LIVE REVIEW: Leeds Festival 2015 – Saturday @ Bramham Park, Leeds – 29th August 2015


After yesterday’s undisputed success, Saturday has a lot to live up to, but with a lineup that’s just as strong, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Today’s lineup fully embraces nostalgia, taking a clutch of late ’90s / early ’00s acts and sprinkling them across the bill, not to mention shifting The Pit to the Lock-Up Stage for the day and having a much more eclectic selection of acts taking to the larger stages.

 Another major change can be seen in today’s Main Stage opener. Whereas yesterday saw the comparatively more straightforward Feed The Rhino kicking the day off, today sees Mariachi El Bronx [5] taking to the stage, and they’re a far more divisive proposition. While their day job in The Bronx sees them as one of the shining lights of modern day punk, there’s an unavoidable feeling of novelty to their charro-suited alter egos. They can clearly play the hell out of more unconventional instrument choices on songs like Wildfires and 48 Roses, and Matt Caughthran’s leathery vocals are well suited to the smoother sounds, but the limited palettes of sounds get incredibly old fast, and they’re nowhere near as entertaining as they could potentially be. The Bronx are one of the best punk bands in the world; Mariachi El Bronx are like a joke told over and over again – repetitive, stale and increasingly dull. • LN

 For a new band to describe themselves as ‘the loudest live band in Britain’ is a gutsy move, but it seems to be a fair summation of the sound that Birmingham’s Youth Man [6] have carved from themselves. The trio ply Black Flag-style hardcore punk, and while their crowd in the Lock-Up tent is absolutely minuscule, it’s endearing to see how much they try and win everyone over. Frontwoman Kaila Whyte has a real punk personality to her, flailing around the stage in the same unpredictable manner as the greats while letting out some surprisingly ferocious screams on the likes of Skin and Pigs. It does admittedly get a bit samey over time and there’s a large amount of hero worship present all the way through, but playing a festival of this size won’t have hurt Youth Man one bit, and for such a young band they’ve got a lot going for them. • LN 

 Soon after, pop punk stalwarts Neck Deep [6] take to the Main Stage. It already seems that the vast majority of their colossal fanbase make up half the audience, as the reaction to the quartet is deafening. Although recent album Life’s Not Out To Get You showcased vast improvement in the Wrexham pop punks’ musical skills, this fails to surface in this set. Ben Barlow’s vocals are shaky with much less conviction than expected. Tables Turned and the usually abrasive A Part Of Me sound completely mastered, with their hooks encouraging mass crowd participation. Newer tracks Gold Steps and Can’t Kick Up The Roots definitely stand out more from the rest of the setlist, but these live versions are poor compared to on record. While their energy levels are sky-high, it seems Neck Deep’s failure to emulate their recent success in a live setting is what’s letting them down. • GJ

 Meanwhile in the Radio 1 / NME Tent, Echosmith [7] are beginning their set. Everything about the four-piece (today a three-piece) radiates sweetness and light on record, and this is further confirmed when frontwoman Sydney Sierota pulls out a bright pink parasol to twirl while she sings. But there’s a different side of the band to be seen today. Sydney seems sassier and has more of an edge when addressing the tent, and it’s rather disheartening when most of the crowd does not respond as much as expected. But songs from debut album Talking Dreams sound excellent in a live setting, although Sydney’s vocals are a little bit on the weak side. Let’s Love is perfect for a summer afternoon while dreamy closer Cool Kids finally warms up the crowd and sparks lyrics being shouted back. Throw in bassist Noah Sierota leaping and bounding across the stage throughout, and you get an energetic, carefree set that is a joy to watch. • GJ

 With Royal Blood playing their potentially game-changing Main Stage set in just over 24 hours, cynics may suggest that God Damn [6]‘s appearance on the Lock-Up Stage is slightly redundant. Those cynics would be wrong, as while Royal Blood have got the big arena rock sound down, God Damn deal in the grimier, more primitive noise that a two-piece can churn out, and as slightly routine and subject to some dodgy sound issues as it is, the Black Country duo are decent nonetheless. Vocalist / guitarist Thom Edwards’ screeches are enough to send any Mumford & Sons fans running for the hills, while the loose, sludgy tsunami of riffs and drum thumps are as unrelenting as they are eardrum-bursting. It all rounds off with Edwards attempting to smash his guitar followed by a series of events leaving him with a streak of blood across his face in true punk rock fashion. God damn indeed. • LN 

