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Festival Preview: Leeds Festival 2017

  • Published in Live

Though the UK plays host to countless music festivals every year, some short lived, others more established, Leeds Festival stands head and shoulders above the majority, not just in size, but in scope as well, curating line-ups that feature some of the biggest names in alternative music alongside those from the more mainstream end of the spectrum.

Thanks to a slight shift away from its more alternative beginnings, Leeds has been able to retain its relevance when so many other festivals have failed, evolving its line-ups in tandem with the ever-evolving tastes of its attendees. And while that might have meant a scaling down for stages such as The Lock Up, it’s also seen the introduction of further, more specialist stages, allowing for an even more diverse line-up in recent years.

This year proves no exception. With what is arguably the festival’s most eclectic line-up to date, next week will see the likes of Giggs take to the Main Stage, sandwiched in between Architects and Blossoms, while over on the NME/Radio 1 Stage You Me At Six follow R&B star Tory Lanez. And though it seems that the genre distinctions between stages are becoming less important these days, this has seen the sense of community found in the festival’s campsites flowing in to the arena more freely, as punk kids rub shoulders with house heads, and metalheads mix with grime fans.

It’s this feeling of eclecticism that keeps the punters returning from Bramham Park year after year, much like many people’s annual pilgrimage to Glastonbury, only distinctly more Northern. Of course, while many see Glastonbury as the pinnacle of the UK festival calendar, Reading and Leeds are themselves rites of passage, with everyone remembering, at least parts, of their first one. And though the site and style of the festival has evolved dramatically over its lifespan, it’s still one of the strongest festivals around.

Below are the top five acts we’ll be catching this year:


A guaranteed way to inject some sunshine in to your Sunday, no matter whatever the weather, the Macclesfield three piece will be hitting the BBC Introducing Stage following on from there inclusion as artist of the week. Expect calypso melodies and massive singalongs from a band you’ll be seeing much more of before too long. 

Bear’s Den

Having watched Bear’s Den progress since their inception in 2012, it’s clear the band have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, with the departure of founding member Joey Haynes only strengthening their resolve. Headlining the Festival Republic Stage on Saturday evening, huge swells of instrumentation will backbone the band’s heartfelt lyricism, not a set to miss.

At The Drive-In

A band who barely need an introduction, At The Drive-In are post-hardcore legends, and a turbulent history of break-ups and reunions, as well as a revolving cast of members, means there’s every chance this could be the last time we can see them on stage. They play the Main Stage on Sunday afternoon and you guarantee their set will blow away any lingering cobwebs.

Jimmy Eat World

Playing the Main Stage on Saturday afternoon, Jimmy Eat World are Leeds Festival favourites, having appeared four or five times over its history. Offering up a set of rousing emo anthems, their combination of midwestern indie and polished production are the perfect afternoon accompaniment and are a definite must see.


Back at Bramham Park for what will be his third appearance at the festival, Eminem last headlined back in 2015, in which a mammoth set of almost 30 of his most well-known tracks saw a special appearance by Dido on ‘Stan’, suggesting that this year he’s bound to have some surprises in store. Closing out the Main Stage once again on the Sunday night, it’s going to be the last of a string of highlight performances across the weekend. 


Festival Coverage: Leeds Festival 2016

  • Published in Live

Where Leeds was once a bastion for a more alternative North, recent years have seen the festival diversify to such an extent that it now feels like a very different event from that of a few years ago. This isn't to the festivals detriment of course, times and tastes change and companies (such as Festival Republic) have to adapt.


With adaptation however, comes the risk of alienation, and while Leeds Festival embraced the populist shift towards more electronically driven acts, much of the core fan-base, those that once decorated Bramham Park with their multitudes of sick, discarded beer cans and pierced, prostrate bodies with an almost religious zeal, have headed for the different (though arguably no greener) pastures of Download or further afield.


