That was summer, then. Leeds Festival closing the season just as everyone said it would, 5 nights of chaos in the Yorkshire mud. Seeing a band or going to a festival for the first time and stepping into the unknown is one of the real pleasures in music, and carrying crates down Orange Camp’s hill on Wednesday afternoon was the beginning of a fantastic weekend in Bramham Park.
Music began on Thursday and headlining on the Alternative Stage was Grandmaster Flash, bringing his extensive collection of old school rap from the Bronx. Outside; pints overflowed with rain water, inside heavy metal revellers were yet to appear and it was left to a younger and more gentle generation to try and start mosh pits. Perhaps they can be forgiven for being shy of the mark, and 30 second gaps between iTunes track selection on stage probably didn’t help. A steady start.
Friday was always going to be a very good day, having seen The Vryll Society in a support slot and intimate venues, I headed to the Festival Republic stage with high expectations, they didn’t let me down. Their physch-rock sounds and Scouse swagger went down a treat. Another up and coming band from the North West were of course Viola Beach, the sad loss of the band and their manager Craig Tarry from Warrington resonated around the music industry, and their tribute slot on the Main Stage before The Vaccines was always going to be incredibly emotional, interview clips and then a live version of Boys That Sing from Maida Vale was played on screens either side of the stage. Topless headliners Biffy Clyro produced an intense set, the highlight of which was Black Chandelier and Many of Horror, show-stopping lighting enhanced a proper and intense headline performance. “He wasn’t here, was he, the lazy fucker?”, Simon Neil notes A$AP Rocky’s absence on Friday at Leeds, before Stingin’ Belle and fireworks finish off a stunning performance.
Midday on Saturday and Leeds and its’ hungover heads rose for Frank Turker and The Sleeping Souls and their energetic performance, full marks to the girl in the crowd keeping up the topless theme on the Main Stage and clearly fancying a bit of Frank. Later that day, The Sherlocks were at the Festival Republic stage and attracted a big crowd, living for the moment their motto and appropriate on festival weekends. I don’t delve into heavy metal all that much, but Japanese band Crossfaith were unique in The Pit. Headlining the Festival Republic stage on Saturday night were Maximo Park, a brilliant set from the lads from the North East. Midnight on The Hill and Apply Some Pressure were the pick of that setlist. Under one of his ever-present trilby hats, Paul Smith announced a new album to be released this year, high expectations indeed. The famous Leeds Festival Silent Disco was a must and it didn’t disappoint, vast differences between red and blue headphones make great entertainment if you take a few seconds to take them off and listen to some questionable singing. Walking through the campsite it was apparent early in the festival that the standout stall was the Salvation Army Big Red Van, dishing out soup and a roll for £1 beside sky-high ‘street food’, well done to that band of volunteers. That tomato soup was exactly what I needed to keep me going to the campsite Piccadilly Party, on until 6am and still packed out until then.
The last day, and with the campsite surprisingly emptying already it was for me the big day. Blossoms were on at 3 o’clock at the R1 and NME stage, now armed with their new album. My highlight, obviously, was always going to be The Courteeners on the Main Stage. They played new song The 17th along with other favourites in a 10-song set, they announced a UK tour on Monday with dates in Liverpool, Glasgow and a return to Leeds. Having heard rumours that Red Hot Chili Peppers were not quite as good live as you would hope, the weekend had peaked and a session in the Jack Daniels tent with some more heavy rock, a brilliant indie interlude and Peter Crouch and Abbie Clancy was expected to be the end of the festival, but RHCP pulled off one of the best headline performances I’ve ever been lucky enough to see. Ripping into Can’t Stop initially and ending with Give It Away they rocked the entire LS23 postcode in a spectacular climax to Leeds 2016.
Monday morning pictures a desolate campsite, burning tents galore and thousands of trudging music lovers climbing back up Orange Hill and back to work. The solitary comfort, though, being tickets for 2017’s festival are on sale now here, 358 days to go.