Leeds was one hell of a messy – but incredibly worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable – festival. Sure, anything within a two-mile radius of the arena site was ravaged by at least six inches of mud but believe me when I say that absolutely nothing could trample on the incessant buzz radiating from the thousands of northerners who had all attended in the hope of forgetting about the mundaneness of everyday life.
It’s safe to say that Leeds was far from ordinary – here are five things that sparked debate:
Idyllic, indie rock bands conquered all
Despite not having its finest array of headliners, with two out of three sharing the spotlight with another artist, Leeds managed to nail the perfect mix of smaller, independent bands and artists. From sensational and nifty Brighton quartet, The Magic Gang to the explosive and 70s nostalgia infused band from South London, Inheaven, the Festival Republic Stage played host to many accomplished artists beyond their years.
But Reading’s own indie-rock band Sundara Karma took to the main stage at Leeds on the Sunday and unquestionably smashed it.
Leeds’ best bands saw the light
The power of lighting can sometimes be easily overlooked by both the artists themselves and the audience. But when something as simple as lighting perfectly echoes the emotion possessed by songs being performed, trust me when I say that the audience feels connected on a whole new level.
Two Door Cinema Club are a great example but The 1975 are the real pioneers of using neon lights and inventive stage accessories to achieve this effect. It’s pretty evident that frontman Matty Healy pays special attention to even the smallest of visual details to ensure that every single person present at their gigs feel personally and actively involved. Of course they achieved nothing less on Friday: a truly inspiring performance that left the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end and left your soul feeling as though it had been spiritually cleansed.
There’s room for something new and something old
Perhaps it’s quite odd to refer to elements of older, more classic rock sounds which are present in so many modern indie pop/rock bands as refreshing but it’s the most fitting way to describe it. Given the angle that most of today’s artists take, it’s so exciting to hear the raw roots of where a sound originated from. The two artists that really stood out across the weekend – who clearly tie their influences all the way back to the 70s – are Børns and Blossoms.
Michigan based Børns and his band strolled onto the stage and before you could even blink, completely infused the air with what can only be described as a spellbinding ambience. Børns’ hypnotic voice with a range similar to the likes of Robert Plant – paired with both the sheer talent of his band and his occasional guitar sorcery – made for a performance that appeared effortless. Due to the continuous aura of nostalgia surrounding his songs, it’s not hard to believe that Børns draws his influences particularly from the 60s and 70s and from artists such as Prince and ELO.
Stockport quintet Blossoms emanated a performance brimming with attitude, laced with seductive lyrics and anthemic riffs. With influences ranging from ABBA and The Beatles to Oasis and the Arctic Monkeys, it’s no surprise that what they’ve managed to concoct is stunning. Their clear ambition to be as big as they possibly can be is fuelled by synth-pop beats which overlay an on-going deeper, darker and heavier rock beat distinguishing them from other modern bands and putting them in another league.
Has Ozzy Osbourne been reincarnated?
Kent-born band Broken Hands marched on the Jack Rocks This Feeling stage, melted faces and left. You would struggle to find another band that played across the weekend that even came close to the power and energy liberated by Broken Hands. Their meteoric sound hit you as soon as you stepped within the Jack Rocks tent and it’s as if you were transported to some sort of unrelenting, time-frozen setting that dragged you further inside.
Frontman Dale almost acts as a puppeteer with unpredictable motions spreading from one end of the stage to the other. From perfectly executed leg movements to dramatic whole body flinches, the audience is completely and utterly enraptured and in the palm of his hand – leading to the obvious comparison with a young Ozzy Osbourne. As well as some of the riffs clearly having roots of early Sabbath, there’s an air of intelligent madness surrounding this quintet.
Broken Hands blur the line between genius and insanity.
Have the Red Hot Chilli Peppers still got it?
With new album Getaway receiving mixed reviews and the Chillis being the only single headliner with what could be considered to be a particularly prestigious reputation, perhaps you could say there was a certain degree of pressure on the funk-rockers. Has 53-year-old Anthony Kiedis had his day?
Opening with Can’t Stop and finishing on an encore with Give It Away, the Chillis possessed a relentless vitality which resonated amongst the thousands of people that gathered to see them. There was a full spread of ages present within the crowd, from children to adults and not one person went home disappointed – reflecting the ease with which the band has sold out their upcoming UK tour starting in December.
The answer is yes. They’ve still got it.
This article also features on Simon Rushworth's Rush on Rock Website here: http://rushonrock.com/2016/08/31/after-the-rain-a-look-back-at-leeds-2016/