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Review: Leeds Festival 2016

Carrie Humphries


From torrential downpours on Thursday, it was clear that the Summer bank holiday weekend could potentially be a soggy one; but this did not concern fans attending Leeds Festival, who still had a great time despite the mud.

Luckily I was treated to warmer and drier weather upon arrival at the site on Friday, which provided a welcome break and ideal conditions to pitch the tent. One of my current favourites, Black Foxxes, opened the day on the Radio 1 stage with an impressive angst-filled performance which left me delighted yet wishful for a longer set; as their new album I’m Not Well is one of the most outstanding releases that I’ve heard this year. I then had the tough choice between watching Greywind or Coheed and Cambria, which are both wonderful bands. However; Greywind won out in the end, as I’d only seen them performing acoustically before. Luckily, it proved to be completely worthwhile; as they owned the Lock Up Stage with one of the best shows of the weekend.

Five Finger Death Punch are a band whose material I am not particularly familiar with; but I was persuaded to watch them on the Main Stage by my boyfriend and enjoyed their set of melodic metal. This began a day of hopping into the unknown, as I ended up watching several more artists who I was not familiar with, including Half Moon Run and BØRNS. One of my favourite performances that I stumbled upon was on the Radio 1 stage from an all-female four piece called Savages, who provided a darkly powerful and compelling show as front woman Jehnny Beth commanded those watching.

Although I enjoyed both Friday night headliners Fall Out Boy and Biffy Clyro; there was one band who undoubtedly stole the show, and that was Biffy. Fall Out Boy certainly offered an explosive performance to watch, with female dancers, acrobats and pyrotechnics; but Biffy Clyro pulled off the perfect set with a lot less effort and proved that all that they needed to rock out was their anthemic songs and an enthusiastic audience.

Saturday saw the rain return with a vengeance; as torrential conditions throughout most of the day turned the festival site into a mud bath. This swayed many of my musical choices on the Saturday as I opted to watch sets the drier tents over the main stage. On Saturday morning, I made my only visit of the weekend to the BBC Radio 1Xtra stage to see upcoming Californian singer-songwriter come rapper, K. Flay. I was instantly drawn to her honest and entertaining show, which was at times fascinating; as her music draws upon several different genres to present something that is wonderfully refreshing.

Later, I was drawn into the the Festival Republic tent for a fair few performances including electro-pop band Transviolet and Dublin garage punks Otherkin. However, two of the best shows in there that day came from Pulled Apart By Horses and Maximo Park. I was tipped off that Pulled Apart By Horses would be worth a watch by a stranger who I was talking to while sheltering from a particularly heavy downpour. As it turned out, he was a friend of the band; but he was correct, as I enjoyed 35 minutes of retro-rock infused craziness from the Leeds based band. Maximo Park were also fun to watch as they offered a happy, bouncy and enthusiastic pick-me-up from the miserable conditions outside.

The Pit also had a particularly strong lineup on the Saturday evening as I caught sets from Nothing More, Hacktivist, Crossfaith and Thrice. Although it was great to watch Hacktivist again and see Thrice live at last; the two performances that really did shine that evening came from Crossfaith and Nothing More. Although Crossfaith were plagued with technical difficulties before their set which meant they were undoubtedly cut short; they pulled off a ballsy, in your face show which was loud and intense. Texan quartet Nothing More were another act that I was introduced to this weekend, as I had not heard their music before; but they proved to be a band after my own heart with their Mars Volta meets System of a Down-esque alternative rock.

After an unpredictable night in a slightly leaky tent, I awoke to better conditions on the Sunday and trudged through the ridiculously deep mud for some fun at the Main Stage. Unfortunately, I missed some of Clutch‘s set on there; but what I saw was more than enough to sway me to buy tickets to their tour when they return to the UK in December. Skindred took to the stage shortly after Clutch and offered one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend as they got most of the audience jumping about and dancing. Meanwhile front man Benji Webbe jokingly scolded anyone who wasn’t joining in. From amusing mash ups of House of Pain’s Jump Around and Justin Bieber’s Sorry, to everyone participating in the band’s famous Newport Helicopter; Skindred know how to throw a explosive party wherever they go.

After all that partying I went in search for something a little more soulful, and I found that in abundance with Seratones on the Festival Republic stage. The Louisiana four-piece provided the perfect slice of blues rock to while away a summer afternoon. Heading over to the BBC Introducing stage, I was greeted with some familiar faces from a young five piece folk band that I saw earlier this year; The Tin Pigeons. They are definitely still lovably quirky and fun, but seem to have come a long way in developing their stage craft over the last six months, with an all together more polished performance.

On Sunday evening, the Alternative tent progressively packed out to the point where it was full in anticipation for a show from one of the UK’s funniest men; Bill Bailey. Bill kept the audience belly laughing throughout his hectic 45 minute set; cracking jokes about anything from politics and Brexit, to internet trolls and music, and even improvising a song with the audience’s assistance. After Bill Bailey’s set, I was in a cheerful mood and in the perfect mindset for some uplifting rock from Imagine Dragons. The band drew a large audience as their triumphant and anthemic songs triggered sing alongs all around the main stage.

Now for a shocker; I opted for a young up and coming band on the Jack Rocks stage over Sunday’s headliners. Blues-rock band Broken Witt Rebels may of had tough competition from Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were on the main stage; but they performed to an enthusiastic audience as though they were the only ones playing at that time. Their set offered a good old rock ‘n’ roll show; full of raw energy and passion that you can’t help but enjoy. Front man Danny Core’s gravelly yet soulful vocals are undoubtedly one of the best in rock at the moment and their show is so scintillating that I don’t think it’ll be long at all before these brummies are a headline act. After Broken Witt Rebels, I caught the last bit of Red Hot Chili Peppers and slid my car off the swampy car park to head home for another year. Leeds Festival 2016 may have been soggy, but the music was sensational.

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