Leeds Festival was back to seal the end of another glittering UK festival summer as Getintothis’ Megan Walder explored what this music pilgrimage had to offer.
3 years after I had to sell my ticket for Leeds Festival 2016, I’ve finally made it to the pilgrimage site of all northerners. With clashes, water shortages and inspirational messages setting the stage this weekend, suncream is plastered on as we prepare to enjoy music in temperatures hitting 28 degrees.
Safety and wellbeing were at the heart of this years event. Safe Gigs For Women posters are everywhere, the most dangerous drugs (with some deceptively amusing names like ‘Trump’, ‘Putin’ and ‘Lego’) being warned against on the big screen and constant app notifications about the welfare tents and facilities around the site.
The children that were running about with their ear defenders were just evidence of the festival not being as appalling as the media can make it seem.
Kicking off with Vistas on Friday and their indie-pop dream that keeps me coming back, to stumbling upon Childcare, a newly found love thanks to the shade of the tent and it’s hip swaying pied piper.
The festival was set up as one that offered hidden gems as well as well loved acts.
Frank Carter starting a women-only mosh pit and then dedicating I Hate You to Boris Johnson and performing it in front of a display of racist, sexist & homophobic things members of the tory cabinet have said?? …. legendary behaviour #RandL19
— paddington queer (@eleanor_mcgough) August 25, 2019
In true Leeds fashion, vintage shops surrounded. Our shopping was soundtracked with the sweet sounds of Billie Marten‘s secret set on the BBC Introducing Stage.
And with our new gems in hand we headed over to (unfortunately) the sole all-vegan vendor to get an incredible faux meat kebab whilst we laid back and caught a snippet of The Distillers.
As amazing as they were, I was left kind of gutted that I’d missed the American rock punk band on the line up, but catching even a glimpse of them was an entirely unexpected and very welcome treat.
Unfortunately for Sundara Karma, they were sandwiched between my favourite performance of the entire weekend and another of my top 9, Foo Fighters. With an uneven sound production and a lack of interaction, the band were certainly nothing like what I saw two years ago, still as talented as ever, but lacking the star quality I saw in them all that time ago
Seeing Bloxx for the second time was something of a full circle for me. The first gig I ever covered saw them supporting Pale Waves at Liverpool’s Studio2 and here I was covering my first festival, laid back and witnessing the growth of a band I loved from first note.
Childcare and The Distillers weren’t the only surprises for my unprepared self, I was also treated to indie rockers Sea Girls.
They not only wowed the crowd, but they spoke of the honour of their own role reversal, as artists instead of audience at this festival, “this means so much to us cause this is the festival we used to come to, from standing down there to being up here”.
That’s what Leeds offers, it offers a homecoming of sorts, where music fans can become the stars they always wanted to be.
A lull in decent acts lead me to sitting back on the grass and watching Charli XCX. Whilst Girls Night Out sounded like an awful Disney Channel production from 2003, her cover of Spice Girls‘ Wannabe made it all worthwhile.
With debut album 0151 blowing up of the indie scene, The Night Cafe packed out the BBC Radio 1 tent. With their scouse energy and funky pop tunes reverberating through the surrounding speakers, people flock like moths to a light to the newcomers to an ever growing world of new scouse sounds.
Twisted Wheel‘s new single D.N.A. took a smoother road than classics such as Oh What Have You Done and You Stole The Sun, I’m left praying that the band aren’t stepping away from the sound that had me fall in love with them in the first place.
Sea Girls weren’t the only acts to speak of the full circle that Leeds fest was for them, with The Wombats drummer Dan returning to the site of his first festival to absolutely blow us away with their main stage set.
The control they had over the crowd was unexpected for me, having seen them before at a tiny venue with just dedicated fans, I half expected them to be misplaced on the line up. But boy was I wrong, it seems that everyone knows and loves the band as much as those that filled out that small room.
Techno Fan had the pit pause, whilst only for a millisecond, I’ve never seen a whole pit freeze like that. And Lets Dance to Joy Division was introduced with a line that only well versed northern touring bands would ever welcome, “if you know this song, please sing along, or just chant ‘Yorkshire’ for three and a half minutes”.
And with lyrics that are still apt in today’s climate, ‘everything is going wrong, but we’re so happy’, the crowd forgot about everything for those three and a half minutes.
The blissful ignorance didn’t last long as Black Honey graced the Festival Republic Stage and informed us of the Climate Change March on September 20th, we were brought back to the stark reality of climate change.
