Live Music + Gig Reviews

Leeds Festival 2006, Day 2 @ Branham Park, Leeds

26 August 2006

So the second day of the Leeds Festival dawns, and inbetween D list celeb spotting (Chris Moyles, Cain Dingle from Emmerdale and some bloke who used to be in Hollyoaks were just some of the stellar names out in force), we geared ourselves up for another day of hopping from stage to stage while sipping some very gaseous lager. (JM)

We arrived on site to catch the Long Blondes. Ever since the Arctic Monkeys played here last year and started their bandwagon on its incredible momentum, there’s been a whole host of Sheffield bands eager to claim the title of ‘the next big things’. This five-piece have been amongst the most hotly tipped, although they’ve yet to replicate anything like Alex Turner and company’s success. A packed NME/Radio One tent reacted well to their slightly New Wave-ish songs, with Weekend Without Make Up and Appropriation going down particularly well. There remains the nagging feeling that they could be more style than substance, yet if they keep writing songs as good as Separated By Motorways, this worry should be dispelled soon enough. Also, in Kate Jackson, they have a genuinely charismatic frontwoman who, if the cooing of “oooh, she’s so cute!” by a couple of girls beside me was anything to go, also has the potential to be a bit of a lesbian icon. (JM)

Following the Sheffield boys and girls came the truly extraordinary Guillemots. Their album Through The Windowpane has been one of the musical highlights of the year so far, and their performance here showed just why they are so highly rated. Fyfe Dangerfield, complete with huge hair and grizzly beard, appeared with a suitcase of various implements, including a typewriter (put to use on the 70s flavoured Who Left The Lights On Baby) and a dustbin lid. During the epic Sao Paolo, Dangerfield roamed the stage beating seven shades of the said dustbin lid, before putting the saxophonist in a headlock while he was playing his solo. Despite their eccentric reputation, Dangerfield has a winning talent for writing some heart-stoppingly beautiful songs, and Made Up Lovesong #43 and the joyfully uplifting Trains To Brazil were both special highlights of the weekend. Shame they didn’t play We’re Here, but they did manage to cram an awful lot into half an hour. (JM)

The lack of rain seemed to lift everyone’s spirits and by the time Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly came on the Carling stage, people all around were giddy with sun exposure. The rammed tent was greeted with a positive speech on “anti-Nazism” and continued to be fed spoonfuls of bouncy guitar joints mixed with rosy cheeked singing. (DM)

Staying in the Carling Tent, Little Man Tate, yet another band to have made the short trip up from South Yorkshire, were playing to an adoring crowd. They’re finding it a bit difficult at the moment to translate their MySpace popularity into record sales, but showed here why they’ve made their name as a live act. Frontman Jon Windle looked absolutely thrilled to be there (“what the fuck are we doing playing at the Leeds Festival?” he asked incredulously at one point), and his enthusiasm and energy was contagious. For those who have been rather underwhelmed by the band’s recorded output so far, it’s pleasing to note that they’ve still got some gems such as Sexy In Latin, Court Report and Down On Marie in their set. They may not be the most original songs ever, but they’re nigh on perfect for crowd surfing and pogoing along to, which is exactly what the Carling Tent’s audience did. Hugely enjoyable stuff, and no doubt they’ll be back here next year in the NME/Radio One tent. (JM)

Over on the main stage, The Subways continued their irresistible rise. Two years ago, they played the Carling Tent very early in the day, and their progression to the main stage has been speedy indeed. They’ve been touring America for a while, but this hasn’t stopped their apparently unlimited energy supply. An unrecognisable Charlotte Cooper (with brown hair and – shock – wearing trousers!) came bounding onto stage, and Billy Lunn proved his recent throat problems haven’t affected his voice, unleashing some of the most primordial screams this side of Black Francis. The crowd favourites were present and correct – With You, Oh Yeah and Mary all producing frenzied bouncing up and down by the audience – and I Want To Hear What You Have To Say was one of the big singalong moments of the weekend. (JM)

There were also a couple of new songs debuted, which hinted at a much heavier direction for the second album (think Ash’s Nu-Clear Sounds era), and a foul mouthed Billy took great delight in calling the audience ‘sexy fuckers’ for approximately a billion times (“I got told off yesterday at Reading for swearing too much – can you fucking believe that?” he exclaimed at one point). The huge stage did rather rob the band of the frenzied atmosphere that they would have created in an indoor tent, but they’re quickly becoming a festival staple. (JM)

Happily content with all things in life at that point, we stayed at the main stage only to be disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm Fall Out Boy put into their performance. But, despite the lull in proceedings, the atmosphere once again turned gleeful as Belle and Sebastian took control. Amongst a barrage of bubbles, marriage proposals (and acceptances), pretty girls dancing on-stage and a curious incident with mascara; they were the first band of the festival to really engage the audience and make it a truly interactive experience. (DM)

