Sunday, 5 September 2010

Another Year, Another Wristband!

Having just about recovered from another year’s festivities it’s time again to look back on the Leeds Weekend, and slate it retrospectively. Dreaming of a grand return to the days of the Carling Weekender we have to ask; how exactly did this year compare to 2009 and the glory days of years gone by?

After any traumatic experience it’s human nature to strive to do things differently in the future, to avoid the same outcome, after all insanity by definition is to repeat the same behavior whilst simultaneously expecting different outcomes. Therefore, after a shambolic campsite experience the previous year, it was only right that I should demonstrate my healthy state of mind by joining the flock of early birds in descending on Bramham park a whole day early. The early bird, a ticketing phenomenon created by Festival Republic that many festival veterans have been thus far reluctant to involve themselves in, would appear to have become a necessity. Only a couple of years ago it was normal to arrive at the site fresh faced on a Thursday morning after a good sleep the night before, you’d have to work your way through an endless cue of bodies and the traffic would be unbearable, but you’d still find yourself camped where you wanted to camp with space for the whole family. Oh how things have changed! These days it’s a prerequisite to arrive on the back of an early bird and an extra fifteen pounds to secure camp in any of the campsites closest to the arena. Shenanigans in 2009 resulted in the worst campsite in history (try sleeping on a main pathway, under a tree, with no mattress and lots of stones) and led us to flock to the park early, admittedly this time from door to full set up completion, only two and a half hours was taken from my life but, what was definitely the easiest entrance to the festival, still turned up some surprises.

Yellow Bubble. The campsite of all campsites. The daddy of all festival homes, the safe haven for the festival veteran. The campsite we couldn’t secure last year. The campsite, which comes with the gift of slumber. It would be there for the taking. The fearful stroll across the rolling hills of Bramham demonstrated just how popular this new phenomena had become, anyone would be excused for thinking that by arriving at 2pm you’d be welcomed by near empty fields but as was the case nobody could have expected campsites to already be bursting from the seams. The trek into the unknown was never going to be pleasant but it was reassuring when we managed to pitch up in one of the finest BublĂ© quadrants. Why on earth have Festival Republic started this premature regime? What was in store for us this on this Wednesday debut? And how were we going to survive the long day that follows?

Well, as should have been reasonably expected of Mr Melvin Benn, the relentless man that he is, there was nothing in store for us on our Wednesday debut. Post set-up and multiple trips to the car it became clear that our fifteen pounds contribution was merely for the privilege of descending upon Bramham early and did not entitle us to any extra entertainment. Time to entertain ourselves… would we be doing this the whole weekend? One can hardly forget the dismal evening scene from last years festival which was less an ‘Oasis of Rock n Roll’ and more a ‘Carpal Tunnel of Dub’ but the real question was always going to be ‘Has Leeds turned into a weekend rave?’. Obviously, the line-up remains the finest in Rock and Roll, it isn’t this that has de-evolved, but the Leeds sub-culture of neon-nosed teenagers. Last year saw the stark revelation of the ‘Relentless Tent’ which, much to our disappointment and our disapproval, had made a return, like a cold you just can’t shake off, again, we were let down as we were forced to endure the evening spectacle of teenage, binge-drinking, drug using school leavers. It would appear this is the new theme! Festival fashion has always been close to my heart, I truly admire those who can survive the festival looking pristine, as much as I admire those who come out of the other end of ‘Rachel’s Gate’ looking like they’ve fought in Afghanistan, but I do not like this new trend of School Leavers Hoodies. Warm, they may be. Convenient, they may be. Cool, they definitely are not. Leave them firmly at home next year kids, I’ve heard of pride for your University but pride for your compulsory secondary education? I don’t think so…. It would appear that this festival has fast turned into a Region-wide leavers party. What a horrible thought! I call for an age limit outlawing under eighteens, I can just about listen to folk talking about getting into Uni, but to be subjected to talk of GCSE results? Just NO!

