Sweaty, tired and bruised - and that's just the sound engineer in the Lock Up Stage. Following a weekend of behemoth shows and chunky beats we recount the top ten acts in the tent just for him...
Polar Bear Club
With the absence of a main stage day dedicated to music of the rawk persuasion, it falls to the Lock-up stage this year to peddle the metal, so to speak, for the weekend. Second act of the day, Polar Bear Club, tear onto the stage like a bat out of hell but a broken bass guitar mars their energy and makes their impulsive pop-punk sound like two peas rattling around in a tin can.
After a quick fix though, they’re off, drawing a crowd double the size of previous band The Computers. Vocalist Jimmy Stadt’s hoarse yet melodic voice is the perfect accompaniment to their aggressive yet accessible sound, which is suited to small shows like this. And although there’s evidently as many old fans as newly-converted ones here to appreciate the band’s energy, their catchy but somewhat one-dimensional sound makes it difficult to see how they can progress higher up the festival bill. DL
Thursday still remain one of the most underrated bands in the post-hardcore scene but judging from their set it's hard to see why. While the older likes of ‘Cross Out The Eyes’ with its bi-polar hardcore rhythm sound flat against the likes of denser newie ‘Resuscitation Of A Deadman’ (complete with quick guest appearance from Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath), they have the rare ability of being able to bring as much charisma to their more experimental tracks as to the visceral. So the set’s crowning moment is the echoing collapse after the mosh churning centre of ‘Beyond The Invisible Spectrum’, Geoff Rickley carefully cradling his mic in the red glare of the tent lights as he sang. Incredible. RB.
Ghost of a Thousand
By Sunday it’s clear people are beginning to flag somewhat – the main arena has an almost deserted feeling to it while no-one is buying any alcohol from the bars. However Ghost of a Thousand are having none of it. “I don’t give a shit if you’re tired and I don’t give a shit if who don’t know who the fuck we are,” berates vocalist Tom Lacey indifferently, ordering a circle pit during the incendiary ‘Left For Dead’.
Following after local band The Plight who impressed with their brutal metal-tinged rock but failed to get those gathered moving, GOAT are like a kick to the teeth. Lacey has a voice like shredded knuckles on bruised skin, adding urgency to the band’s already exciting, muscular hardcore and when he tells you to move, you move, scared he might come into the crowd and stab you with a mic stand. This is a band who are loud, savage and somewhat abusive, and the punk scene is all the better for them. DL
Refreshingly, this weekend’s Lock Up line-up wasn’t dominated by the usual roll call of MTV2 faces, giving the chance for punk’s elder statesmen to take to the stage.
Anti-Flag may not have packed out the tent like Alexisonfire before them or Billy Talent after, but few bands showed such genuine compassion for the nature of the scene they belonged to. In between fist-pumping renditions of ‘Die For Your Government’ and ‘The People Or The Gun’, they took time to big up their influences and those they influenced, the importance of tolerance, and whoever fell down in the pit, you can be sure they were picked right back up again. All gigs should make the crowd feel this united, especially at a festival. RB.
If there’s one thing everyone must do at a festival, it’s experience the infectious atmosphere of a ska band. Streetlight Manifesto were that such band this year, as their crowd skanked and jumped to the brass thumps and bumps, whipping up such a frenzy that can’t be matched by any normal band. ‘Normal’ is not a word to be associated with the third wave ska youngsters, so take their advice: “Go on the interwebz and steal the f*ck out of us!” AR.
Festival Republic could only have made a more controversial choice by going for BrokeNCYDE for this slot at the Dance stage. Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte's talent for tongue-in-cheek crunk and pop-electronica is already a myspace phenomenon, but their set proved that their cheeky charm doesn't just lie in their smart-ass videos, in a smart but tight set that saw punters spilling out of the gills of the tent at lunchtime. However, VF was genuinely surprised, not by the size of the crowd who showed, but who was in it, fans ranging from indie kids and emo scenesters, to huge burly hardcore fans with vicious looking tattoos singing out loud to 'Don't Trust Me''s falsetto chorus. Seems that even the proper punks aren't immune to the whit-whoo. RB.
Showcasing live music at a festival isn’t always a smart move. Even if their line-up didn't consist of some of the most influential names in hardcore punk, the reunion of Rival Schools last year was cause to celebrate for anyone into classic power pop. Their return to Leeds was way past overdue then, as they chose the festival not only to remind people of the driven chug of ‘The Switch’ and minor hit ‘Used For Glue’, but showcase the fruits of their last year on-and-off in the studio. The spacey ‘Choose Your Adventure’ and the alternative drivetime anthem ’69 Guns’ slotted right into an impressively relaxed set for the faithful; a testament to 20 years of live experience as much as to the strength of great songwriting. RB.
While their earlier set on the Main Stage as ‘Mariachi El Bronx’ was mainly a straight-ahead showcase of their alter-egos’ new record, their later set was about proving their reputation for great live sets wasn’t just about a bunch of hardcore dudes in mariachi costume. The slow start from the compact crowd soon picks up when Matt Caughthren decided to investigate for himself, climbing into the crowd to somersault from the central pillar of the tent for the storming ‘White Tar’, and from there he barely leaves us to our own devices, nearly starting a riot when he decides to do pit security himself during ‘History’s Stranglers’. A visceral sweaty monster of a set that truly was, as Caughthren eloquently put it “a big fuck you to the outside world, ‘cause what’s happening in here is ten times better than what’s happening out there.” RB.
The Lockup’s second twofer this weekend, Alexisonfire brought their melodic hardcore to more familiar surroundings for their second set. While awestruck fans of the band tend to talk about frontman Dallas Green as a genius, in reality, it’s George Pettit who is the heart of tonight’s show, not only the foil in the anthemic ‘This Could Be Anywhere In The World’, but the embodiment of the pent-up tension and release of thousands in slow-burning closer 'Happiness By The Kilowatt', prowling around the stage as Chris Steele throws his bass around to the song's blistering climax. Their main stage show may have been celebration, but this was a revelation. RB.
One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend saw the Dance stage swelling with bodies for West London’s Lady Sovereign. Despite slipping off the stage on her arrival, and accidentally unplugging the DJ mixer later in the set, she soon entranced the crowd spitting out playful, yet barbed, rhymes with effortless cool. As she prowls from left to right, pulling at the stage clock, flashing her bra and smashing the cymbals with the mic, she comes off like the naughty kid in school; feisty, rebellious but with a sweet, gifted edge. MH
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