Well here we go, after many years of attending the Reading Festival (my first was in 1975) I have finally taken the plunge and opted for Leeds. The plunge is an apt phrase given the amount of rain that fell on the Bramham Park site in the preceding days. I went along with my mate John Hayhurst, a.k.a. Rock Photographer extraordinaire. But I was also pleased to see that my fellow long-standing Zimmer Twin and great mate Nick Horslen also made it to Reading on a day ticket. First impressions for me the Leeds site is that it is more compact, but there is no real noise bleed from other stages wherever you are. Also it has some natural slopes, so getting a great view of the main stage is easy even for a short-arse like me. The only downer so far has to be the volume of mud, but I’m commuting rather than camping so it’s not all bad!
My first visit of the day was to the Lock Up Stage for Fighting Caravans. This is a Leeds band who I saw on local news programme Look North the night before. So armed with that plus the fact that I love their name I really had to see them. They rock like an Indie Led Zep as if Alan Vega off of Suicide was in the band. They have amazing energy, especially the singer who dances like a Cheetah on Speed. A truly bloody brilliant band.
I chose Night Owls on the BBC Introducing Stage next, another Leeds band. They are a powerful two piece guitar and drums combo. They have similar genealogy to And The Hangnails, Slaves and Royal Blood. However comparisons with the White Stripes are worthless as the Night Owls drummer is far, far superior to Meg White. This is a damned good band and their song “Why Me?” has the makings of a classic.
The view of the Main Stage from a distance is superb, however for the Virginmarys I was quite close. This band are purveyors of fine punked up, high-powered, mightily potent saws with a large helping of raw soul. A Main Stage appearance for them was clearly a big deal for them and they certainly made the most of it. A fantastic band, I’m amazed that I haven’t picked up on them before now, but I’m glad that I finally did!
My muddy boot, but is that the shadow of a naked man?
All the way from New York the next act on the Main Stage were Coheed and Cambria. Do you like metal? Prog? Punk? Pop? Great riffs? Great hooks? Great hair? Concept albums? You do? Well in that case you will love Coheed and Cambria as many folk already do. I certainly need to listen to more of their stuff.
I sadly only caught the last song from Spring King on the NME/ Radio 1 Stage. But wow what an absolute belter of a full on psychedelic wig out! Definitely worth checking out. I had wandered across to this stage to catch Deaf Havana. Having seen them twice before at Reading I had to give them a shot didn’t I? Are they still a good band? Well yes they are and a late afternoon Main Stage slot for them next time would be fabulous. Will they make you deaf? Only if you stand to close to the speakers. Will they take you to Havana? I doubt it, but if you ask them nicely you never know.
Now it was time to grace the Festival Republic tent with my presence for Brighton’s Magic Gang. I caught them late last year in a support slot for Swim Deep in Liverpool. They had a lot of potential then and they proved it today with a stunning set. Their Bluresque (that is not a misspelling of burlesque, I mean a little like Blur) feel had the audience leaping, dancing, singing and truly enjoying a great band. The big question though is, are this gang really magic? Well the audience were spellbound so I guess that means that they are, right?
I stayed at the Festival Republic Stage for Ezra Furman. I don’t really have the words but I will try. He is like Jonathan Richman in a skirt backed by what could be a fledgling E Street Band who are also able to throw in a few Zappaesque moments. This is a proper ballsy and very intelligent rock band fronted by a supremely talented individual. Gotta love the Ezra! When can we all move to planet Ezra?
Wonderful proper boss scousers Clean Cut Kid stepped onto the Festival Republic Stage next. Clean Cut Kid are a fabulously exciting young band who once again left me with a feel good smile on my face. Just as they did at the Latitude Festival last month. This is excellent perky pop with feeling. I’ll say it again, this band are proper boss. I also suffer from beard envy of the singers magnificent face fungus, mine is pathetic in comparison.
I returned to the BBC Introducing Stage next for Lawrence Taylor. Lawrence’s band is very talented. He is a gifted singer songwriter with an amazing blue-eyed soul voice. That voice could certainly give Robert Palmer, Daryl Hall and Paul Carrack a run for their money. Mr Taylor is also an exquisitely skilled guitarist.
A wee trudge back to the Main Stage next for one of America’s finest; Fall Out Boy. Oh my how this band has grown and developed since I first saw them more than ten years ago. If you are appearing just before Biffy Clyro on the bill (and sorry I don’t buy all that co-headlining shite) then you’d better roll out something special and oh boy did Fall Out Boy do that!Amazing video backdrops and to cap it all flame juggling, Mad Max style dominatrix acrobats. To be fair the band were playing to a partisan crowd but they did have the punters eating out of their hands very quickly.
It was now time for todays main event (well in my opinion anyway) Biffy Clyro on the Main Stage. The one thing that has always been so obviously different between Reading and Leeds for me is that the closing day line up at Reading is always the opening day at Leeds. This was really clear with a monumental set from arguably one of the best bands on the planet right now. Biffy proved that their last headline slot in 2013 was no fluke. This is their tenth appearance at Leeds/ Reading, they really have earned top billing. Their set was incredible; a set of massive square frames that grew smaller the further they were from the front of the stage. A bit like a 21st Century recreation of sixties classic TV series ‘The Time Tunnel‘ (if you’re too young to remember that then I suggest you ask your grand parents). The energy of the band is incredible and while their recorded output is largely stunning, hearing those songs live only enhances them. Not only did Biffy crank the volume up to 11, they did the same with the bombast. The particular high lights for me were “Captain”, “Many Of Horror” and “Black Chandelier“. I’m already looking forward to seeing this band own the stage once again, perhaps in 2019? ‘Mon the Biff!