Live At Leeds might not quite be Glastonbury, but I tell you what, Temple Newsam gave Worthy Farm a run for its money on 4th June…
Tower-high poles adorned with fabric flowers recognisable from the festival’s marketing material were beacons as hoards of bucket-hat-wearers crossed the fields, into a sea of food vendors and the four super stages. There was every cuisine imaginable available — think burritos to noodles, vegan burgers to bratwurst. And for the sweet-toothed among us, between the doughnuts and the fudge, getting that much-needed sugar fix was a cinch.
If you checked out RW‘s preview, you’ll have noticed that I was invited by Zeitgeist Agency as press. The guest area that they oversaw gave access to those with VIP orange wristbands (and blue-and-white-striped for press), and it came with its own interview area (plus very swish velvet, butter-cup yellow sofas), al fresco seating, a bar and set of much plusher toilets. No jostling for Portaloos? My kind of bliss.
When the doors opened at 12:30pm, there was a mix of ages in the grounds. Some well-behaved children even donned ear muffs while scooped up in parents’ arms to enjoy the occasion. Props of course to Futuresound for hosting an event that catered so nicely to everybody.
A packed line-up calls for an absolutely thrill-stuffed account of the day. Sitting comfortably? Good.
Things began for Record Weekly at DIY Big Top, a circus tent-style affair that had a habit of filling unbelievably quickly. First on was The Lounge Society, who made a valiantly strong case for indie tunes. An assignment understood by the majority of the billing. But I could hear a heavier sound channelling its way over from Hill Top, which drew my body and ears over to The Royston Club. Their delivery was sharp and they’re a class group of lads. No wonder bangers such as ‘Mrs Narcissistic’ are well in excess of 1.5 million streams!
Before I positioned myself front and centre at the barriers for Alfie Templeman, the sweet tones of cool-as-they-come Cassia dazzled me. They even had a drums-only segment, whereby all three members took to the sticks. A solid championing of that much-overlooked but oh-so-vital instrument. Their vigour was another ingredient that stirred up my festival excitement, which young Templeman tipped far over the edge. He was so unfazed and humble as he deftly played fan favourites such as ‘Obvious Guy’ and ‘Wait, I Lied’. He seized the six-string reins for the guitar solos but he still rewarded each of his instrumentalists with deserved shout-outs. That’s how decent folk conduct themselves. If dreamy indie-pop is your vibe, I implore you to catch Alfie Templeman soon — his bandwagon is the one to jump on.
Speaking of bandwagons, the feisty, angsty STONE absolutely must be on your radar. The quad served us lashings of great banter and in-crowd engagement during whoppers like ‘Let’s Dance To The Real Thing’.
All this thunderous, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it behaviour unfolded ahead of Holly Humberstone back down at the MTV Main Stage. Unfamiliar? She’s something of an ambassador for Y2K clobber and she’s a genuinely sweet, gentle soul with bragging rights to note-perfect vocal output. But she doesn’t just have the lungs — she’s uber-skilled at guitar and piano, too. Her unwavering popularity isn’t slowing, and now I understand why entirely. Although I’m more about earth-shuddering riffs than mechanically sad bops, there’s a time and a place, and Humberstone holds out her hands to spoon-feed both.
Not long after, I wandered past Arlo Parks trying to coolly wade through pint-sipping punters without being spotted. Mission not completely accomplished though, because I twigged, but I resisted the urge to say hi. The same can’t be said for when I introduced myself to The Royston Club… and had a hug. No regrets.
I can’t say for certain whether it was the zing of energy from the caramel-slathered churros I chomped on during their set or whether it was Confidence Man themselves, but there was a serious party spirit at the DIY stage at 4:30pm. Everyone was buzzing and the two-piece jumped, lunged and darted around in cowboy hats, lit-up bikini tops, the works, as their session musicians brought the synth heat under all-black clothing. It was a midnight rave before the evening had even rolled in. The grass was a dancefloor. Magic.
Award for the most dramatic performance? Sports Team stole the crown, jewels and all. As I sauntered down the field to witness Alex Rice and co tear the MTV Main Stage a new one, their riotously frenzied delivery became obvious as a magnet for close-up camera shots and mosh pits. Rice signalled the Moses-esque parting of the crowds and there was a theatre to every second of chaos and rowdiness. Transfixing stuff.
The estate isn’t too grandiose in size, so hotfooting it from A to B was more than doable. It conveniently meant that I could peep a few extra sets as well. The sensational Porij had the audience eating out of their palms, while L’objectif sparked a movement — literally — with their new EP material. I also managed to witness bursts of tracks from the mighty Sea Girls, Tom A. Smith, Sfven and HONNE.
I can’t express enough how insane all the artists were, but some shone brighter for me. You could thank my pull towards Scotland that gave The Snuts the edge — and it probably was — but wow, they were outstanding. In fact, I think I prefer them live! As the sun finally poked through the thick clouds, the Glaswegians really had a reason to show off their trademark shades. Their set spanned Buckfast swigging and middle-finger flipping, and the crowd lapped up all the hits. It was indie heaven as the rumbling riffs and majestic melodies of ‘Elephants’, ‘Always’ and ‘Zuckerpunch’ rang, and the anthemic ‘Fatboy Slim’ offered yet another nod to summer being here. The blood doesn’t pump faster than when you’re reconnecting with Glasgow.
On the subject of favourite sets, I couldn’t resist running down to behold the rich talent of Liverpool’s The Mysterines. After their Brudenell gig back in March, I could gladly see them once a week for the rest of my life. Their harsh blend of guitar-driven, Americana-infused robust rock is rightfully gaining traction here, across the pond and beyond, with Lia Metcalfe’s darkly enchanting vocals at the core.
For what I viewed of easy life, they had the vapers’ vote later in the evening, headlining DIY and encouraging people to clamber aboard shoulders to feel all the energy of every R&B lick. They specialise in the good times — a bit like The Vaccines, who emerged with a one-way ticket to throwbacks central. There would’ve been uproar if ‘Wetsuit’ and ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ hadn’t featured on the setlist, so hearing those was quite something. After all, they summarise 2000s/2010s British indie.
And do you know who else is synonymous with that? Bombay Bicycle Club. The headline act. The one thousands turned out for. Beams of red and yellow lights promoted the sense of warmth that we all so deserved in the chilly night-time air.
My old sixth form self was doing cartwheels, as it was a masterful medley of hit after hit. The band is revered for their charmingly jangly keys intertwined with distinctive vocals, brass sections and those sumptuous backing oohs and ahhs. ‘Shuffle’ and ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ stole it for me, but when an act starts with something as saccharine as the achingly upbeat tearjerker ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’, you know you’re in the right crowd. The bitter wind that persisted to blow failed to permeate Bombay’s bubble of brilliance.
Can’t wait until next summer? Secure your tickets to Live At Leeds: In The City on Saturday 15th October here.
With thanks to Zeitgeist Agency for the press access