Leeds Festival 2014 – Sunday Review

After Saturday’s heavy night time schedule, the majority of Leeds dragged itself back onto the site for the final time in weather finally reflecting their daily hangovers. Despite the rain, Sunday’s roster looked sure to compensate, with sets from the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Jake Bugg still high on people’s priorities.

First up were Yorkshire punk five piece Marmozets, playing the first of their two sets of the day at the NME Stage. Coming on at 2pm to a fair turn out (qmunicate wasn’t getting up any earlier), they thrashed out an energetic cacophony worthy of the day’s headliners. Frontwoman Becca Macintyre’s shrill voice and fierce stage presence accentuated the speaker-busting racket created by a band truly throwing the kitchen sink at their instruments and performance. Accordingly, the melody in some of songs descended into squall and feedback when it should have been quieter and more contained.  Overall, they were still extremely entertaining, and a great wake up call.

Next, it was back to the Main Stage. However, for the third time of the weekend, a highly anticipated band unfortunately pulled out. Alternative local boys Pulled Apart By Horses’ bassist took ill, with replacements, Dry The River, taking to the stage after over an hour of inactivity. The crowd’s spirits remained fairly high for their chilled out, Americana-influenced rock, with many laying on the grass in the arena. Opening with the lush melodic textures of ‘Hidden Hand’, they delivered a set of somber quality. Mixing stripped back tones and the thundering ‘Lions Den’, they focused on illustrating their dynamic variation and taste for spiraling guitar work. As frontman Peter Liddle’s trembling falsetto echoed out on ‘No Rest’, the crowd knew they’d been treated to one of the most relaxing sets of the weekend, consequently, its difficult to remember more than an overwhelming sense of calm.

Wanting to yuck it up and get heavy again, qmunicate literally ran back to the NME stage to catch one of the most hyped sets of the weekend. Royal Blood had the tent bursting at the seams from the meteoric rise in attention they’ve been receiving. The (literal) drum’n’bass duo powered their way through meaty cuts off their recent debut, with Mike Kerr’s awesomely chunky bass sound filling every corner of the tent. Yet, maybe because of his large array of effects, sometimes their sound felt somewhat forced. Their overall style is more than a little reminiscent of a second rate Black Keys, and they miss a few songwriting components from being truly impressive. They possess potential though, in their stripped back brand of postmodern moody blues. Kerr’s powerful, catchy riffage dominates their performance, and the crowd was impressed enough, but the response and turnout still seemed a little due from the large corral of the hype train.

Few bands have the crowd control ability of the Hives; it’s made for main stage festival slots. Their melody infused, power punk riffage is so irresistibly catchy, that even without their showmanship pedigree, they’d go down a blast. For much of the set, the choruses escape the majority of the crowd, but it doesn’t matter in the face of the most entertaining frontman in rock. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s cabaret like bravado is the trump card to their show, with self assured bravado like “Shit man, this last 15 minutes of our live show are likely the best 15 minutes Leeds ever has to come”. Every track is accentuated to include as much participation and over the top fun as possible; “Tick Tick Boom” lasts at least 10 minutes, with band introductions, human statues and an en-masse sit down before 90,000 people erupt into the biggest dance floor in history. They remain one of the most memorable acts of the weekend, being head and shoulders above the endless “can I see some hands in the air?” calls that drag through most other bands sets.

Ooft. If it’s possible for one act to rival the Hives for entertainment though, it’s Die Antwoord. Its a certainty that “what the fuck…” was the first thought going through most of the audience’s minds when the South African rap-rave duo broke into their bat shit crazy set at the NME stage.

Definitely the oddest act of the weekend, the narcissistically costumed Ninja and Yo-landi aimed to violate the tent visually and aurally with their unique combination of hip hop, dance and shock value art. Cuts like “Fatty Boom Boom” were “aided” in their impact with masturbation, pelvic thrusting and a performance akin to an Amazonian peyote party.

It seems their purpose as a live entity is to turn everyone on at least once during any given set, creating the craziest and most energetic environment of the weekend and a mosh pit that stretched from one side of a tent to another. Outré sexuality, a warped graphics show and a crowd control ability to die for have created a stunning live experience. Irrelevant that their music itself is completely dire.

Nursing a newly acquired sensitivity to light and noise, qmunicate staggered back to the Main Stage to catch pre-headline Jake Bugg. Ushering in the sunset with an hour long performance, Jake entered in typically understated fashion, with minimal interaction and a predominantly leather outfit. Tracks like “Storm Passes Away” and “Seen it all” elicited a huge crowd response, helped by his switches between full band rock and acoustic sing along strumming. Much of the focus was on his excellent extended guitar soloing and ability to lead an en-masse chorus; getting louder than most prior headliners. With little conversation, or light show, Bugg garnered one of the biggest and most up-for-it crowds of the weekend, amply warming vocal cords for the Arctic Monkeys.

As the closing act of the weekend for the vast majority, home county heroes the Arctic Monkeys, made it clear that they were there to end the weekend on a high. Slightly tipsy and with the usual on-point Elvis hip sway, Alex Turner cut a clean, confident figure as he led the band through a set encompassing almost every hit.

Proclaiming “I’mma have a right laugh with you” after the first of many crowd surges during opener ‘Do I Wanna Know’, the scene was set for their latest album of 3am sex and debauchery to take precedence. They’ve only gotten darker and more direct with age and their live show acknowledges this evolution from bouncy indie to raunchy romanticism, as many of their poppier numbers are omitted in favour of supporting their sultrier image.

A brave intro of “Oh, Sheffield is wonderful” over ‘Old Yellow Bricks’ got more than a few boo’s, but didn’t affect the concentration of a band now bathed in the light of multiple flares. Closer ‘505’ and a stop-start take on ‘R U Mine?’, complete with repeated false endings were definite highlights in a strong set of material, solidifying their status as deserving bill toppers. Dedicating their set to Yorkshire throughout, they were a great end to a “beautiful night in the North”

[Dominic MacInnes]

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