Live Music + Gig Reviews

Wireless Festival 2007: Day 2 @ Harewood House, Leeds

16 June 2007

Saturday dawned over Harewood House, and with it came no rain at all. Yet the more experienced festival-goers know never to trust a morning’s weather forecast and so the wellies and waterproofs were again pulled on for Day 2 of the Wireless Festival.

Today was classed as ‘indie’ day, although it’s debatable exactly how independent bands like the multi-million selling Kaiser Chiefs and Editors can really be. More accurately, this was ‘guitar music you can jump up and down to and sing along with’ day, and as such attracted the biggest crowds of the three days.

The first act we caught in the Tuborg Tent was the very much independently minded The Crimea. After being unceremoniously dumped by their record label last year, the five-piece from London made their latest album available to download completely free in April.

It was a tactic that paid off, as a loyal army of fans down the front danced along to and sang every word of Davey MacManus’s rather tortured epic songs. All focus was on MacManus, jerking and staggering around the stage while his rather more laidback bandmates looked on with an amused grin.

Their memorable rendition of Je T’Aime (Moi Non Plus) was a definite highlight, but it was their debut single Lottery Winners On Acid that stuck in the memory. A fine performance, and a heartwarming story for all bands that have been dropped rather too eagerly by their sales obsessed record companies.

Next up on the second stage was the seven-strong Cardiff band Los Campesinos! This reviewer had enjoyed their singles so far, but live they become a rather difficult to swallow proposition. It’s just all too much, from the glockenspiels to the relentlessly manic sound, it becomes infuriatingly irritating.

Admittedly, You Throw Parties We Throw Knives and You! Me! Dancing! still sound good, but they’re lost in an ocean of tweeness. Or maybe it’s the fact that, at 34, I’m just far too old to appreciate this kind of stuff. The perma-grinning, slam-dancing 12 year old stood next to me appeared to love every minute of it. One for the kids, then.

It was time to explore the intriguingly named O2 Blueroom. This was, in effect, a third stage with advertisements for the mobile phone company spread liberally all over the place. It did look immensely cool though, with a moodily effective blue light coating the entire tent. We entered the Blueroom just as Welsh rockers The Heights took to the stage.

And therein lay the problem for The Heights. The Blueroom is more suited to reflective singer-songwriter types, not full-on Strokes revivalists with guitar tunes that beg to be crowd-surfed to. They may not be particularly original, but they’re damn loud and several songs, such as recent single For Real, got the foot tapping.

But you shouldn’t be tapping your foot to The Heights – you should be moshing away in a sweaty mess in the front room, not leaning against a wall nodding your head. A decent enough band, but one that really belonged in the Tuborg Tent on the other side of the tent.

Richard Swift would seem to be much more suited to the soothing environs of the Blueroom, but he was another one that seemed to fly over the audience’s heads. Accompanied by just a guitarist, Swift quickly ran through a selection of songs from his recent Dressed Up For The Letdown album, but while it was pleasant enough, there was nothing to really grab the crowd’s attention.

Perhaps it was the fact that some of his more memorable songs were mysteriously absent, such as the excellent Kisses For The Misses and The Million Dollar Baby, but there was just a general air of apathy settling over the audience. “I hope I haven’t bored you too much”, said Swift rather apologetically, before disappearing.

By the time Kate Nash came onto stage, the staff at the Blueroom were operating on a ‘one in, one out’ basis. Such is the buzz around this young Harrow singer that the Blueroom attracted the largest crowd of the weekend. A visibly nervous Nash took to the stage (with her trademark neon light lit up stage left) and immediately struck out the opening chords to Mariella.

The addition of a violinist added real depth to Nash’s sound (even if she only appeared for the first and last songs), and soon the nerves were quickly disappearing. Forthcoming single Foundations received an almighty cheer and singalong, while the acoustic performance of Birds was a particularly beautiful highlight.

In fact, the only disappointment of Nash’s set was the short length, meaning we didn’t get to hear such gems as The Nicest Thing, We Get On or the acoustic version of Caroline’s A Victim. Still, if she carries on this trajectory, she’ll be playing longer sets much higher up the bill very soon indeed.

Local heroes The Pigeon Detectives had packed out the Tuborg Tent by this time, so it was over to the main stage to watch those other hometown boys The Cribs receive an ecstatic welcome. The Wakefield trio have just released their best album in the shape of Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, and recent single Men’s Needs sounded particularly electric here.

Really, The Cribs are the sort of band who should be playing a sweaty, packed tent last thing at night, but they certainly made the best of circumstances here. When Ryan Jarman dived into the front row of the audience and emerged with his shirt completely ripped, it’s a reminder of the devotion that the Jarman brothers attract in West Yorkshire.

Ironically, for such a grey and overcast day, the very first time that the sun came out was during Editors‘ set. Ironic, because if ever there was a band that wasn’t suited to playing while the sun shone, it’s Editors. Yet when they slammed into Bones from the forthcoming An End Has A Start album, it was easy to be pulled into their dark and gloomy world.

Simply put, Editors are made for occasions such as this. Their rich, expansive sound is hugely effective rolling over hills with a stately home in the background. The new material fits neatly next to well-worn anthems such as Munich, Blood and Bullets and Tom Smith still looks as tortured as ever when throwing himself round the stage.

“Treat the Kaisers like fucking heroes – they’re your band and you should be proud of them” warned Smith before he left, but he had no need to worry. This was the Kaiser Chiefs‘ homecoming gig and there were thousands of Yorkshire residents here to welcome them back with open arms.

It’s easy to be cynical about Ricky Wilson and his merry men, especially when they release a single called Everything Is Average Nowadays. Yet when you’re in the middle of the adoring throng, jumping away to I Predict A Riot, it’s very difficult to not be charmed. Wilson knows exactly what buttons to press, whether it be climbing up onto the lighting rig, doing his trademark high jumps or commanding the crowd to sing along with him, he’s a natural showman.

And yes, there’s something a wee bit irritating about them – whether it be the incessant moronic chants of “Yorkshire! Yorkshire!” every two minutes from the crowd, or Wilson proclaiming several times “we are the world famous Kaiser Chiefs”. Yet when you have thousands of people singing “Ruby, ruby, ruby – wooahhh”, it’s hard not to get carried along with it all.

There’s still a lot of filler in their set – Born To Be A Dancer, Na Na Na Na Naa and Learnt My Lesson Well could all be chopped out without anyone shedding too many tears, but there’s no denying that they made for an audience pleasing finale to the day.

And with that, we were off to seek out day-glo paint, glow-sticks and colourful leg-warmers in preparation for Sunday’s electro day….

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