Alex Nelson reports on the final day of Leeds Festival 2014, featuring energetic showdowns and absentee heroes.
It may be a day of rest for many but Sunday show no sign of slowing down at Leeds Fest, and Beasts get the ball rolling over on the Lock Up stage, which for one day only is to be known as ‘The Pit’ with little to no explanation. Nonetheless, the London based grunge trio showcase their cutting Pearl Jam-esque rock with aplomb, and while the midday crowd may be of modest size, they’re witness to a tight show from the young band.
Pulled Apart by Horses have everything ready to go on the main stage; guitars, amps, garish backdrop featuring the artwork for soon to be released album Blood. But after a short wait a message flashed up on the screen and a stage hand comes to be the bearer of bad news: PABH won’t be appearing today due to illness. The announcement is initially met with boos from the no doubt disappointed hometown Leeds crowd, before news of bassist Rob Lee’s pre-show collapse spreads around the site.
Royal Blood have the NME/Radio 1 tent fit to bursting; such is the hype with which their meteoric rise from the small time has been coupled. The Brighton bass and drums duo rattle through the meaty rock riffs of choice cuts from their recently released (and critically “meh’d”) debut, Mike Kerr’s humongous bass sound filling the space by way of a pedal board that would give auto tune a run for its money in an argument on authenticity. Their set is in danger of falling into routine – Kerr makes the same “I wanna introduce you to the rest of the band” joke he always does – but when you have a set closer as go-to brilliant as the machine gun patterns of ‘Out of the Black’, why wouldn’t you?
Peace’s first main stage set at Leeds goes down a storm, and manages to dodge rain showers just long enough to allow the Birmingham four-piece’s shimmering indie to shine. Tracks from debut In Love still stand out with legitimately huge choruses (‘Wraith’, ‘Follow Baby’), but cuts from their soon to be released new album (their second in two years) feel rushed and forgettable. Aside from ‘World Pleasure’ of course, which sounds like a funked up version of Blur’s ‘There’s No Other Way’, and hints at a solid new direction for the band.
“Welcome to the New Gore Order” exclaims Israeli DJ Borgore before instantly tearing the Dance tent apart with a dubstep drop so heavy it probably comes with a reminder to ‘keep your back straight’. Indeed, Borgore – real name Asaf Borger – started off his musical life as part of deathcore band Shabira, and brings elements of heavy metal to his now electronic sound; grinding bass, pummelling percussion and seemingly random shrieks of noise. It’s not so disorientating to rip-up the EDM rulebook and start again, but it seems all truly is fair in love and brostep. The bells and whistles of his brand of aggressive electro house become tiresome after a while, and the overtly millennial attitude of the set – at one point he leaves the decks completely to shower the beautiful crowd with champagne – is enough to make any old cynic wince, but for the first 15 minutes or so, it’s hard not to sway with approval to every crunching synth explosion.
The Hives were simply made for the main stage at big festivals. Sure, there’s only one or two genuine singalong hits between them, but their songs are so simply catchy and infused with energy it’s futile to resist going mad to their Stooges-esque punk, even if you don’t know the words. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist is the world’s most underrated frontman, and perhaps the only who can turn over-the-top self-assurance (“The Hives are the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band I have ever seen, it’s just God’s grace that I’m actually in the fucking thing”) into a huge positive. ‘Tick, Tick, Boom’ goes on for an eternity, and features musicians playing human statues, clap-a-longs and introductions to each band member. But it manages to remain entertaining for its duration, a world away from the ‘puts those hands in the air’ moments that dog the sets of every other band on the weekend’s bill.