Live Review: Leeds Festival (Plus Gallery)

August Bank holiday sees the annual pilgrimage post-GCSE and A level results to the hallowed turf of Bramham park. This year, in an exciting turn of events, sees a big yellow ball in the sky… could we be set for a rain free festival?

Friday started with the incredibly talented Hot Milk who have just made the push onto regular play on BBC Radio 1, it’s always great to see when a band who have been grafting for years finally get the recognition they deserve. With a fan travelling all the way from Australia to see their set, The Royston Club played early on, on the Festival Republic Stage. Their indie good vibes just perfect for a festival. 

Sticking with the festival republic stage, Dylan John Thomas played mid afternoon.. this is a name to keep an eye out for. Think Gerry cinnamon version 2, but with better hair. Scottish flags and limbs were flying everywhere, an energetic and exciting set from the young Scot. 

We caught some of Don Broco’s set from the main stage, they always bring the energy and they didn’t disappoint. The song Bruce Willis a highlight… which other band could get away with the lyrics “yippee ki yay motherfucker”, absolutely no one. 

Mae Stephens is one of those artists where you go, I’ve heard of her, but not sure where from. Well, her song If We Ever Broke Up has over 200 million streams on Spotify and went viral on TikTok, so that’s probably where you’ve heard the name. Her set was bouncy and pure pop fun, a great addition to the lineup. 

Dominating the main stage was Becky Hill, the dance music QUEEN is for sure a future headliner with banger after banger in her short 40 minute set. You can tell she was coming to play by bringing her full setup, including members of the Heritage Orchestra and her sassy and incredible dancers. Her name will be top of the bill in years to come. 

Sneaking onto the BBC introducing stage fresh from his set on main was Declan McKenna to do a surprise set. Stating that it was “an opportunity to play some of the songs we missed earlier”, great news for the die hard fans hoping for album tracks and rarely played live tunes. It doesn’t matter wether he’s on a 20ft tiny stage or the main stage, he’s dominating the area and is one of the best British acts around right now. 

Imagine Dragons are one of those bands where you don’t quite realise how many of their songs you actually know until they smash out banger after banger. Utilising pyro and confetti in almost every track from the start they are such an interesting band to watch. Thunder and Radioactive definite highlights. They absolutely dominated, worthy headliners. 

Closing out Friday on her second appearance at the festival was Billie Eilish. Opening up with Bury a Friend we knew she wasn’t playing around and this was a serious set. Playing the lead song from the new Barbie movie and including a meme from tiktok whilst performing, we’re shown that Billie is still just a young woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously- promising to see that fame hasn’t fully gone to her head. Bad Guy was always going to be one of the songs people were waiting to see most for the entire weekend and it didn’t disappoint. The full crowd jumping in unison- can tell it’s a younger crowd as their knees and back were able to do this no problem! All in all a great start to a fun weekend of music!

Saturday came and it feels like the entire field is monochrome. The amount of Newcastle United shirts was unreal- there will have been no one in Newcastle on Friday. I just hope the last one out turned off the lights- cost of living crisis and whatnot!

Our day started with Noisy, then The Murder Capital both on the dance stage – both brand new acts who I had never had the pleasure of coming across before but will definitely be checking out now! We’re huge fans of Frankie Beetlestone here at Backseat Mafia so it was great to see them performing on the introducing stage- their infectious music a real joy to watch and listen to on a Saturday afternoon. A band to watch out for in the future for sure!

The great thing about Leeds Festival is that you can happen upon random acts at any point and Saturday afternoon we stumbled upon bingo in the alternative tent- what a great way to spend an afternoon. We had to have at least one game and unfortunately we didn’t win! But a great idea to break up the festival for those who may want a short pause from the music. 

You Me At Six pretty much live on the main stage at reading and Leeds, this year, however we were slightly underwhelmed by their performance. Lead singer Josh Franchesci clearly suffering with vocal problems which did, ultimately, affect the overall feel of the set. It lacked energy and obviously the classic YMAS vocals that we are used to. Something for acts to think about in the future if someone in the band isn’t well, maybe consider pulling out of the lineup as you won’t be able to give 100% to the performance and potentially let down the fans that have paid good money to see you- just a thought. 

There was yet another surprise set on the introducing stage but today it was the turn of the wacky yet brilliant Yard Act. Opening with a cover of Motörhead’s the ace of spades everyone knew that we were in for a treat this afternoon. Utilising every bit of stage, yard act were making sure that they could put on the best show possible by bringing their dancers who were stood on small platforms. A great set from one of the bands to look out for in the future, they’re set to be absolutely massive. 

There weren’t many acts on this weekend if you like the heavier side of life, however the few bands of the typical “rock and metal” scene were perfect. Knocked Loose blew the cobwebs off the tent that had been coated in pleasant indie music all weekend so far. The perfect band to scratch the itch of someone who has been waiting to see a band with a breakdown or even a guitar in drop D!

