Leeds Festival - Bramham Park - 28.8.04
In what must be the largest opening crowd for a festival ever, Goldie Lookin Chain delivered a hilarious set of 'karaoke with swearing'. Fresh from the success of "Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers Do" which went straight in with a bullet, pun strictly intended, at number 3 the week previous. Whatever description you want to use from those early comparisons with the Beastie Boys through to a Ali G style charachiture of Chav culture at its most basic the GLC are the funniest thing to happen to music in the past 5 years. "21 Ounces", "Your Mothers Got A Penis" and a pro British music song which samples from "Mr Wendell" and ends with the chorus "P Diddy don't mean shit to me....F**k you Alicia Keys". When they're joined on stage for the last song by the Dirty Sanchez guys the Welsh invasion truly kick started a gloriously sunny Saturday.
Do Me bad Things are the most exciting thing to happen to rock since the The Darkness. In fact, scrap that, they piss on the Darkness from a great height (as we found out later). Fronted by a three headed beast of Nicolai Prowse (a star who looks as if he's landed straight out of Velvet Goldmine, a cocksure combo of Bowie and Bolan), Chantal Dellusional (a soul diva of Aretha proportions) and The Woods (in comparison to the rest of the band the "conventional" rock star with a voice as croaky as Joe Cocker). They ask us Do you believe? and we believe every word that drops from their lips during the non stop rock n soul show of booty shaking, hand clapping, guitar solos and theatrics that out camp the Scissor Sisters.
Sheffield's Pink Grease offer low rent glitz and glamour ala The New York Dolls with an electro funk make over. The 70s influences don't end there as they feature a frontman who looks like David Sylvain and a guitarist who tries his best to out pimp Huggy Bear. After the Do Me Bad Things they simply don't have strong enough songs to make this exhilarating live show more than just a 30 minute buzz. Hundred Reasons deliver a valiant if uninspiring set. Currently without a record deal the band delivered a set which sent the kids rushing to the pit, but ultimately there wasn't anything we hadn't seen before. New song "The Pretender" offers hope and if this is an indication of what to expect in the future then the band could eclipse their success so far. A wiry angular beast of a song and more straight up rock than the hardcore emo sound we know. The Departure are much more interesting with mixture of Franz Ferdinand art rock and pure pop stylings ala Duran Duran. Like all the best bands they understand that all the best songs are under four and a half minutes and yet they manage to squeeze so much into that time. The bounciest bass lines history has heard sit side by side with dark vocals reminiscent of Ian Curtis while the guitars chop away in the background. "Only Human", "Dirty Words" and "Be My Enemy" already seem like classics and they're less than 12 months old, imagine what they'll be like when we get to know them intimately.
Are you ready for The Hives? asks Howlin Pelle. Of course we're ready for Hives? Dressed in obligatory white dinner suits, black shirts and white bow ties the band delivered a storming set. "Walk Idiot Walk" kick starts a procession of 3 minute speed punk classics. Ever the baiting showman Pelle jeers "When you're lying in your piss and mud soaked sleeping bag, remember the Hives are there to comfort you". Later on Pelle pouts and preens asking us to show him the attention he deserves, "watch me drink this water, drop your kebabs and look at the stage now". In a moment of pure comedy following "Hate To Say I Told You" he asks "Are you ready for the ground to shake? Are you ready for the sky to open up and watch the Hives ascend like the gods we are?". Preposterous, over the top, but always entertaining.
Soulwax used to be a good rock band. Then they became great DJs avoiding the bootleg trend of simple A&B mashups and pushing the genre forward. On their return to simple formula rock its something of a disappointment. Non descript indie rock which at best sounds like it was played on Steve Lamacq in 1992. Designer Magazine pops over to Ash who play a greatest hits set including "Burn Baby Burn", "Starshaped" and the usual melange of classic Ash songs. It's enough to keep us satisfied, but seeing Ash is increasingly becoming beans on toast music - nice, familiar, but never a treat. Over to the dance tent to see !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk) who deliver scuzzed up punk funk like the Rapture but better. Its a breath of fresh air.