There was just enough time to catch some of the Mystery Jets set in the NME/Radio 1 tent, who proved yet again that they’re a formidable presence live. Henry Harrison has to be one of the coolest 50somethings in rock, grinning delightedly at the crowd and wandering the stage playing kazoo at one point. All focus is on his son Blaine though, sat behind his makeshift drumset and producing all kinds of strange effects. Their pop sensibility is reflected in winning tunes such as The Boy Who Ran Away and You Can’t Fool Me Dennis, which had the crowd singing along. Some of their songs do become a bit self-indulgent at times, but in Diamonds In The Dark they’ve got a bona-fide classic on their hands already. (JM)

While the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Karen O was entertaining the main stage clad in a unfeasibly colourful outfit and a Michael Stipe-style stripe painted across her face, we retired over to the Carling Stage where a criminally small crowd had gathered for Australia’s Howling Bells. Their eponymous album has been one of the big word-of-mouth successes of the year so far, its winningly downbeat mood capturing many hearts. It’s fair to say that petite frontwoman Juanita Stein has garnered a whole army of admirers as well, judging by the amount of male fans gazing up at her and cries of “I love you Juanita” being bandied about. Most of the highlights from the album were dusted down, including a gorgeously wistful The Night Is Young and a rocking Beat Happening. Comparisons to PJ Harvey have often been made, and it’s easy to see why – but there’s an gentleness and more serene quality to Howling Bells’ music that’s miles away from Harvey’s more manic vibe. It’s a mystery why they’re not more popular as songs such as Setting Sun would have sounded superb on the main stage as dusk fell over Branham Park. (JM)

Cautious of previous troubles and of tales of poor live reviews, we headed back to the NME/Radio One stage to spend some time with The Vines. However, as it turned out, we were bowled over by the Aussie rockers. Outtatheway and a moving cover version of Ms Johnson topped off the set setting the bar high. Dizzee Rascal seemed super-psyched to be at Leeds and you could feel the energy, even from the edge of the tent, radiating off him. Rascal knows how to entertain and he does so with such a vengeance you can’t help but nod your head like a bea-tch. A montage of recognisable tunes under-cuts a bombardment of in-expendable hip hop which seems to flow uncontrollably out of his mouth and into our shoes. (DM)

And so back to the main stage for the Kaiser Chiefs, playing to their hometown crowd of course. After being introduced by comedian Peter Kay (who, in turn, was introduced by Chris Moyles), Ricky Wilson and company appeared and launched into Na Na Na Na Na. They certainly had the crowd jumping in unison, but there was something badly missing. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’ve all heard these songs far too many times by now (and really, how many times can you put ‘wooooahhhh’ into each song without it becoming slightly dull?) or maybe it’s the fact that they’ve only actually written two decent songs. Yes, I Predict A Riot and Oh My God are fantastic singles, but the rest of their oeuvre is distinctly average, a feeling not dispelled by the large amount of new material debuted which seemed to leave their fans a bit nonplussed (although The Hate Mob did seem intriguingly dark). Ricky seemed a bit morose too, barely speaking to the crowd (apart from to get them to chant ‘Kaiser Chiefs’ a lot) and drawing out Oh My God far past its natural lifespan. (JM)

The Kaiser Chiefs fans didn’t do themselves any favours either though. Sadly, the Kaisers seem to attract an element that think it’s a good idea to go to a gig, throw beer over strangers, and run up and punch people during I Predict A Riot (ha, do you see what they did there?). It’s the ‘one gig a year’ fraternity, and although it was a competent enough performance, the increasingly aggressive atmosphere in the crowd meant that this was a set probably best forgotten. And I’ve not even mentioned the naked man crowd-surfing, which frankly is a whole new level of wrongness. (JM)

After a mass crowd singalong to Bohemian Rapsody and Paradise City (never let it be said that indie kids are ‘hipper than thou’), it was time for our headliners. There were a few grumblings when it was announced that Franz Ferdinand would be headlining Saturday – given the mighty rock headliners on either side of the day to them, it was somehow implied that they were a bit, well, ‘lightweight’ in this company. Such doubts where blown away almost immediately when the Scottish foursome stepped onto stage. They’ve tightened up their sound and now sound incredibly muscular. (JM)

The setlist was a pretty even split between the debut album and last year’s You Could Have It So Much Better, with Do You Want To provoking mass chants of “lucky, lucky, lucky” amongst the bouncing crowd. They were joined at the back by eight red robotic go-go dancers, which gave proceedings a slightly sinister edge, and even tracks on the last album which sounded a bit weak were terrific tonight. Alex Kapranos, who’d obviously borrowed Paul Smith’s white jacket from the previous night, seemed to be enjoying himself hugely, smashing his guitar into his amplifier, dedicating songs to the Kaiser Chiefs and even throwing in snatches of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes at one point. (JM)

The finale was a spectacular rendition of The Outsiders, complete with no less than 10 celebrity drummers from other bands, followed by a storming performance of This Fire. The sight of Kapranos and Nick McCarthy, bathed in blood-red light and advancing upon the audience with guitars raised like bayonets, was a definite ‘festival moment’ to remember. (JM)

And that was Day 2 in a nutshell, and we even had time to catch the end of Bobby Gillepsie and the Primals bringing down the NME/Radio 1 tent with Rocks. We couldn’t have really had it much better… (JM)

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