The big Review: Leeds Festival 2019

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It’s that time of year again! The August bank holiday weekend is upon us and the sun is beaming, can you believe it? Keep the wellies at home as for a change as Leeds Festival is set to be a scorcher, not only with the weather but the incredible line up over the weekend!

FRIDAY

It’s Friday morning and the tent is up as we wander down to the arena to get the weekend underway. First up on our radar is punk rockers Milk Teeth (7.5) who we can hear kicking off the day on the main stage from our campsite with great intent. They scream their way through a short set full of confidence and it’s the perfect way to start the day. They may only have an eight-song set, but they squeeze something for the new and old fans. From the fan favourite bouncy ‘Owning Your Okayness’ to the more recent ‘Stain’ the set goes down a treat to the early birds who have made their way down to the arena.

It’s the first time we’ve caught SWMRS (9) and we was a little concerned we may not have got the best atmosphere having been bumped up to the mainstage from the Festival Republic tent late on after a drop out by Lil Uzi Vert due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s quite the jump up the bill but fortunately it would seem that no stage is too big for SWMRS as they cover every inch of stage available throwing themselves around to their raw catchy punk. Drummer Joey Armstrong drives the band through the set with his impressive drumming and frontman Cole Becker is full of energy and it rubs right off onto the crowd. He works the crowd at every moment possible and even requests a “wall of hugs” as he doesn’t miss a trick. The visuals on the screen behind are more than strange but interesting as we find ourselves watching Crufts to some punk rock, but it’s all fun and games. The feel good ‘Lose Lose Lose’ closes out a solid set from the youngsters and we learn never to doubt SWMRS again.

A swift move over to the other side of the arena finds The Faim (7.5) kicking off their set in some welcome shade in the BBC Radio One Stage. They do half give it some as they fly through their set in no time at all. It does seem fairly straight forward for The Faim but they make it look easy and effortless as they tear through their eight-song set. Frontman Josh Raven can’t help himself getting down off the stage and across the front of the crowd to get up close and personal with their fans as they sing through ‘Saints Of the Sinners’ and the epic ‘Summer Is a Curse’.

After we caught a glimpse of them at Slam Dunk and was rather impressed, we couldn’t not go and catch the fresh-faced Hot Milk (8) at The Pit for some more bouncy pop punk. They have an incredible amount of energy and the crowd soon get really into the set. The Manchester quartet swing their vocals back and forth between Han Mee & Jim Shaw which help separate them from the rest as their unique vocals give them plenty of personality much like that of We Are The In Crowd back in the day.
These lucky buggers have just jumped off a tour with the mighty Foo Fighters, so they are certainly riding the wave right now and it’s clear that it’s no fluke from their energy fuelled performance. Vocally they aren’t quite as clean cut as they are on record, but it’s easy to overlook as they hurl themselves around the stage joining in with the fun. As well as treating us to some new music, Hot Milk throw in some of our favourites like the catchy ‘Candy Coated Lies’ & ‘Awful Ever After’ which are crafted perfectly for a mosh pit. A great set from a band to keep under your radar in the coming months.

A swift jog in the heat over to the Main Stage let us catch a glimpse of Enter Shikari (8) kicking off their mainstage set with their “pitch control and sounds effecting our emotions” as the frontman put it. Their set started off as strong as ever with ‘Stop The Clocks’ and ‘Sssnakepit’ which kicked up a fuss down in the moshpits. Rou Reynolds was in full form as he danced his way around the stage non stop. “This is the type of song that would make you punch a gibbon right in the face” claims the frontman before delving into ‘Rabble Rouser’. We’re all for a good time but that might be a little too far?

Anyway no gibbon punching for us as we have to make our way over to the Pit for our Aussie pop-punk faves Stand Atlantic (9). It would seem as though the sun had sapped the energy from everyone as the set starts a little sluggish, but all of a sudden it all kicks off as Guitarist David Potter gets himself into the centre of a circle pit and from then on its crowd surfers and mosh pits galore. It’s the back end of the set which features ‘Coffee At Midnight’ & ‘Lavender Bones’ which really gets things stirring much to the delight of frontwoman Bonnie Fraser. They certainly have set the bar higher for the bands to come.

If there’s one person who loves to raise the bar, its Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes (9). The madman himself alongside the Rattlesnakes tears through the mainstage launching himself from every ledge in sight before getting down into the crowd alongside guitarist Dean Richardson to make sure everyone is fully involved. It’s a strong set built of our favourite FC&TR songs as well as a few new tracks from the recent album ‘End Of Suffering’. The last time he was here for a secret set he promised the new album was going to “blow our fucking minds” and he wasn’t wrong. ‘Tyrant Lizard King’, ‘Kitty Sucker’ & ‘Crowbar’ all create utter chaos in the moshpits. As ever the women are encouraged to enjoy themselves in a safe space for ‘Wild Flowers’, and a female only mosh pit is as the frontman describes “the most beautiful moshpit of the weekend”. The set closes with the savage ‘I Hate You’ dedicated to Boris Johnson as the screen behind them displays shocking statements and facts of the prime minister, before encouraging everyone to vote for change.

