Live at Leeds Festival 2015 on Friday, 28th August 2015
Friday afternoon rolls round and Canterbury band Moose Blood kick things off for me at The Pit/Lock Up stage. Firing into Bukowski, an album track from debut record 'I'll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time', you can tell the band mean business. Playing on a stage which is usually associated with the heavier bands at the festival, Moose Blood harness the volatile energy coming from the crowd and lead them on a guitar-lead musical charge into circle pits and beyond. Seas of heads bounce up and down as the simple, and honest songs are delivered with real heart by singer, Eddy Brewerton. He takes the time between songs to tell fans how 'honoured' the band are to be playing this show, explaining how they've been touring the States for so long and that they've really missed home. You can tell both in his lyrics and his demeanour that Brewerton is a sensitive soul, but hidden behind his white Fender Mustang guitar, he is a commanding and competent front man. After chants of 'Cherry' from the crowd, he is confident in denying their wishes for the albums opening ballad, instead choosing to fly head first, band in tow, into 'Swim Down', which encourages a string of clapping and allows the audience to forget the absence of their request in the set. A well-paced selection of songs from the album makes for a very enjoyable mid-afternoon set.
After this it's straight across the main arena to the Festival Republic stage, dodging empty noodle boxes and drunken friends in time to see NME favourites, Gengahr. Upon entry to the tent, two songs in to their set I'm very surprised by the size of the crowd, a lot smaller than I imagined given the backing of the Indie-Kid Bible mentioned above. Gengahr, signed to Transgressive Records (home of Foals and Mystery Jets), began to turn heads last year and delighted me when I caught their support slot with Dry The River at Leeds' Wardrobe in October of 2014. Now, after releasing their debut album 'A Dream Outside' the opportunity to hold their own on large festival stages presents itself, and I feel that the band do a great job. It's difficult to throw yourself into a performance with minimal crowd reaction, and the lazy afternoon audience, half of which are laid down at the back of the tent sipping what seems to be their first beers of the day, don't exactly encourage the band to go big. Despite this, Gengahr are exceptionally mobile performers, each member marking his territory by thrashing instruments around within their carefully considered quarter of the stage. Stand out tracks include 'Heroine' and 'Fill My Lungs With Blood', which both demonstrate the complexity of soft, falsetto vocals against a stuttering and jagged musical backdrop.
It's now early evening and my first trip to the Main Stage to see one of my favourite bands, The Maccabees. Four albums into a musical career spanning ten years, the band have stood the test of time, proving that there will always be a place for well thought out alternative music. A huge actualisation of the album artwork for 2015's 'Marks To Prove It' hangs hauntingly behind the busy stage, amplifiers and instruments filling almost every inch as the band arrive. They are joined by a female vocalist who will also play the piano parts that are laced within the new songs, adding to the organic and direct approach that the band are currently trying to pursue. Something that The Maccabees admit to is being overly ambitious with their previous record, 'Given To The Wild', claiming that it was almost impossible to replicate in a live environment. With this is mind I look forward to a set which reflects how the band started, just five friends with their respective instruments, playing great songs. Atmospheric, reverb drenched guitars build and the crowd waits in anticipation for 'Wall Of Arms' to cascade into motion. As we reach the middle of the song the bass drum pounding four on the floor hypnotises the audience into a deafening clap as the lyrics 'they who are my army, a wall of arms around me' are belted back towards the stage. 'Love You Better' and 'Feel To Follow' continue to build an incredible atmosphere before 'Kamakura' is the payoff for fans waiting to hear songs from the new record. An extended intro to 'Something Like Happiness' further quenches this thirst, as Orlando Weeks vocals echo around Brahmam Park almost effortlessly. 'Precious Time' is another fan favourite, before the band chooses to end on 'Pelican'.
The sun sets over the Main Stage as Jamie T rifles through his set, and then I find myself back in the Festival Republic tent completely in awe of Manchester Orchestra, and the sheer intensity they present. But, it's Little Comets that I've come to see. The three piece from the North East are a band who have never quite graduated into Indie Rock's hall of fame, despite releasing three incredible albums and delivering one of the best live performances that can be delivered (honestly they're better at delivering than Royal Mail and Parcel Force combined). The band open with 'Gift Of Sound', a song taken from their self-produced, self released, fan funded third album. The DIY nature of Little Comets allows them to be extremely personal with their fans, and this in turn means that their audiences listen intently to every abstract lyric, creating an intimate atmosphere difficult to achieve at a festival of this size. 'Bayonne' and 'Little Italy' encourage upbeat displays of emotion, many arms are thrown around best friends and there is an honest, positive vibe about the show. Singer, Rob Coles announces that the last time Little Comets played at Leeds Festival it was four years ago, and two days later he became a dad. This gets a huge cheer from the crowd and is a genuine ear-to-ear grin moment. As the set comes to a close, and 'Dancing Song' is announced as the final tune, the tent erupts into madness. 'Woohoo, woohoo, this one's for dancing' are the chorus lyrics, instructing everyone with no exception to lose their minds. I don't think anyone left the tent without a smile on their face.