Leeds Festival - Bramham Park - 27.8.04
On arriving at Leeds Festival we realize that we make infinitely better writers than we do camp site attendants. In a 30 minute scene, which must have looked like something out of Benny Hill, Designer Magazine finally erects the tent and makes it down to see our first band of the day. The Futureheads are a no frills burst of energy, which not so much eases us in gently but speeds up throughout in a full on assault of Geordie alt-pop. While on record the Futureheads are quite measured and mathematical, the live shows generally end up being played at twice the speed they actually should be. "First Day", "Decent Days And Nights" and a cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds Of Love" are over all too quickly, but it was a rush while it lasted. The Futureheads are like that quick fumble down an alleyway 5 minutes before the last bus leaves town.
"Is this a freeform jazz experiment?" asks one half of Chromeo who looks strangely like Inspector Clouseau. By the time the 3rd electro funk song kicks in, "Woman Friend", the front of the stage is awash like a Grange Hill School disco. Chromeo are essentially what Har Mar Superstar tries to achieve, but this Canadian duo are no novelty. With a voice box used by Cher they set about delivering a set of slap bass, screwed up synths and the best kick back to the 80s since Les Rhythms Digitales hit the scene 5 years ago.
After early predictions that The Rasmus could be this years Daphne & Celeste they fair well despite having a frontman who looks like a cross between post surgery Michael Jackson and ex-East 17 bad boy Brian Harvey. A b-side which features the line "broke up the family....and I deserve to die" is followed by "Burn It". Typical teen angst lyricism is soundtracked by a surprising diverse musical base. Whereas "In The Shadows" gets by far the biggest reaction of the set other songs are reminiscent of a more commercially viable "Holy Bible" period Manics and classic rock is omnipresent. A triumph for the Rasmus then.
The Stills sing of 'massive suicide' and 'only love will break your heart', not great festival sentiments, but the bands first two songs saw a packed Radio 1 Tent worshipping at their feet. Intricate melodies, vaguely dance beats and impassioned vocals make compelling listening. "Lola, Stars And Stripes", all Motown and Spector flourishes, and after 3 songs they've crystallized everything that we wanted to hear. Some people have previously written off the Stills as a pale imitation of Interpol, on today's evidence we have to ask Interpol who?
After missing the end of the Stills to rush over to see The Streets we were greeted by Colin Murray and his collection of "rock classics". Ambling on stage 30 minutes late Skinner offers "I left the house at 11, can you believe it?". No we can't and when he delivers just a 35 minute set the feeling is one of bitter disappointment. While newer material such as "Dry Your Eyes" and "Fit But Don't She Know It" sat side by side with songs from the debut "Original Pirate Material" ("Push Things Forward", "Too Much Brandy", "Don't Mug Yourself") it wasn't the tunes, but Skinners banter that seriously f**ked people off. Skinners attempts to come across as one of the people just doesn't wash anymore when he's earning more in this festival performance than most of the crowd do in a year. He points over to the big wheel at the back of the Arena and says "I'll be over on that later and if you see me fall over in the dance tent tonight make sure you pick me up". Skinner, don't mug yourself, we know all too well you'll be supping the free ale before heading back to your luxury hotel.
It seems like Placebo are finally getting the respect they deserve in the UK. After years of headlining festivals in Europe, its refreshing to see such an underrated band so high up on the bill at the Leeds Festival. Delivering a greatest hits set in anticipation of the album release next month, Brian Molko and co seriously rocked the audience with a set which took in "Nancy Boy", a song they've not played in the UK for 4 years, through to "Summer Rain" on which Molko ditched the guitar and pummelled away at the sampler in 5 minutes of electro bliss. Its effortless dark noir for the boys which seems in stark contrast to the upbeat Lostprophets before hand and the madness of 50 Cent that follows. "Pure Morning" has become such a stadium classic yet Brian describes it as "a stupid song to get on radio" which belittles it, but when you have songs such as "The Bitter End" and "Special K" you're allowed your stupid moments.
Random Things we learnt during 50 Cent's show at Leeds
1. Eminem is his man. Whether this is in the romantic sense and Eminem is actually his bitch can't be ascertained.
2. G Unit member Lloyd Banks has a chin not unlike that of Craig David. However we don't know whether Lloyd Banks actually owns a bank or keeps his money in offshore accounts like Phil Collins
3. Skinny white rock kids don't muscley black men when they take their shirts off
4. The G Unit kept gesticulating for the audience to give them head, the audience response was a resounding you suck!!!
5. 50 Cent's been shot so many times he doesn't feel at home unless he has at least one gunshot sound effect every 30 second. We've come to realize that his live festival shows would be great for the perfect assassination. You could even shoot him from a grassy knoll and relive the assassination of JFK and then blame it on a special needs kid.