A Day To Remember (10) seem like the perfect festival band every time we see them live. They have an utterly ridiculous amount of banging tracks for a huge setlist, and bags of energy to throw into their set from start to finish. Not a moment goes by where something isn’t kicking off, weather it be moshpits, explosive pyrotechnics, beach balls or even toilet roll flying around the crowd. It’s crazy that ADTR don’t play here more often, but it just means they grasp it and smash it to pieces every time they do get the chance. ‘All I Want’, ‘Right Back at It Again’, ‘The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle’ and ‘I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?’ all feature, aside some material from the later album ‘Bad Vibrations’. The return of A Day To Remember also marks the start to the next chapter as they announce a new album coming this November and new track ‘Degenerates’ is released upon us at RandL. It’s another solid track from the Florida rockers and sounds even better live. We as many others surrounding us can’t wait to hear what the new album has in store for us after that performance.

It’s seemingly impossible to one up the likes of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and A Day To Remember, but only one band can pull this one out of the bag and it’s no other than the mighty Foo Fighters (11 – yup 11/10). They hit the stage and Dave Grohl is already yelling at us, telling us were in for a long night before launching into ‘The Pretender’. He may be correct but time really does fly when you’re having fun! A glider appears from nowhere to fly around the crowd as the Foo’s ironically play through ‘Learn to Fly’ much to the amusement of the Leeds crowd and the band themselves. Aside the expected Foo Fighters classics there’s plenty more thrown in for good measure. Drummer Tyler Hawkins takes front stage as Dave jumps on the drums for a cover of Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ which attracts Leeds Fest’s very own Freddie Mercury from the crowd complete with a mic & stick on tash to bust out some Freddie moves as Tyler sings along trying not to burst into laughter.  

There’s a Leeds Festival exclusive mid set as Dave calls his daughter out on stage to sing ‘My Hero’ with him which is quite the beautiful moment shared with 60 thousand people at the main stage watching on. As the usual Foo’s business is resumed the set drives on with the likes of ‘All My Life’, ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘Big Me’ and the huge ‘Best Of You’ which seems to just get better and better every time we hear it live. In true Foo’s fashion they carry on until the get kicked off stage with the additions of ‘This Is a Call’ & a cover of ACDC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’ for good measure. An explosive performance of ‘Everlong’ finally puts things to a close as the sky lights up with a huge fireworks display as Foo Fighters thank the Leeds crowd. An incredible set from one of the world’s best and most consistent rock bands.

SATURDAY

Nice and early on Saturday when we’re all hung over and shattered from a heavy night before you’d think the Dance Stage would be the last place to start, but you would be wrong. The Lafontaines (8) are in the mood to perk us all up and get things kicked off in the right way. The Last time we saw them they supported twin Atlantic in Leeds at the brudenell, and it certainly looks like they’ve come on in leaps and bounds live since then. They have a huge stage presence and they have the crowd bouncing with little difficulty, which is quite the statement for the first thing on Saturday. 

Over on the BBC Radio 1 stage Sea Girls (8.5) are also pulling a rowdy early crowd. The London lads don’t miss a trick as they have the crowd playing to their every demand. Their recent brand new track ‘Violet’ has everyone clapping along and has us looking forward for what is yet to come from Sea Girls. The huge ‘All I Want to Hear You Say’ has the volume of the tent rise rapidly for a set highlight.

It’s been a long time since Twin Atlantic (9.5) were last here and it seems like forever since we heard anything from them. After “fucking about in the studio in Glasgow for the past few years” our favourite rockers are finally back on the stage. Walking out with so much swag you’d think they were headlining, Sam McTrusty strolls out in a blue checked suit and sunglasses and this Leeds crowd doesn’t realise what’s about to hit them. Thrown straight into ‘No Sleep’ we’re all off on the front foot, and the frontman is straight down into the crowd. After such a lengthy break you’d be excused for thinking Twin Atlantic May be a little rusty, but that’s far from the case. Smashing through a short set packed with TA’s bangers the crowd give everything they can and we’re all singing along in our Scottish accents to ‘Make A Beast Of Myself’ and ‘Hold On’. There’s also a R&L debut for new track ‘Volcanoes’ and it gives us a nice taster of what catchy Rocky goodness Twin have ready to release on us. This is the rebirth of Twin Atlantic…

Following Twin Atlantic on the main stage is pop superstar Charlie XCX (7.5) who sparks the main stage crowd into madness early in the set with her massive hit single ‘I Don’t Care’ which has everyone dancing along. She paces around the stage leaving no space uncovered and flies through her set with ease. It’s a big stage for a single person to fill comfortably but she does a pretty good job of it. Another new song debut for the weekend has ‘cross you out’ dropped onto us, before she pulls out a mix of Spice Girls to have the Leeds crowd singing and up on their friends shoulders. But we’ll tell you what we want, what we really really want… some more Charli XCX bangers , and that’s exactly wehat we get with  ‘Boys’ and ‘Boom clap’ to close the set.