Festival Republic still hasn’t quite got all the glitches ironed out when it comes to this festival. I still say that more needs to be made of local, unsigned talent, especially on the evenings and Wednesdays if this early chicken lark continues, and you still find bands on the wrong stage. Whether this is down to NME or the organisers themselves, it wouldn’t have taken a genius to realise that in a time when folk everywhere are buying into twee, indie, lovable musicians, the epitome of this genre shouldn’t be squashed into the NME/Radio 1 tent, but they were, and there were two major errors in judgment by organisers this year, which caused massive problems. The first oversight was at ‘Pendulum’. It’s no secret that this band has become huge, and everyone knows how crazy those drum and bassers can and did get. They played a truly fantastic set and there wasn’t one unhappy face in the crowd, until that is, they went to leave. Having played on the ridiculously located NME/Radio 1 stage, seeing the thousands of danced out and juiced up folk try to leave, was a horrific sight. Stuck in a bottleneck because stewards had neglected to fully open the exit gate, hundreds of fans were caught like sardines with no way out. Paramedics were called, security alerted and poles mounted, it was a disaster. Panic attacks, fires, you name it, everything was happening. Needless to say, it was an, ‘epic fail’. Not quite as disastrous or as problematic but equally as disappointing was ‘Mumford and Sons’ situation on the same stage. With most of the crowd left watching the gig from a poor quality screen, sat on one another’s lap, Festival Republic once again demonstrated a poor lack of judgment. I’d like to say it was a good performance, everyone looked to be enjoying it, but from my position on the outskirts of the field, let alone the tent, I can’t profess to actually hearing a god damned note!

For this writer, the attraction of Leeds 2010 was always going to be the reunion of ‘the Libertines’, a band close to my heart in many ways. There have been incredible amounts of ‘will they, won’t they’ hype surrounding this gig and I don’t really know why, surely the more ‘will he, won’t he’ headline was the 'Axel Rose show'?! Anyway, as was to be expected a great crowd descended on the main stage to witness the show, or the spectacle and the boys didn’t disappoint. With only a mere three-minute waiver of confidence from Mr Doherty, the full set of classics went ahead, hitch proof and with a complementary heir of sickly sweet brotherly love. Whether this new found love for each other was sincere or not, I wouldn’t dare to comment, but Pete was firmly on this Planet and Karl had found the confidence he lacked in performing solo, never have band mates needed each other so much and never have this pair made their fans so proud.

A band I was less than enthused about seeing from the off had to be ‘Blink 182’ or should I say ‘Travis Barker’, or is it Blink 183,4,5? When this band split, I didn’t really understand the wide spread sorrow, so needless to say, I didn’t really appreciate the adulation of them reforming. In fact, the only member of this trio worth the acclaim they receive is one Travis Barker, drummer and producer extraordinaire. The band played all their hits, I think, and had some cheeky banter, but were somewhat upstaged by the prior performance of ‘Weezer’. The only memorable aspect of Blinks performance came from Mr Barkers drum solo on a platform, which did a full 360-degree rotation. Weezer on the other hand proved their coin by giving a masterful performance. Showing their experience, they performed in a manner any headliner wishes they could perfct, enticing the crowd, climbing the speakers, shimmying across the billboards and finally throwing open the artist/crowd partition and running through their fans. They did it all and finished the set with every member of the crowd wanting more and doubting Blinks power to outshine. Rightly so, absolutely superb.