Dan flicks his hair, looks over at Frankie Poullain who salutes and then Justin leads into the first of tonight's mammoth riffs from The Darkness. "Black Shuck", "Best Of Me" and "Makin Out" kick start the set, but something's lacking and rather than having the crowd eating out of their hands, as we've seen on their own headline gigs, there's actually a sense that most of the crowd are indifferent. It's not until the powerballad "Love Is Only A Feeling" that the band actually connect with the audience and this is albeit a blip before they lose them again with an new instrumental song which features Justin and Dan duelling together of guitar. When they play the other token new song "Girl With The Hazel Eyes" its clear that the initial spark which pushed the Darkness forward has now gone. In the early days they fought against the critics and haters who told them they'd never make it and this fuelled them to write stronger and stronger songs. Now with the burn out of constant touring and the fact that they're the biggest rock band in the UK at the moment it seems the band have nothing to kick against and i'd be surprised if these new songs pass the quality test for the new album.
Midway through the set the gods must have been looking down on Justin Hawkin's and his merry men as the atmosphere changes from being a band who've passed their peak and are on the slippery slope down to that of the most relevant band in the UK. "Friday Night" and "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" take us up to the encore and reminds us why we love the Darkness. Such huge songs that will last a lot longer than the memory of the cat suits. After the encore Justin comes dress back as a Napoleon before launching into "Givin Up". After a storming cover of Radioheads "Street Spirit" they end in a 12 minute version of "Love On The Rocks With No Ice" which ends in one of the most elaborate fireworks displays the Carling Weekend has ever seen. 5 Minutes from the glorious first explosion and the sky is awash with a sea of lights. After a shaky start the Darkness redeemed themselves and their name was in flames to prove it.
Are Goldie Lookin Chain the new Beastie Boys?
Can the Darkness make that difficult second album?
Will the Do Me Bad Things sell out stadiums in 18 month?
Who were the best new bands in the Carling Stage?
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Reel Big Fish on the main stage are the only band performing at the festival with a horn section. These cheery Americans are fine festival fodder who could warm up the coldest of crowds. The cheeky buggers have only borrowed a guitar off Justin from The Darkness,"we haven't told him yet" they jest. Tracks off the new album "Cheer Up" are full of typical high spirits and its hard not to be swept away on the bands enthusiasm. Their best moment is the ska version of A-Ha's "Take On Me" which manages to dispel all trace of A1's tawdry effort.
A much more intimate environment is the Carling Stage which showcases the best in new bands like Glaswegian rockers Terra Diablo, which apparently means devils earth. These young whippersnappers live and breathe anthemic American rock with soaring melodies. Serious minded with an intense outlook on their music, Terra Diablo rock out with a determination that's hard to argue with. Their last song "Let Me Know" is off the bands debut album (well worth investigating). On the same stage just fifteen minutes later are The Subways. They played the other stage at Glastonbury this year and are still currently unsigned. The Hertfordshire trio have youth on their side and impressive yes, original no seems to be the general consensus. Musically they owe a hell of a lot to the Vines with loud and lairy slices of high energy rock n roll. The singer / guitarist has the look of an over eager student during rag week, but he makes a fair stab of being an imposing if polite frontman. The drummer bangs away furiously whilst an attractive petite blonde on bass and vocals catches my eye, she's even cuter than ex JJ72s bass babe Hillary. The Subways perform well, but only time will tell if they're a flash in the pan or the next big things in indie rock.
A quick dash to the main stage and i'm just in time to catch The Distillers. Now Rockbitch have split up and L7 seem to have disappeared there's not alot of women in rock around at the moment apart from Auf Der Maur and Kittie, for this reason alone we should make the most of Brody Dalle. Menacing, dangerous and sexy as hell, she is the face of The Distillers. Angry is too small a word to describe the incendiary nature of these powerhouse rockers. The sweat soaked fans go insane from the word go. They've been around a few good years, but it is their third album "Coral Fang" which catapulted them into the big league and performed live like today these songs live and breathe intensity and authenticity.
