Live Music + Gig Reviews

Leeds Festival 2006, Day 1 @ Branham Park, Leeds

25 August 2006


There may have been no Glastonbury this year, but it can’t be denied that there’s been a festival for everyone this year. Whether it be folkie noodling at Green Man, chilled out atmospherics at the Jazz Cafe picnic or good old indie-rock at T In The Park or Summer Sundae, this year’s festival-goers have been spoiled for choice. (JM)

The Carling Weekend, as it’s now rather horribly known, usually signals the end of the festival season and, with Glastonbury’s pastures enjoying recouperation, this year’s events at Reading and Leeds were the biggest yet. Branham Park at Leeds is home to gassy beer served in paper cups, ridiculously over-priced food (6 for fish and chips, you say?) and impossibly beautiful girls in fetching denim shorts/wellingtons combos – and it gladdened the heart to see that, although it was bigger, really nothing had changed since last year’s event. (JM)

Friday is traditionally rock/metal day on the Main Stage, and we arrived just in time to see Florida’s Less Than Jake attempt to entertain the crowd. An odd mix of thrashy metal and punk-pop meant we were less than impressed, and the band’s seeming obsession with telling us how they’d just come back from Germany (it “sucked” apparently) soon became dull. The following act on the main stage, Bullet For My Valentine, were perhaps best summed up by an unimpressed punter as she wandered away from the arena and out of earshot of the whining onstage: “Thank fuck for that…”. (JM)

The first act we stumble upon at the NME/Radio One Tent is the Canadian female-fronted band, Metric. The lead singer, Emily Haines, oozes sex appeal and looks like she could blow Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ singer Karen O away in a water fight. Their latest single Monster Hospital has definite mass appeal and stipulated their intentions unlike Tapes ‘n Tapes who appeared to be less ready for the ‘Leeds experience’. (DM)

Frontman and ex-Pavement bassist Josh Grier seemed nervous and wailed “It’s retarded I’m up here (sic) today ‘cos last year I was one of you guys”. Despite the energy, they didn’t hit the notes required and fluttered off without much applause. Shame. (DM)

After a few beers we headed to the Carling Stage to catch Good Shoes who impressed with a flamboyant mix of London beats and Texan grunge. One teenage girl in the crowd enjoyed it so much she started doing head-stands which left the band as confused as anyone around her, including this author. More beer was definitely required if the day was to run smoothly. (DM)

Before we knew it, The Research took to the stage dressed as smartly as Prince Philip at a Christening. Wakefield’s finest confused more than entertained although the performance was largely held together by the singer’s freestyling keyboarding and the drummer’s angelic looks. (DM)

Back at the NME/Radio One tent, we decide to see whether Goldie Lookin’ Chain could get the crowd ready for the weekend. There were to be no worries on that score, packing the tent to near capacity and getting everyone jumping along to Guns Don’t Kill People Rappers Do. They’re as daft as ever, and can be quite endearing, but as some bloke from Manchester once said, that joke isn’t funny anymore. They really need another catchphrase as ‘you knows it’ and ‘safe as fuck’ are getting rather tired, and there’s really only so many times you can laugh at Your Mother’s Got A Penis. Kudos to Maggot though for keeping it real at the Festival and not attending his former Big Brother colleagues’ Chantelle & Preston’s wedding the same day. (JM)

You couldn’t get more of a contrast between a bunch of tracksuited Welsh novelty rappers and an intensely serious post-rock Canadian collective, and Broken Social Scene knew it. “Er, hi…how do we follow that?” the bearded Canucks introduced themselves to us at the start of their set. They followed it by performing a set of absolutely exquisite beauty – Broken Social Scene make music to lose yourself to, and by the time the opening 7/4 Shoreline had reached its ecstatically uplifting climax, you knew you were watching one of the highlights of the festival. No matter how many people appeared on stage (at one stage, there were at least four guitarists), their music never sounds crowded or too busy, and songs such as Fire E’yed Boy were beautifully hypnotic. The highlight of the set though had to be the re-appearance of Metric’s Emily Haines, who performed a gorgeous rendition of Anthem For A Seventeen Year Old Girl – I’d be surprised if there was a dry eye in the house at this point. (JM)

