LIVE REVIEW: Leeds Festival 2011

Perform at Leeds Festival 2011

EVENT: Leeds Festival 2011
DATE: August 26-28
LOCATION: Bramham Park

Despite the apparent lack of ticket sales, the annual Leeds Festival was a busy and satisfying weekend of music and comedy. With a mix of  indie, punk rock, folk, dub step and more or less anything else you can think of, this year’s Leeds Festival was an eccentric and interesting line-up with plenty to see over three packed days.

Whilst the non-stop rain on Friday made the festival a mud-fest for the remainder of the weekend, We Are The Ocean opened up the main stage to a decent response with sensible choices from their recent album; “Go Now and Live” and at times seemed at home on such a large stage as Dan Brown’s screaming vocals and Liam Cromby’s warming tone resonated well with the festival crowd.

Over on the main stage, many were seeking refuge from the continuous rain and as a result, were welcomed by self-proclaimed “party band,” Spy Catcher. Whilst the Watford group showcased their debut album, “Honesty” in a strong light, it was clear that most of the crowd did not relate to their punk rock-fuelled pop. Ultimately leading the band to look somewhat frustrated. Nonetheless for those who were interested witnessed an impressive and appreciative set.

Frank Turner is always bound to get the crowd going, whether rain or shine and today showed just this. The folk punk singer put in another fantastic set and justified his position on the main stage, picking up the best moments from his ever-growing back catalogue. From “Try This At Home” to “Long Live The Queen” to “The Road,” Turner and company delivered a crowd-pleasing set that had everyone in the festival mood.

Enter Shikari‘s set, at times, failed to deliver as their brand of electro/dance-influenced post-hardcore seemed uneasy at times. For fans, it may have been the same satisfying the band have been putting in for several years but for those who are unfamiliar with the bands more recent material, it all came off a bit confusing. Whilst the more well known tracks like “Sorry, You’re Not A Winner” were received well, other numbers were quickly forgotten about.

At the NME/Radio One Stage, there was somewhat a sense of nostalgia as Panic! At The Disco delivered a feel-good set with several numbers from their 2005 debut, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” as “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage” and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” got the strong reaction as expected. Whilst tracks from “Vices and Virtues” didn’t quite get the same reaction; possibly a sign that the bands fan base as it was six years ago.

Saturday kicked off with a mighty pop-punk bang, as the mighty New Found Glory ripped their way through a fantastic set filled with fan favourites. From “All Downhill From Here” to “Dressed To Kill,” the five-piece brought a consistent set that delivered from start to finish. They even had time to squeeze in a cover of The Ramones’ punk classic, “Blitzkreig Bop.”

It was never going to be an easy job for security as Sheffield’s Bring Me The Horizon took the main stage. A frantic set filled with circle pits, wall of deaths, crowd surfing and everything in between, as the metalcore group tore through tracks such as “Pray for Plagues,” “Fuck” and “Chelsea Smile.” Understandably it wasn’t going to win over curious spectators, as this was a celebration for a band that hasn’t received it’s fair share of criticism through the years.

One of the most disappointing sets of the weekend came from Deftones. Despite opening up strongly with “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” and “My Own Summer (Shove It),” their set soon dwindled away and by the time “Passenger” closed the set, interest in the Sacramento group had more or less gone.

A packed out Dance tent welcomed to UK album chart topping duo, Nero to the stage for a energetic and satisfying DJ set that served its purpose well. Back on the main stage 30 Seconds To Mars brought an entertaining show filled with crowd-pleaser’s throughout yet you can’t help but feel at times its the Jared Leto show. Musically the band put in a good set but Leto’s talking in-between songs at times dragged and somewhat spoilt the bands overall show. Nevertheless its clear he plays the role as front man fantastically well, but as a vocalist he often disappoints.

Fortunately My Chemical Romance were on hand to show how an all-round, true rock show is done as the New Jersey group were as consistent as ever by bringing a mix of old and new material that was well-received by all, with talking kept to a minimum. It’s a credit to MCR for being true professionals; letting their music do the talking for once and not letting any gimmicks becoming a distraction. Of course the “hits” were to be the stand out moments but with the mix of sensible showmanship and suitable song choices, My Chemical Romance justified their position as headliners.

