Leeds Festival 2014 – Saturday Review

Continuing the mostly unbroken spell of sunshine, the crowd mobilised en-masse and headed to the arena in great spirits for the second day of the festival, with acts like desert rock vets Queens of the Stone Age and emo standard bearers Paramore to look forward too.

Following an unfortunate cancellation by Hacktivist, the first band on qmunicate’s radar was Main Stage openers Crossfaith, a Japanese metalcore band known for their face-melting shows. Despite being aided by frontman Koie Kenta demands for several early afternoon “walls of death” in the moshpit, and their self-professed party anthem “Jaegerbomb”, Leeds didn’t respond as well as they could have to an electrifying set. Presumably Bramham Park was afflicted with early afternoon blues. Playing with ample energy and with a live sound akin to a pummelling mix of the Prodigy and Slipknot (naturally playing a set closing cover of the former’s “Omen”), Crossfaith opened Saturday in style.

Brighton garage-rock duo Blood Red Shoes had a lot to live up to after such a performance. Thankfully, Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell’s shared vocals and ear for a melodic hook held up well in comparison. Grungy and more elaborate new songs like “An Animal” contrasted well with poppy early single “I Wish I Was Someone Better”, creating a surprisingly varied set. In place of showmanship or any other distractions, the duo exemplified how well raw garage can stand up in a Main Stage environment. However, the crowd remained rather subdued; indeed, they could do have done with an extra live member to help boost their sound.

Continuing trend for rockin’ duos, qmunicate headed along to the NME stage for sibling grunge pair Drenge, who accordingly absolutely slayed it. Playing one of the biggest gigs of their career thus far (clear from the brother’s faces the moment they stepped onstage), they quickly proved their potential to an apprehensive, full tent. Throughout, they displayed an impressive range of styles and emotional intensity, more pronounced than many of their two-piece compatriots. Playing a set solely comprised of last year’s debut with searing intensity, they look set to supplant many of their fellows in the modern alternative roster. After forty minutes of riffing through primal punk anthems, complete with sick trade offs between guitar and drums, all with unbroken grins on their faces, Drenge look set to imminently explode in the live circuit.

One of the equally memorable gigs of the weekend, albeit for totally different reasons, would have to be The Fat White Family, who awed the Festival Republic Stage. Staggering onstage like a group of misfits, junkies and gremlins, they played a tripped out mix of psychedelia and Britpop, sounding like a visceral 5am acid trip. Thoroughly unique, they share no meaningful comparisons to any particular style or influence, and thus get a rapturous response because of this marmite-like quality. Opener “Auto Neutron” only gave a taste of what ended up being a tragically short twenty minute set after some sort of technical failure, unfortunately leaving the crowd baying for more.

Over on the Lock Up stage, post-punk outfit Eagulls took to a small, but appreciative audience. Frontman George Mitchell blankly surveys the crowd with an Oasis-like confidence as they tear into the shoegazey debut album track ‘Tough Luck’. Unusually, their status as newcomers causes much of the crowd to clap where they should mosh in the face of this brand of gritty punk. Still, the guitarist’s relentlessly droning riffs provide a phaser-coated dance quality to their songs, and they suffer only from an over-reliance on shoegazing repetition.

Hardcore outfit Touché Amoré proceeded to make a welcome return to the Lock Up Stage, rapturously proving why they are so revered in the hardcore scene. Throughout their set, the band was dominated by Jeremy Bolm’s vocals being sung/screamed back at him, creating a fiery, full spirited atmosphere. An excellent performance; they maintained their passion and heart from start to finish.

Aiming for a decisive change of scene, qmunicate raced to the headline comedy of the day, Bill Bailey, at the Alternative stage. Arriving twenty minutes late, and looking rather surprised by the crammed, rapturous audience, his mix of lighthearted musical whimsy went down extremely well. His talent for reimaginings; today being a Rammstein version of Scarborough Fair and Kraftwork doing Wrecking Ball, was a special highlight. Much of his slot was spent spieling his way through unpredictably political material, frequently drawing on his left wing background and tearing everyone from the Lib Dems to UKIP a new one. Unfortunately, he was on for only an hour, but we still got treated to car horn Metallica and a step by step guide on the dos’ and don’ts on positioning your tongue when guitar soloing.

Ushered in on the back of the first seriously heavy rain all weekend, Warpaint thankfully played under a tent at the NME Stage. On par with Jungle as the best live jam band all weekend, when these four women form a circle and improvise off each other, its hard to envisage a quartet with more skill at creating a different dreamy racket each time they plug in. Their reputation as a band rests heavily on their live ability and musicianship, with the vast majority of their material being formed and subsequently recorded from the stage. Thus, there’s a shapelessness that complements the dancier songs of their set like “Disco//Very” and gives single “Undertow” an almost film-score like quality. The backbone of the rhythm section, with Jenny’s magma like bass and Stella’s inventive chops anchors the more dreamy moments and is usually the component that ushers in the savage meltdowns’ of their rockier songs.

Now, the time had come for the first of Saturday’s headliners; the mighty Queens of the Stone Age. Taking the stage with an air of nonchalance and treating Leeds as just another day at the office, they quickly prove why they’re the undeniable kings of modern rock. Launching proceedings with the brutal one-two combo of ‘Millionaire’ and ‘No One Knows’, they whipped the Main Stage into a frenzy, before unexpectedly dropping swaggering album track ‘I’m Designer’. This slightly radical inclusion was assuredly the only song that wasn’t a strong fan favorite in a thoroughly crowd pleasing, festival set.

Holding one of the strongest back catalogues present, the band mix between balladry and intensity on such cuts as an extended, sensual ‘Make it Wit Chu’ and a barnstorming ‘Feel Good Hit of The Summer’. The sheer heat didn’t abate, with ‘Go With the Flow’, ‘Little Sister’ and ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ following in quick succession, creating a perpetual, all encompassing moshpit. Even the weather was in tune, with an excellently timed downpour during ‘Fairweather Friends’. Ad libbing lyrics, interacting with fans, and just making random conjecture, Josh Homme led his band through a hit parade mixed with three or four cuts off their newest record …Like Clockwork to close with a thunderous version of ‘Songs For The Deaf’ complete with an extended outro jam.

Hampered only by a slightly quiet sound, and the wind being against them, they truly killed their supporting slot at Leeds in supreme style, with qmunicate left wishing only that the running order for the headliners had been reversed, allowing Queens to reign over emo favourites Paramore.

[Dominic MacInnes]

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