Live Music + Gig Reviews

Festival Review: Leeds 2008, Day 2

23 August 2008

As Saturday broke over the Branham Park site, there was one unmistakable sensation.

That warm feeling on arms, that bright yellow object, so seldom seen this year… Yes, it was actually sunny. Still bloody muddy, but at least the sun was out.

So it was to a bit of a party atmosphere that Dizzee Rascal bounded onto the main stage to the sound of sirens. “I can hear the sirens coming” was the cue to get the entire 20 or so rows jumping and dancing as Dizzee expertly worked the main stage.
The big screen mixed in footage of Dizzee’s recent video, and the vibe during Dance With Me was so celebratory you almost forgot that this was basically two men wandering round stage shouting at people.

After popping into the NME/Radio 1 stage to see Duke Spirit, singer Leila Moss looking resplendent in a glittery gold dress, it was time to head to the Festival Republic stage to watch one of the year’s most intriguing emerging new acts, Florence And The Machine.

Florence Welch already has a pretty rabid fanbase if the crowd gathered inside the tent are anything to go by – cheering her every move and singing along to every word. It helps that she absolutely exudes star quality too: jumping like a hyperactive toddler around the stage, randomly telling her band that she loves them, or leaping into the front row of the audience. Her version of Cold War Kids‘ Hospital Beds is even better than the original and in Kiss With A Fist, she’s already got a bona fide classic. Utterly, utterly bonkers, Florence and her Machine are all set to be huge stars.

Another potential star is Ben Esser, yet he only attracted half the crowd that young Florence did. Those who did gather to the Festival Republic tent were suitably impressed though – with mass skanking breaking out in the front row during I Love You and football terrace chants of “Esser, Esser” every five minutes, the bequiffed one looked pleasantly taken aback at the crowd’s reaction.

Concluding a pretty special triple-bill in the Festival Republic tent was Ida Maria – a top hat toting bundle of kinetic energy who already seems to have a greatest hits set. Queen Of The World, Oh My God and Stella were all sung along to enthusiastically, while Ida herself looked almost overwhelmed during Better When You’re Naked when the entire tent took over vocals for her. After collapsing on stage, she emptied a bottle of water over her head, screamed “Leeds, I fucking love you” and departed. It’s safe to say that Leeds rather liked her as well.

Over on the main stage, The Enemy were conducting a mass singalong of Away From Here, and pedalling more of their somewhat pedestrian rock. Yet the Leeds audience loved them, and they did create one of the great moments of the weekend when the security guards refused to let stage diving bassist Andy Hopkins back onto stage, mistaking him for an over-zealous fan.

MGMT originally released their album Time To Pretend back in 2005, to little acclaim. Their particular brand of synth pop was surprisingly unaccepted, for a world that hadn’t heard the Klaxons in the mainstream yet. It’s interesting then, to see the rise of MGMT, as they pack out the NME/Radio 1 tent and a million youngsters jump around to Electric Feel, Kids and Time To Pretend.

They are, primarily, an act that knows a good synth riff, but you feel that with their willingness to experiment and indulge in a little psychedelic retrospective, they have the potential to attract a broader audience. You only wonder what they can do with their sound in the year to come.

Fellow New Yorkers Vampire Weekend were next up, providing one of the most anticipated moments of the festival. A packed tent witnessed one of the most joyous, life-affirming sets of the weekend, with A-Punk even leading to some natty formation line dancing in the crowd. Mansard Roof and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa were also rapturously received, but it was Oxford Comma that was the highlight – it seemed as if everyone in the tent had a massive smile plastered on their face as they left.

The incomparable Queens Of The Stone Age rock out in true ‘U.S of fuckin’ A’ style on Saturday on the main stage – something that we rarely see nowadays unless we’re going all out to a bikers convention or worse… to a Slipknot concert.

QOTSA are a refreshing glimmer of hope for true rock revivalists. The hypnotic Homme slurs, “I’ve been drinking from 6am this morning”, and remains composed for the show, his fret dashing mesmerising. Although some may describe them as stoner rock, QOTSA have mellowed since 2000’s Rated R, and Michael Shuman on bass should really be renamed MAN MACHINE.

Introducing Little Sister, Homme tells the tale of how the song is all about him sleeping with his best friend’s little sister, and, “she was beautiful”, he boasted. You’d think he’d have a little shame, but, alas, no. He was with Brody Dalle at the time, for Christ’s sake.

At last, the moment that seemingly the entire festival crowd had waited for. Word had it across the site that Pete Doherty had actually turned up, but nobody here was interested in Babyshambles. After a seemingly endless delay, the houselights went down 20 minutes behind schedule, and the day ended as it had begun, with the wail of sirens coming from the main stage.

The previous night in Reading, Rage Against The Machine had walked on stage in orange Guantanamo Bay-style jumpsuits. There was no such overt political sloganeering tonight, just a flawless run through of some of the band’s finest moments. Opening with Testify, it was possible to see, even from the back, that utter, utter chaos was being generated down the front.

A bit too much chaos as it turns out, for halfway through Bombtrack, the song ground to a halt and lead singer Zach De La Rocha beseeched the front rows to step back otherwise they’d stop playing. After a couple of minutes of uneasy silence, the band slammed right back into the song and mayhem again resumed. Bulls On Parade, Know Your Enemy and Bullet In The Head were all greeted ecstatically, with whoops of appreciation for guitarist Tom Morello’s seemingly supernatural way with a fretboard.

The only complaint would be about the noise levels – even stood halfway back it just seemed far too quiet. Festival Republic later blamed this on ‘atmospheric conditions’, but for such an anticipated band, it would seem sensible to check all possibilities.

Still, it didn’t stop everyone in front of the main stage enjoying that moment – the unmistakable intro to Killing In The Name sparking off more pogoing before thousands of people joining in unison, fists clenched, yelling “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me”.

The bruises would last for some time, it was a moment to tell your grandchildren about. Time to retire and replenish energy, ready for the final day.

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