Leeds Festival - Temple Newsam - Sunday 25th August

Staying true to the Leeds / Reading mainstay - Sunday is rock day - and with the exception of Alec Empire there isn't one dance band on the bill. A little one dimensional, maybe. A little elitist, definitely. But rock music is more than just this one pronged attack it used to be in the 80s and while each band on today's bill will certainly be placing their hands in the air in the name of rock music they all do it with a certainly amount of individuality from the exhilarating Andrew WK to the pop thrills of Ash through to the prog rock of Muse.

Swedish pop punkers Sahara Hotnights kick things off on the main stage with their 3 minute gems. Still not a patch on British exports like Kenickie or Angelica but still rocking just as hard as the boys. Which brings us to Vex Red's frontman Terry Abbott who is morphing into the best looking androgynous superstar since Brian Molko. Fresh from a tour of the US, the band are glad to be amongst friends and are tighter than ever with the dark industrial beats sounding crisper than before. Launching into the obligatory rock cover version, this time Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle", Terry walks out to meet us mere mortals and Morrissey like hands out flowers to his growing flock of admirers. Ever the romantic types they couldn't fail to win us over.

Surprisingly the first real highlight of the day belongs to joker of the moment Andrew WK. Young, dumb and full of cum - and also a bag of tunes which wash all the worries of the world away and replace it with the 3 stables of sex, drugs and rock & roll. "She Is Beautiful" and "Party Hard" built out of the same song with WK in his obligatory dirty white jeans and T-shirt. It's lowest common denominator rock music and why not? There's plenty of time for reading Wilde or Camus over the dark winter months so why not just switch off and enjoy life in the fast lane.

Bringing us back to reality with the opening "Everything Begins With A F**k", nosebleed techno meets hardcore punk thrills, Alec Empire is a true visionary. Realizing that the punk music of the 70s actually changed f**k all and that to rehash it would simply be a pointless exercise, he set about bringing about a technological revolution mixing up gabba beats and political sloganeering. We live in a tabloid world and no-one looks past the headlines, so why not simply write the headlines yourself and allow your audience to work on the full story themselves by taking to the streets of Prague or Seattle in their droves to bring down the capitalist chains of power. Clad head to toe in black he realizes that all great revolutionary leaders looked like the greatest rock & roll stars and backed with his Atari Teenage Riot collaborators NiKEndo on beats and synths they create the soundtrack to the revolution. Which is what The (International) Noise Conspiracy go on to do later over on the Carling Stage clad in all in one red suits. Again stylized to the very last details they go under the opening statement of "People keep talking about reform. But isn't it a lot more fun having a revolution". Their calling card is "Capitalism Stole My Virginity" which ends with the refrain of "were all sluts, cheap products - in someone else's notebook". The difference is that some of us go about changing the world while others expect for someone to do it for them. It's good to see that the New Wave Of New Angry is alive and kicking at the Leeds Festival 2002.

"Were Glad to see you have paid your money to see the Hives" Howling Pelle of said band declares as his opening statement before closing with "Now you have enjoyed the main course you can move onto dessert". The self depreciating irony dripping out of his mouth before launching into "Hate To Say I Told You So", "Supply And Demand", "Main Offender" - garage classics by anyone's standard but there's a sense of too much, too soon. The best bands have always been those ones that verge on the ridiculous and the mock confidence which has taken them from the gutter to the stars frankly won't work when they're filling out enormo-domes across the UK. Maybe, just maybe we need to keep the Hives for ourselves before them simply burn out and fade away.

Up until the Saturday afternoon it was still doubtful that Ash would be appearing on the bill tonight, but the fact itself that drummer Rick Murray has ignored doctors orders to appear at the festival could be seen as a the final curtain for the band. In just over a year the band have come back from being written off to coming back with a number 1 album "Free All Angels" and in the next month the best of compilation is released. Despite the fact that their latest single "Envy" is probably the best thing they've ever written there's a sense of where do Ash go next. They have proved that if they move away from the 3 minute pop single as they did on the second album "Nu-Clear Sounds" then their fans walk away, but at the same time if they stick to the same winning formula of "Shining Light", "Girl From Mars" or "Goldfinger" they will be universally panned by the critics. In the live arena through the band can't be beaten and despite the fact that they've always sounded better musically that Tim Wheeler can sing it's back to back singles from "Jack Names The Planet" to the aforementioned "Envy". Regardless of what happens next Ash have a back catalogue that would put most bands to shame.

Muse and the Foo Fighters on the other hand are simply running through the motions. The former lacking the production of their own recent theatre shows and suffering as result of losing their cinematic multi-faceted big brother style cams. The news that Matt Bellamy has found love may just account for the fact that the band seem less intense than ever taking the edge away from the likes of "Plug In Baby", "New Born" and "Muscle Museum". The Foo Fighters appearance is somewhat of a surprise to those who expected Dave Grohl to run off with Queens Of The Stone Age. But despite the fact they run through a plethora of hits from "This Is A Call" and "Breakout" to "Times Like These" and "Low" from the long awaited new album you can't help but feel that had Grohl not been the drummer for Nirvana a band like Foo Fighter would otherwise be languishing in the mid afternoon on the Evening Session Stage. Take a band like Wilt for example who are still struggling on the indie circuit and then compare them song for song and i'd find anyone who when pushed wouldn't choose Wilt as the preferred option. Still I guess if it proves anything - it's that nostalgia will win every time time and as Grohl lists off all the time he's played reading it speaks for itself that it's Nirvana's 1992 appearance that gets the biggest cheer.

As we retire to the bar news reaches us that a mini riot has started with the tradition burning of the portoloo's. We could make some joke about how it was certainly hotter than the Foo Fighters. Or we could come out with the old cliché that it could only happen up North. But then there's a sinking feeling that this could be the last year at Temple Newsam - here's hoping that were wrong as the Leeds Festival has become a byword for quality amongst the over commercialized V Festivals.

Alex McCann

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