Photo - Luke Dyson
Rock and Metal have always found themselves in the pockets of the mainstream and Leeds Festival is a shining example of how new age Alternative music is breaking through the mainstream in unfathomable leaps. From Slipknot & Tool stealing the number one chart spot to Twenty-One Pilots, The 1975 and Foo Fighters championing this year’s R&L lineup for the Alternative Rock industry, opening mainstream audiences up to the gritty underbelly of the Rock and Roll scene. In 2019 Rock isn’t dead, it’s just evolving and this year its political.
The theme for this year seemed to be a direct attack at the state of the UK with artists such as The 1975, Yungblud, Boston Manor and more vocalising their issues on climate change, Brexit and gender non-conformity. Music has always acted as the public sphere for current issues so as society becomes more politically motivated, music begins to reflect that. But this set an overall tone for the festival with audiences more eager to recycle, reusable products featuring heavily all around the site and a general feeling of “we can and will do better.”
This year Braham Park opened the floodgates for a new era of Leeds Festival, this line up stands out as being particularly Rock/Emo/Alternative/Metal centric and favoured a variety of big names and underrated underdogs in the scene that delighted and amazed audiences. Here’s our favorites from the weekend.
Photo - Ian Coulson
Hot Milk are everything you love about Pop-Punk, Emo and Alternative Rock with a unique and refreshing twist that sets them apart from anything you’ve ever seen before. The duo-fronted Emo-Pop powerhouse are best known for their happy breakup songs that symbolise their breakup with an old life, moving on from the past and living your best life. What’s most notable about this band is their outrageously hilarious, charismatic and unapologetic personalities that carry through to their stage performances, making their live shows an absolute joy to watch. It’s easy to hook into their catchy anthems and with their charismatic stage personalities it’s no surprise they have a phenomenal rapport with the crowd who were just as insane as them.
Songs To Listen To: Their whole Are You Feeling Alive? EP.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnake are unbounded in their capabilities for putting on a good show. Their powerful songs inspire emotions of rage, angst, excitement and terror, taken from the real-life experiences of frontman Frank Carter, who’s openly spoken about anxiety and sexism, that fuel into their live performances and garner an outburst from their audience who’s only solace for their angst is aggressive moshpits and crowd surfing, it was an intense experience.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes already have a known reputation for having phenomenal shows because of their bodacious stage energy, but what came as a warming surprise is their punk ideology that isn’t just a façade in their songs, they’re punk at its finest. One moment that spoke to many festival goers was their ‘female-only’ mosh pit dubbed “the happiest moshpit you will ever see’ and female only crowd surfing. Carter vocalized issues of sexual assault against women and how toxic masculinity needs to be “put aside.” This was met to the cheers and applause from most of the mainstage area who then flocked to either crowd surf or support the female crowd surfers. It was a humbling moment that reminded many of why they love festivals, the community.
Songs To Listen To: ‘Anxiety’, "Modern Ruin’, ‘Kitty Sucker’, ‘I Hate You’
Photo - David Dillon
On an early Friday morning Leeds festival needed a burst of erratic insanity which came from the outrageously fabulous Yungblud, who pounced onto the stage to bring Braham some good ol’ political punk jams.
Yungblud had a quick rise to fame, now claiming his rightful place on the main stage, but hasn’t wasted his position. Dominic (Yungblud) uses his platform to openly talk about discrimination, political corruption etc. Draped in a non-gender conforming dress, Yungblud played his most favourable tracks ‘Hope For The Underrated Youth’ ‘Parents’ and ‘Loner’ among other hits that act as an open letter to society of a need for change, revolution and a solace In the pain for others. His flamboyant, unapologetic and rowdy personality matched with his outgoing lyrics and added to his performance, vocalising even further the issues of which he speaks openly about.
As a Doncaster local not too far off from Leeds Yungblud felt a perfect fit for this festival and was easily welcomed by the crowd. In fact, for one of the first acts I was pleasantly surprised to see the first standing block almost filled to its brim as he arrived, it felt like a well-deserved win for an artist who works hard and uses his platform to promote a necessary message.
Songs To Listen To: ‘California’, ‘Parents’, ‘Hope For The Underrated Youth’, ‘Anarchist’
Photo - Matt Eachus
Headlining a festival of this acclaim holds a high stake of expectation, but when you’ve been striding through almost 15 years of success in this industry to where you’re hailed “Rock and Roll legends” that expectation is even higher. But Foo Fighters are not one to disappoint, they dish out everything you expect from your typical Foo Fighters show with a second serving of surprises and underrated hits that takes you by surprise.
