s Sunday evening, everyone is positively lacking in energy, hangovers are well and truly setting in but the crowd are out in their thousands. Just as everyone is getting restless, smoke fills the stage and the familiar sound of the drum on the now-signature Arctic Monkeys opener Do I Wanna Know? beats loudly across Bramham Park. A quick boost on a friend’s shoulders and a scout across the tops of the heads of the spectators confirms my suspicion that the crowd for the boys from High Green was the biggest it has been all weekend. Alex Turner had already explained to NME the importance of concluding their AM tour with a homecoming gig at Leeds, the first festival the boys ever went to as youngsters; and, wearing a jacket emblazoned with Yorkshire Roses and a cheeky grin, it was clear that the frontman was over the moon to be back home. In his usual way, Turner dedicated I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor to the ladies in the crowd and the band glided smoothly across hits old and new. Turner’s real delight was shown in the final song of the band’s encore, R U Mine?. Ending the song three times because he ‘hates goodbyes’, Turner was every inch the world class frontman he’s recently been acclaimed to be.
With no need for tricky light shows and lasers, the glow of the ‘AM’ wave was enough to accompany the four pristine gents. Settling themselves now in their newly found LA lifestyle, their Yorkshire roots shone through as the Monkeys gave a performance of a lifetime. Accusations are constantly flung their way, claiming the band to be too rehearsed and Turner to be a bit of a knob - none of which was the case on Sunday as every member of the crowd felt he was talking just to them.
In short, Arctic Monkeys played the headline set of the decade, smashing their own and, dare I say it, The Rolling Stones’ Glastonbury performances out of the park, its just a shame the BBC didn't film it…
(Written by Rachael Fletcher)