Australian bands Hockey Dad and The Chats proved that the country was absolutely brimming with talent. With the later’s hilarious take on the world around them and their fuck-the-norm attitude leaving me in stitches.
From trading 3 naan breads and a beer for an audience member’s bag of weed, to singing angrily about being on your smoke break in Smoko, dodgy Aussie accents filled the tent, as well as the enormous mosh pit.
Thankfully, a pink-wigged saint was on hand to pick up those who’d fallen so we could all continue to enjoy what was an intensely bizarre experience.
From humour to reality once more and The 1975‘s new self titled track, in collaboration with Greta Thunberg just epitimised the change in the air this weekend.
From recycling bins being everywhere, to You Me at Six‘s Josh Franceschi sporting a Vegan jacket, Extinction Rebellion (who are receiving the profits made from the aforementioned track) and their huge ‘ACT NOW’ boat taking pride of place outside yellow camp and Oxfam promoting their Secondhand September campaign; the urgency was palpable.
Singer Matt Healy foolishly explained the band were “not being preachy” after 16 year old Greta’s harrowing words, and dampened the harsh reality of the situation. Her message resonated with me however, with: “I ask you to please wake up and make the changes required possible. To do your best is no longer good enough. We must all do the seemingly impossible” left ringing in my ears.
Sunday started off on a beautiful note following Saturday night’s call for action. Buttrfly were giving out portable ashtrays, to reduce the amount of plastic (in cigarette butts) that is dropped.
A handful were grabbed so that we could distribute them among friends and an incredibly hopeful conversation was had about veganism and climate change. The day was set up beautifully.
Enroute to Pip Blom, we passed Counterfeit on the Main Stage and caught singer Jamie Campbell Bower speaking about his four years of sobriety and how help is out there. It felt good to see so many people using the festival as a platform for good. Isn’t that what music is about after all, change, growth and unity.
Boston Manor and Slowthai followed Pip Blom with their explosive sets. With a Mercury prize potentially on the horizon, Slowthai was an act that I just had to see.
The shade of the BBC Radio 1 Stage was no longer cutting it, as the numbers in the tent increased, so did the heat and we were left to brave the scorching heat in an attempt to find water.
It was not an easy task and was the first time the whole weekend that an act was missed despite no clashes occurring, but Dinosaur Pile-Up had to take a backseat when it came to not wanting heat stroke.
Unfortunately, the next few acts on our list were on the Main Stage. Suncream was reapplied, water bottles surrounded our group and style was thrown out of the window as just about anything we could get our hands on was fashioned into a hat.
And so began our enjoyment of Billie Eilish, Anderson Paak and the Free Nationals, Blossoms and Twenty One Pilots.
Billie Eilish graced us with Bad Guy, My Strange Addiction and Teardrops. It was empowering to see such a young girl have such control of the crowd, silencing them with just a touch of her fingers and convincing everyone to live in the moment and get off of their phones.
— United By Pop (@unitedbypop) August 24, 2019
Her confidence was astonishing, but then again I have to remember that the 17 year old has come from Glastonbury’s main stage, this must be a doddle.
From the moody aura of Billie to the infectiously happy energy that Anderson Paak brought to the stage, the two didn’t exactly flow, but so is the beauty of festivals. A smooth, old school jazz combined with a fresh hip hop blend, he takes the old, spins it and makes it sound completely new.
Acknowledging the diversity on the crowd in front of him, he noted the variation of “creed, colours and sexualities” with the smile on his face only getting bigger and brighter as he spoke.
Off the back of their new single Your Girlfriend, which feels like nothing new for the band that regurgitates the same song make up every few months, Blossoms hit main stage.
Whilst their oldest songs have a place in my heart, I notice how bored I have actually gotten of their sound and drift towards the bar as their set continues.
Predictability doesn’t last long, and as the car on stage sets alight, Twenty One Pilots and the music that guided me through my angsty teenage phase explode onto stage. Stressed out and Lane Boy, from their 2015 album Blurryface were by far my personal favourites of theirs even before I saw them performed live, but now they’re forever cemented in my heart.
And as people took a breather from damaging their vocal chords, lead singer Tyler Joseph thanked the audience for welcoming the band, as foreigners to experience the famous festival culture that Britain offers.
As I smiled at those around me and talked about how nice that small statement was, I missed what all the screaming in front of me was about, and to my shock when I lifted my head I saw that Post Malone had joined the lads onstage.