After so long in this industry Foo Fighters could stand around and do nothing and people would still love them endlessly, but they still pour buckets of sweat and pound out each song till its very end like it’s their first time performing it. There’s a genuine sense of love for what they do, frontman Dave Grohl translated that gratitude and passion in his boastful yet humble stage presence. Every song had its extra oomph, with extended guitar solos lasting 10 minutes and back and forth’s between the audience hearing who can sing louder.
Their engagement with the crowd and their devotion to each song, including some unheard songs that haven’t seen the set list for a while, showed fans that time won’t erode them and they can still put on an insane show. For longtime fans this felt like a celebration of the best of Foo Fighters, it was everything you know and love and then something extra!
Songs to listen to: ‘The Pretender’, ‘Learn To Fly’, ‘`All My Life’
Photos - Matt Eachus
I sense of euphoria and trascdence overcame me whilst watching PALE WAVES performance. The Indie/Emo Pop band from Manchester make happy songs for sad people, with their soft yet bittersweet lyrcisims of heartbreak, loss and regret, comforted by the angelic vocals of Heather Baron-Gracie.
A PALE WAVES show is an emotional rollercoaster, you start dancing and then the lyrics hit you and then you have to sit down for a moment before the emo invades you. PALE WAVES don’t hold back, they bring their gothic aesthetics to the stage and match with emotionally jarring songs that feel like a cohesive effort to be more than just “a band that sang their songs on stage,” live performances from them feel like and audio and visual story that make it worth the effort of seeing.
Though they’ve been infamously dubbed “the female 1975” which I feel is an unfair comparison to their own creative efforts as musicians. Not only does this fit make no sense with only two of the members being female, it berates their success as being a copy of someone else when PALE WAVES music speaks from the soul and stand for their own set of beliefs that should be upheld to the standards of themselves and no one else. You’d be a fool to underrated their talents because they sound like someone else, PALE WAVES are the sucker punch you just didn’t see coming and there’s a lot more they have to offer.
Songs to listen to: ‘Eighteen’, ‘There Is A Honey’, ‘One More Time’
Photo - Ellen Offredy
Charlie XCX is known for her electric stage performances or incredible fashion style and Leeds Festival did not disappoint. Decked out in her Gucci glasses the Essex’s singer sassily pranced around the stage to giddy up the crowd playing some fan favourite bops ‘1999’ ‘Blame It On Your Love’ and ‘Boys’, as well as covering songs she either produced, wrote or featured on including hits ‘I Love It’ by Icona Pop or ‘Fancy’ by Iggy Azalea.
Her performance felt like a necessary resurgence of life into a hungover crowd of festival goers, and with her songs appealing to a Pop/House friendly audience it was easy to get the crowd off their feet with her dubbed ‘classic 90’s raves.’
After her performance, I found a new respect for Miss XCX. On the surface, she’s just “another Pop singer in the charts” but underneath that is a genius analytical and creative mind that’s writing and producing most of what’s in today’s charts or had previously been summer anthems years before. Her lyricisms alone are flawless, every song has its own vocal tone with perfectly fitted instrumentals to match i.e. ‘Girls Night Out’ with its fune whistles and catch phrases that make you immediately feel like a young 20 something going out again.
She’s arguably a musical visionary, always got her finger on the trigger for what’s new in music and her live performances share the same passion for music. Seeing Charlie XCX feels like having one massive house party with uplifting House jams that are easy to rave to, except the host is a very famous musician and you’re actually in a field in Braham Park.
Songs to listen to: ‘Blame It On Your Love’, ‘1999’, ‘Girls Night Out’
Photo - Matt Eachus
Only a few short years ago The 1975 devoured the BBC Radio 1 stage at R&L festival during their ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ era, and for a band that grew up living and breathing festival life like this it seems like an overwhelming full-circle moment to see them triumphantly return to their stomping crowds as new undefeated champions, claiming their rightful place as mainstage headliners to close Saturday as they sit on a whole new claim of success in the past three years.
