Live at Leeds Festival 2015 on Sunday, 30th August 2015
It's now Sunday and the festival crowds look a little bleary eyed. Sundays are a struggle for everybody and the bands I'm about to see have their work cut out for them. This being said, walking into the NME/Radio One tent, the crowd for Liverpool's Circa Waves seems to be in high spirits (although this may have been due to other kinds of spirits). Opening up the throttle with 'Young Chasers', we are treated to an onslaught of high octane, Indie Rock which does let up. 'Good For Me' and 'So Long' keep things moving and it's pleasing to see so many people singing back every word. I caught Circa Waves set at last year's festival, pre album release, and they have grown dramatically since then both in performance and fan base. Album tracks 'Fossils' and '101' encourage clapping and jumping before 'Get Away' blows the roof off the tent. Mid-way through the song in a drop chorus, Front Man, Kieran Shudall instructs everyone in the crowd to 'get low' and thousands of heads bow into a sitting position before firing back into the sky, arms aloft for the outro. It's a special moment for the band and you can see it in the playful smiles cast out across the crowd. The set ends with 'Tee Shirt Weather' and confetti canons fire into the audience, getting a huge cheer.
After a short break listening to Wolf Alice from outside the tent, I head back in to catch ambitious, art pop outfit, Everything Everything. The Manchester based band have recently released their third album 'Get To Heaven' and I'm interested to see how these songs will translate live. My curiosity is quenched immediately as they open with album intro 'To The Blade'. Jonathan Higgs' signature falsetto vocal cuts through stuttering synthesisers before a crescendo of guitars, bass and drums join the parade. I think it's fair to call it a parade; after all, each band member is dressed in an orangey-red bomber jacket and dancing around in almost perfect synchronisation. 'Kemosabe' a single from the previous album 'Arc' is next up, before the new album's title track 'Get To Heaven' springs into life. There is a moment of comic relief as Higgs forgets the words during 'Regret' only to find them again fumbling into the line 'maybe I'm a human', which is exceptionally ironic and quite brilliant. New single 'Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread' promotes some movement from the otherwise static crowd, but they reach their climax during 'Cough Cough'. 'Distant Past' rounds off an enjoyable affair.
Over at the BBC Introducing Stage, local lads Clay are just setting up. Dressed head to toe in black and white stripes there is a strong sense of image amongst the band. They are even pleasing on the eye in terms of their stage set up, symmetrical keyboards standing at either side like book ends. With only two songs online, Clay have managed to make a name for themselves quickly within the Leeds scene, so it's unsurprising they are chosen to entertain an early evening BBC Introducing crowd. Unfortunately for the band, Catfish and The Bottlemen, 2015's Indie Rock poster boys, are due on stage in the NME tent, and have pulled almost all attention away from the other stages. Despite this, Clay come out fighting, and treat their remaining fans to an Indie-Pop party, channelling Jungle, Tame Impala and Peace as they roll out their sun kissed set list. 'The Beach' offers organ swells and Bee Gees style backing vocals whilst 'Wishing' has a widescreen, cinematic feel. 'We're gonna take this one worldwide', claims front man Joe Harvey as he introduces 'Japan', but it's the slap back guitars of 'Sun Dance' that people are here to see. Up against the odds, a very accomplished set for a band who have been round for just over a year.
The last chord of Clay's set still ringing on, I make my way furiously back to the NME stage only to find that Catfish and the Bottlemen are two songs in, and there is more chance of pigs flying than me getting into that tent. I stand back in awe as crowds 40 people deep struggle to even get a glimpse inside, thousands already crammed in and singing loudly as 'Pacifier' pulses around the early evening air. Air, or lack of, seems to be the feel in the middle of the crowd as fans are pulled over the front barrier and sent on their way, still smiling. I have honestly never seen an audience as large as this under the NME/Radio One signs. Only having released their debut album, Catfish don't have a great deal of choice for their set. It helps that every song on the record has clearly been written with festivals in mind, designed to get the blood pumping and hands clapping. Front man Van Mcan is met with cheers as he introduces 'Fallout' saying 'this one's about being left in Leeds'. (The standard, 'You wot, you wot, Leeds!' chant follows). '26' falls on a few deaf ears where I am stood, firmly outside the tent with a few people who just wanted to see what all the fuss was about, before 'Business' and it's singalongability starts up. 'Kathleen' one of the bands biggest singles encourages the tent to erupt into madness before ballad 'Homesick' brings us back to earth. 'Cocoon' adds yet more madness to the Indie Rock cocktail before the band close with 'Tyrants'.
Another artist who has just released her debut album is Lucy Rose, who I'm about to watch back over at the Festival Republic Stage. I've been aware of the female singer/songwriter for a few years, first seeing her support Bombay Bicycle Club at a stripped back gig in Salford. It's been rewarding watching her become established as an artist in her own right, after many successful guest vocal slots and features on Bombay... albums. Equipped with a five piece band, she comes out smiling, seeming genuinely humbled by the bustling tent before her. 'Firstly, I realise that I'm clashing with Metallica, and for that I thank you all for simply being here'. We are treated to some early album tracks before 'Middle Of The Bed' is announced for 'the people who have been with me from the start, I guess?' Softly sung, Rose's voice is all encompassing and even those who are passed out at the back of the tent seem to smile. Single 'Our Eyes' is a crowd pleaser, offering a syncopated stabbing vocal line over dreamy guitars and keyboard layers. Rose's drummer is clearly an accomplished session player, driving the dynamics of each song expertly. The stand out song for me is 'Bikes' which has an extended outro and elaborate guitar change half way through.
My final band of the weekend are The Wombats. They fly onto stage and dive into an instrumental intro which has everyone excited; it goes from fast, to faster and finally into 'Moving To New York' much to the delight of the crowd. Some kid climbs the inner tent support, ending his assent about 30 feet in the air, getting a large cheer from those close to him. We flow into 'Greek Tragedy', a single from the band's new album 'Glitterbug', an accomplished album laced with 80's synth pop influences and sad lyrics about a lost love. There are many moving parts to The Wombats sound and the three lads from Liverpool interact well with synths, samples and string arrangements being played by flashing electronic aids. The most mobile part of the set has to be bass player, Tord Overland Knudsen (okay he was born in Norway but he does live in Liverpool), he darts across stage getting back to the microphone just in time to perform his duties on backing vocals. 'Come on Leeds, let's see what you got' exclaims singer, Matthew Murphy, who's mum is stood behind me next to the sound desk, proudly observing. 'One slut drop is all I'm asking', says Murphy as the band play '1996', who then remembers his mum and dedicates 'Patricia The Stripper', tongue firmly in cheek. 'Techno Fan', 'English Summer' and 'Kill The Director' demonstrate the body of work The Wombats have produced across three albums before 'Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)' and 'Let's Dance To Joy Division' round off an excellent show.
Clay are a four piece, Leeds-based outfit formed in early 2014