LEEDS FESTIVAL 2016
Bramham Park, Leeds // Friday, August 26 – Sunday, August 28
Let’s get this out of the way quickly: It rained. Quite a lot. Fresh, green grass quickly turned to bogs of brown sludge and everyone got thoroughly soaked through. But what the hell, right?
Looking back over the weekend, as our festival garbs hang out to dry in the Bank Holiday Monday sunshine (sod’s law right there), it isn’t the weather we’re focusing on, but the many musical delights we caught over three days at Leeds Festival.
As the heavens eventually opened on Saturday evening, CHVRCHES offered the perfect distraction from the downpours as leading lady Lauren Mayberry bounded around the stage, swirling in the synth-fuelled serotonin pouring from the Main Stage.
Every tune an absolute banger, the Scottish trio’s final show of their Every Open Eye world tour was fantastic, a total joy from start to finish and our stand-out set of the weekend.
Following on from Chvrches, FOALS returned to Leeds Festival as co-headliners, complete with headliner’s pyrotechnics but lacking a headliner’s crowd.
The field seemed half-full at best while the band played through the pouring rain, but for those ardent fans crammed at the front, this was the headline act – a true ceremony at the firey, strobe-filled alter of Yannis Philippakis and co, man-gods of wired math-rock.
Elsewhere on the Main Stage over the weekend, we were treated to a touching tribute to Warrington band VIOLA BEACH, who died in a car crash with their manager Craig Tarry earlier in the year.
The short documentary, shown on the screens at each side of the stage, highlighted the band’s promise, and ended with a rousing version of Boys That Sing, with a large crowd singing along with a passion mostly reserved for much bigger acts.
FRANK TURNER celebrated his record-breaking tenth consecutive appearance at Leeds Festival with a vibrant opening slot, complete with a wall of hugs, ahead of formidable turn by fellow Frank, FRANK CARTER AND THE RATTLESNAKES.
Returning to headline the Main Stage after nine years, rock legends RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS brought the weekend to a close with an epic two-hour hit-filled set. More than making up for their very disappointing previous appearance, the California four-piece cherry picked some of their best bits from 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik to this year’s The Getaway.
The musicianship on display is insane. Chad Smith proves he’s one of the world’s greatest drummers, and the always-colourful Flea (who announces his ancestors come from Yorkshire – like he needs to win the crowd over any more) is a master of Olympic-standard bass gymnastics. And walking upside-down. He’s very good at that.
New guitarist Josh Killinghoffer, hiding behind a sweat-drenched fringe, gives a fresh approach to the tunes in John Frusciante’s role, though he falls short every now again – more obviously obscuring the former guitarist’s beautiful melodies on Scar Tissue.
Anthony Kedis, the mustachioed funk-rock Master of Ceremonies, commands the stage effortlessly, note-perfect throughout the set, and notably reserved between songs.
An assured set to bring the weekend to a close, the Chilis are kings of festival headliners, but the crown will need passing down to the next in line, as successors come thick and fast.
THE 1975 confirm they are future Main Stage headliners during their top-billing in the NME/BBC Radio 1 tent, and it’s clear to see why. The tent, like last time they played in there, is packed, as fans gather round the big screens outside to catch a glimpse of the teen idols.
As the ubiquitous oblongs shine out on to the sea of screaming fans below, the Manchester four-piece play a set which, as perfect as it is lacks any surprises for those who’ve seen them play live over the last year.
Still, with an hour of tunes like The Sound, A Change Of Heart, Robbers, Somebody Else and the pop-thrash of Sex, we’re bouncing around, failing to register BIFFY CLYRO are storming the Main Stage at the other side of the arena.
BLOSSOMS are this year’s festival hype band for sure. Last year, the unsigned four-piece played the Festival Republic Stage. This weekend, they took the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage by storm, their chart-topping guitar-pop bringing thousands of fans flocking to the tent.
Each year, Leeds Festival strikes an assured balance of today’s big names and a glimpse of future headliners with those harder-to-read names on the iconic yellow poster causing a stir in the smaller tents around the site.
Liverpool’s CLEAN CUT KID look like they should be a metal band, but their sharp indie-pop has more in common with Fleetwood Mac than Fear Factory. They’re going to be big – and will be getting a taste of arena shows later in the year when they support The Courteeners at Leeds Arena in November.
THE JAPANESE HOUSE opened the Radio One Dance Stage, rather randomly, with her sublime ambient sounds, stunning and serene. Laden with vocal effects, her intricately-produced songs were other-worldly and utterly captivating – but in less intimate festival surroundings, those who were expecting something a little more upbeat may have felt a little short-changed. Despite this, Amber Bain seemed delighted that the fans at the front whoop and holler throughout the short and sweet set.
California trio LANY were one of our highlights of the weekend. Their 80s-fuelled electro-pop was so refreshing – smooth and soulful, bursting with fizzy hooks which conjure up boyband teen-pop vibes, R’n’B soul and even hints of Prince-esque grooves. They are going to be huge. Be warned.
Getting their first taste of the festival lifestyle, hotly-tipped new bands dazzle with excitement and promise. The BBC Introducing Stage has been the platform for these bands for the last decade, helping put acts like Jack Garratt and Slaves high up festival line-ups around the country.
Teesside duo MOUSES have had a lot of support from the Beeb, as Huw Stephens is a big fan. They were asked to play Leeds Festival after impressing the Introducing team with their wild fuzzy punk tunes.
Offering a taste of what to expect from their debut album, due out in a few weeks the band – drummer Nathan and guitarist Stephen – bash out bubblegum pop wrapped in clattering fuzzy garage punk.
York indie kids FAUX PAS were given the opportunity to play on the BBC Introducing Stage after winning the Centre Stage 2016 competition, which helps raise funds for local children’s hospice Martin House, rising to the challenge of their biggest show to date with an assured set of keen indie hits.
Over the years, the Futuresound competition runners-up have opened up the BBC Introducing Stage, and this year, there’s some fab local talent in the shape of ADORE//REPEL, NIGHT OWLS, DUSK, VEXXES and THE INDIGO PROJECT.
Overall Futuresound winners FIGHTING CARAVANS, opened up The Lock Up Stage, just next door to the BBC Introducing Stage, on Friday lunchtime, drawing a decent crowd with their wild Americana.
These are the bands of the future, the ones who will be headlining festivals in years to come and it’s great to see them given the opportunity with such a respected platform.
Leeds Festival boss Melvin Benn has always had one keen eye on emerging talent, targeting a younger Foals as a contender for topping the Main Stage a few years back. It’s exciting to see these acts move further up the line-ups over the years, and it’ll be great to see some of these names back on the bill.
So who’ll be heading to Leeds Festival in 2017? Who do you think will headline, and who’ll be back for more fun at Bramham Park?
Tickets for next year’s festival – taking place from August 25 to 27 – are on sale now, fixed at this year’s prices for now. Get yours HERE.