Arriving in at Leeds Festival on Thursday night might have been the wettest decision we’ve ever made, pitching a tent in a torrential downpour a moment that would make anyone reconsider spending the weekend in a tent in the middle of Yorkshire. It’s a bloody good job 2016 featured another quality and varied line-up across all the stages, including the likes of Fall Out Boy, The 1975, Foals, Die Antwoord, Slaves and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Opening up the Main Stage of any festival must be nearly as daunting for a band as headlining the whole festival, but there were no visible nerves on show by Pop-Punkers State Champs who in the last two years since we first saw them have taken advantage of every single opportunity handed to them. After an evening of torrential rain, you’d have excused a lot of those in Leeds for staying in their tents, but thankfully it would seem that Pop-Punk brings sunshine and everyone loves sunshine. State Champs’ energy is infectious, and they certainly had the majority of those watching the Main Stage bouncing away any overnight cobwebs.
The Pit/Lock-Up Stage has been home to some of Vulture Hound’s most beloved Leeds Festival moments over the last three years of covering the festival, and out first viewing on that stage didn’t break that trend. There is something raw and stripped back about the Punk sounds of Strange Bones, they are creating something very unique but that shares a clear genealogy with the iconic British punk sound, and with that the fucking know how to excite a crowd without pandering to them.
Greywind have been getting a fair bit of play time on Kerrang and Scuzz (yeah, there are still music channels on TV) in recent weeks, so it was only fair we paid another visit to the Lock-Up to see what they were all about. There are often comments about the lack of diversity at Leeds Festival, but the fact that bands like Greywind are getting chances proves that there are female fronted bands ready to break out and take chances, they just need to be given support by promoters and record labels, and also be done in a way that keeps the bands legitimacy, just like Tonight Alive who we would go to see later in the day.
If there was one band on the bill we wouldn’t be missing (due to someone’s obsession with them) it was going to be Sleeping With Sirens. You wouldn’t have noticed that front-man Kellin was struggling with voice issues, mainly due to the fact that the crowd were filling in on those choruses even without encouragement. Credit to the band for even playing their set because over the weekend 2016 became the weekend of cancellation, so in hindsight a lot of fans were going home happy rather than disappointed to have seen Sirens tear through a catalogue of songs any young band would love to have. People say there are no future headliners in the industry at the moment, but give Sleeping With Sirens two years and I don’t think it would be out of the question.
One band doing the female fronted thing correctly are Tonight Alive, the Aussie rockers have changed their sound slightly with their new record and they are sending out all the correct messages. With some bands who talk about individuality, it comes across as in-genuine and preachy, and they really back it up musically.
How are people still not savvy to Modern Baseball? Yes the tent was full, but it still felt like the Leeds crowd were unaware of how good Modern Baseball are. Sometimes for pure selfishness there is a desire to keep a band to yourself, but with Modern Baseball you really want this band to reach the potential that they clearly have, with most recent record ‘Holy Ghost’ an indicator of what they can do. Live Modern Baseball they are full of energy, whilst retaining a level of melancholy.
Hip-Hop certainly has its place at Leeds Festival, but some would have questioned its place on the Lock-Up Stage, a stage usually reserved for emerging Rock acts. So colour us surprised that Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) actually managed to create something a little bit special. What MGK did was bring a live band that totally impressed you in the music, helping to give MGK a sense of legitimacy, this wasn’t just a man rapping over a backing track. The tent certainly wasn’t as packed as it had been for other acts during the day, but it certainly offered a strong alternative to what other bands on the stage had been doing during the day.
The term “dual headliners” is a little bit of a cop-out, there can only really be on headliner lets be honest. So the penultimate Main Stage act Fall Out Boy, were more an extended opening act than actual headliner. To me Fall Out Boy are the John Cena of Rock music because they divide people right down the middle, based on their varied back catalogue of songs you either sit in the camp of just wanting them to play their old Hardcore stuff or the camp who accept the Pop-Rock garbage that they’ve been putting out in recent years. Fall Out Boy do deserve to have this place on the bill, I don’t think anyone would argue that but I think fans of the Fall Out Boy of yesteryear would have been left with a bitter taste in their mouth.
Biffy Clyro were Fridays true headliners, and they finally provided that Leeds headline set that we at Vulture Hound have been waiting to see for the last two years of attending the festival. For someone who remembers first hearing ‘Vertigo Of Bliss’ to see Biffy headline a festival such as Leeds is a defining moment for the world to realise Biffy are possibly the best pure Rock band in the world, a moment that made some of those in the crowd shed a tear.
Over on the Lock-Up, Good Charlotte were continuing their triumphant return with the help of a packed out tent. Last year it felt like a certain headliner were resting on their nostalgia status, but Good Charlotte seemed keen to prove that they deserved to be back on top of the bill. Obviously they were going to bust out some of the older tracks, the Leeds crowd would have lynched them if they hadn’t, but even new tracks went down a treat with a crowd who were enjoying ending a day of Yorkshire sunshine.