Talking of other women in rock. I'm now stood before four glamorous young ladies in the Radio One Tent, aka The Donnas. These girls with guitars come off like a rockier Go Gos with attitude. Now in their mid twenties and now signed to a major label. The Donnas may be older and wiser but the rebellious streak still remains. They take a while to get going, but once they do the crowd join in the party. "All Messed Up" and "Who Invited You" are three chord guitar pop punk wonders. New song "Out Of My Hands" is a taste of things to come while future single "Fall Behind Me" could be a massive chart hit (and boy do these deserve a break) but its less recent but equally as powerful song "Take It Off" which is the highlight of their short, sharp set. The Donnas seem pleased to be back and they're not the only ones.
Back again at The Carling Stage, this time to witness Danko Jones. I can see a band bursting at the seams with talent. Keith Richards has said that they were favourite support band on the Rolling Stones 40 Licks tour. The band has an unforgettable frontman in the shape of Mr Jones. This cocky Canadian has the same self belief and bravado of Mohammed Ali in his prime, the rock n roll spirit of Lemmy and has the crowd on his side almost immediately. They're loud, brazen and fun to experience. All dressed in regulation black this is the last date of Danko Jones' gruelling tour. It's one to remember as this fierce trio rattle through their set at breakneck speed, playing tracks off their debut album "Born A Lion" like yesterday's headliners Green Day.
The Offspring are another well respected American punk band who have broken into the mainstream. It seems these relatively mature men from Orange County have brought some of the Californian sunshine with them. The old gang which include peroxide prince Dexter Holland bespectacled axe man Noodles kicking off with the anthem of disenchanted youth "The Kids Aren't Alright". The Offspring play a crowd pleasing greatest hits set with tracks off last years "Splinter" album giving a good airing too. Optimistic and upbeat, the band also deal in issues which affect you and me, but delivered in ridiculously catchy anthemic fashion. "Long Way Home" may not be their most well known song, but the fans shows their appreciation. "Pretty Fly For A White Guy" never fails to raise a smile while "Want You Bad" is an open invitation to most like there's no tomorrow. Still a force to be reckoned with, The Offspring are one of today's highlights, an opinion i'm sure many will agree with.
Super Furry Animals are veterans of the festival circuit. Who else but these Welsh wonders would bring an enormous tank to play ear bleeding techno tunes or erect massive inflatable's around the stage. That was in the past, but in the present SFA still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Headlining the Radio One Stage, lead singer Gruff is wearing a fetching Power Rangers costume. This month the band release a best of compilation so I foolishly assumed an hour of non stop hits. How wrong was I? This is a shortened version of the show they played last year on tour, but when the quality is this good, any initial reservations are quashed. The singles "Rings Around The World" and "Hello Sunshine" are utter brilliance, but we're joined by a collective who much earlier today stormed the main stage. Yes, its the GLC straight outta Newport who collaborate with SFA on the gloriously profane "Mother Fokker". If this is the Taffia, I wanna be made an honorary member. As traditional as Auld Lang Seign on New Years Eve, a Super Furries gig wouldn't be a Super Furries gig without climaxing with "The Man Don't Give A F**k". An absolute ball breaking barrage of techno, guitars and defiance. The Super Furry Animals leave the stage, but the music is still playing for many minutes. On their return they've changed into the yetti costumes the band wore for "The Golden Retriever" single with guess who? Yes GLC have returned for a few more rousing choruses. A kodak moment for festival fans and an inventive way to finish their gig.
Nicholas Paul Godkin
Are ska covers of pop hits still fashionable?
The Super Furries or the Darkness - which one did you do?
Who was the sexiest rock chick at the Carling Weekend?
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