Live at Leeds Festival 2010 on Friday, 27th August 2010
It was Midday, Friday, Leeds Festival, 2010 ... and Club Smith had been dealt the opening slot on the BBC Introducing Stage. Several degrees up from the days of The Hair, Sam Robson and the band were sharp, tight and full of tunes. The crisp rhythm section leaves plenty of space for the twin attraction of Sam's strong voice and Neil's vintage keyboard sounds. Sam was edgier than I remember. He was whipping out the songs with conviction, but the between-songs banter had a hint of nervousness that I hadn't expected. The big friendly crowd were generous with their applause and the toughest gig of the weekend had been well dealt with.
Soul Circus were not at the same level of professionalism as Club Smith. But they put plenty of swagger and bombast into their guitar-pop anthems. Visually they looked like five blokes from different parts of town. The result was (as with several bands this year) a bit confusing. At one end shades on a Noel Gallaher lookalike, at the other a plasterer on his way to a job. The songs are delivered with some power, but they are shadows of much better things that were being done a lot better when Brit Pop lurched across the nation's stage. The great thing about such bands, generally, is that they represent the increasingly higher musical standards that have become normal at a local level.
Hemsworth's winners of a Martin House charity fundraiser competition were smiles on legs. Three piece alt pop rock Penguin was just one of a score of bands with animal names this year. But as far as I know they were the only ones to get an eponymous creature up on stage with them. Unplanned by the band, a fan (probably from Wakefield) turned up in full penguin costume and singer Matt was sharp witted and confident enough to insist on him being brought onto the stage. The three piece band was driven along by a bubbly, communicative and very proficient drummer. The walk-up crowd was large, attracted both by the band and by the large Wakefield contingent who were already there from the start. The songs weren't shabby either. Not a bit of it. All they need to do now is change their name to something unique.
Rotating Leslie from Royston excelled on Jam-flavoured tunes with strong bass lines and lots of vocals. The raw simplicity was interrupted for one tune where the guitarist pulled out a slower tune with a lot of jazz chords and no real sense of purpose. They seemed to me like a band who haven't yet found their identity, despite the singer's imaginative quiff-jacket combo. Sadly there was no Leslie organ, despite the intimations of Phoenix Nights in the band's visual identity.
Three-man Lady Fortune were a much more interesting object. Telford natives (like The Sunshine Underground) they were doing some kind of contemporary social mores thing with a monologue of Skinnerian clarity to introduce the second song . Featuring a trace of los Campesinos's shout-a-bit jangle-a-bit style they tore through (many times) the best chorus of the weekend: "Let's dance, let's drink and let's fuck in your sister's old room!"
Blurring our way through a patchy afternoon of sunshine and showers, it soon got to 3.50 and (as with all the bands) The Invasion Of... came to the stage precisely on cue. Guitar, bass, drums (Libertine Gary Powell), keyboards and a rapper/vocalist - they make a very busy sound with plenty of pace. It sounds London, and it is London. The vocals are more incantation than singing, but very effective. The material isn't great (clarified by an injection of Being Boiled that suddenly lights things up) but this is a band that could and probably will do a lot more.
My Forever had only graduated from being a duo to a full band in the previous couple of weeks. Modest looking singer Roy Williamson and showy glam rock guitarist Dave Ingham make an odd, but fascinating central couple. Very decent romantic pop rock comes as standard. Their geographical centre is Thirsk with band members scattered across Yorkshire. They did their rather good single "Silk and Butterflies" (more romance!) that had been play-listed for Radio 1 during the week.
MidiMidis were two guys and a pile of 8-bit bleeps. Not actually very good though. The Strokes/Bolan visual clues suggested dissolution, hipness and cultural savvy. I couldn't hear much in the music. London's Ant Struselis and Marcus Fairley really ought to pop into Leeds sometime and see what creative use of electro-nostalgia can achieve. The Cribs were about to start in the big field, and MidiMidi's crowd was evaporating. They end, in a flurry of feedback with the same Super Mario tune they had opened with. Super Mario?
As 6pm arrived, the air was getting a chill and the crowd was drifting towards the Main Stage. The competition hereon would be Dizzee Rascal and The Libertines. Love Ends Disaster! (who started life as students at Loughborough) came on at 6.05. They played well structured songs in a clever set that developed throughout. As a six-piece band they did take some time to get the parts all working well together. My impression was of a band without a lot of gigging experience but who will make a lot of progress once they get it. The big finish was ace.
Canterbury's Motion Picture Soundtrack were a classic four-piece band with epic tunes. A solo guitarist (Nick Watts) filled out the sound with loops and triggered synth parts. It was simple stuff, but engaging and affecting. They had some big bass lines that carried things along very sweetly. The whole sound was delicately controlled and dynamically satisfying. I noted an echo of TRAiNS that felt pleasantly nostalgic. Alastair Blackwood's voice has real star quality and the songs are good enough to make me think of early Coldplay and forget Chris Martin's later dross.
I wasn't as impressed by Coventry's Shockparade, I'm afraid. I noted them as a louder, less tuneful version of Club Smith. But the keyboard had a great rack of Korg, Apple Mac and other bits and bobs that still sounded less interesting and less diverse than Club Smith's single Roland. The underlying dance rhythms were clearly the main attraction, but somehow, with extra members added to the normal duo things just got a bit unfocussed. Bringing on a leather clad female vocalist for a couple of songs didn't do anything for the music but it did attract photographers.
The Law were on last - not really a coveted headline spot given the limited chance of getting a big crowd. But they did make the best of it with their guitar bass drums vocalist indie rock thing. Dundee, once famed for Jam, Journalism (home of the Beano) and Jute now has The Law. There are great twangy guitar sounds and neat bits of harmony vocal. Nothing to Twitter about though. Like a lot of what I heard on this stage today there is a conservatism at large with too many just-above-average talents pursuing styles that were perfected (and worn out) years ago.
My Forever are a 5 piece rock/pop band from Leeds/Scarborough