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Leeds Festival 2013: don’t fear the downpour

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This year’s Leeds Festival proved to be a highly memorable one - and not just because of the dreadful weather.

Alex Johnston and Graham Chalmers survived the conditions to enjoy some great music. If reading this feels a bit like a report from a war zone, perhaps it was.

Friday

Alex Johnston reports on Friday and Saturday when the skies opened and Leeds Festival turned to liquid.

Tribes: The underrated Tribes entertained a strong crowd, despite being slotted in early on Friday on the NME/Radio 1 Stage.

The band have released two albums to date, and played the best of Baby and Wish to Scream.

Devoted fans had made their way to the tent for the 3.30pm show, and the band were in full flow, playing like they were headlining on Saturday night.

Haim: Many of those who had watched Tribes stuck around in the NME tent until the much-hyped , all female four-piece Haim came on stage. Forever and The Wire went down a storm as the festival crowds were beginning to warm up, and it seems safe to predict that Haim will return to Bramham Park in the future.

Biffy Clyro: I’ve watched Biffy across the country in large and small venues, but the Main Stage at Leeds in pouring rain was something else.

Topless Simon Neil launched into tunes from previous albums as well as current record Opposites, pausing only to curse the rain and urge on his adoring crowd.

People can be too precious about the ‘early stuff’, unfairly dismissing Biffy’s imaginative new material.

The phrase ‘Mon the Biff’ sounds a bit naff these days, especially with Biffy’s transformation from obscure Glasgow rockers to one of Britain’s best loved rock outfits.

However, it was resurrected here, as the mass crowd jumped as one.

It’s a sign of a good show, and a great band, when the crowd not only sings the lyrics, but also the riffs.

It was a vintage performance.

Saturday

Parquet Courts

A healthy crowd entered the Festival Republic tent for American four-piece Parquet Courts. This was a stand-out for me when the line-up was revealed.

Their album Light Up Gold, released earlier this year, is one of the most entertaining I’ve heard for a very long time. And although I can reveal they look nothing like I had imagined them, the music was as superb as I’d hoped.

Frank Turner

As everyone piled into the Festival Republic Tent to escape the rain, so a hardy few headed out towards the Main Stage, and the ever reliable Frank Turner. Armed with a guitar, Turner speaks his mind through likeable and catchy tunes, and you get the feeling he is as at home on the big stage as he would be entertaining a group of five or six in a village pub. He is one of the great performers in pop music at the moment.

Bastille

Band of the hour Bastille will command a stronger place in the line-up, possibly as headliners, in the future, when they release more music.

As it was, they took to the NME/Radio 1 stage on Saturday evening. Again, the tent was full of plenty of people trying to escape the rain, but it is difficult to ignore the pull of the band when Pompeii, Bad Blood and Things We Lost in the Flame are blared out.

Green Day

By the time Green Day took to the stage on Saturday night, nobody cared about the rain. The band knew what the crowd wanted, and frontman Billy Joel Armstrong and co launched into favourites such as Basket Case.

Suggesting it was the last gig the band would play in the UK for some time, it was suitably memorable.

There was huge excitement in the crowd every time the band began to play, and every single word of the Dookie songs were sung perfectly by the thousands present.

Sunday

I woke up the morning after the Sunday at Leeds Festival with the smell of mud still in my nostrils, writes Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers.

Had it really happened? Had I queued until 2am the night before to get a bus out of the campsite having fallen over in the mud?

Flashback. Arriving at the Bramham Park site on Sunday following two days of rain was like being parachuted into a vat of liquid chocolate at a Cadburys factory.

Once the feet of thousands of festival-goers had tramped it all, it got even worse, turning almost the whole of the Leeds Festival into a horribly sea of yucky brown superglue.

In such circumstances the music had to be good and, fortunately, it was.

Mind you, I couldn’t work out why the crowd was so huge in the middle of the afternoon for 1975’s average indie pop on the Festival Republic stage, people spilling out of the tent into the sea of mud.

Six hours later on the same stage, the usually magnificent British Sea Power appeared as headliners in front of one of the smallest crowds I’ve seen for a band of their stature.

As usual, this most artistically adventurous of English bands decorated the stage in foliage and twinkling lights.

But they lacked a touch fairy dust for once as if the force of their strange magic wasn’t strong enough to stretch beyond the domain of the stage.

Playing at the same time on the NME stage, Alt-J showed why they won the Mercury Prize.

Intelligent and interesting, their mix of angular indie, English folk and rustic American was a bit too wholegrain for my taste.

Plus this semi-Harrogate band told the packed tent they were from Leeds!

On the main stage the Foals lived up to their big band billing by performingin the manner of a big band - a rarity for an ‘indie’ band.

As well as a great selection of tracks from their three albums, they now exhibit a keen sense of stage theatrics, lead singer Yannis Philippakis leaping into the crowd to do a bit of Peter Gabriel-like crowd surfing at one point.

For those who like their Foals younger and less pretentious, Theme Park were in brilliant form early in the afternoon in the NME/Radio 1 stage with a upbeat performance deserving of a bigger and later slot.

Other success stories on a day when most people over the age of 20 left the muddy fields of Bramham to the young generation included Labour MP Tom Watson’s favourite duo, Drenge.

The visceral Derbyshire twosome; vocalist/guitarist Eoin Loveless and his brother Rory on drums, clearly fell in love with The White Stripes when they were ten, belting out a furiously sharp and fast version of the blues.

What to say about Johnny Marr? Legendary guitarist, top bloke with an amazing fringe for his age, yet his voice on tracks from his well-received solo album The Messenger sort of explains why he’s spent of his post-Smiths career making other bands sound better.

Jake Bugg may be young and may not have written a single song yet as good as his main idols – Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles.

But he is his completely his own man at a tender age and performs impressively.

He’s far too nice to be Eminem but I bet, no matter how long his career stretches, Mr Bugg will never resort to miming like the real Slim Shady did.

Oops. Did I just say that? I can’t actually say the greatest white rapper ever and the final headliner of Leeds Festival this year was miming.

I mean, Eminem did have a full live band, which was nice. The fact you couldn’t see his lips inside his white hooded top - even on the big screen - and that the sound on his vocal mic sounded different between songs as compared to the CD-quality rapping during each track, well, I don’t know, let’s just leave that one a mystery.

Australia seems to be the new home of psychedelia with two contrasting but equally brilliant performances from Jagwar Ma and Tame Impala.

The former band resurrected Screamadelica era indie-rave to stunning effect in the Dance Tent with Jona M on decks, Jack Freeman on bass and Gabriel Winterfield on vocals, guitar and silly, old skool, Mani-like Beanie hat.

Tame Impala’s majestic, booming modern psychedelia was even more impressive live on the NME/Radio 1 Stage than on record on their breakthrough album Lonerism. I’d have endured the 12 hours of mud in a nightmare quagmire and queuing until 2am for a bus just for Tame Impala. which, in a way, I did.

 

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