Leeds Festival 2014 – Friday Review

At its first showing in 1999, Leeds Festival hosted heavyweight acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blur and the Charlatans. The line up has only improved over the years, with the site playing host to many musical landmarks, such as the reunion of the Libertines in 2011 and Rage Against the Machine’s UK comeback in 2008. Garnering NME’s best festival award in 2013, and with over 90,000 people set to cram themselves into Bramham Park this year to enjoy acts as diverse and internationally huge as Queens of the Stone Age and Blink-182, it looked sure to deliver.

qmunicate’s coverage begins on a sunny Friday afternoon at the Main Stage with Young Guns’ set of anthemic arena-rock. Appearing in Sloane Rangers-esque clothes, and with a mainstream sound to match, they played a safe opening set in line with the Killers.

Years of solid touring has sharpened their attention grabbing skills as they play a set of old and forthcoming songs. The tempo and angsty subject matter didn’t vary much, but charismatic singer Gustav Wood kept the crowd (of mainly girls) lively with his dancing in absence of a light show or truly distinguishing feature.

Intrigued by their name, qmunicate made its way to the Festival Republic stage to see the Royal Concept. Their bouncy indie rock entertained, but seemed to recall a long forgotten phase of popular music. Single “D-D-Dance” had a brilliant eighties Duran Duran keyboard line, indeed, the keyboardist was the best member, intertwining excellently with the guitarist, but they fell well short of memorable.

Dying for a better show, it was off to the NME/Radio 1 stage for hip hop/soul collective Jungle. Appearing out of nowhere the band has built a reputation solely from the strength of their live performances and what followed was a blissed out, jam heavy, funk and hip hop set that desperately desired more stage time. With eight members, comprising of dancers, musicians and vocalists, they envisage an urban Funkadelic in their splicing of old and new genres and will definitely be bumped up the bills soon, watch out for them!

Following such innovation, it was time for a return to the Main Stage, with nu-metal grandads Papa Roach bouncing towards their legions of fans. I do wonder how much of their (and fellow revivalists) priorities are spent on proving they aren’t a nostalgia act and are actually able to musically evolve. Predictably, they play an excitable greatest hits sets, with frontman Jacoby Shadixx proving their entertainment pedigree. However, it remains pretty clear that they’ve been resting on their laurels since at least their second album.

Unfortunately, some trust has been seriously misplaced over at the Lock Up Stage. Either the soundman or the booker should be hanging their heads in shame. Barbaric noise band Baby Godzilla played with a sound that was so horrendous, it was more akin to heavy duty construction than music, forcing a quick exit.

Beating a hasty retreat, it was back to the Festival Republic stage for some more smaller names. The Bohicas’ infectiously danceable rock turned out to be excellent. Their new wave inspired windy guitar riffs harken back to early Franz Ferdinand, but their sound adds a nervous jerk of originality. Seeking to revive fading indie guitar music, these guys danced their way to a triumphant set.

Following much hip swaying, Dolomite Minor took the stage. Despite their random name and baby faces, they play like a two-piece Black Sabbath. Guitarist Joe Grimshaw conjures up gloomy riffs and a relentless dark sound that creates an impressively dense atmosphere from such a young band.

Thankfully, Letlive. later rescued the Lock Up stage from demolition with an incredibly anarchic set of hardcore. It was hard to tell who enjoyed it more, or who found it more cathartic, the band, or the crowd, with both worshipping each other like the second coming (prayer of the day being MOSH).

It takes only a couple of songs for frontman Jason Butler to engage in shirtless press-ups (in the midst of singing), rigging climbing, and emotional speeches about lyrical inspiration and the impact of fans on their lives. The band themselves play with an almost bluesy sense of rhythm, whilst being relentlessly tight and full of showmanship. Certain songs, like ‘Dope Beat’ threaten to spiral out of control in the chaos, as does the unfortunate sound cut, but this actually adds to their performance. They’re the true spirit of 21st century punk.

Eschewing Blink-182 on the Main Stage, qmunicate remained at the Lock Up Stage for Gogol Bordello. A fantastic set of rousing gypsy punk followed, with plentiful accordion, nudity and obligatory dancing.

Everything you could want from a fever pitch Gogol Bordello show is in full presence, with the focus clearly on taking inter-band participation to its highest level. Mosh pits, dancing and general delirium abounded; exactly what is required from a headliner. Tracks like “My Companjera” and “Wanderlust King” predictably get the whole tent moving, indeed, this is overall the best feature of the Lock Up Stage. In order to find it, you had to actually be a fan of the band playing; there were consistently very few wandering stragglers throughout the weekend.  Aside from the ridiculous fifty minute stage time and lack of an encore, everything was truly astounding; with the energy levels never close to dropping. Start wearing purple, chumps.

[Dominic MacInnes]

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