Review By Jack Arkell
Looks of resignation were painted on the faces of festival openers Crowns as they emerged from the wings, but an 11.15am start time meant that they were always going to struggle to pull in a large crowd. The Cornish band did admirably well though, treating the early birds to a solid half hour of rousing folk-punk.
Over on the main stage, Pulled Apart By Horses played in front of a much larger hometown crowd. The performance was energetic and passionate rather than note-perfect, but the band’s call for a conga pit was enough to charm even those indifferent to the music on offer. They may not be ready for such huge crowds just yet, but Pulled Apart By Horses provide a very entertaining watch.
Toy’s brand of shoegaze has no right to be successful in the festival environment, favouring lengthy instrumentals over catchy hooks. The Festival Republic Stage crowd are satisfied all the same though, lapping up the exemplary musicianship and unique stage presence on offer.
For a band tipped as hotly as Australia’s DZ Deathrays, you’d expect the same small tent to be bursting prior to their early afternoon performance. While this wasn’t quite the case, the punters soon filled in as the duo’s electric sound began to shake the soil beneath them. While the defiant ‘No Sleep’ and serrated ‘Dollar Chills’ were more than enough to justify DZ’s position on the bill, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that the band would be more comfortable playing a house party somewhere, demonstrated by Shane Parsons’ mid-set excursion into the crowd.
Bullet For My Valentine find themselves in unfamiliar territory today. Sandwiched between All Time Low and Kaiser Chiefs on the main stage, there was always the chance that ‘their crowd’ simply wouldn’t be present at Leeds Festival. Those fears were allayed within seconds of opener ‘Your Betrayal’, as Leeds was transformed into a mini-Donington for the duration of the Welsh band’s set. Matt Tuck and co. seemed genuinely grateful that the fans hadn’t forgotten about them, rewarding Leeds with a barrage of hits from ‘Scream Aim Fire’ to ‘4 Words (To Choke Upon)’ and ‘Tears Don’t Fall’. As for the audience reaction; if Reading/Leeds organiser Melvin Benn was watching, he would surely have written himself a memo to himself to book more metal bands in 2013.
The business end of proceedings on the Lock Up Stage began when Trash Talk took to the stage. Lee Spielman walked on top of the crowd, screamed in the faces of stewards and invited the crowd to run past the security and get onto the stage like a hardcore punk version of British Bulldog. Well over a hundred took him up on his offer, with fans filling the stage as the set came to a triumphant close. Unadulterated chaos, as expected from one of the few remaining genuinely dangerous live acts.
Turbonegro may not inspire the same kind of anarchy, but their glam-punk still proved very popular, with ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ and new song ‘Dude Without a Face’ the highlights of a well performed set. Gallows’ Wade MacNeil joined the Swedes for a rendition of ‘Erection’ just before frontman ‘The Duke of Nothing’ Tony Sylvester donned a Union Jack for the encore. Despite their constant line-up changes, Turbonegro are still powerhouses in the live environment, as proved today.
The same can be said about Gallows. Bravely opening with new track ‘Last June’, their performance took in the unreleased track ‘Everybody Loves You (When You’re Dead)’ and new single ‘Outsider Art’, played live for the first time ever. Despite this setlist transition, the five piece were still as momentous as ever, and there was still plenty for their older fans in the form of the closing salvo of ‘In the Belly of a Shark’ and ‘Orchestra of Wolves’.
Sub-headliners on the Lock Up Stage were punk super group Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, who covered everything from country music to show tunes, taking in R&B along the way. There was even a song performed in Japanese, as if Leeds Festival’s opening day was lacking this thus far. The band, featuring NOFX bassist Fat Mike and Swingin’ Utters’ Spike Slawson, clearly enjoyed the freedom of playing with their side project, with the crowd reciprocating every step of the way. After all, where else are you going to be able to sing every word to ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ without receiving suspicious looks?
Obviously due to the size of their fanbase and back catalogue, Foo Fighters are always a pretty safe booking to headline any music festival. However, their insistence on making almost every song last ten minutes dampened the atmosphere even more than the rain that fell onto the vast main stage crowd. Even the more blistering tracks such as ‘Monkey Wrench’ are paused midway through to allow Dave Grohl to pace along the front barrier, killing any momentum built up beforehand. Yes, it’s a good sing-along, but there is nothing that distinguishes this show from any other Foo Fighters set. ‘Everlong’ recovers things somewhat towards the end, but it’s a rather disappointing end to an otherwise sterling opening day of music.