 Given how quiet it’s been in the Panic! At The Disco [9] camp recently, surely such a lack of activity is to be reciprocated into such a high profile Main Stage slot, right? The answer to that is a bloody big, fat no – from the opening pulses of Vegas Lights to pure, unadulterated anthemia of closer I Write Sins Not Tragedies, this is exactly how a Main Stage set should be done. Naturally, Brendon Urie remains the focal point throughout. He’s charisma and showmanship personified both aesthetically and vocally, strutting around the stage in his black, sparkly jacket while delivering an absolutely flawless vocal performance punctuated by some positively unbelievable falsettos. Not even the heavy focus on later material can kill the mood – Nicotine is a full-blown party starter, while the turbo-soul of Hallelujah is just irresistible. Oh, and they just throw in a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody and a medley of Journey’s Any Way You Want It and AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long, both of which sound absolutely perfect. Basically, it’s the best return to the spotlight done in the best, most stylish way possible. Set of the day? No question. • LN

  The crowd descends into hysteria when All Time Low [8] bound onto the Main Stage soon after. There’s a distinct echo of voices around singer Alex Gaskarth’s during uncharacteristically slow opener Satellite, showcasing just how universal the Baltimore lads have become. And this keeps going throughout songs like Weightless and Something’s Gotta Give, giving the whole set a community-like feel. And the quartet treat it like one of their own headline shows too, pulling fans up onstage for Time-Bomb (something not done yet today). Even guitarist Jack Barakat has upped his game by making even smuttier comments than usual. The set is uniquely personal for a non-headline Main Stage one, the material and delivery are outstanding, and the whole thing is pulled off with a kind of loveable confidence only All Time Low can have. It’s not hard to imagine them headlining this festival in a few years time. • GJ

  But if you think All Time Low have earned crowd reaction of the day, think again. Bastille [9] earn deafening screams as their stage production is set up, before they’ve even arrived onstage. And when they do, it’s easy to see why there’s so much hype. The crowds lose their minds (probably along with their voices) during the opening one-two of Things We Lost In The Fire and Laura Palmer. Straight from the get-go, it’s clear that the quartet have mastered the songs they have in their arsenal, and it wouldn’t be far off to call vocalist Dan Smith one of the best in the world right now. It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into this set, too. There are still whole-band drum breaks, Smith still ventures into the crowd during Flaws and he still executes his hood-flipping headbang during Bad Blood’s cymbal crashes. But a handful of songs from the band’s upcoming as-yet-untitled second album sprinkled throughout as well as their TLC / The XX mashup No Angels, make the hour refreshing yet heart-warmingly familiar. By the time worldwide hit Pompeii’s “eh-eh-oh“s kick in, the set hits whole new levels. Anyone claiming Bastille would not be able to hold such a high-profile set has just been proven completely wrong. • GJ

 Like Against Me! and The Gaslight Anthem, The Menzingers [8] stand as a paragon of what modern day melodic punk should be. However, where they fall below the others is that, at times they lack the acerbic directness of the former or the weathered nostagia of the latter. Still, when viewed as they’re own independent entity, they’re pretty damn difficult to fault. There’s no flash of pretension to their set on the Lock-Up Stage, just grade A punk tunes played by four guys who clearly love what they do. The likes of My Friend Kyle and Casey burn with huge amounts of passion and emotion, while co-vocalist Greg Barnett’s employment of more snarling vocals to In Remission and a cover of The Bouncing Souls’ Kate Is Great is fully welcome. Above all though, while it’ll never be the most publicised set of the weekend, it’s just thirty-five minutes of wonderful, wonderful music, and that’s all that really matters. • LN

 The purpose of the Lock-Up Stage is to showcase the best talent in the world of punk in all its forms, so quite why Bo Ningen [3] are on today is a mystery. Sure, they’ve got the capricious attitude that punk is known for shown in frontman Taigen Kawabe’s erratic movements and almost-interpretive dances (plus he plays a headless bass, ferchrissakes), but music-wise, they’re an oddity. They play a sort of psych-doom-drone style that’s about as unappealing as it sounds and honestly feels like it’s never going to end. Between the neck deep quagmire of seemingly tuneless riffs and Kawabe’s virtually inaudible, feedback-sodden vocals, there’s hardly anything about the Japanese quintet’s set that’s particularly positive, especially when it gets to a point where it feels like one song takes about half of the whole set to play. Just…no. • LN