So as the sun set on Bramham Park, Post Malone and Twenty One Pilots serenaded us with the Oasis classic, Don’t Look Back in Anger.
— Rock Sound (@rocksound) August 25, 2019
Sandwiched inbetween the Main Stage stars were indie rock outfit Peace on the Festival republic Stage. As a long term fan of the quartet, I had surprisingly never seen them live, and left kind of wishing I never had.
Whilst their cover of Time After Time and the banger that is From Under Liquid Glass were more than I could have hoped for, their new track Good Jeans left me worried about the future of the band.
The song was lyrically shocking, yet the crowd soaked it up. Even after leaving the festival, I’m still left questioning whether the crowd’s reaction was one of dedication or genuine pleasure.
Back to Post Malone and the headliner had changed into an incredible Jailhouse Rock outfit. Announcing that “God willing”, his new album will be out September 6th, the rapper/singer/producer introduced his new track Goodbye.
A desperate plea to an ex to leave him, the song not only displays Post‘s musical diversity, but appears to hit a nerve in those that surround me. Whilst songs like Rockstar, which saw the star destroy his acoustic guitar and White Iverson, which saw him become one of the most talked about new artists in the world, truly moved me, nothing compared to Goodbye.
Post just continues to grow, and yet remains humble and grounded, noting that he used to watch the festival when he was younger, and seemed shocked that he was finishing his European tour on the very stage that so many of his heroes had stood on. Imploring his fans to “tell [their]truths”, Post‘s set was the perfect way to finish off an incredible weekend.
The nine best artists and bands of Leeds Festival 2019
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes: Main Stage, Friday.
As sirens wailed, ‘Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes‘ was smacked onto the big screen and Deano blasted out a Scott Pilgrim-esque guitar battle cry, I had to hold back the excitement. As cinema’s own Tyrant Lizard King, Godzilla, was projected onto the main stage, Frank Carter kicked off one of the band’s most well-loved songs. Stepping from the stage to the crowd, he stood atop his fans, only to call Guitarist Deano down to join him for Kitty Sucker. Not a note was out.
And music was not the only thing that blew my mind about the set. Frank’s politics left me with tears in my eyes. Pausing to gift a song to the women of the audience; “Ladies, this song is for you, for all the shit you have to endure… If you’ve ever wanted to crowdsurf, this is your chance.” Imagine fearing sexual harassment only to know that if the worst were to happen, the band would have your back. The ladies-only pit was full of smiling faces and the atmosphere wasn’t that of begrudging compliance from the men that surrounded them, but that of supportive acceptance. People were there to support one another, not to harass and intimidate as is all too common in gig crowds. With Safe Gigs for Women posters all around the festival, it was Frank Carter that truly brought it home for me. I felt safe.
Political through and through, they went on to project Boris Johnson’s racist and misogynistic comments behind them, aptly soundtracked by Hate You. But hate is not the way you win, voting is, and ending with https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote behind them, their message is that of political movements and willing young people to a change.
— sara 🇪🇺 (@skymusings_) August 25, 2019
Foo Fighters: Main Stage, Friday.
A three hour set was fitting for Dave Grohl and his incredible entourage. The close ups of drummer Taylor Hawkins as they threw themselves into the well loved The Sky is a Neighbourhood just proved that a famous lead singer is not the be all and end all of the Foo Fighters. Taylor continued to amaze throughout with his vocals and drums for Sunday Rain and his vocals on the Under Pressure cover towards the end of their set with a Freddie lookalike from the crowd.
The hero of the entire set was Violet Grohl, who joined her dad on stage to perform My Hero before she had to go back to school; “I tell you what, Reading ain’t gonna get that cause she’s got to go back to school tomorrow”. Whilst her country-esque voice should have clashed with her dads, it instead supported it. She is yet to perfect her dad’s famous hair flick, but she’ll have plenty of time to practice.
— Ell🤝 (@MonTheEll) August 23, 2019
Bloxx: BBC Radio 1 Stage, Saturday.
Lead singer Ophelia Booth was no longer this reserved and timid presence and instead she took over the Radio 1 Stage. She’s come into her own and is now projecting an image that not only feel more confident, but more authentically her. I felt as though I had witnessed her come into her own, be the person she deserved to be. And the energy that now oozed out of her made the band’s performance all the more noteworthy. Headspace is arguably one of the bands best songs and yet Ophelia stood on stage, her band playing the track behind her, only to say: “I’ve forgotten the fucking words haven’t I”. All in good humour, she doesn’t shy away from her mistakes and continues to joke, introducing the last couple songs with the promise that she won’t forget the words again.