Of course, some of that are that faithful contingent still make their annual pilgrimage, joining the new guard of punters whose tastes might not be as alternative, but still manage to ornament the site in much the same way. And though the festival's larger stages do seem to have taken on a more mainstream approach, those looking for a little weight with their cider black need only look to the smaller stages further down the bill to find some pleasant surprises, allowing for both generations this year to have their cake and eat it, providing they didn't mind a little mud alongside.


Such was this year's diversity, that the only stages harbouring any distinct personality were the Lock Up/Pit and the BBC 1xtra tent (a recent addition which embodies just how diverse the festival has become). The once indie-centric NME Stage saw the likes of Blossoms precede the liquid sounds of Netsky, while post-punks Basement took to the stage before Manchester's Spring King. Elsewhere it was much the same. Saturday saw grime crew Boy Better Know warm-up a wet Main Stage for an even wetter Chvrches.


That said, while it did mean a fair amount of walking through ankle deep mud to go from stage to stage (resulting in many a skipped meal for fear of dropping an £8 burger in to a cocktail of straw, sludge and cider) it did mean much of the main crowd was more eclectic than usual, preferring to stay in front of the of the dry-by-comparison stage.


Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls drew their usual wide range of fans for a recording breaking tenth consecutive year, opening the Main Stage on Saturday morning with an uplifting and emotionally charged hour long set. It was Die Antwoord however, that drew the most diverse crowd. And it was clear from the look on many people's faces that phallic imagery and South African Rap Rave aren't quite to everyone's tastes.


It was however, to ours. Just a couple of rows from the front, the band's anarchic set was easily a weekend highlight. The trio segue through tracks old and new with a chaotic and wilful abandon that easily marks them as future headliners; the deft dichotomy of Yolandi Visser's imp-like falsetto and Ninja's aggressively nasal bars, playing out against a backdrop of hard-hitting electronica dropped furiously by the deity-cum-producer known only as GOD, proves an impossible act to follow.


As far as headliners go, this year saw organisers booking co-headliners for the Main Stage on both Friday and Saturday. The former offering both Fall Out Boy and Biffy Clyro while Saturday gave us Foals and Disclosure who, showing our age, we forgo in favour of gin and Maximo Park. Both Biffy Clyro, and to a lesser extent Fall Out Boy, are Leeds veterans by now, something was immediately apparent in their sets. But while Biffy still retain a certain air of rock and roll danger, Fall Out Boy are far too polished, mechanical even. And though an impressive stage show involving pyrotechnics and burlesque dancers suggests the band are well and truly in the realms of rock royalty these days, it does just seem like just another show. For someone who remembers them as a fresh-faced pop-punk band even before they were an emo band, it's all a bit much to take in.


Unfortunately, however, the only real, and arguably biggest, disappointment of the weekend comes from easily the biggest band there. Headlining Sunday night, Red Hot Chilli Peppers drew a monster crowd, stretching from the barrier right back to the food stands. From in the middle and off to the left, it was clear from about three songs in that they weren't exactly meeting people's expectations. At first it was just teenagers, saucer-like eyes seeming to swivel in search of a higher BPM. Then it wasn't. It was families and couples; a large amount of people for less than half way through their set.


In terms of set-list you couldn't ask for more. But early sound problems plagued the likes of 'Dani California', 'Scar Tissue' and 'Can't Stop' (the back end all but drowning out everything else), and though seemingly sorted by the half way point and 'Snow (Hey Oh)' the band still lacked the energy they're famous for, instead spending what felt like hours lazily noodling as if they were the house band at a jazz bar. We know you're a funk band at your core, but get the fuck on with it!


Despite feeling like a very different festival to the one I first walked through as a teenager, Leeds still manages stay relevant by moving with the times and adapting to suit it's demographic(s). For almost 20 years it's been a playground for beautifully delinquent northerners who once a year can lose their inhibitions, and if this year is anything to go by for some people: shoes, sleeping bags, sense of self respect. It's loud, tiring and messy, but will I be back next year? Too right.  

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