 You wouldn’t know it by the number of people moaning every time someone who doesn’t use a guitar is announced, but it’s been a long time since Reading & Leeds have been strictly rock festivals. Regardless, it really feels like Run The Jewels [7] belong here. While they’re undoubtedly a hip-hop act through and through, they’ve got all the acrimony and anti-authoritarian views of punks and the intensity of a metal band. They’ve got the ideal platform to show their views too – the massive Radio 1 / NME Stage is considerably full, and it’s their heavy beats and quickfire lyrics that cater to even those at the very back. The chemistry between Killer Mike and El-P is palpable from the start, with lyrical trade-offs in the likes of Lie, Cheat, Steal and Oh My Darling Don’t Cry being in abundance. There’s little to fault in either of the duo’s rapping abilities, but a bare stage setup and seemingly recycled beats in the back half of the set are their main downfall, and leave it tailing off rather than maintaining the same quality throughout. Nevertheless, for a first time it’s a good effort, and will surely only serve to boost their popularity more. • LN

Before headliners Mumford & Sons hit the Main Stage, it’s time for Leeds alumni Alt-J [6] to return home. Kicking off with the beautiful Hunger Of The Pine, it’s clear that their main goal is to captivate the enormous crowd watching them. And that they do for some of their set, transforming Fitzpleasure and the normally boring Matilda with lush, textured arrangements. Considering their music is, on record, perfect for a sundown set, it’s a huge disappointment when half of the tracks become more of a yawn-inducing drone in the middle. This combined with the fact that the band have the charisma of a cutlery set makes the set more of a chore to watch than a pleasure. The saving grace of the set is closer Breezeblocks, by far the best song in their discography, of which they perform a stunning rendition. Fans of Alt-J will say that they’re an acquired taste, but the brilliance they see does not shine through tonight. • GJ

 The number of nu-metal bands that could play a considerably sized headline set in 2015 could probably be counted on one hand, but Limp Bizkit [9] would definitely be one of them. Tonight is a case in point – the Radio 1 / NME tent is literally packed to see Fred, Wes and co. dig up some classics for the most memorable Saturday night imaginable. Fortunately that’s exactly what they give – it’s go big or go home, and kicking off with a song as synonymous of the era as Rollin’ suggests that the former is in full flow. There’s no hidden sub-messages or cerebral content – just massive tunes like Break Stuff and Nookie inciting circle pits galore and sending bodies crashing over the barrier. Fred Durst may have retired his once trademark red cap, but he’s still the same larger than life character, diving into the crowd and leading the horde in interlude singalongs such as DMX’s Party Up and The Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive. Material from their mythical upcoming album Stampede Of The Disco Elephants doesn’t materialise, but no one really seems to mind, simply because of the sheer volume of nu-metal classics packed into their hour. And if tonight proves one thing, it’s that while Limp Bizkit mightn’t be quite as relevant as they once were, they can still put on a hell of a show. • LN

 One of the most anticipated sets in the rock world are Reading and Leeds first-timers Simple Plan [8], playing second fiddle on the Lock Up Stage. As they bounce onstage to perform an electric rendition of Jet Lag (obviously minus Natasha Bedingfield), the reaction is one of the craziest seen all day. And the hits just keep on coming, with Welcome To My Life gaining a colossal reaction. This set just highlights how many hits Simple Plan have to their name. While the fact that they are in their thirties still playing songs about telling grown-ups to shut up may be a bit of a turn-off, their fun factor cannot be classed as anything other than loveable. Pierre Bouvier leaps and bounds across the stage at what seems like 100mph, while the instrumentalists play as though it’s their last show on earth, with huge grins plastered across their faces. Summer Paradise sees huge beach balls be thrown out for the audience to hit around, which is hilariously strange as the set is taking place in a small tent when it is already dark outside. While one may realise how under-appreciated the Canadians are in the rock community, this set and excellent new single Boom (which got its second ever live airing tonight) prove that this is just the beginning of a fantastic new era for Simple Plan. • GJ 

 Is there a better way to round off a Saturday night than with some pop-punk? When it’s from New Found Glory [8] then probably not. They may be inching ever close to their 20th birthday but the Floridian quartet are as vibrant and exuberant as ever, evidenced by their bursting out of the traps with Understatement. They’re in fine form throughout, darting through the majority of their career while still sounding fresh, exciting and, most importantly, enough to set off singalongs as big as Bramham Park itself. Classics like All Downhill From Here and Failure’s Not Flattering slot almost seamlessly with newer material like Ready And Willing and a quite wonderful Vicious Love, while Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow joins the band for a supposedly unrehearsed rendition of Black & Blue. It’s moments like this that show the influence this band and these songs have had over the years, but there’s also areas that show that they’re not averse to taking cues from other bands either, leading into a cover of Mumford & Sons’ The Cave. The set is by no means a game-changer, but as a collection of brilliant songs from one of the genre’s best bands it hardly falters whatsoever, and it’s just lovely to see New Found Glory on such fighting form this far into the game. • LN

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

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