Leeds Fest 2012

It’s been a few days now, I’ve slept in a real bed and I’m not drinking gin for breakfast so I am ready to write about Leeds Festival 2012! It’s been a long time since I went to Leeds, my last visit was when Temple Newsam decided they didn’t want the festival back, so my bags were packed and I was off to Bramham Park.
The great thing about festivals is the opportunity to discover new bands and great music and Leeds was no different, I knew a couple of bands from the line-up but otherwise it was a weekend of discovery!

Friday started with my discovery of the weekend – Band of Skulls (I’m actually listening to them while writing this, sadly there are no vinyl releases yet). A heavy three-piece who make match a driving rhythm section with male-female vocals and some super-sweet guitar licks over the top.

Band of Skulls is the band you’d want to stumble across playing the darkened back room of a bar… lights low, drink in hand and their hard rock filling the room, which has plenty of groove to get the crowd moving (I’ve not been surprised to see they toured with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who share a similar sound on a number of their songs).

Friday also delivered my first tastes of the Eagles of Death Metal and The Gaslight Anthem, both impressive, but the Eagles of Death Metal slightly edging it as they followed the Band of Skulls perfectly, plenty of hip shaking bar room swagger for a Friday afternoon!

Friday evening saw the arrival of The Black Keys and I freaking love The Black Keys, from the early blues duo records to the more recent fuller sounding albums they have never lost their blues and ability to get you moving… it was an amazing early evening set that featured “Howlin’ For You”, “Strange Times”, “Lonely Boy” and “Tighten Up”… hard rockin’ blues, hit after hit this was a perfect festival set and they ruled the main stage.

Friday night was closed by the Foo Fighters who spent two and a half hours belting out classic after classic, from someone who doesn’t really know much about the band’s back catalogue it’s staggering how many of their songs you know. The field was packed for them and they worked it, at one point Rufus, the son of the Roger Taylor from Queen was playing drums while Taylor Hawkins sang “Tie Your Mother Down”… didn’t expect that!

Saturday brought a hangover that was eased with painkillers and coffee and then it was off back to the arena to see what the day brought and to build up to The Cure! The first band to stand out was Coheed and Cambria who had an impressive looking guitar rack at the side of the stage. Intricate and technical they showed how to be heavy and not rely purely on screaming vocals. Coheed and Cambria are next to hunt down after the Band of Skulls.

Paramore were also new to me (seeing a theme here) but were great fun, massive crowd and oh so many Paramore t-shirts on the Saturday! They made way for The Cure…. THE CURE… this gig has been a long time coming for me and to see the band live was momentous. And they were awesome, a huge sound filling the Leeds sky, plenty of smoke and Robert Smith’s vocals sounded amazing – the sound was beautifully mixed. A two hour plus set that featured the hits you would expect (“Boys Don’t Cry” and “Love Cats” were saved for the encore) but it was two songs in particular that hit home the hardest, a mind-melting “Pictures of You” from Disintegration (the album that made my love The Cure) and a spell-binding “A Forest”. This was two hours plus of magic, an effortless demonstration of how good this band is as each song weaved into the next – it wasn’t about gimmicks just beautiful music enveloping a crowd of fans.

Los Campesinos opened the final day, and these lot had more bite than I remember from when a friend played me their first album a few years ago. The beefier sound suits them and it was a great way to ease into the day.

Highlights of Sunday were the brilliant on-stage antics of Santigold and plenty of “hits from ads” that you would recognise if you watch enough TV like me! Another highlight was my introduction to Billy Talent in the NME/Radio 1 Stage, watching a circle pit open up was an impressive site like a vortex… obviously if I wasn’t edging closer to 31 and wearing wellies I would have been in there! I’ve had “Devil On My Shoulder” stuck in my head since in Sunday and you couldn’t leave the set without a massive grin on your face.

Florence could really do with being more machine like and toning down the wispy arms because she can most definitely sing… but wispiness and being marvelled by a sofa can distract me from the songs!

This left Kasabian to close the day and festival. I have a lot of early Kasabian records and remember seeing them in 2004 before they headed off to Glastonbury. Those early records came out of nowhere and for me weren’t tainted by the “lad-ness” that has built up around them. Live, they are amazing and have a huge number of songs which are perfect for the outdoor arenas and it was great to hear a number of the early singles. Kasabian are always a much better band (in my old opinion) when their guitar sound is mixed with the darker electronic beats and this was delivered during their live set… great to hear “Club Foot” and “LSF” live again.

Finishing their set in skeleton suits, Vlad the Impaler was much heavier than the recorded version and reminded me of that feeling in the air on a Sunday night that always drifted over Leeds Festival… waiting for that spark that used to signal to people to cut loose. Followed up by “Fire” they definitely delivered.


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