Another year of R&L has passed and as usual it came with a lot of discussions, arguments and complaints. I had the pleasure of attending the festival this year for the 3rd time, so let’s break it down!
The weather was setting itself up to be bleak and awful so I nestled myself into the Pit stage to see Sleep Token, and although lots of the mysticism and excitement around them was lost as I had already seen it, they were fun. They’re a band I’d wholly recommend people to experience at least once, and even on second viewing they were still pretty enamouring (7/10). After this I ran to the main stage in time to catch the end of Billy Talent who reminded me that you can get older and change; but you’ll never grow out of running around and singing along to ‘Fallen Leaves’.
Now, rumour had it that there was going to be a very special guest on the Pit stage. Turns out the rumour was right and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes showed up and pulverised the tent with a wild, untamed set full of massive rock ragers (8.5/10). Here’s a note to certain dudes at festivals though: when a band dedicate a song to all the women in the room and give them time to feel safe at gigs, crowd-surf, get in pits etc, don’t be a dick. Certain fellas in the crowd thought this was the right time to get up in the air, crush people and open pits around those crowdsurfing, it gave the set a really unsafe environment, be kind people and have some gig etiquette!
Bands would shudder at the though of following the live-wire Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes; Normandie should have been terrified to just place the same stage as them. It was nearly as unenjoyable watching these as standing outside in the rain. However, I braved the tent and saw them play a half an hour set full of boring pop-rock with far too many ‘crowd-participation’ moments for a tent that contained less than 10 people singing along (3/10). They were absolutely trounced by the inexplicably brilliant Milk Teeth who followed them. They turned up, packed the 30 minute set with brilliant punk songs and it was the most glorious way to spend my time. S/O to bands overcoming a mountain of problems and coming back stronger than ever (9/10).
Back to the main stage now for The Vaccines who made me enjoy their set far more than I should – songs off that debut album of theirs are just too good live. With frontman Justin Young singing them with such theatrical charm (8/10). By this point in the day I just needed some heaviness in my blood, luckily Stray From the Path were there to provide me with a monolith of cathartic anger. Perfect hardcore music to almost bring the day to an end (9/10).
I say almost because I then had to endure the most boring, bloated, dull performance I have ever seen at a festival, Kings of Leon. Not only did they draw the smallest headline crowd I’ve ever seen at a major festival, it was embarrassing to see them grace that stage alongside bands that were so full of life and vibrant. Kings of Leon are a tired band that should be playing arenas to people who think Sex On Fire is the greatest thing to happen to rock music this century (2/10).
Okay, so to confess, I didn’t actually attend the Saturday at Leeds but here’s a brief overview of what happened.
Bring Me the Horizon did a secret set on the NME Stage setting themselves up as a potential headliner of next years festival. Creeper got a chance on the main stage and managed to pull a decent sized crowd despite the festival cruelly clashing them with the return of Bring Me.
Post Malone played 5th down and drew easily the biggest crowd of the weekend. When the initial lineup poster was released he was seemingly subbing Fall Out Boy and people went crazy saying he shouldn’t play that high up. Guess we need to stop listening to those people right? Maybe it’s time for Reading and Leeds to take a few risks again like they did in 2004 when The Darkness headlined a year after the release of their debut record. I guess that decision didn’t really pay off for band or festival but it sure was a hell of a lot more exciting than Kings of Leon were this year.
Ahh and so Sunday was welcomed in, a day with a 95% chance of heavy rain throughout. That didn’t stop me from loving it though.
Kicking off my day was Brockhampton, a well deserved buzz band and the most exciting rap act of recent years. The self-proclaimed “Best boyband since One Direction” have aims far higher than simply being the best in rap and they stormed that tent with serious intent to be remembered. It was definitely a set I’ll remember forever, and so will the masses of people that turned up not knowing a thing about the band (8.5/10).
Onwards to the main stage in the rain now! I caught the end of Sum-41 and boy do that band know how to end a set; ‘In Too Deep’, ‘Still Waiting’, ‘Fat Lip’ and Linkin Park‘s Faint with Mike Shinoda were the last 4 songs on the setlist. Further proving that the R&L crowd live for nostalgia, Sum-41 were pure enjoyment (7/10).
The act I was most excited for came next: Dua Lipa. Filling her set with the vast amount of pop hits she’s accumulated over the past few years, Dua Lipa danced, sung and slayed the Main Stage. This was probably the best set I’ve ever seen at the festival and the most fun I’ve had in a long time, when pop music is done with a self-aware originality it’s unbeatable (10/10). N.E.R.D had the tough task of following a set that that the crowd lapped up, unfortunately there wasn’t much crowd left for them, an overwhelming factor that clearly affected the band. 1/5 of the set was spent by Pharell trying to hype up the crowd and the rest of it was a performance that just seemed a bit lacking, one that translates better on the TV with the dancers. It wasn’t a bad performance, it just didn’t at all live up to my expectations as someone who used to love the trio (6.5/10).
Now time for my favourite childhood band and the reason I fell in love with festivals 3 years ago, Panic! at the Disco! Let me tell you, they absolutely aced it proving all sceptics (including myself) wrong by pulling a massive crowd and showcasing songs and a live set that was made for the biggest of stages. It’s the Brendon Urie show more than anything now, but touring bassist, Nicole Row, is absolutely brilliant as well as the large team of instrumentalists that form the live package. These are a must see for all and their comeback has been unbelievable (9.5/10).
I’m not a fan of anything Beartooth have done post-Disgusting but I thought I’d check them out nonetheless and it was a fun performance. They’re turning into a formulaic version of their former selves but still hold a certain vibrance live, this shines especially when playing crowd pleasers such as ‘Beaten in Lips’ and ‘Bodybag’. The set was fun and the crowd clearly loved it (7/10).
Rounding off the festival was Kendrick Lamar. Still reeling from the spectacle of Panic!, I felt a bit let down by Kendrick‘s lack of production which was almost nothing but a few video segments on the screen. Despite this, the pacing and songs chosen for his setlist were great and it was a decent singalong to end the night (8/10).
So, Leeds 2018 was really enjoyable! It was a fairly quiet year with the majority of the rock bands I saw drawing abysmal crowds, but I can’t judge as my highlights were Dua Lipa and Panic! at the Disco! The lineup was cheerful enough for me to not despise the rain and lack of yummy food options (wheres the Paella stall Leeds!?) and that’s great going for a festival that doesn’t massively cater for my musical needs anymore.