Next up things get a little livelier as Reading & Leeds favourites You Me At Six (9) have just chirped up before their main stage performance with a new song ‘ What’s It Like’, and as you would expect it features in the set among some of their best tracks to form a brilliant set. The lads are still as tight as ever on stage and frontman Josh Franceschi hasn’t lost the ability to work the crowd. Swinging from the beautiful and emotional ‘Give’ & ‘Take on the World’ to the livelier ‘Bite My Tongue’ & ‘Room To breathe’ to really get the mosh pits in full swing for the first time today. The bouncy ‘Reckless’ gives everyone the excuse they need to take off some clothes in the blistering sun to swing around. A big performance and nothing we would expect less from the Surrey lads.

As per last year The Wombats (8.5) are back on the mainstage as a concrete crowd pleaser. They admit this could be the last gig of the year for them off the back of their latest album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’. So as you would expect the Leeds crowd need no further encouragement to sing their hearts out and from early in the set the flares are out filling the arena with colour throughout the likes of ‘Cheetah Tongue’ & ‘Moving To New York’.

Unfortunately we can’t stay for the full set due to a clash, so we swiftly make a run over to the BBC Radio 1 stage for Manchester’s own indie pop band Pale Waves (9) who unsurprisingly pull a huge crowd. They look as though they have grown as a band live since we caught them closing out last year on their UK tour, and a support slot with the 1975 on their arena tour looks to have only helped them along the way. With only an odd album to play through the set is quite predictable, but ‘Red’ and ‘ Eighteen’ are real stand out tracks in their live set and they look right at home playing the BBCR1 tent.

It’s at this point where things really start heating up, and were not just talking about the weather. English rock duo Royal Blood (10) have the challenge of main support for the Saturday main stage slot and it looks like nobody could have pulled them away from it. Their set is complete and utter pandemonium as huge mosh pits and circle pits break out for every single song of the set. The duo do an incredible job of holding the massive stage with their rock anthems and as ever the noise that comes from just the two of them is incredibly impressive. Royal Blood are destined for huge things if they keep up the standard of music and live performances for the foreseeable future.

The Saturday nights Headliners are Manchester’s band of the moment The 1975 (9.5) who rock up on stage to their new track ‘People’ which has been turning heads as it’s far from what you would expect from the 1975 leaving a lot of people a little frustrated. But credit where credit is due, it’s a big punk track and brings something different to their set and probably gives us the only chance through their set to have a real good mosh. 

Once that was out of the way, normal service is resumed as The 1975 reel off their greatest tracks over the past few albums to an excitable and hungry crowd begging for more. Frontman Matty Healy is clearly in full form as he struts around the stage looking a little intoxicated and rather full of himself. “We just keep getting better and better and better…” claims the frontman as his head grows word by word. But in all fairness they really have upped their game over the past few years.

The twenty song set is packed with tracks from every album, from the old favourites ‘Girls’, ‘Robbers’, and ‘Chocolate’ to the recent ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ & ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ which has the frontman grabbing his bag and hat to recreate the music video on stage with some dancing on a treadmill which made some interesting viewing. As ever The 1975 try to make a point about climate change and political issues with a number of speaches including that of Greta Thunberg (climate change activist) who recorded an essay track with the band just recently.

A huge set closed with a bang with the fantastic ‘Sex’ and ‘The Sound’ which rounded off the evening perfectly. It’s a set that we feel The 1975 have pulled off as a main stage headliner but it couldn’t have come at a better time for them as they are at the peak of their musical careers. We wait with much anticipation for their next album in hope they can continue to ride high with some more fantastic music to come.

SUNDAY

Sunday morning’s on the mainstage are never an easy slot to take on, and this year it falls to COUNTERFEIT. (7) to really take on the challenge this year. The crowd slowly arrives in their hungover states from the camp sites to check out the London punk rockers. Frontman Jamie Campbell Bower gives it everything he has to wake up the crowd but it’s not the easiest challenge. None the less they put on a great set and a shout out to Trump and Boris needs little encouragement to have the crowd throwing their middle fingers up in the air!  

