The third and final day of the Leeds Festival had begun, and as everyone’s allowed a lie-in now and again, it was about 2pm that musicOMH dusted itself down and headed to the Main Stage to catch The Shins.
Luckily, the weather had stayed fine, and The Shins make the perfect musical accompaniment to lying in the field trying to plan your day. They may look utterly unglamourous with their beards and sun-hats, but moments such as Phantom Limb and Australia were just sublime.
Sadly, the lumpen, self-important rock of ex Blink 182 man Tom DeLonge’s Angels And Airwaves followed to ruin the moment. So, it was off to the NME/Radio 1 Tent to see if The Young Knives could lift our spirits.
And they certainly rose to the occasion. They’re probably the most unlikely looking indie-pop stars in the world – all tweed, specs and suits – but moments like The Decision and Weekends And Bleak Days are the very definition of slightly menacing, quirky guitar pop.
Even better were the new songs they debuted, especially forthcoming single Terra Firma which looks set to take them on a level. Finishing with a rollicking She’s Attracted To, we’d forgotten all about Tom DeLonge and prepared for the inevitable crush that homecoming heroes The Pigeon Detectives would create.
There was definitely a party atmosphere in the tent, even before the Pigeons took to the stage. After a mass singalong to Brianstorm over the PA, it was time for massed chants of “Yorkshire” and bouncing along to I Found Out.
It’s live that the Pigeon Detectives really make sense. Like their compatriots the Kaisers, they make music to jump up and down to and sing along with – it’s not big, it’s not clever, but it can be incredible fun. It doesn’t really matter that all their songs sound pretty similar, it’s just about having a good time.
Lead Pigeon Matt Bowman also kept the crowd entertained with his between-song banter: “Who do you hate more? Reading or terrorists?” he asked the fiercely partisan crowd, and you can guess the answer. It was also quite amusing to hear the plummy, middle-class girl in front of me say to her friend “oh come on, this is tremendous fun” before raising her fist and chanting “Yawwwkkshiiree”.
Back to the main stage for a band who would no doubt cringe if their audience bawled “Laaahhnndan” at them, the ever cerebral Bloc Party. Although a miniature cuddly toy sat by the drums proclaimed “Bloc Party rock!”, there was something a bit underwhelming about their performance.
It may have been the fact that they’re a band more suited to the indoor arena, or even just that their more recent material fails to hit the heights of debut Silent Alarm, but something seemed to be missing. Highlights such as So Here We Are and Helicopter still sounded as good as ever, and when Kele Okereke ran down to the front of the audience to sing The Prayer, it would be churlish not to admit that he’s one of the most likeable frontmen in music.
However, Hunting For Witches just seemed to drift by, and only the excellent Waiting For The 7.18 seemed to match their best moments. A disappointment then, but we couldn’t stay downhearted for too long as it was nearly time for Canada’s finest, Arcade Fire, to grace us with their presence.
What followed was the highlight of the weekend – an intense, incredible hour which confirmed Arcade Fire to be one of the best bands in the world today. The stage set was impressive enough – projectors, a red curtain and a church organ towering over the band – but when they pick up their instruments and start playing, it’s no exaggeration to say it’s close to a religious experience.
No Cars Go was incredibly uplifting, making one want to just jump up and punch the air during the “hey!” moments, Intervention was beautifully haunting, and Laika sounded as weird and wonderful as ever. Even Win Butler berating a member of the crowd for waving a Volkswagen flag (“did they pay you to wave that? Take that down please” seemingly unaware of the irony of playing next to a huge Carling logo) couldn’t spoil the moment.
Finishing with a glorious triple whammy of Rebellion (Lies), Power Out and Wake Up, I looked around and counted at least five people with tears streaming down their cheeks. Only Arcade Fire can do this. The undisputed highlight of the weekend, to be sure.
It really was a case of ‘follow that’ for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and sadly they just couldn’t. This was their final gig of a seemingly never-ending tour to promote the Stadium Arcadium album, and they were determined to enjoy it. Unfortunately, for the Chilis, this means subjecting the audience to endless guitar solos, bass meanderings and other such self-indulgent nonsense.
The alarm bells were sounded right at the start when we had to sit through John Frusciante’s interminable guitar noodlings for what seemed like an age – eventually Anthony Keidis appeared and it was a blessed relief when the familiar strains of Don’t Stop kicked in. But this seemed to be the template for each song – each one stretched far beyond their natural lifespan by the Chilis’ penchant for funk-rock jamming.
There wasn’t even time for crowd-pleasers such as Under The Bridge, Scar Tissue or The Zephyr Song, although thankfully the old classic Give It Away was saved for the finale. But by this time the crowd seemed more preoccupied with starting the traditional final night fires.
As ever then, a mixed bag of a festival – the Carling Weekender does have its bad points (obscenely overpriced food and drink, a slightly nasty, aggressive attitude and a high proportion of beered up idiots) but for many people it’s the highlight of their musical year, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.