LIVE REVIEW: Leeds Festival 2015 – Friday @ Bramham Park, Leeds – 28th August 2015


Traditionally in the music community, the August bank holiday weekend is usually synonymous with one thing – the Reading & Leeds Festivals. This year sees one of the best and most eclectic lineups of the whole summer descending onto the twin sites, with pretty much every type of music popping up somewhere over the next three days.

 Opening up the Pit Stage of this year’s Leeds Festival are Black Foxxes [7]. Although there are only around 40 people in the tent, the Exeter-based trio manage to get heads bobbing with their grungy, dynamic-heavy rock. They manage to make the crowd like them enough to earn a round of applause when the technical problems which plague the first half of the set are finally fixed. You’d be forgiven for mistaking singer Mark Holley’s offerings as Brand New’s Jesse Lacey’s, due to his similarly spellbinding range and ability to drench songs like Home and River in emotion. Although the set plods on rather than flows, the instrumental elements of the tracks mesh together beautifully and the trio can walk away with their heads held high. • GJ

 Over the last couple of years, the Main Stage has been opened by newer, heavier bands, but it still feels a bit strange to see Feed The Rhino [7] take to the open air. It’s probably because their bullish punk-metal is far gnarlier than most previous openers, possibly explaining why the patchy crowd consists of little more than curious onlookers and devoted barrier holders-on. Still, it doesn’t seem to faze them – frontman Lee Tobin is after all the manliest man to hit this stage all day, and his throat-stripping screams are the wake-up call needed this early in the day. So perhaps a Main Stage return isn’t exactly on the cards, but there’s definitely enough here to warrant a comeback a bit lower down. • LN

 A band like Lonely The Brave [8] were always destined to play on the biggest of stages, and today that comes true. Visually they’re not much to look at – T-shirt and jeans combos will never be the most daring of stage attire – but the actual music is a different story altogether. That a song as epic as Victory Line is able to kick things off and still pale in comparison to others is a wonderful thing to witness, and the Cambridge quintet only get better from there. David Jakes’ phenomenal vocals are the best they’ve ever sounded, pushing the likes of Backroads and Control into the upper echelons of hugeness, before finally culminating in a stunning The Blue The Green. Early afternoon slots like this will be a thing of the past before long. • LN

 Everyone knows Laura Jane Grace’s story by now, meaning that, at last, the focus can once again be on Against Me! [8]‘s music. Honestly, that should’ve always been the case, as theirs is some of the finest modern punk rock going, and on the Main Stage – a stage they’ve always deserved to be on – it sounds exactly that. The crap is duly cut with the likes of True Trans Soul Rebel and White Crosses being straight-to-the-point punk masterclasses, while the heavy lyrical undertones of Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues and I Was A Teenage Anarchist are hidden under melodies so glorious they could be dismissed as being throwaway. Grace’s vocals have a power and grit that a lot of bands this weekend would fail to muster, and by the time she and the rest of the band plough through their almost effortless thirteen songs, that they’re one of the finest bands in the world is indisputable. • LN

 As Awolnation [5] take to the Radio 1 / NME Tent, the crowd seems to be rather subdued. The mishmash of electronics and rock guitars at the core of the LA five-piece’s set are more confusing than compelling, causing the erratic and giggle-inducing dancing from frontman Aaron Bruno to become more of a focus than the actual music or his unique voice. When the pounding beat of mega-hit Sail kicks in the crowd erupts, but as the song progresses it’s almost like the novelty has worn off, resulting in what should have been the peak of the set falling flat. • GJ