One band that have promised to come back and headline the Main Stage, and without a doubt they will come back and do just that are The 1975. I really hate to say it, but The 1975 truly do have “it” that thing that sets them apart from the rest of the pack. There was zero chance of getting into the NME tent if you weren’t there ahead of time, such is the appeal and draw of the band to a younger audience. The 1975 probably could have replaced Saturday headliners Foals and still sold tickets.
Vulture Hound weren’t alone in attending Leeds Festival, with some of our good friends from other publications in attendance at Braham Park and over the years one act we’ve bonded over was Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Playing Leeds for a consecutive tenth year in a row, Frank Turner is now part of Leeds folklore and when you can open a day like Frank did you can totally understand why. I’m not going to explain how brilliant Frank Turner is, go see him live and you’ll just get it, Frank just has it, and those who were watching the Main Stage on Saturday morning will doubtless have experienced exactly what we experienced, and felt how we felt.
If the first of the days Franks was an experience, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes was something else. How many acts can tell a crowd to “get out of my fucking way” and still have them salivating over what they are going to do next? Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes had a “Leeds moment” last year on The Pit and they had another moment this year on the Main Stage. This is a band at the top of their game, and if you are in one of their mosh pits you are going to fucking know about it.
Despite the rain, Lower Than Atlantis draw the exact size crowd you’d expect from them with the worsening weather not stopping the crowds. With an album about to drop, you would expect to see Lower Than Atlantis back next year headlining one of the other stages, they’ve got a solid sound, a solid look and they are a likeable bunch of dudes, who clearly enjoy what they are doing. Legitimately, the sky is the limit for Lower That Atlantis.
Who knows what was happening during Die Antwoord’s set, I still haven’t quite worked out what was exactly what, signals my eyes and ears were sending to my brain didn’t always seem to make sense. I’m not saying it was good, I’m not saying it was bad, I don’t know what it was! But whoop there it was.
Reading and Leeds is as much about new music as the headliners, and the home for said new music is the BBC Introducing Stage with one of the weekends highlights being Muncie Girls, who were probably a little hard done by due to the torrential rain possibly keeping people inside the tented stages to save themselves from potential drowning.
21 Pilots seem at the moment to be the One Direction of the Alternative Rock scene, bridging the gap between Rock, Pop and Hip-Hop, a mixture that seem to be enjoyed by everyone in the NME tent and also those standing outside in the pouring rain dancing in puddles. It was what any band would want from a festival set, thousands of people singing along to every single word.
Something that did seem to be lacking from the day was some happy go lucky enthusiasm, but that was solved by the days headliners over on the Festival Republic Stage Maximo Park. The Festival Republic Stage has become synonymous with Indie acts, and Maximo Park seem to be a popular choice.
One of the things that sets Leeds festival apart from some of the other UK festivals is the Alternative Stage which gives comics a chance to reach an audience that they might not usually reach on the usual comedy circuit. One of these comics was a lass from Newcastle (see what I did there) Lauren Pattinson who got the crowd chuckling a little more than the act before her.
Those teenagers in the crowd who ventured over to The Pit early for You Me At Six’s “secret set” might have regretted it a little bit when they realised what exactly a HECK show involved. Much to the credit of the HECK boys they made sure that some of the HECK newbies were looked after, but still didn’t hold back from their usual antics with circle pits, climbing and crowd surfing galore. You can only hope that those waiting for You Me At Six had their eyes open to the glorious chaos that is a HECK performance and go home and consume début album ‘Instructions’, but make no mistakes this wasn’t a crowd made up of waiting teenagers there was an equal and enthusiastic crowd of people ready to lay everything out including their bodies at the alter of HECK.
Whenever there is a gap in the schedule on any stage there is always that speculation of a secret set, they tend to be exclusive to Reading Festival, but this year Leeds was also treated to a “secret set” from You Me At Six who are about to launch their album promotion cycle. It probably would have been more of a surprise if they hadn’t have played in Reading the day before, and word had most certainly spread of who would be playing bringing the biggest crowd of the weekend to The Pit. I’d have been intrigued to know if certain members of the crowd had come to Leeds on a day ticket, just for the opportunity to see You Me At Six because I certainly didn’t see them the day before.
After four days in the rain and the mud, and sometimes sunshine it was nice that our final band was one that we’ve been trying to catch live for the last eighteen months. After missing them on numerous tours and festivals, due to illnesses, clashes and interviews, non of them their fault, we finally got to see Milk Teeth live and it was totally worth it. There are so many British bands who have released phenomenal albums this year, and stand on the precipice of becoming the bands of the moment, Milk Teeth stand on that precipice and hopefully Reading and Leeds will have helped people see that.
With that we say goodbyes to our annual Bank Holiday home, and festival friends, get in the car and head South for a warm bath, heating and a proper bed.
~*Photography by Kimberley Bayliss ( KAFB Photography)*~