Alex Nelson reports on an action-packed opening day at Leeds Festival 2014, taking in everything from pop-rock to EDM.
The Wytches kick off the weekend in typically noisy fashion, and it’s not long before the circle pits have started. Sure, the sound may be off, something that isn’t rectified all day (the NME/BBC Radio 1 stage is just a tad too big, and the space isn’t sure whether it’s outdoors or in a tent), but the Brighton doom-surf trio still manage to pack enough of a punch with their grungy songs. The dirgey final riff of ‘Crying Clown’ presents the festival’s first thrilling climax – 25 minutes in.
Allusondrugs won their BBC Introducing stage slot in a local battle of the bands style competition, and it’s obviously a big deal for them. Frontman Jason Moules sups straight from a bottle of honey between tracks to keep his vocals smooth, and the band give it their all from the opening chords of ‘Stir’; guitarist Damo tripping and falling towards his amp in spectacular style within the first 30 seconds. The set is marred somewhat by exciteable hometown fans hurling sarcastic abuse towards the band at every availability and newer songs could do with some intelligent refinement (‘Fortnightly’ is a fairly by-numbers grunge riff affair), but all in all Allusondrugs stand apart from the weekend’s other BBC Introducing hopefuls through sheer live intensity.
Emily’s Army feature Joey Armstrong – son of Green Day’s Billie Joe – on drums, but they sound fairly unlike the Green Day rip-offs you’d expect. Although hailing from Oakley in California they come infused with something of a British sensibility to their brash punk, and evoke the nuance of bands like FIDLAR and the Black Lips.
Papa Roach present WOW’s first foray to the main stage, if only to relive the childhood feels of 2000’s Infest (first album I ever owned). The US hard rockers waste no time launching into the title track of that album and the now socially poignant ‘Between Angels and Insects’, and Leeds is immediately transported back to the heyday of nu-metal. After 20 years frontman Jacoby Shaddix is still a captivating showman, at one point launching himself from the stage and through a flimsy tressle table – WWE style – and at all times whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The sight of hundreds of seasonally attired girls clambering onto their boyfriend’s shoulders to gleefully bark the lyrics to ‘Last Resort’ – a song famously about self- harm and “contemplating suicide” – is a strange one indeed, but it makes for the festival’s first singalong anthem.
Hull upstarts MOTHER pummel the BBC Introducing stage with their brash rock ‘n’ roll. It treads dangerously close to the laddier of rock (Oasis, Kasabian et al) at all times, but thanks to just enough noisy vitriols from the guitarist has a serrated edge. Expect these guys to make waves across the Humber and beyond.
German producer Alex Ridha – aka Boys Noize – does his thing over in the BBC Radio 1 Dance tent. Effortlessly switching between dance music’s plethora of sub-genres, he mixes everything from minimalist techno to bass heavy house, all wrapped up in his trademarked formidable electro. It all builds to a finale of unashamedly tear-out EDM which gets the crowd (which has slowly been filling the tent from the start, intrigued by the noise) chanting along in appreciation as a mass of bodies moves with the beat.
The Horrors’ set is still blighted by poor sound quality in the NME/Radio 1 tent, though you get the feeling that even a water tight production wouldn’t save their lacklustre performance. The band recently cancelled a string of UK tour dates for mysterious reasons; though on the basis of today’s performance they could be withdrawing from the live setting altogether, such is the disinterest with which they play. Frontman Faris Badwan lurches menacingly at times, recalling the band’s black-clad goth-punk beginnings, though it seems as if he is simply trying to break free of the monotony around him. The usually caustic ‘Who Can Say’ nibbles where once it bit.
Klaxons take on an usually high billing on the Dance stage. Sure, tonight’s set proves they survived ‘nu-rave’ with more than a shred of dignity (even if the matching white suits beg to differ), but we’d argue they’re still a guitar band at heart. Nonetheless, tonight’s show serves up surprising hit after hit, and the Leeds crowd is reminded just how many memorable songs the band have, especially from debut album Myths of the Near Future. Older tracks like ‘Golden Skans’ and ‘Magick’ sit brilliantly along newer cuts like ‘There Is No Other Time’, and all are played with a tightness that belies the band’s recent time away from the spotlight.
letlive. attract WOW to the Lock Up stage on the basis of front man Jason Butler’s “livewire performance style” promised to us by the festival’s official programme, and we’re not disappointed. Within two songs he has managed to crowd-surf to the sound desk and circumnavigate the primitive measures in place to stop revellers climbing the rigging of the tent, before hurling himself back in to the throng. The stop-start nature of his band’s tempo switching emo-rock only adds to the chaos, and despite a few awkward heart-on-sleeve moments (“This song is for the only two women who have ever loved me unconditionally, my sister and my mom”) it’s hard to look away from the band’s triumphant set.
Blink-182’s long awaited headline slot draws the biggest crowd the festival is likely to see all weekend, and comes packed with all the LOLZ you’d expect from the whiney pop-punkers. Chortle as the word ‘Fuck’ is spelled out in flames! Snigger as Tom DeLonge cracks dick jokes between songs! Guffaw as Mark Hoppus promises everyone at the festival a bladder infection! Cringe uncontrollably as you realise these are men approaching or in their forties who really should know better! The jokes wear thin.
Still, the set is full to bursting with four chord hits, played with passion – if not the best of technical ability – by three guys who are still obviously having fun with it, and while everything from ‘What’s My Age Again?’ to ‘Rock Show’ blends into one nasally squall where songs become almost indistinguishable from the next, it certainly keep the Leeds festival demographic happy.