Alex Nelson reports on an action-packed second day at Leeds Festival 2014, taking in rock heavyweights and rising talents.
“I’m sorry you don’t know any of these songs. But you’re still going to love them!” announces Gerard Way confidently, in what is presumably now set to become Reading and Leeds’ ‘legends slot’. Indeed, the midday set of the My Chemical Romance ‘legend’ is received with fervent adoration, despite these being Way’s first solo shows on UK ground and next to no one having heard most of the songs before. Ever. Sounding distinctly distant from his old band, when removed from the emo-pop setting where whinging voices are ten a penny, Way’s melodic whine reveals itself as a patently unique voice, adding a deft quirk to his Britpop inspired rock. Interesting stuff.
Blood Red Shoes may be dwarfed by the gargantuan main stage but the two-piece guitar and drums combo still manage to put on a full bodied rock show. It may lose a little of its energy in the open air, but as the duo run through tracks from their latest, self-titled fourth album, it’s clear the pair have come a long way from the ‘disco- grunge’ of their debut. Songs like ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘Je Me Perds’ may fizzle along at a hundred miles an hour, but cuts like ‘Red River’ reveal a more thoughtful side to the song writing, without letting up on the fuzz for a second.
Saturday afternoon seems to be the time for the two-pieces, and over on the Lock Up stage, Kent’s Slaves are absolutely on fire. Their ferocious punk is performed – as ever – with tongues knowingly in cheeks; ‘Where’s Your Car, Debbie?’ tells a tale of being stalked by a sasquatch in the woods while ‘Girl Fight’ describes a chavvy brawl on the streets of Royal Tunbridge Wells. It’s a thunderous noise that Slaves manage to claw from their minimal set up; Isaac Holman pounds his kit standing up while Laurie Vincent plays guitar.
The third and final two-piece of note on the Saturday are Sheffield’s Drenge, whose set buzzes with an electric energy that can sometimes be absent from their shows. It seems the brothers Loveless’ ambitions stretch beyond their two-piece limitations, and often Eoin’s guitar can get muddied beneath one too many effects pedals. Not today though, and as they run through tracks from their debut self-titled LP of last year it’s hard not to be swept up by the ferocity of their performance. Ending on the victorious double whammy of ‘Fuckabout’ (a song we can imagine going down a storm on Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage circa 1997) and the drawling fuzz of ‘Let’s Pretend’, it’s obvious that if Drenge continue to get it right, a bright future awaits.
Blackpool’s Darlia have been compared to some of the heaviest hitters in grunge by many in the music press. Though on the basis of this evening’s performance, it’s almost impossible to see why. Even if you squint. It’s got chugging guitars. Check. It’s got pained vocal inflections. Check. But their Brit-school brand of squeaky clean rock is enough to make Kurt Cobain gyrate furiously in his grave. A handful of explosive choruses manage to get under the feet of the Leeds crowd, but guitarist Nathan Day hurling his guitar through a mock Marshall amp is the final nail in Darlia’s achingly specious coffin. Truly awful stuff.
Eagulls’ venomous post-punk drives the Lock Up stage into a frenzy, and even sees an appearance from Drenge’s Eoin moshing manically to the Leeds band. But a set breaching the half an hour mark seems just a tad too long for the band, and there’s only so much of George Mitchell’s yelping one can take before it all gets a bit wearisome. When they hits their stride, as on ‘Footsteps’ and ‘Moulting’, Eagulls grab hold and threaten to never let go.
Vampire Weekend seem a perfect booking as the cloud breaks over Bramham park and early evening sunlight beams down, adding a sunny vibe to their already cheerful afro-beat inspired indie-pop. There’s a worrying degree of auto tune across a few of the songs and for a moment it looks like we’re heading towards the next great ‘were they miming?’ style debate, until front man Ezra Koenig cracks a joke about the band’s “auto tune era” and all is forgiven with a cheeky smile. ‘A-Punk’ predictably gets everyone in attendance shuffling, whether hardcore fans camped out on the barriers or more relaxed punters who jump up from their picnic blankets to bop along.
Queens of the Stone Age make a strange case as co-headliner. An amazing band sure, but perhaps not one with enough bona fide ‘hits’ to keep a festival crowd entertained for more than an hour. Perhaps the world’s biggest cult band? Still, Josh Homme and co.’s performance proves them to be true masters of their art, with everything from 2000’s ‘The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret’ to last year’s ‘My God Is The Sun’ being played with note perfect precision. A sprinkling of lesser known album tracks from …Like Clockwork scupper the momentum at times, but for the most part it’s an all conquering set.
If QOTSA seem an unlikely headline act on account of a lack of legitimate hits in their arsenal, then Paramore must be like something from an especially surreal episode of the Twilight Zone. The relatively small main stage crowd of teens and recent A-level success stories fired up on cheap cider lap up everything thrown their way by the Tennessee pop-punkers, but ‘Misery Business’ and ‘The Only Exception’ are the only two tracks from their near two-hour set that have any hope of ringing around the heads of the less informed fan. Still, the stage production is brilliant, with the band making strange use of the cavernous space by playing as far away from each other as possible on raised platforms, and when frontwoman Hayley Williams selects a flabbergasted young fan from the crowd to sing a verse or two, hearts melt.