Walking through the campsites at Leeds Festival, one would be forgiven for thinking they'd stumbled head-first in to a kind of post-modern Last Days of Caligula - the heady scent of perfumed Roman's replaced by piss and Lynx Africa; the Italian wine by Somersby Cider; the opium by some questionable MDMA bought from a bloke called 'Greg'. It's horrific. It's eye-opening. It's beautiful. After all, where else on the festival calendar could punks and metalheads camp in such close proximity to those who look like they appreciate both a 'cheeky Nandos' and the word banter? Answer: Nowhere. Of course, it's not all about the social side. And though there are handfuls of people that only venture out of Sodom (Yellow Camp) and Gomorrah (Red Camp) to watch the headliners and swing their jaws to the various DJs situated around the site, Leeds wouldn't attract the disparate crowd it does, if it wasn't for its eclectic line-ups.
The festival does still lean more towards the alternative side of things, but this year especially there seems to be a little more of a mainstream flavour populating the site's several stages. For us however the weekend starts on the BBC Introducing Stage and with Teeside's NARCS providing us with a weighty wake-up call that leaves us feeling dirty before the festival's even really began. And we mean that in the best way. Elsewhere The Gaslight Anthem are traditionally underwhelming, though 'The Patient Ferris Wheel' is a welcome inclusion in an otherwise lacklustre mid-afternoon set.
Thankfully however The Cribs ('We're from Wakefield') are their usual oikish selves, providing the Main Stage with a smattering of their finest urchin pop. 'Mirror Kisses' and 'Another Number' make an appearance, as does 'Men's Needs', but we're a little surprised to see festival-favourite 'Hey Scenesters' left off the list. Though we had several gripes about the over-zealous festival security over the weekend, we didn't have it nearly half as bad as Evian Christ, the DJ, who may or may not have been detained for sounding like branded holy water, pulled out of his Reading set that weekend thanks to his experiences with the Leeds security. We hear he's still available for baptisms though.
We make our first excursion to the Lock-Up stage in order to catch home-grown pop-punks Moose Blood, whose short set pulls an impressive crowd for the middle of the afternoon. Unsurprisingly, the huge amount of guys in Boston Manor t-shirts that have littered the site seem to have congregated here, climbing over each other desperate to shout back the words to the likes of 'Boston' or 'Bukowski' as if their lives depended on it. Back on the Main Stage, Jamie T keeps both old and new fans happy with a set that takes in all three of his albums in equal measure. It's the older tracks that go down a storm however, with both 'Shelia' and final track 'Zombie' offering the most raucous of singalongs of the day thus far.
The weekend's first offering of an artist you're not likely to see anywhere else this summer comes in the form of Kendrick Lamar. Surprisingly, the backbone of his set comes from his second album Good Kid, mAAd city, and not this year's acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly, even the latter's 'Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe' features entirely new verses, which does nothing to aid the slightly lacking crowd, most of whom are there to see The Libertines later. A lack of enthusiasm from the crowd shouldn't detract from his performance however, and covers from Tupac and A$AP Rocky do get the crowd going a little more than other tracks. It's 'King Kunta' that finally sees Lamar's energy transferred in to the crowd, his previous single and penultimate track finally getting everyone on their feet.
When the Libertines played Leeds in 2010, it should have been more than it was. It should have signified the start of something beautiful. It wasn't. And when the stage lights dimmed on the band that evening, they went back to their respective lives, respective bands and respective drugs. This year it feels different. There's a new album a little more than a week away and the band look healthier than they have in a decade. Is 2015 the year the band finally sail the Good Ship Albion back to Arcadia? It seems so.
Taking to the stage to a deafening noise from the crowd, the band launch immediately in to 'Horrorshow' and from there on out there's little in the way of relent. New tracks are effortlessly merged with classics, as if the band have never truly been away. And in the hearts and heads of the hordes of adoring fans, they haven't. There's little in the way of crowd interaction from both Barat and Doherty, but with the newly lit fires beneath their feet it matters not. The sheer joy the band take from performing is evident, whilst their trademark sharing of the mic stand seems far more genuine than in recent years. Tracks such as 'Time for Heroes' and 'What Katie Did' are unsurprisingly early crowning points, but it's the lyrics of the newer material which provide the goosebumps; the chorus of 'Gunga Din' offering what is probably the most poignant of the night.
With the drugs behind them and the tabloids snapping at their heels, The Libertines are a band with their sights set solely on the future. What that future holds remains to be seen, but if tonight is anything to go by, it shows that demons can be conquered, irreconcilable relationships can be reconciled and that a band that everyone had more or less given up can rise from the ashes and ignite a passion in the chests of thousands. If this is the true sound of Albion, than I don't want to be anywhere else.