 Given that this is one of their final shows before they go on hiatus (the final one being at Reading on Sunday), there doesn’t seem to be a downbeat air to The Gaslight Anthem [8]‘s set. The band seem genuinely delighted to be back on the Main Stage with Brian Fallon never hesitating to sing the praises of acts appearing later in the day. What’s more, their songs have the same joyous chime as ever, the likes of Biloxi Parish and 45 sounding absolutely incredible bathed in the glorious sunshine. There is, however, a noticeable dip in cuts from latest album Get Hurt, not so much in 1,000 Years which fits the set’s flow passably, but in Underneath The Ground, sees guitarist Alex Rosamilia taking up keyboards that only make it sound sluggish and pedestrian. Still, this is the only incident, and when the vast majority of the set is comprised of such anthems as The Patient Ferris Wheel and the inimitable The ’59 Sound, it’s difficult to complain really. • LN

 Seeing as they’re an underground band, it’s a surprise seeing Moose Blood [8] playing to a packed out tent. They arrive on stage to screams and the singalong to opener Bukowski is deafening. As the set continues the crowd’s reaction gets more and more adoring, with every word known off by heart by every audience member. The songs are just as good as they are on record, especially singer Eddy Brewerton’s vocals, and the whole band seem truly humbled by the reception they have received. They may only be playing The Pit this year, but with more material and experience, who knows how far up the bill they’ll be in a few years time? • GJ

 Meanwhile in the Radio 1 / NME Tent, Oxford indietronica outfit Glass Animals [7] take to the stage. Although their debut album Zaba was released over a year ago, winning the crowd over seems to be the name of the game, with an excellent cover of Kanye West’s Love Lockdown thrown in amongst their original tracks like Black Mambo and Pools. It’s an all-round intriguing set, and although the electronics and original vocal stylings (and tongue-in-cheek drug-buying tips) from Dave Bayley come off as slightly pretentious, they set the quartet apart not just from other acts playing the Radio 1 / NME Tent, but most other acts at the whole festival. • GJ

 As annoying as it is to admit, being different doesn’t always get you far in music. Still, while Turbowolf [7]‘s mad melting-pot of hard rock, buzzing synths, psychedelia and weird samples hasn’t earned them a great deal of commercial success thus far, they find themselves greeted in The Pit by a sizeable chanting, screaming horde awaiting a show. And put on a show they do. The hip-swinging Rabbit’s Foot is still the best thing they’ve ever written, while they’ve got some serious hook writing ability, as shown by Read And Write. Frontman Chris Georgiadis is a proper larger-than-life personality, something that’s in serious short supply these days, and while to the casual ear they may come across as a bit too quirky or out-there, a solid showing proves that Turbowolf are definitely onto a good thing. • LN

 Considering they weren’t even formed at the turn of 2015 and that they already have an EP and a full-length album out, things have been moving seriously quickly for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes [9]. It’s not been without merit though, and making their Leeds debut is the ultimate display of their live prowess, something of which they have in absolute spades. These are songs that were meant to be played live, with Juggernaut and Fangs inciting all sorts of mayhem. Carter plays the devilishly charismatic master of ceremonies, lording inside a gigantic circle pit during the galloping punk of Rotten Blossom, and giving his own shirt to a successful crowd surfer turned stage invader (“try that again next year when we’re on the Main Stage”). Musically, the band sound nothing short of incredible, a real force to be reckoned with on the more full-throttle tracks while Loss is stripped back as a swaying murder-ballad and I Hate You is possibly one of the most unlikely singalong igniters ever. It’s hard to pick a weak moment throughout – this is the physical manifestation of a man getting his mojo back. • LN

 With the speed and almost vertical trajectory they’ve been at, surely Beartooth [8] should be due some sort of crash by now? Doubt it, because they’ve turned yet another debut festival set into another step on their journey to world domination. Drawing on material from their debut album, last year’s excellent Disgusting, The Pit is soon turned into a hotbed of flying bodies and circle pits as half an hour of biting melodic hardcore flies by. Caleb Shomo is a compelling frontman, roaring through the likes of I Have A Problem with electric vigour, while simultaneously making more melodic cuts like The Lines and In Between soar. It’s over all too soon, but with a set like this it won’t be long until they’re back, and in a much higher slot at that. • LN

