This Leeds Festival weekend was without a shadow of a doubt the hottest Festival weekend that I have ever experienced in the 44 years since my first festival. That was a very short visit to the 1975 Reading Festival, we bunked in under the fence and got to see Osibisa, then we had to run like mad to get the last train home. We were 16, had no tent and no money, but oh boy did it give me the bug! So how about we talk about Day 2 of the 2019 Leeds Festival. The first action I saw on Saturday was at the Pit/ Lock Up Stage for local band In Your Prime. They are brilliant and immensely talented, but I do hope that they are not actually in their prime for real because I really believe that they have so much more to offer and have the potential to develop into something very special. They spit out some dance tinged, emo veined heavy rock. Their stage performance is marvelously and magnificently manic with a ginger guitarist who plays like a harder-edged Johnny Marr. Then to cap it all off there are the classy vocals from Ruby Cooke. You should check out their tasty EP ‘Karana Mudra’ released last year.
I followed this great start with a trip to the Main Stage to see a band that I knew nothing about but I was attracted by their name, they are I Don’t Know How But They Found Me. Can a rhythm be a band? well of course and this pair pay testament to that aesthetic. There is a strong 80s pop sensibility with some smooth blue-eyed soul style vocals. Set closer “Choke” is a mighty powerful glam rock stomper that would have been a huge hit in the early 70s. Considering the band took their name from Back To The Future perhaps they can go back to 1973 and launch this great song to an unsuspecting world. I want to hear so much more from the self-styled cheapest band on the bill. Next, it was the BBC Introducing Stage for RØYLS who provide perfect power pop with some sublime hook-laden songs. Each one of their tunes is every bit as good as anything that Ed Sheeran has written. “Choose To Believe” is the definition of what an anthemic pop song should be. But the highlight for me was “Life Like This” which hasn’t left my head since, not just a great track but an earworm of the highest order.
The Festival Republic Stage played host to No Rome who played some delightfully chilled, ambient R & B from Manila. This was the perfect sound accompaniment for a scorching hot festival afternoon. Twin Atlantic was the next attraction on the Main Stage. It would be easy to compare them to Biffy Clyro but Twin Atlantic are so much more than that. They have some mountainous bluesy, punky riffs and songs that overflowing with soul and abundant with emotion. I have been listening to their fourth album ‘GLA’ and it is a complete gem of a rock record. I stayed at the Main Stage for Charlotte Emma Aitchison or as she is better known, Charli XCX. I was always a Reading/ Leeds rock purist and never liked the idea of pop at this festival. But through the years there have been some incredible and notable exceptions; Shampoo, Junior Senior and now Charli XCX. For the record, I am no longer that narrow-minded rock purist, it’s all about great music right? Charli has sass, style, attitude, and tunes to die for. The crowd loved her epic performance.
It was back to the BBC Introducing Stage for Suffolk singer-songwriter Caswell who I had the pleasure of seeing at last years Latitude Festival. She has a great band behind her and her songs are funky and synthy in equal measure. Caswell can handle fun dance songs and emotive ballads. Her vocals are sometimes Adele like but her range and depth is much greater. I sensed some Kate Bush-style singing on the beautiful “Surface”. I absolutely love “Brother” especially the “I am not the enemy” chorus hook. I am now a big Caswell fan. Bad Child brought their indie dance, top beats, and tunes all the way from Canada to the Festival Republic Stage. I must confess that I only popped in for some respite from the sun, but I am so fucking glad that I did! The BBC Radio 1 Stage played host to the Night Cafe. Jangly indie rock scousers with top-class songs and a musical lineage that can be traced back to C86 via the Icicle Works. Like my comments on Gunna yesterday I have to ask the same question after experiencing Juice WRLD on the Main Stage. When did rap become so dull and derivative? I am not offended by swearing and shit but was Juice WRLD’s assignment simply to see how many times he could fit motherfucker, pussy, and nigga into his lyrics? If so then I award this bloke an A+. Help me out, am I missing something subtle here?
I caught Jeremy Zucker from New Jersey on the Festival Republic Stage. He comes across as the bastard son of Justin Timberlake and Ed Sheeran when he is on his best form. But at times I found some of his songs a little bland and lacking emotion. But what do I know? The crowd adored him. I was drawn back to the Pit/ Lock Up Stage for Dream State from South Wales. I saw them here once before. This band has passion, power, guts and they wear their hearts ripped open on their sleeves. This is what great rock is all about, the band packs the mightiest of punches and CJ’s vocals are truly spectacular. A return to the BBC Introducing Stage enabled me to catch Inka Upendo from Finland via BBC Cornwall. Inka writes and performs lush, dreamy, danceable bedroom symphonies that you cannot ignore and are impossible to dislike. I particularly loved “Limbo”. She is a genius in the art of looping. It was a real shame that the crowd was so small and I really felt for Inka when her laptop blew forcing her to end her set early.
