Festival Preview: Leeds Festival

It’s a teenage right of passage to pack up everything in a sack and head off to a festival for the first time on your own, one that I did for the first time last year, at the fantastic Leeds festival. Managing to team a fantastic line-up with a suitably excitable atmosphere it has become the festival to end the summer before everyone heads off back to their lives, albeit work, school or university.

2010 was my first year in attendance on my  own, but in 2006 my whole clan descended on the festival for a family holiday to catch the likes of Franz Ferdinand, the Kaiser Chiefs and Muse. While that year may be a little blurry in my 20-year old head, last year created a fantastic set of memories, alongside the chance to catch one of my, and a whole load of other peoples, favourite bands The Libertines.

That’s what the organisers at Festival Republic do well, picking a stellar line up that is left imprinted on you for years afterwards. Not only were The Libertines the highlight of my summer last year, my time at the festival brought on memorable sets from The Maccabees, The Futureheads and Mystery Jets, and that’s just me talking about the Main Stage on one day. Where else would you catch Eddie Argos in the comedy tent, rallying the crowd as he crossed the barrier to get everyone to join in the Art Brut track ‘Modern Art’. Casual observers were not allowed. And who could forget the impeccably dressed Summer Camp spending a great deal of their set throwing Mars Bars at the audience and checking to see how the younger fraction of the audience had gotten on in their results. You can’t get as many memories as this anywhere, but then why would you choose to be?

And this August Bank Holiday weekend promises to be better than ever. Bramham Park is going to see not one, not two but three headliners who are more than up to the job. Muse are set to be retiring their 2001 album ‘Origin Of The Species’, while The Strokes are taking to the stage 10 years since the release of the seminal ‘Is This It’. That’s not forgetting My Chemical Romance, past their gloomy days now a spritely, brightly coloured version of their former selves, and standing beside their aforementioned co-headliners with The Strokes, the BritPop darlings Pulp.

And there’s so much more to see beyond that. Stepping away from the main stage for the minute, you’ve got a veritable array of established and brand new acts on the NME/Radio 1 stage. Ranging from the sunshine drenched sounds of Best Coast, lyricist extraordinaire Mike Skinner and The Streets, some of the best British artists of this year in the form of Miles Kane, Frankie & The Heartstrings, Yuck, Chapel Club and The Vaccines, and not forgetting the ‘Gob Almighty’ Liam Gallgher and Beady Eye.

Not sure about the music? Head over to the Introducing stage for a variety of all the at is brilliant about comedy and performance. Catch quirky Essex comedian Russell Kane, Punk God Henry Rollins, the delightfully glittery Brigitte Aphrodite, not forgetting that Lee Nelson of Well Good Show fame. There’ll also be an assortment of PJ Harvey shorts and a chance to catch Nirvana’s Reading performance from 1992 and relive the grunge years for real.

And thats not all, with the Festival Stage being tentatively headlined by Peter Doherty, The Horrors (whose recent release Skying has to have been one of the best of the year) and Midnight Beast, the BBC Introducing Stage showcasing the best in local unsigned talent (my top tip this year: The Mexanines) and a whole host more on the mainstage including The View, The Pigeon Detectives, Two Door Cinema Club, Frank Turner and Friendly Fires. Check out the rest of the line up here.

But it’s not just the music that makes Leeds special for me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget waking up Saturday morning last year in a collapsed tent, or rushing through the staggeringly large arena to secure my slot at the front for The Libertines, opening me up to a whole host of bands I’d never have chosen to watch like The Gaslight Anthem and The Walkmen. Or even better waking up Sunday morning and dragging my sorry ass to the Festival Republic stage at 11:30 am, slightly worse for wear, to watch Gaggle with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s for breakfast. Or long after the music’s finished sitting round a campfire, drinking god knows what and eating a whole load of rubbish, listening to everyone around singing at the top of their lungs (it’s not so good when you wake up to exactly the same sounds!) And yes, it’s England so of course it will rain, but that somehow makes it so much better. Wellies and pac-a-mac on, surrounded by absolutely no one you know, and fully drenched in rain manages to bring about a brilliant sense of community spirit, and that’s speaking from experience during The Maccabees set last year. Oh and on a final note: never forget your camera. Pictures taken hurridly on a Blackberry are a less than impressive reminder. Don’t believe me? Check out this fantastic Main Stage barrier shot below:

If you can’t tell who it is then, a) I can’t blame you and b) it’s The Maccabees. Lesson learned. Decided that you too want to experience the highs and lows of Leeds Festival? Then act fast, as it’s not yet sold out but with a line up this good and sister site Reading selling out, it won’t last long. Tickets are available here, or watch from the safety of your living room on BBC3!



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