 There are few things more thrilling in modern British metalcore than Bury Tomorrow [8] in their natural habitat. They may have decimated the Main Stage when they opened in 2013, but the more intimate confines of The Pit is where they undoubtedly belong. Not only that, but they’re on top form as well. Launching into a suitably incendiary Man On Fire, the pace never dips, and their criminally short set sees them firing on all cylinders throughout. Dani Winter-Bates and Jason Cameron are one of the most potent vocal teams in modern heavy music, the former being one of, if not the best screamer in British metalcore, while the latter injects the already huge choruses of An Honourable Reign and Lionheart with the sheer bloody-minded drive needed to sound absolutely colossal. Basically, this is one band who are on the absolute top of their game, and are only ready to excel even further. • LN

 Years & Years [7] have had an incredible year, and their set has been one of the most anticipated of the whole weekend. The crowd loses their minds as the trio open with a one-two of slow-burning album opener Foundation and R&B / dance mashup Take Shelter, and the whole of the tent (as well as those who couldn’t fit inside) are dancing, singing and laughing along with (or perhaps at) frontman Olly Alexander’s questionable dance moves. Although his vocals are not as strong live as they are on record, with ballad Eyes Shut almost bringing the set to a standstill, the rest of the songs are enough to carry the set, with weaker album track Gold sounding absolutely colossal live. Hits Desire and Shine are extremely well received too, but neither come close to closer King, which possibly wins the award for loudest singalong of the whole weekend. With a few tweaks, this could be the smallest stage you’ll see Years & Years on for a long time. • GJ

 The last time Frank Iero played Leeds was in 2011 when he topped the bill with My Chemical Romance. Today, the erstwhile guitarist returns under the guise of Frnkiero Andthe Cellabration [7], and while his slot at the upper half of The Pit may seem like a demotion of sorts, his current project’s scrappy punk sound is far more suited to the smaller stage. He’s largely pretty good as well – a combination of a rabidly devoted crowd and a clutch of decent songs like Joyriding will do that. It gets to a point where such an unwavering style gets very repetitive, and the set seems incredibly short (presumably cut), but it’s enough to show that even post-MCR, Frank’s popularity is more than superficial – he still has enough musical talent to back it up. • LN

 As the most controversial addition to this year’s lineup, Kendrick Lamar [6] certainly has a lot to prove. He takes to the Main Stage to a crowd made up of less people than expected for a slot second from the top. Although he’s not the most well-known of rappers to have taken this stage in recent years (Eminem and Macklemore spring to mind), his material does show that he has what it takes to hold this slot. m.A.A.d city and main set closer King Kunta send the crowd wild, and mosh pits are unexpectedly going throughout. There are 2Pac and A$AP Rocky covers thrown in too, but these don’t pack the punch Kendrick’s original material do. It’s the rapper’s stage presence that really brings him down though. For a lot of the set, the only movements he makes are calmly walking from one spot to another. There’s a 20-second gap where he just stares at the crowd, and he leaves a near-five minute break between his main set and encore. Sadly, the personality needed to hold these tracks up is not present, which is the downfall of the set. • GJ

 What is there really left to say about the Cancer Bats [8] live experience that hasn’t already been said? Bursting out of the gates with True Zero, it becomes clear that, while they aren’t pushing the boat out much from their typical performances, that hardly matters, as they still have the same drive and voracity as ever. Wire up Liam Cormier to the stage and he could power it for the next few days, such is the extent he leaps around (and off) the stage, all while still screaming bloody murder to the likes of Pneumonia Hawk and a particularly feral Hail Destroyer. Their typical posi attitude is present from start to finish, meaning it’s a set built on fun rather than catharsis, and signing off with a perennially brilliant cover of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, it’s one of the most predictably brilliant sets of the day. • LN