Always turning up and putting on a stonking show are Foals. They’re indie bangers perfect for a Saturday evening as the sun begins to set. The ability to hold a crowd to a slower song hasn’t been achieved by many musicians but Foals vocalist Yannis has the Bramham crowd in the palm of his hand as they perform Spanish Sahara- a track that starts slow and simple and then builds to a loud climax. The latter half of the set sees Yannis leave the stage to get into the mix of the crowd, therefore there are thousands of people desperate to get closer to their idol. The crowds surge in waves, it looks choppier than the English Channel. All in all a worthy headline slot, they crushed it. 

Closing off Saturday was the man so many people had been queuing all day for, Sam Fender. Dropping getting started within the first couple of songs you knew this was going to be hit after hit. Supported by his talented band, fender stated that they’re all from the Newcastle area and one of his band mates and him used to come to leeds festival as teens- a wholesome full circle moment for Fender. Making his way through album tracks and hits the die hard fans were screaming along to, the excitement to hear the last two songs was building. Seventeen Going Under and Hypersonic Missiles have been two of the biggest new indie rock songs of the past 10-20 years and live, they absolutely do not disappoint. 

Sam Fender isn’t an act for neutral fans, if you didn’t know his album tracks you may be struggling to stay engaged for the full set as it does lack any form of ‘stage show’. Yes, fender sounds incredible and so do his band but is it a full performance? We think foals outshone fender based on performance and maybe the two acts should’ve been switched around. 

Sunday came and so did the inevitable downpour which saw us spend a large amount of the day switching between the alternative stage and the festival republic stage, (no bingo today, boo!!) Fat Dog were the first band we caught on the FR stage and even though it was early, the tent was packed (also maybe to do with the rain?) Their unique sound and questionable crab dancing from their keyboard/electronic guy was something to behold, a great way to start the day. 

Next up were Graphic Nature who were probably the heaviest band of the weekend that we managed to see. As someone who loves metal music it was a pleasure to hear some screams and distorted guitars- ahhh bliss! In stark contrast to metal, over on the Dance Stage, the pop powerhouse that is Caity Baser took to the stage. Her enthusiastic bubblegum pop vibes would brighten up anyone’s day and push away the grey skies over Leeds. Back to FR stage for the mysterious Zand. Their unique take on pop with electronic vibes was certainly a delight to watch and those packed into the tent were not disappointed by Zand’s performance and stage presence- one to watch out for in the future!

Sunday saw another “secret set” on the BBC introducing stage and this time Baby Queen stormed the stage after their main stage performance earlier in the day. They did perform a slightly ‘watered down’ set without any costume or set but the die hard fans clinging to the barrier weren’t put off by this one bit. 

Joey Valance and Brae are like two 8 year olds after eating too many blue smarties. Their energy is infectious and it’s clear to see why they were chosen to support Limp Bizkit on a few dates recently. The childish energy and gestures combined with their tracks made for a great performance. Sticking again with the FR stage because the rain didn’t seem to stop, we caught Soft Play. They guys may look familiar as their band had a rebrand from the original name of Slaves. Opening with Where’s Your Car Debbie, the boys are back and they’re about to blow the roof off this tent. 

The rain stopped so we were able to catch The 1975 on the main stage who were filling in for Lewis Capaldi. Props to the guys for mentioning it at the start of their set that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity if it hadn’t have been for him dropping out and for everyone to show their love for him and send him well wishes. Playing their debut album in full they have the classic setup of The 1975 iconic square at the back of the stage and are dressed like the indie boys we first fell in love with in 2011/12. A solid set from the retuning headliners, they don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, they’re only going to get bigger and better.  

Heading into the Festival Republic stage for the final time for us this weekend we managed to catch the mysterious Sleep Token. The masked band who have taken the metal world by storm over the last few years. Wether it’s because we have the same feeling as when slipknot first came out and you really had no clue who was under the masks, but Sleep Token have a strong cult following. They will be playing bigger stages in the future so watch out from them in the near future. 

Rounding off another successful festival and closing the main stage were the iconic The Killers. 

Their set is filled with banger after banger and you almost forget how many songs they actually have… I mean Mr brightside is 20 years old now! Their stage presence is second to none and with the crowd singing every word back the vibes between band and audience were huge. Flares going off and limbs flying everywhere could only mean one thing, the final track of the night and the festival- the aforementioned Mr Brightside.  Permission for everyone to lose their shit. Smiles plastered onto everyone’s faces and groups of people singing the chorus to Mr Brightside as they walked back to either the campsite or the car park, it’s clear to see that no matter what people say about the lineup for this festival, people will still turn up year on year. 

Long live Reading and Leeds

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1 Comment

  1. Zachary Luke
    September 13, 2023

    Gutted I missed this year, especially Billie and Sam

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