New York pop rock band Against The Current (7.5) have it a little easier as the crowd has sufficiently grown, but they are not much livelier in their numbers making it a workout for Chrissy Costanza who’s energy eventually rubs off onto the crowd to get everyone woken up. They play a great set but it feels as though something is missing as they couldn’t turn it up to 10 as we’ve seen them do many times before. None the less ‘Voices’ goes down a treat from their recent album, and they close out with favourites ‘Gravity’ & ‘Wasteland’ to conclude a short and sweet set.


The Hunna (8.5) return to Leeds Festival once again, this time with a mainstage set which pulls an incredibly larger crowd than we expected. They take it in their stride as they rattle off some of their most loved songs which has the crowd singing along at the top of their voices to ‘Bonfire’ & ‘Babe, Can I Call?’. Frontman Ryan Potter speaks up about how their label tried to “fuck them & their fans over” and that now they have a new label new music will be surfacing later this year. New track ‘IGHTF’ is a great teaser for the new material and goes down fantastically well, before ‘She’s casual’ has the flares out filling the main stage arena with colour under the beaming sun. The new ‘What Are You Waiting For’ is last on the list and could have been a risky move as nobody knows the lyrics, but it’s energetic and sounds brilliant live so goes down a treat to closes off the set with a bang.

Indie outfit The Japanese House (7) is exactly what we need to calm ourselves down and get out of the sun for a little while as the Festival Republic stage shelters us all from the heat for a set of chilled out indie pop from solo artist Amber Bain. Her vocals are on point and tracks like ‘Face Like Thunder’ & ‘Lilo’ sound great live.

Back on the main stage and the crowd has grown even more for possibly one of the biggest turn outs of the weekend par the headliners. Billie Ellish (9) is here and she’s ready to work this crowd as best as she can to have us all moving from front to back. Kicking off with the bouncy ‘Bad Guy’ she is well off on the front foot and the set only continues to rise as it goes on. It would seem todays crowd of Twenty One Pilot & Post Malone fans are the perfect fit for her alternative electro pop. It’s a bold set and one that is received very well as the LA singer is set to continue turning heads all over the world.

Blossoms (7.5) have a huge set of tracks worthy of a festival main stage performance so it’s no surprise to see them up there this late in the day. The Stockport lads are pretty to the point in the sense that they sound great live and everyone loves it, but it does seem as though there is little character to their set, as they do little to get the crowd going aside the main tracks of the setlist.

We move over to the BBCR1 stage to catch PVRIS (9) who have recently resurfaced with some brand-new music in the form of ‘Death of Me’ and ‘Hallucinations’ which both feature in the set and sound incredible live. The rest of the set is filled with PVRIS favourites like ‘St. Patrick’, ‘You and I’ and ‘Smoke’ before Lynn Gunn has the BBCR1 tent bouncing for the brilliant ‘My House’ to close of another solid set from PVRIS. You wouldn’t have thought they had been away at all.

The weekend is coming to an end and as the sun sets for the golden hour, Twenty One Pilots (9.5) have brought their set of Alternative hip hop and live circus to the Main stage as a split headliner with Post Malone. Straight out to ‘Jumpsuit’ the duo hit the stage as a car bursts into flames behind them creating a rather cool looking stage set. Their show is and always is full of entertainment weather it being frontman Tyler Joseph climbing platforms, Drummer Josh Dun on a drum platform held up by the crowd, or burst of pyro confetti and explosions to keep the crowd on their toes. A surprise addition of a cover of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ had the entire festival singing along as Post Malone joined the stage guitar in hand to help them along. The entire set seems to disappear in seconds because were having so much fun, even the security were joining in on stage for some rehearsed dancing which had us all laughing along. The only downside to the set was that there was just not enough time to include some of their best tracks in the setlist which should have made it to the cut such as ‘Heavy Dirty Soul’ which always sounds fantastic live. Still, It’s an incredible set and the perfect way to begin closing off the weekend!  

On the other side of things, Post Malone (9) himself has pretty much helped sell out Sunday tickets as there is some incredible hype around him over the past year. Last year when he played on the mainstage mid-day he pulled in a larger crowd than some of the headline acts, and that in itself was enough to have the festival organisers make sure he was back headlining this year. An eighteen-song set is just right for the rapper to close out the night. Taking the stage to ‘Wow’ Post Malone rapidly fires from one hit to the next. Large portions of his set was covered in pyro and fireworks making sure he could keep up with Twenty one Pilots antics before him. With such a bold setlist featuring ‘Psycho’, ‘Sunflower’, ‘White Vision’ and ‘I Fall Apart’, the fans were left more than happy from the rapper. The fact he thanked the crowd after pretty much every song only proved how humbled and grateful he is to his fanbase for the incredible ride he’s had over the past few years. What a way to close out Leeds Festival 2019!

Photography – www.leedsfestival.com
10.0 INCREDIBLE!
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Editor / Live Music Photographer / Journalist at Soundcheck-Live