It had been over 10 years since I last went to Leeds, opting for heavier music festivals in recent years, but not much has changed in a decade. Looking through early 2000s line-ups you can spot many names that graced the stages this year and the site has pretty much stayed the same since its move to Bramham Park. The eclectic line-up draws in a varied crowd, which used to have a reputation for getting a bit unruly in the evening. For better or worse, this has changed and the worst we heard happen this year was of DJ Evian Christ being detained by security after being mistaken for a drunken gatecrasher.
Friday’s main stage was kicked off by Feed The Rhino, whose heavy riffs and aggressive performance seemed somewhat out of place next to the likes of The Cribs, The Maccabees, Jamie T and The Libertines. There were a few other acts to keep the rock fans entertained however, with Against Me! and Gaslight Anthem on the Main Stage and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and Turbowolf, to name but a few, on in the Pit. Rounding off the day, rather than watching what many fans called a disappointing Libertines set, we caught the captivating Frank Turner perform – a solo acoustic set that had the whole crowd singing along.
Saturday’s hangover was seen in with the siesta sounds of Mariachi El Bronx, before getting heavier with Neck Deep. Aggravated by a pushy Lock Up stage manager God Damn took no time in working out their frustration in a full-on assault of a performance ending with smashed guitars and amps. Panic! At The Disco meanwhile led the main stage crowd with a faithful rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, which was the highlight of a confused set. Simple Plan and New Found Glory topped the Lock Up stage with their ageing pop punk, Limp Bizkit made it party like it was 1999 in an overflowing 2nd Stage tent while Mumford & Sons did their best impression of a moody rock band over on the Main Stage. The sight of Marcus Mumford pushing over a drum kit seemed more spoilt child than rock and roll.
Drawing a huge crowd as the first band is no easy feat, especially on a Sunday. However the Japanese phenomenon known as Babymetal gathered the masses for their crazy J-pop metal mash-up. Love them or hate them, the three teen girls are backed by an incredibly technical band in their energetic and fun performances. The return of one of the original metalcore bands Atreyu brought pleasure to many fans, but the most anticipated return was from Alexisonfire with their merchandise selling out the day before their set. Heaviest band of the heaviest day award goes to French metallers Gojira. With most rock acts winding up before Sunday’s headliners, the weekend was brought to a close for most by Metallica. Rolling out hit after hit, backed by carefully crafted animated backgrounds and joined by 150 fans on stage it’s easy to see why they headline a festival every other (if not every) year. The main festival may have ended but the party continued into the night before the first real rain of the weekend hit at about 2am, and continued all night, making for a soggy pack-up the next day – but not bad for a UK festival in August.
Mark Wheeler. Photos: Wendy Keogh