Along with a secret set from Foals and the absence of a silent disco, glorious sunshine was the unexpected surprise at Leeds Festival this year. With the rays came the revellers, questionable fancy-dress costumes and a fair share of on-screen nudity, ready for a bank holiday weekend filled with great music, Somersby Cider in-hand.
If you get over the fact that Jamie T’s relationship with Reading and Leeds is defined by angst, attitude and assumed popularity, you’d be forgiven for considering the Londoners’ performance as one of the weekends’ pivotal performances. Chinese whispers spread like wildfire only the previous year, presupposing a secret set by Jamie after his five year hiatus. NME described Jamie’s comeback ‘as the greatest music moment of 2014’, and twelve months later the alt-rock high flyer graces the Main Stage with a set that does nothing but energise the Wetherby carousers ahead of Friday headliners The Libertines. Potent and boisterous, Jamie swaggers across the stage with a wry smile as the audience croon back lyrics to ‘Rabbit Hole’, ‘Sheila’ and ‘Sticks n Stones’ whilst he delights himself in the punkish nostalgia that pretty much is the Jamie T brand. On stage, Jamie is both dated and contemporary, turbulently readjusting to the British music institution and reviving a bygone era, with ‘Zombie’: a comment on the young adult condition providing the enthusiastic encore to his skilfully carved set.
In the placid afternoon sunshine, the Main Stage is also graced by indie quintet The Maccabees. Despite the settings’ grandeur, minimalism and intimacy is what sums up the bands’ performance, with ‘Something Like Happiness’, ‘Marks to Prove it’ and ‘Pelican’ the standout tracks from the Londoners. Vocalist Orlando Weeks is remarkably shy and reserved in dialogue, and only marginally less so in performance, and as a result the set overall proved to be just a tad too safe, though pleasant enough nonetheless.
Also dishing out mellow dream indie on Friday were newly-signed quartet Gengahr at the Festival Republic tent. Despite being recently heralded as one of NME’s ’50 Brand New Artists Set To Storm 2015’ the foursome fell short of their potential; their stark inexperience laid bare as they struggled to engage the crowd. Sun-kissed single ‘She’s A Witch’ was the sole track to receive any kind of vigour from the audience, in what ultimately proved to be a disappointing performance.
Tyne and Wear trio Little Comets are the penultimate act to grace the Festival Republic tent on day one at Leeds. On record, the band dwell close to their ‘kitchen sink’ tag, throwing a little more than just saucepans and dustbins into their nuanced percussion sets and enigmatic riffs. They’re a brainy bunch, too – all graduates, more into Homer and Verdi than standard rock and roll; littering their abstract lyrics with ‘subtext and lies’, declarations that ‘language is dead’ and references to ‘women with more invective than the average detective’. Having last played Bramham Park in 2012, their return this year to the packed-to-capacity tent proved to be a trailblazing occasion, with fan-favourites ‘Joanna’ and ‘A Little Opus’ echoing gorgeously below the canopy. Equally, the bands’ recently released record Hope is Just a State of Mind was met with pomp and ceremony. The performance, culminating in ‘the abuse of body image as a form of control / And the typical portrayal of the feminine role / I have never been more appalled’ being retorted by a somewhat sombre audience was the days’ highlight for this reviewer. The familiar feel-good was quickly revisited however, with the euphoric shimmer of ‘Dancing Song’ closing Little Comets’ outstanding performance.
It’s been half a decade since The Libertines have met with Reading and Leeds, when their set had to be halted midway through during the Reading leg amid fears of the crowd being crushed. Fast forward five years, and a full moon greats the foursome: anticipation is rife. Their headline performance this time round proves to be far from a case of déjà vu however; the crowd are so well-behaved that lead vocalist Pete Doherty is moved to ask, “What’s up with you lot tonight, anyway? You’re making us feel really unloved.” It’s all just a little awkward if you ask me. Forget moshpits, you’d be lucky to see a person gently swaying. The old and the new are mingled together, with tracks ‘Gunga Din’, ‘You’re My Waterloo’ and ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun‘ poignantly if not slightly chaotically delivered. Drummer Gary Powell, shirtless and drenched in sweat during the entire set, provides a nice quirk and does his best to connect with the crowd which you can only admire, and as Doherty and co. rattle through the encore you cannot help feel a little unmoved despite the actual quality of the performance being pretty impressive. Perhaps the punters down at Reading were a little more enthusiastic.