Having been a Reading stalwart and purist for so many years 2018 marks my third visit in a row to Leeds since I swapped my venue allegiance. I still love it, although like many people I found the first line up announcement a little disappointing and underwhelming. However that is just a first reaction opinion and while I do believe that the headline slots for the Main Stage are the weakest for a while, the smaller stages have a wealth of great singers and bands on offer. So for this weekend I planned to spend most of my time away from the Main Stage and that is what I did. I should add that after being in the gilded palace that is the press tent last year I was slumming it this year as a proper paying punter. So after what seemed like a hundred mile trek from the car park, through the campsites (I was so glad I didn’t choose to camp) I made it to wristband exchange and security. Well now the security are armed with sniffer drugs to find illicit narcotics on festival goers. One of those dogs became very interested in me, but I had no drugs stash on me at all. But I did have a pocket full of dog treats from walking my dog Ziggy earlier in the morning before I set out. So it all worked out fine and at least it wasn’t the full body search with lubed-up latex gloves!
Fittingly the first band that I saw on day one of Leeds 2018 was from this fine northern city that names this festival. The band is the magnificent Marsicans on the BBC Radio 1 Stage. They are in possession of some top tunes which they deliver with driving rhythm and soaring harmony laden vocals. My first visit to the BBC Introducing Stage was for a fast rocking honest rock band Saltwater Sun from Reading. They have been around since 2015 when they released their first single “Habit On My Mind”. Jennifer Stearnes has a great voice and it was clear that the band were having great fun and that definitely infected the crowd too.
My first visit to the Main Stage this weekend was for Billy Talent. My son used to refer to them as Billy No Talent, well he was, and still is, wrong. These experienced Canadians whose first album came out as far back as 2003, give us North American pop punk at its best. Not only that but their showmanship and tenacity saw them play on through some incredibly diverse weather with what seemed like up to ten seasons in fifteen minutes! If you like scuzzy, noisy garage punk then you would have loved October Drift’s set on the BBC Introducing Stage. The Taunton quartet prove that rock can still be edgy and anti mainstream. I love October Drift! I returned to the BBC Radio 1 Stage for NF a Michigan rapper who began to get noticed three years ago to the point where now his current album ‘Perception’ is an unstoppable force. As a white rapper he may well be fed up with comparisons to Mr Mathers, however he is just as talented with rhymes, cyphers and delivery. The staging was clever, especially the full-sized prison cell. Set opener “Outcast” is one of the best rap cuts of the last few years and “Let You Down” brought the house down effortlessly. A future headliner? That is definitely possible.
My first trip to the Festival Republic Stage was for the rather strangely named Welshly Arms all the way from Cleveland. Ohio. Their first full length album ‘No Place Is Home’ is out now. What are they like? Well if you had DNA from the Detroit Cobras and Reef and then added a spoonful of a Stax Records 60s Soul review with a pinch of Led Zeppelin then you might get close to what this band are. They seem to be an incredibly passionate live act with a penchant for classy gospel and blues driven rock ‘n’ roll. “Sanctuary” is an anthemic festival classic in the making. Bedford boys the Scruff on the BBC Introducing Stage are like a wild hybrid of Madness, the Libertines, Blur and Ian Dury. They also have a wealth of emotion which was showcased beautifully in the sublime “Her” a song about mothers and the loss of a mother. My heart was wrenched and this song brought a tear to my eye. The Scruff are without doubt one of the best bands that I have seen gracing the BBC Introducing Stage.
Next it was the Pit Stage for Exeter trio Black Foxxes. What can I say about them? Some Jeff Buckley, some Jonathan Richman, a bit of Emo and so much more.Bloody hell these dudes play their rock extra damned hard even to the point of including a hard rocking trumpet on their final song. The Vaccines were on the Main Stage next. I believe that the Vaccines were invented for festivals like Reading/ Leeds. They keep their core fans more than satisfied and always seem to win over legions more at each festival appearance. Their set was full of Vaccines classics and every tune is a sing along for this crowd. “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”, “Teenage Icon” and “Post Break-Up Sex” were highlights in what was an outstanding set. Let us play the ‘what if’ game now. What if Bobby Gillespie had fronted Free and not Paul Rodgers? Yes you will need to ignore the usual time and space rules to imagine this. Well if you can imagine that then you might have moved some way towards what the Glorious Sons from Kingston, Ontario are like. They smashed it on the Festival Republic Stage. These guys are definitely glorious and I suspect that they are all sons too. But above all that the Glorious Sons know how to party like it’s 2099.
I stayed in the Festival Republic tent for Lewis Capaldi the Scottish blue-eyed soul sensation who crashed into the music scene big time with “Bruises” last year. He has the voice of a much more wizened personality, yet he is only 20 years old. As well as being a staggeringly good singer and performer his sense of self-deprecation is perfect. His comment to the audience early in the set; “if you don’t like short chubby guys singing sad songs then you’re gonna hate this” only seemed to draw more people toward him. Mr Capaldi is one of those rare raw talents and I look forward to hearing much more from him. The last act for me on day 1 of Leeds 2018 was Slaves on the BBC Radio 1 Stage. They make a righteous noise as Isaac and Laurie continue to challenge the ills of society and the apathy that exists in their generation. “Cheer Up London”, “The Lives They Wish They Had” and “Feed The Mantaray” were stand outs for me and I should also give special mention to their towering cover of Skepta’s “Shutdown”. Overall a great day, which only included two visits to the Main Stage. Bring on day 2.
Public Service announcement: apart from the branded festival poster pics all the pictures were taken by me on my cheap Chinese phone. The videos are all sourced from YouTube. If the video is yours and you would like me to credit you or take it down please get in touch.