6. 50 Cent has a song called "On Fire". In the live shows they have real life flames (much like when Wet Wet Wet had various water related scenes in the video for "Sweet Little Mystery" just to emphasize the point further)
7. At the end of his show he gave away his new Reebok G Unit Trainers, repeat new Reebok G Unit Trainers in stores right now.
8. Only one Burberry jacket was spotted in the audience. We asked a steward and they informed us that the ban on Burberry was being pushed through for next years festival.
What 50 Cent actually delivered was a storming hip hop show which made us see him in a totally different light. "In Da Club" and "P.I.M.P" are bonafide hip hop anthems and while his live shows rehashed all the clichés of the average hip hop video it was more entertaining than that of Eminem a couple of years ago at the Festival. After a day of rock it was definitely Fiddy who stole the show from underneath Green Day's noses.
Were you surprise that the Rasmus were quite good?
Are the Streets really the UK answer to US hip hop or just a bit shite now?
Were you one of the people that paid £105 for a ticket and then boo-ed through 50 Cent?
Any Highlight & Lowlights of the first day of Leeds Festival?
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On the Radio One stage The Fiery Furnaces are up and ready to entertain. Essentially a brother and sister duo with extra musicians The Fiery Furnaces are firing on all cylinders. They're punky, a bit kooky but never boring. Eleanor Friedburger flails around to a music hall soundtrack with a sinister edge. Her Bjorkish behaviour and wacky ways thrill the crowd with the wurlitzer organ sound and mad drummer keeping up the energy levels. It's original, a bit mad and unusual, but the songs lack that certain magic with too many ideas getting in way of memorable tunes.
Next up are the hotly tipped Dogs Die In Hot Cars. A band with a distinct 80s sound recalling the best of Dexys, Talking Heads and a hint of ska. They're very poppy with singalong choruses and the fans lap it up with glee. "I Love You Cause I Have To" and "Man Bites Man" are just pop perfection and with many more tracks performed off their "Please Describe Yourself" album it's a rollickingly good set.
In search of heavier, more aggressive music I find myself at the mainstage for Lostprophets. These ambitious Welsh melodic metallers have made a big impression Stateside which isn't an easy task, but its one they achieved magnificently. Ian Watkins is every inch the rockstar with his chiselled good looks, jet black hair and an enigmatic persona. The rest of the band match up to the frontman with ease and are a tight unit. Lostprophets may sound American and commercial, but the strength of their material, the faith they have in themselves and the devotion of their fans makes them credible confident performers who play to their strengths. Watkins is unstoppable on recent hit singles "Wake Up" and "Last Summer" with the keyboard player adding depth and emotion along to the powerful riffs. "Fake Sound Of Progress" and "Shinobi Vs Dragon Ninja" are two valid reasons why the band will be playing stadiums next year.
Who better to headline the first day of the Carling Leeds Festival than Green Day. Ever since "Dookie", their breakthrough album sold 12 million, Billie Joe, Mike and Tre have continued to knock out irresistibly catchy punk rock anthems which have all stood the test of time. Arriving to the Theme from 2001: A Space Oddity the band launch into their new single "American Idiot", a savage political diatribe on the state of their country. The mosh pit is a treacherous time for anyone and they pause while they check nobody is hurt. Normal service resumed the trio continue to entertain with the energy and vitality of young teenagers (remember these men on stage are thirty plus) with the rockabilly influenced "Hitchin' A Ride". The beauty of festivals is discovering hidden treasures in less obvious places like the dance tent, so as Green Day hit their stride I quietly sneak away to catch a bit of Mike Patton (Faith No More and ahem, the less successful side project Mr Bungle) and Rahzel (beatboxer from The Roots). Now while i'm all for innovation and experimentation the best intentions can often have mixed results and this performance is very hit and miss. You've got to admire the bravery of free stylin' and improvisation and this mix of rap, samples and beats is if anything eclectic but it fails to ignite any real passion despite the best efforts of these two talented musicians on stage. The atmosphere is free and easy with the crowd dancing with gay abandon, but lets hope Patton And Rahzel just make this a one off.
Nicholas Paul Godkin
Should Green Day have really been headlining the festival?
Are Lostprophets the sexiest band ever?
Have you seen that sick Dogs Die In Hot Cars advert?
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