 After a period that could’ve brought an end to their band entirely and seen their second album Brainwashed remain unreleased, it’s great to see While She Sleeps [8] back on such fantastic form. While their similarly-sized set also on The Pit last year felt slightly superfluous, today is anything but. It’s a set that represents a mission statement, and as soon as Brainwashed kicks in, it’s clear that statement is “we’re here, we’re back and we’re better than ever”. Every element of the band’s performance is absolutely devastating, from Loz Taylor’s crushing screams to Sean Long’s brilliantly dexterous solos, and it all paints the picture of a band that have a very real future as one of British metal’s leaders. That’s not even mentioning the actual songs, which sound the best they ever have – This Is The Six is buoyed by tremendous gang vocals, while New World Torture sees Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo popping up for a vocal cameo for some extra bite, and closer Four Walls culminates in Taylor crowd-surfing while standing on an amp. It may only be a simple act of exuberance, but it still acts as a suitable metaphor for While She Sleeps if they carry on in this vein – heading straight to the top. • LN

 Second to last on the Festival Republic Stage tonight are Little Comets [8] whose cutesy, happy indie rock immediately lifts everyone’s spirits. Opener The Gift Of Sound gets everyone dancing and singing, and the 45-minute or so set seems more like a party than a festival set. And they start as they mean to go on, with existing fans singing along with Robert Coles’ distinctive, enthusiastically sung lyrics, while new ones grin and enjoy themselves. And the songs take the set to another level too – Worry sees most of the crowd singing along, as does closer Dancing Song, which sees the whole tent erupt into a euphoric state. And it’s not just the audience. The trio themselves are visibly ecstatic that the tent are having such a good time, and the enjoyability combined with excellent material is what makes this set a great one. • GJ

 The Libertines’ turgid lad-rock may be what’s drawing in the crowds, but everyone in The Pit (a disappointingly small number at that) knows that the headliners here are actually a band worth seeing, and Refused [8] certainly don’t disappoint. The stop-start mechanic of Elektra kicks things off with Dennis Lyxzén’s surprisingly versatile dance moves being a definite focal point both now and for the duration of the set. The large chunk that is taken from new album Freedom impresses – the aforementioned Elektra and Thought Is Blood especially – but the crux of the set is material from their genre-defining classic The Shape Of Punk To Come, and whether they can still pull it off. Thankfully, they can, and incredibly well too. Refused Are Fucking Dead‘s title seems all too redundant given the power and volatility the band play with, while the war cry of “Can I scream?!” that kicks off the punishing hardcore of New Noise is a real moment. Unfortunately the set has to be cut, meaning that it’s a lot shorter than would be ideal, but in terms of showing that Refused still have a bit between their teeth and fire in their belly 24 years after forming and after a 14-year-long hiatus, it does its job in a way to highlight exactly why Refused are one of the most important bands in the world. • LN

 Competing with Main Stage headliners The Libertines is a tough job, but someone has to do it. And as Joel Zimmerman, aka deadmau5 [9] takes to the stage as headliner of the Radio 1 / NME Tent to raucous applause, it’s clear expectations are high. But as he launches into his set, these expectations are well and truly smashed one by one. There is literally no element of a good dance set left out – Ghosts ‘N’ Stuff sparks off a huge singalong, while My Pet Coelacanth’s dance-ready beat gets everyone moving. Every single track flows into the next perfectly, even ones made albums apart. The end half of the set is the best example of this, with a pounding Terrors In My Head bleeding through to a euphoric one-two of The Veldt and Strobe. The atmosphere is absolutely electric with the crowd clapping and dancing to every song. And it’s not just the music which makes this an incredible set. The visuals are just stunning, from the most superb light show anyone in this crowd has probably ever seen, to the hilariously ridiculous setup of deadmau5 having a beer with a man in a shark costume while a hotdog dances around them, to the trademark mouse ear helmet with strobe lights for eyes. The only downfall is that the set arguably continues for too long. After a brilliantly fist-pumping Seeya, the set continues with Blood For The Bloodgoat, a new, more mellow song, which considerably brings down the pace and prevents the set from ending on a high. But nevertheless, this set has only gone and proved how unmissable deadmau5’s live show is, and how he is probably the best in the EDM game right now. • GJ

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

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