On to Sunday and at the Lock Up stage, Title Fight brought a satisfying set despite a minor microphone fault which at times spoilt their set, and it was clear that their hardcore/pop-punk style is suited for an intimate setting as the gap between band and crowd didn’t quite suit both parties.

For letlive. this was not the case as the much-hyped hardcore Californians delivered a justifying set that was packed with passion, especially frontman Jason Aalon Butler as he proved to a crazy ball of energy. Frantic soulful dance moves, mock DJ spinning, jumping from speakers, stripping and the few times he went into the crowd,  Butler made letlive.’s set even better, although it must be said they have the songs to back up the hype with some of the best moments from “Fake History” being showcased brilliantly. One of the highlights of the weekend.

Thankfully the sun was shining for Two Door Cinema Club‘s set of charming indie pop that fitted well with “Something Good Can Work” and “I Can Talk” being the most noticeable and most pleasing.

On first impression the inclusion of Madness is a strange one; stuck on the main stage in the middle afternoon in-between a ditzy indie pop band and a US alt pop-rock band. However with their cult-like status and heavy back catalogue, its clear that these ska-pop legends are festival-made band. Nevertheless it quickly comes evident that most people are here to hear the hits; “Our House.” “House of Fun,” “Baggy Trousers” and “It Must Be Love.” Unfortunately these don’t come until later on and nearly past the point where many lose interest. Although when they do get their airing, they get the reception they deserve but for the most part, their set is forgettable.

For Jimmy Eat World‘s set, the previously busy crowd had dwindled yet the Arizona group delivered a satisfying set made up of career highlights, for example “A Praise Chorus,” “Futures,” “Big Casino,” and “Lucky Denver Mint” were all given an airing. Personally as a long-time fan of Jimmy Eat World, I couldn’t fault their set and it’s understandable that their set concluded with “Bleed American,” “The Middle,” and “Sweetness.” Another highlight of the weekend.

The same can’t be said for Glassjaw on the NME/Radio One Stage. Despite their reputation within the “scene,” the Leeds crowd were welcomed with a set made up of unfamiliar material, with their recent “Coloring Book” EP being played in full. Whilst it is clear that the bands musical direction has changed and evolved, I felt uninterested in Glassjaw’s set and expected a set with more impact.

For some having The Strokes as sub-headliners at the Leeds side of Reading and Leeds seemed unreasonable for a band that have been consistent and successful for ten years. Nevertheless the New York group delivered a fantastic set filled with many tracks from “Is This It,” as well as noticeable cuts from “Room On Fire,” “First Impressions of Earth” and their recent album, “Angles.” Whilst it’s worth noticing The Strokes don’t put on a show like My Chemical Romance, they have the songs that are more than pleasing for the large crowd.

It was left to Pulp to close the weekend festivities and for the nearby Sheffield band, Leeds Festival served as a homecoming for the reunited. Kicking in with “Do You Remember the First Time?,” the indie rock group proved to be energetic and compelling from the start. Whilst lead vocalist, Jarvis Cocker added charisma to their show with his witty and humorous interaction between songs. However like Madness’ set earlier in the day, you can’t help but feel their set dragged along at times. Sure tracks like “This Is Hardcore” and “I Spy” are enthralling for long-time fans of Pulp, but you can’t help but feel more lively number would be suitable for a headlining set at a festival like Leeds. Nevertheless all is forgiven when “Common People” brings the festival to a glorious closing.

In comparison to previous years, Leeds Festival was good but not great. Although there was plenty to see; far more then we could mention here, the ever-increasing competition between festivals in the UK meant that Leeds and Reading Festival, on paper, struggled to deliver a line-up worthy of heavy £200 retail ticket price.

With plans to continue the increase the overall size of the festival, as well as an expected ticket increase and aforementioned competition, it is a certainty that the organizers must bring a strong line-up next year to keep this modern yet annual tradition going, or else the future for Leeds and Reading could look grim.

Written by: Sean Reid

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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