The 1975’s performances extend beyond its lyric bounds and feature beautiful visuals and pyro techniques as well as brief audio interludes that use their time to promote messages about climate change and the need for protest. This seemed to be the underlying theme of their performance kicking in with their politically charged song ‘People.’ Frontman Matty Healey took more than one chance to vocalise the bands views on LGBT discrimination in India and the dire urgency around climate change were Healey demanded audience members to take their tents home with them and pick up their rubbish when they leave “because we can’t be taken seriously if we don’t take ourselves seriously.”
Again similar to Foo Fighters this felt like a collection of what makes The 1975 so loved with a lot of their best hits from each era of their music making their way through the set list i.e. ‘Chocolate’ ‘The Sound’ ‘I Love It If We Made It’ among others. Even if you didn’t really like or know of The 1975 just from a visual standpoint alone it would be easy to sit and watch, maybe dance along to a few popular hits.
Songs to listen to: ‘Girls’, ‘People,’ ‘Love Me’, ‘Sincerity Is Scary’
Photo - Andrew Takes Photos
Boston Manor defied what it meant to be Pop-Punk or Alternative Punk Rock with their ‘Welcome To The Neighborhood’ and their live performances match that defiance of the ordinary with an outstanding, energy-fuelled set that saw some aggressive head banging from frontman Henry Cox.
Though R&L is aiding the Rock/Metal take-over of the mainstream demographic, it hasn’t always been met with loving arms. Audiences are still yet to click with ALL that Rock/Metal/Punk etc has to offer which left Boston Manor’s performance falling on deaf ears. Fans were darted around the audience and participation was known but for the crowd rapport I’d expect from a Boston Manor set, this didn’t justify the band’s onstage efforts at all.
Audience lackluster aside, their set list was an amazing piecing of their finest works from their latest record and some call backs to their previous work Be Nothing.
Photo - Luke Dyson
Like many, I found myself lingering around the mainstage all day just to get a glimpse at the acclaimed Billie Eillish. It’s still astonishing to think someone so young could sky rocket to fame at such an accelerated rate with only two albums under her belt. Riding into 2019 with 'When We All Fall Asleep…' Eilish has landed her Leeds Festival debut as a main headliner and talk of the whole festival.
Eillish championed through her performance with an ridiculously excited crowd who’d been camped out since 11am, you could spot them a mile off in their merchandise. Love is found for Eillish in her edgy unconventional hits that talk about seducing your dad and sending good girls to hell, you know all the good stuff. But those hits have scored big in the charts and translate great live, paired with some beautifully designed visuals and Eillish’s warming personality that had hints of shyness. It’s easy to forget that behind that expansive vocal range and infectious beat, Eillish is just a 17-year old girl performing to 10,000+ people like its nothing. Seeing her live for the first time reinstated to me just how successful she is, especially her crowd rapport that was unprecedented in its love for Eillish which was felt amongst the whole festival, everyone’s a Billie Eillish fan in 2019.
twenty one pilots
Photo - Matt Eachus
twenty one pilots had the opportunity of closing Leeds festival along with Post Malone. For a band that went from recording album’s in their basement to putting on show-stopping performances that headline to 200,000+ people, it’s a monumental moment in their career. It seems almost effortless for the band to close a whole festival now, but the past 10 years working up to it have been nothing but agonizing work that’s felt most by fans who seem most appreciative for their work with some holding up signs saying “We’re proud of you” or “You’ve made it so far!”
Kicking in with 'Jumpsuit' the Ohio duo-team created their 'Trench' atmosphere, lighting cars on fire, shooting confetti everywhere and breaking out the ukulele for those intense moments. They followed a-some newer tracks ‘My Blood’ and ‘Chlorine’ from their latest album but weren’t afraid to dip their toes in their past waters with some features from 'Blurryface', 'Vessel' and self-titled. Vocalist Tyler Joseph was a kind-hearted personality on stage, taking brief moments to have fun with security or hype the crowd up with chants.
What fans most enjoy about these performances is the visual aspects matched with the band’s efforts on stage that include a few backflips here and there and most importantly, the band’s engagement with their audience. At the end of every performance the pair let fans hold them up as they play their track ‘Trees.’ This was the perfect climactic end to a long weekend of sunstroke and day-drinking for many and came with an emotional wave of pride for fans who’d watch their idols grow from small 50-cap venues to this. What a way to end Leeds Festival, especially the confetti.
Review - Yasmine Summan