August Bank Holiday Weekend brings with it a huge variety of music festivals spread up and down the country for just about every music fan to enjoy. With urbanised one-day celebrations and weekend long countryside blowouts catering to just about every music taste there is, it is arguably the busiest festival weekend of the year.
There are only a select number of festivals however that have begun without or discarded the niche of showcasing only a focused range of music and stretched their interest to a much wider span of musical genres. Leeds Festival (and it's bigger southern brother, Reading) is one of the longest running and largest festivals to be in business in the country, having started shortly after its Reading counterpart in 1999.
It is a widely known fact that Leeds and Reading have brought bands of all sizes, types and genres to their sites at Bramham Park and Richfield Avenue, having invited the likes of Pulp, Guns N Roses, Eminem, The Prodigy, Travis, Radiohead and Iron Maiden to headline the weekends proceedings. Although throughout the years, electronic artists and underground bands have been given spots throughout the weekend, this time round I found it has successfully become more diverse than ever before.
Being a fan of hedonistic festival escapes, and also because of the fact I live a mere few minutes away, it would seem rude not to start the weekend a little earlier than most and rock up on Thursday, which is what we did, arriving around 2pm. As Leeds gives the opportunity to arrive on Wednesday there was already a hefty number of campers around the site, yet it only took a few minutes to find a suitable space in Yellow campsite, with a great view of the arena where we would be spending the following 3 days. Although the main stages begin on Friday, The Alternative Stage and another arena aptly named the Welcome To Leeds Stage were raring to go on Thursday evening as they offered an already exciting number of artists to warm us up nicely.
Whilst Pulled Apart By Horses and The Bohicas were playing amongst others on the WTL Stage, we found ourselves popping our heads into Rave Karaoke, which although looked terribly fun, wasn’t quite ‘in tune’ with what we were hunting for. KOKO London’s Buttoned Down Disco was more up our street, followed by Max Cooper, an electronic artist combining a DJ set with a live effort, which ended our first evening in the arena very nicely.
Already well into the festival spirit, Thursday night was spent exploring the shopping village and traders alley, which was as bustling as ever. You’d be hard pressed to need something and not be able to buy it for a fair price at the festival, however if you manage to find yourself in that situation, the shuttle bus to Tesco is at your disposal. On returning to the campsite I found myself rediscovering the campsite DJ booth, which I have mentioned before as being unfathomably unique to a festival where many might not expect it to reside. Although many festivals around the country close down at 11pm and fail to entertain late night revellers, Leeds Festival never fails to offer several goings on in a number of locations in action until the early hours.
Friday morning eventually came and we journeyed into the arena first thing to catch the urban mistress that is Lady Leshurr. The BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage is a perfect example of Leeds Festival embracing the diversity of today’s popular music, as artists of the ilk of Krept & Konan, Azaelia Banka and Ms Dynamite performed throughout the weekend on the stage that has only had a place at Leeds since 2014. This trip however, to catch the hugely infectious parody single Lukatar, was our only stint inside the 1Xtra stage all weekend, albeit a hugely enjoyable one.
Friday afternoon and evening was spent in the audience of an interesting mix of guests; firstly the comedian Milton Jones who has been dubbed the king of one-liners, rightly so too as it was a laugh a minute performance. Jamie xx provided an experimental whirr of bone shaking bass, with the rattling snares and piercing synths of Gosh, the opening track from his new album In Colour, really inspiring some awe at his creativity. Jamie T brought us back to guitar riffs and a frenzy of sing-a-longs hereafter, with Sheila looking to be a favourite judging from a mad-for-it crowd. Next, it was time for he festival's first headliner, The Libertines.
As we approached the main stage The Libertines were already performing Can’t Stand Me Now, immediately capturing our attention as we made our way to the front half of the crowd which piled back past the mixing desk. What followed was the highlight performance of the festival for us. Although we’re not die-hard fans and maybe only a little in the know, if that, we could have danced to The Libertines all night long. The band displayed an emphatically bold stage presence as they wore leather clad outfits and moody expressions. After Pete Doherty exclaimed “What’s wrong with you lot? You’re making us feel unloved”, it occurred to us that the crowd might have been a little dull compared to what the reunited band may have been expecting for their return to Leeds, maybe why there was no smiles on stage. Even still, they brought a hugely enjoyable show that has stayed with us throughout the slightly hazier remainder of the weekend.
By Saturday afternoon we had recuperated our energy lost from an awesome first 2 nights, with todays musical treats being in the form of Bastille, All Time Low and Limp Bizkit, the latter of which I was hugely excited to see having been a fan for years, yet never getting the chance to see them live. We opted to see Bastille and Alt-J from a little way from the stage, with both of them providing feel good performances full of all their most popular hits, with Bastille’s Pompeii being the highlight of both. After sitting down for these two before Limp Bizkit’s headline performance on the NME stage, we were ready for some proper action, and boy did we get that. Opening with Hot Dog, the crowd immediately went absolutely crazy, pits opening up every few feet away from each other. Although we were well clear of what looked pretty damn insane, everyone from front to back was getting seriously involved. After saying the word f**k so many times that the word lost meaning, they whipped straight into Rollin’, which again was received with uproar. Between tracks frontman Fred Durst would provoke the tent into causing as much chaos as possible, making what was one of the best spectacles of the weekend. Heading back to the campsite a little before it finished, we could still hear the music as clear as crystal. It was loud, it was good.
The final day at Leeds Festival 2015 was geared down the dance music route for us as a double of revered electronic artists played on the dance stage, with D&B super group Rebel Sound also headlining a largely electronic NME stage. Kevin Saunderson was the first in the dance tent who delivered a heavy array of Detroit tinged 909 delights, ensuring plenty of Inner City classics were thrown into the mix. MK was headlining the dance tent having been heavily pipped amongst the UK Chart this year, however as the second Detroit native to be playing that evening, MK was a little less impressive than Kevin, who’s hypnotic groove was rather enchanting. Marc’s vocal thick bounce however, was geared exactly towards what the festival crowd were looking for, which after all is what it’s all about. Although we’d seen lots of good music on Sunday, the highlight was not found inside the arena, but on The Relentless Stage deep within the wood between the Red and Orange campsites. Here, garage hero DJ EZ and eclectic urban selector Oneman seriously ripped it up as the final artists we saw at my favourite Leeds Festival so far.
Although some less open minded music fans may complain that the music at Bramham Park on August Bank Holiday Weekend is becoming too diverse, I for one think it can’t get much better, as the festival still manages to get the balance between music legends, current trends and the up and coming pretty much bang on.
Words by Josh Plews
Images courtesy of Reading and Leeds Festival