Leeds Festival 2012 review

'Leeds Festival is not down and certainly not out'

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

Virtual Festivals - 28 August 2012

“Why would you wear a Kooks t-shirt to a festival?!” one man exclaims in horror. The spewed venom directed towards the unfortunate individual seemingly out of place at the lauded Leeds festival. Such uninvited vitriol can appear to be omni-present at the weekend event (one is reminded of The Gossip's Beth Ditto one year berating what was probably a very embarrassed fan of Kasabian's 'Empire' for sporting a Union Jack), as pushes, shoves and near-fights over trivialities are filed by regulars as 'Classic Leeds 2k12'.

The festival still provides what for most is the last of a summer slumming, offering up an idealistic binge in the mud that is everything Crystal Castle's (6/10) set represents; flailing around on hands and knees in soggy bark, chugging Jack Daniels and screaming discordantly. This image of the typical Leeds goer is as riddled with familiarity as this year's lineup, and the failure to sell out tickets this year, coupled with the less than impressive crowds for headline acts, speaks worryingly for the future of this festival.

Fortunately for fans, however, even the re-returning bands can effortlessly provide all onlookers with a good time. Foo Fighters' (7/10) over-long (or is it 'ever-long'?) Friday night set and professional showboating doesn't greatly affect the crowd's enjoyment of the rock legends, despite one punter remarking that they're “so vanilla they should be put in a cone”. The Cure (8/10) may have been a risky gambit as headliners in this day and age; the avant-garde, telling it like it is performance is akin to Radiohead's 2009 Saturday slot. Both bands play sets more for themselves and their fans rather than anything to entertain the zombied masses, though the gothic golden oldies manage to kill it and even induce a youthful twenty-person dance line to their more upbeat material. Most surprising of all is the shockingly hard-hitting presence of young blooded Leicester lads Kasabian (8/10), as the Sunday headliner draws the biggest crowd of the weekend. With a casual coolness and more rock'n'roll pizazz to offer than their older equivalents Kaiser Chiefs (7/10), vocalist Tom Meighan's tribute to the late Neil Armstrong (and the moon) uplifts and moves the audience, as does Beatles cover 'She Loves You'.

This thrilling end could not entirely eclipse the fact that, despite the hopes of many, punk rockers Green Day never flurried to a secret set at Leeds after performing at Reading, to widespread disappointment. Yet it cannot be denied that punk et al was sufficiently represented: Apologies, I Have None (8/10), The Skints (8/10) and Random Hand (9/10) would have made bands such as quiet indie soppers The Vaccines (6/10) quail in their boots, while Mongol Horde (8/10) prove that Frank Turner can still 'do' hardcore. His impassioned gallops around the Lock Up in just shorts almost make up for the lack of Billie Joe Armstrong's hip-waggling. Bouncing Souls (8/10) cast a fatherly shadow over all this, calmly and happily accepting rampant fandom from members of Star Fucking Hipsters (6/10) and Anti-Flag (9/10) who carouse onstage to sing along to the punky pop of their youth.

While calls for 'Free Pussy Riot' on the aforementioned Lock Up may be a trope, so is the atmosphere entwining the (now dance) stage of the Sunday; an overflow of macho glow paint, water guns and males named 'Luke', all banged up to the monkey nuts. Yet this can't detract from Modestep's (9/10) brilliantly fresh dubstep-fuelled performance, standing head and shoulders above all too conventional female rapper Azealia Banks (6/10).

Luckily, the final day invites many opportunities for a dance than the one tent. While Los Campesinos! (7/10) are on too early for their hip chic darkly joyful pop to be inspire movement even to 'You! Me Dancing!', Pure Love (7/10) manage to gain much adoration. The (now un-toothed) ex-Gallows (9/10) frontman Frank Carter is never without a crowd to carry him, creating tear-inducing fun from a band who by all rights should be on the scrap heap joke pile. Santigold's (8/10) electronically electrifying performance, complete with break dancers, is another little danceable surprise, while Florence and The Machine (8/10) seem set to headline Leeds very soon.

It seems that this year the flat plains of Reading has out-done its northern counterpart, yet Leeds Festival is not down and certainly not out. While it may bitterly lose out on the more glamorous secret sets, the event can at least boast a more impressive nightlife, a slightly improved layout and a more eclectic mix of people.

-- Ali Ryland and Sam Lindsay

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