I Blame Coco’, the project of Stings daughter and rising fashionista Coco Sumner showed that it’s not just her brogues collection that demands acclaim but also her ballsy take on musical entertainment. Only really present at the gig because the bands name had drawn our attention earlier that morning, it was surprising to discover that Stings little madam is following in her old mans footsteps, and this band has quite the journey ahead of it, watch this space! ‘The Freelance Whales’ are another exciting prospect if you ask me. There’s a great influx of this style of music coming through at the moment so it worries me that this little gem might go without the recognition they deserve, with stella single ‘Hannah’ due for release, this fun loving band are great value. Stealing their limelight, and arguably deservedly so, are bands like ‘The Drums’ who played an exceptional set. Heavy comparison has been drawn between these and another band from across the pond, ‘Vampire Weekend’ but the Drums definitely have the potential to overtake twee rockers Vampire Weekend. With an heir of the Smiths coming through via the bands superb front man, the only issue I could take with the Drums was their failure to play their two recent hits ‘Lets go Surfing’ and ‘Saddest Summer’. I criticised ‘Sir’ Alex Turner for neglecting his hits last year and it’s only fair I do the same here, for a festival set is nothing without the hits, it’s these which we are paying good money to celebrate and someone should inform all of these serial hit neglectors out there, of the five ‘Festival Commandments’:

(1) Thou shalt always please the crowd,

(2) Thou shalt always play the floor fillers,

(3) Thou shalt have a good time,

(4) Thou shalt do a good cover, and

(5) Thou shalt be on time.

You can’t really go wrong if you arrange your set list having regard to these and a premium example of this was found on the main stage for ‘Cypress Hill’ who were an abundance of stoner fun, and then lurking unexpectedly in the NME/Radio 1 tent on the Sunday in the form of ‘Phoenix’, a soft rock band with their roots in Versailles, France. Not overly popular in their native, they rely on support from the States and cult support from the edgy regions of the UK. Low expectations were in play when Mr. Wella Wannabe and myself strolled over, and I can honestly say that from the outset, we were blown away. It was disappointing the see half the crowd disappear prior to their entrance, never before has a band so much proven the point that music has to be experienced live to be properly appreciated. Phoenix have a mellow sound to their latest album, ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’, they almost sound like they’ve spent a little too much time seeking perfection in the production room, a little like the ‘Wild Beasts’ , but nothing prepared me for the robust drumming powers of borrowed drummer Thomas Hedlund and the eccentric antics of front man Thomas Mars who at one point, threw himself at the mercy of his fans. A truly magnificent set all in all, and the only band I went away from the festival with a little more space in my heart for. Whether it was the astounding light display, which was like nothing I have ever seen at a festival, or their pure energy on stage, this band proved their weight in gold and I shall definitely be watching out for UK Tour Dates.

Other bands I’ll be looking out for in the future are ‘NOFX’ and ‘Frank Turner’. The first, very experienced to the point I seriously think they are more comfortable on stage than in their living room, gave a fun loving set with comical, almost cartoon-esque moments where the band exchanged puns and jokes…

‘My dad died in the Auschwitz’


‘He fell off his watchtower, drunk!’

… and the latter, fairly new to the scene but rather enchanting and very honest performer Frank Turner. His set was warm, lively and everything you want from an artist you enjoy. I shan’t be looking out for, or mentioning in any more glory than this, ‘Guns ‘n’ Roses’, because I don’t believe they were there. Axel did his best, only arriving on the stage 30 minutes late and having a glorious rant at Mr Benn in an attempt to extend his curfew, but the band just isn’t the same without the rock royalty that is Slash. I’m sure they were entertaining enough though.

So, admittedly, this is hardly the short summery I intended it to be when I started writing but I feel it’s all well founded! With the entertainment being so lax, it was nice to resort to entertaining ourselves as it would have been back in the 60’s (or so I imagine!) and I have a query for you all; ‘How many of these ‘popular’ throwbacks from the land of verbal discomfort are you able to bring yourself to use? We tried and tested some of the following with great success!:

Win, Fail, Epic Fail, Fo'Sho, Mo'Fo, Sick, Phat, Okies, Fair, LOL (a full list shall be compiled below!)

Don’t be afraid to try them out yourselves, and Muchos thank you to everyone I camped with, for I had a splendid weekend. Highlights being:

(1) The Punk Duck

(2) The Guardian Poncho

(3) Limbo at Cypress Hill

(4) That silly sod that security nearly threw out on the Friday for well, being a silly sod

(5) Super messy Saturday, as per…. and,

(6) Showering in wine.

Until next time!!