Back at the Festival Republic Stage I was lucky enough to see Twisted Wheel. Hailing from Manchester Twisted Wheel are one of the best newer British bands that I have seen in quite a while. They will definitely appeal to fans of Oasis, Blur, the Small Faces, the Clash, the Jam and early Arctic Monkeys. But I am definitely not saying that they are any kind of tribute act, they are just a classy fucking rock ‘n’ roll band. Liam Gallagher would cut his arm off to sound as good as Twisted Wheel. Staying at the Festival Republic Stage it was the turn of Black Honey to entertain us next and oh boy did they entertain. There are some obvious Blondie comparisons in terms of their look but Black Honey’s sound is much more garage-style, dirty rock ‘n’ roll. They owe a debt to the finest glam rock bands too. This is one magnificent live band. Check out their new album, the eponymously titled ‘Black Honey’ it is a massive hit waiting to happen. I first saw Blackwaters in York about 18 months ago while they were supporting Hello Operator and I bloody loved them from the start. Had he still been alive John Peel would have made Blackwaters regulars on his show. They are from a similar mold to Cabbage with a vibrant punk attitude. There are shades of Mark E Smith and Jonathan Richman in their audience engaging performance. Blackwaters lead singer has the Jarvis Cocker shabby chic retro fashion style and he is an effervescent, manic and hugely talented performer. A truly great British band!
Yet another visit to the Pit/ Lock Up stage came next for Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers. In my opinion, you don’t get much more punk than Laura Jane Grace. This was a mountainous, incendiary set that metaphorically took the roof off. Lara Jane speaks from the heart about living with mental health issues. On the evidence of this set, she not only survives, but she also thrives. Laura Jane Grace, we are not worthy! Staying in the Pit/ Lock Up tent it was time for PUP from Toronto. This is punk like it used to be, played hard, fast and short with not much chat between tunes. Not only does the band do exactly what it says on the tin they do it incredibly well. After this, it was a run over to the Main Stage for Royal Blood. A tsunami of a set; the power, the glory, the Blood! They pack the energy and firepower of a two-man Led Zeppelin. In fact, I would love to hear Robert Plant do some vocals for Royal Blood.
The BBC Introducing Stage headliners on Saturday were local band Marsicans. I saw them at this very festival last year, in fact, they were the first band that I saw at last years festival. They were good last year and now they are on another level. Songs that are epic in ambition and cinematic in scope. Marsicans are one of the tightest musical units around from the perfect beaty purr of Rob and Cale’s rhythm section to Oli’s swooping and swaying guitar licks through to the icing on the cake of Jame’s stunning vocal performance. Marsicans have the potential to headline one of the bigger stages at this festival someday. Rather interestingly, for me anyway, Ethan Barnett a.k.a. Ten Tonnes took to the Festival Republic Stage to the strains of Neil Diamond’s late 60s classic “Sweet Caroline” and everyone was singing along, even the kids whose parents had probably not been born when the song came out. In a way a classic earworm and feel good song like that summarises what Ten Tonnes offers. His songs work their way into your head and take up residence in your brain. Most of his tunes appear to tell stories and his lyrics are well thought and very clever. Ten Tonnes is worth more than his weight in gold!
I stayed in the Festival Republic Tent for cartoon Aussie punks and Mullett ambassadors, the Chats and frankly, they were perhaps one of the most fun bands to grace a Reading/ Leeds stage in years. They entered the stage to the power and pomp of the Rocky Theme. Their songs are short and high powered which I think were mostly about booze, drugs, and sex and they kept the crowd bouncing. They are like a Viz version of Ash and they deserve their own cartoon TV series. It was a tough choice but I decided to give the 1975 on the Main Stage a miss and instead head to the Pit/ Lock Up Stage for headliners Bowling For Soup. How does a band that has been around so long, they formed in 1994, draw such predominantly young crowd? Well simply because they are still a great band, they have huge songs, they are funny, engaging and know how to please an audience. All the big hits were there; “Girl All The Bad Guys Want”, “1985” and my absolute favourite of the night the stone-cold pop punk classic “Punk Rock 101”. Anyone who didn’t leave the arena with a big smile on their face after this probably needs medical treatment. Thank you for reading this far and I will regale you with day 3 shortly!
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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