I am really not sure how many times I have been to the Reading/ Leeds Festival over the years, but I know that I haven’t missed many since my first Reading Festival back in 1975. The last year that I missed completely was 2007. Even after all this time, it remains a festival that excites me. So on to day 1 of the 2019 Leeds Festival. It took me so long to actually get on site that I only caught the final song from Milk Teeth on the Main Stage. This band is without a doubt one of the best punk outfits in the UK right now. They currently have the mightily talented Em Foster from Nervus in their ranks. Having spoken to a number of punters in the crowd around me as Milk Teeth left the stage it appears that I missed an awesome set from a great band.
To console myself I wandered across to the BBC Introducing Stage for an excellent set from Leeds band Talkboy. I sensed a bit of Heart, Arcade Fire and alt.country and simply fabulous pop-rock tunes. It was clear to me that Talkboy were really enjoying themselves and that joy easily infected the early afternoon audience, all of whom were smiling at the end. I made a run back to the Main Stage for SWMRS and like with Milk Teeth earlier I only caught their final song, which I believe was “Lose Lose Lose”. It certainly left me wanting to hear more, oh well maybe next year! AE Mak was haunting on the Festival Republic Stage with a set and a show that was refreshingly different to almost anything that I have seen recently (Later in the weekend Poppy made me rethink that!). AE Mak is like a friendly android formed from parts of Bjork and Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier a.k.a. Christine, of Christine and the Queens fame. Mak’s often robotic style of dancing was unmissable in a truly expressive dance like nobody is watching moment. AE Mak is one hell of a pop-dance act.
Aussie band the Faim drew me to the BBC Radio 1 Stage next. I had seen the Faim once before when they supported Lower Than Atlantis at Fibbers, York in May 2018. They were very good then, but in the 15 months since they have improved in the kind of leaps and bounds that only the Hulk would find easy. They are becoming a really tight and highly polished unit. There is DNA from the likes of INXS and U2 in their performance, attitude and stage presence. This band has the potential to become a great stadium band. I managed to lose more than an hour next after I noticed that I had been given a Friday wrist band rather than one for the weekend. This meant that I had to trek all the way back to the wristband exchange tent. While it took a bit of time to sort it out the team resolved it perfectly. I want to use this moment to give a big shout out to all the folks who work at the festival. Ticket staff, wristband issuers, Security, stage crew, litter pickers, medics, food and drink vendors, the Samaritans and anyone else I have missed. Without all of you, events like this could not happen. You might not consider yourself headliners but you are all bloody superstars. Thank you.
When I got back to the arena I headed straight for the Main Stage for the never anything but awesome Enter Shikari, a band that I have seen at Reading/ Leeds many times and even one small gig in Brooklyn recently too. They never disappoint and as usual, my favourite tune “Juggernaut” was immense. The crowd formed a couple of huge circle pits, although I didn’t spot many crowd surfers. Enter Shikari remains one of my favourite bands and I was excited to learn that this would not be the only time that I encountered them today. I returned to the Festival Republic Stage to catch the Himalayas, who despite what their exotic name suggests, actually come from Cardiff. They offer punky melodic rock that at times is cinematic in its scope. The dual vocal approach takes their sound to another level entirely. Great stage presence too and I must mention the guitarist who looks like he could be the ghost of Joey Ramone. The Main Stage hosted the long-awaited return of the Distillers who reformed last year after a 12-year hiatus. Leader and all-round Distillers head honcho Brody Dalle still has the edgy punk style and it was a stunning set from a much loved and much-missed band, I am so glad that they are back together. Their explosive 11 song set never let up for a moment. Particular highlights for me were “Die On A Rope” and “Coral Fang”. The Distillers had the crowd eating out of their sweaty punk hands.
Remaining at the Main Stage I witnessed girls-only crowd surfing and a girls-only mosh circle. What could this mean? Well, obviously that festival favourites and all-round great band the magnificent Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes were performing. Frank and his erstwhile musical partner Deano both ventured into the crowd for some surfing. Frank, as usual, gave a big shout out to all the support staff and rightly so. The band opened with an extended and stunning romp through “Tyrant Lizard King”. Every song was a highlight, particularly “Devil Inside Me” and a fiery take on “I Hate You” which Frank dedicated to Boris Johnson. That dedication received a massive cheer from the crowd and rightly so. I was pleased to see so many ‘Fuck Boris’ (and variants with a similar sentiment) T-Shirts and badges on display throughout the weekend too. Back to the BBC Radio 1 Stage next for Georgia-based rapper Gunna. I am a fan of quality rap music like Jay Z and Eminem, but Gunna? Seriously? When did rap become so bland, predictable, derivative and frankly, shite? Tupac and Biggie will be crying in their graves at this travesty. Gunna, better than Vanilla Ice, but only just! Next, I needed something to pick me up and make me feel positive again, so it was off to the Festival Republic Stage for Bakar. He draws on a huge range of British influences; the Specials (and maybe Two Tone in general), Mike Skinner of the Streets, Grime and classic R & B. This dude is a bloody good performer, so good that he has even walked the catwalk at a Louis Vuitton show. He is picking up lots of airplay right now and on this performance that is well deserved.
My first visit to the Pit/ Lock Up Stage this weekend was for another set from St Albans finest, Enter Shikari. Rou and the boys delivered an even more blistering set than the earlier one on the Main Stage. The flame throwers and confetti cannons were spectacular as was Rou’s climbing the rigging antics. This ten-song set was full of bangers and highlights. “Live Outside” which also featured in their earlier appearance on the Main Stage was special. They performed “Tribalism” live for possibly the first time ever. But for me “Take My Country Back” blew the roof off. I believe I would miss anyone at a Festival if Enter Shikari were playing. I understand that they played three sets at Reading so the southern crowd were even luckier than us in the north. Finally, it was time for the Foo Fighters as Main Stage headliners. I have always felt that this festival was built around Reading which means that in Leeds we get the Reading final day on Friday. But I will go and experience the Foo Fighters on any day. The big rumour of the day was that we would be ‘Rick Rolled’ and Dave would bring out Rick Astley to do “Never Gonna Give You Up” with the band. However, that didn’t materialise, although Reading got that on Sunday. we were treated to Dave Grohl duetting with his daughter Violet Grohl on “My Hero”, now these things can often be a little crass, but in my opinion, Violet has a great voice. Foo Fighters opened the show with a soaring stomp through “The Pretender” and most of the bands biggest songs were given a great airing; “Times Like These”, “Monkey Wrench”, “Best Of You”, “This Is A Call” and a mountainous “Everlong” to close the show accompanied by some amazing fireworks. In between all that we had a rather impressive drum solo from Taylor Hawkins. While Taylor was doing a bit of a Freddie Mercury vocal work out, Dave spotted someone, who we later learned was called Ryan, in the crowd dressed as Freddie Mercury. So obviously they had the crowd pass him over their heads to the stage. Now Ryan couldn’t sing but his performance miming to Taylor Hawkins vocals on a great version of the Queen and David Bowie hit “Under Pressure” was great fun. The band also played a storming cover of AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”. In my opinion, if you end a festival day with the Foo Fighters you will always go home or back to your tent a happy bunny and I was certainly that! It set me up feeling great for Day 2, more of that to follow!
All the photos apart from the Festival Line Up poster were taken on my cheap android phone. The videos were all found on YouTube, if one of them is yours and you would like a credit or for me to remove it please let me know.
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