Then, it was back to the Carling tent to catch the last of the indie-dance unit, The Klaxons. Whistles were plentiful in the crowd as virtual shapes were cut and musical stereotypes blown away when they surprised everyone by covering rave classic Not Over Yet to finish the set – and not a hairy back in sight. (DM)

Larrikin Love duly followed – their growing popularity owes much to a fusion of country pop, indie guitars and unexpected cow bell banging. And despite their popularity, you get the feeling that they won’t be around for very long because, with all the will in the world, there are only a certain amount of songs you can make with three chords.

Given the success of Inside In/Inside Out, you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Kooks deserved a slightly higher place up the bill than their relatively lowly status would indicate. They may never be the hippest or most edgy band out there, but it’s clear that a lot of people have taken Luke Pritchard’s summery anthems to their hearts. In fact, there were so many people crammed inside the NME/Radio One tent, that it all threatened to get a bit nasty at one point, with so much pushing, shoving and crushing going on that an angry stage-hand had to rush onto the set to order the crowd to step back. (JM)

Given all this excitement, The Kooks more than lived up to expectations, giving us 40 minutes or so of perfect singalong pop. Opening with Seaside, Pritchard didn’t even need to open his mouth, as the crowd took over lead vocal duties, and didn’t let up for one single minute. She Moves In Her Own Way was greeted with similar ecstasy, and when the opening chords to Naive were struck, you’d think the roof was about to come off the tent. The crowd were also treated to a brand new song, Looby Lou, which indicated that the Brighton band’s success will not be short-lived. The only downside to their set was how long it took to exit the tent, there were that many people crammed inside. (JM)

While The Rakes continued the indie theme in the NME/Radio One tent, it was time for a bit of a break from guitars over at the Carling Stage where Hot Chip‘s gloriously off-kilter electronica was charming a large audience. Five men stood more or less stock still in front of some keyboards may not seem the most enticing prospect live, but their set was wonderful. Disproving the theory that electronica can be cold and aloof, songs like Boy From School and especially Over And Over pulsated with energy and emotion. Diminutive lead singer Alexis Taylor manages to sound both soothing and angry on Over And Over (“Laid back? We’ll give you laid back” runs its central line), while his bandmates swap instruments and generally prove utterly compelling. The British Kraftwerk? It’s a tall order, but they could just end up that way. (JM)

Headlining the Main stage Pearl Jam returned with an emotional comeback to the festival scene. Two hours from the giants of rock flew by effortlessly (with the help of yet more beer) showing the younger generation how it was done. (DM)

Tears formed in Stone Gossad’s eyes as the band reached the climax of their set. Highlights from the American rockers include Alive which gives everyone watching goosebumps, the quality of instrument playing and a bizarre tale told by Gossad of a dream he had the night before about George Bush having sex without a condom as an analogy for the war in Iraq. We all nodded our heads politely. (DM)

So while Pearl Jam were rocking away on the main stage, it was up to Newcastle’s Maximo Park, to bring the first day to a conclusion. Performing in front of a rather gaudy red backdrop, Paul Smith was clad in a very brave combination of white jacket and wide brimmed hat, and the band ran through all the songs that we’ve grown to love over the last year or so. Graffiti sounded terrific, while everyone sang along to the “one in a million..” refrain from The Night I Lost My Head. The band’s best songs, Going Missing and Apply Some Pressure, still sound wonderful, although there’s a definite feeling now that it’s time for some new material before they really milk this set dry. As a end to a near-perfect day though, this did just nicely, and Smith proved he’s one of the nicest men in showbusiness by seemingly genuinely taken aback that so many people were packed into the tent while one of America’s biggest bands were playing across the field. (JM)

So, the rain (kind of) stayed away, the burgers still tasted nasty, and hot pants and wellies have never looked so good. Roll on Day 2…. (JM)



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