Sea Girls: BBC Radio 1 Stage, Saturday.
I last caught this band at Live at Leeds, a last minute decision that led to me realising that I’d listened to this band for longer than I could even remember without ever knowing their name. And here I was, later on the same year, walking along only to hear the sounds of Open Up Your Head as I strolled past their set, completely unaware that they were playing.
But what a perfectly timed coincidence that turned out to be. Despite faults with the sound and lead singer Henry Camamile having to juggle singing, playing guitar and instructing the sound techs on what adjustments were needed, they still pulled off one of the best shows of the weekend.
With new track Violet combining the band’s high energy, heavy drums and catchy lyrics and causing involuntary dance moves, I’ve had it on repeat since the weekend ended.
Mini Mansions: BBC Radio 1 Stage, Saturday.
The crowd disbanded after Sea Girls and left Mini Mansions to come out to a near-empty tent. It broke my heart to see a band that were so well accomplished be seemingly ignored. Michael Schuman (Queens of the Stone Age bassist and Mini Mansions vocalist and guitarist) stepped on stage in a blue suit that was to-die-for.
Suarve, cool and undeniably talented, Michael owned the stage from the offset, but it was vocalist and keyboardist Tyler Parkford that left the biggest impact. Death is a Girl showed that the unassuming black suit he donned was just a disguise, and he was the true star of the show. Undeniably, the band’s collaboration with Alex Turner, Vertigo, was the best performance of the whole gig. I expected Bad Things (That Make You Feel Good) to be my stand out, but with a slip up in sound quality, it didn’t hit the spot as I had expected it to. Oh well, I’ll have to see them again to make up for it won’t I.
Black Honey: Festival Republic Stage, Saturday.
Izzy Baxter Phillips (vocals) stood almost glowing in the light of her bleach blonde hair. Hello Today starts off with a smooth guitar riff and is accompanied with by Izzy‘s intensely eerie vocals echoing beyong the realm of the song, they were even more beautifully haunting in real life. “Give it up if you’re mentally unstable” she screamed to the crowd, misfits and miscreants screamed back. The punk undertones of the room was undeniable despite the angelic figure in front of us.
Hockey Dad: Festival Republic Stage, Saturday.
Hockey dad left me desperate for their new album after I didn’t catch the name of their new, unreleased song. Old classics like Homely Feeling and Sweet Release picked up my mood in no time at all, with drummer Billy Flemming amusingly commentating over the instrumental track that turned out to be Sweet Release.
He’d forgotten the lyrics and it seemed that his slip up had also absolutely baffled the audience that later proved their knowledge of the song was impeccable.
The band were everything and more, hailing from Australia, this is the first time I’ve ever seen them and it may be a while until I get to see them again. I headed over to get a t-shirt only a couple of hours after their set, only to be amusingly informed that the band had gotten off and taken their merch with them, just my luck eh.
Pip Blom: BBC Radio 1 Stage, Sunday.
Amsterdam royalty, lead singer Pip runs the show, but cannot be solely congratulated. Her drummer Jeanie was my personal highlight, not only keeping up with her fast beats, but putting on one hell of a performance. Babies Are a Lie demonstrated how the band were able to layer their vocals to increase emotion and the volume of lead singer Pip‘s delicate vocals and my personal favourite of theirs, Daddy Issues was impeccable.
Boston Manor: BBC Radio 1 Stage, Sunday.
Now, these Blackpool lads had a stage presence that belonged on the Main Stage. Give it a while and they’ll be there, believe me. They’ve gone from visitors to performers and will only continue to grow; “10 years ago this weekend we came to our first Leeds festival. We fucked off getting our GCSE results and had one of the best weekends of our life. It feels pretty full circle.”
England’s Dreaming was propelled into another stratosphere live, going from quite a relaxed tune for the band, to an performance that left me with a sore throat. And this only continued, every song was made to be screamed as the guitar was amped up and the drums shook your core. Bad Machine‘s chorus rang through the tent as more people trickled in behind us, with ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ being synonymous with talent, the line fits perfectly.
The atmosphere only intensified when lead singer Henry Cox jumped on the back of a fan and took his place firmly centred in the moshpit that had taken over the crowd for If I Can’t Have It No One Can. After seeing what they brought, I ran straight over to the only place I could get a signal and searched their tour dates, Liverpool O2 Academy November 15 it is.