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The second free, Leeds Council-organised Breeze Festival was advertised as a more dance-orientated event than last year's, with a switch to a venue offering a capacity of 10,000 and a line-up of DJs more apt and credible than you might expect many council events to attract.
However, its major selling point, besides names such as Lisa Pin-Up, Rob Tissera, Utah Saints, Mekon, Yomanda, Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackie & Alex Paterson of The Orb, was the fact that it was a free festival, open to the first ten thousand people who walked into the local town hall or selected record shops and requested a ticket. The day before the event, the city centre record stores had given away all the tickets they'd been allocated, which technically could be called a sell-out. And yet, perhaps because few people feel obliged to use a ticket if they haven't paid anything for it, roughly five hundred out of the expected ten thousand actually appeared, while people who'd tried to get tickets yesterday and would have been very interested in attending weren't allowed in. Council organisers seemed deeply confused, given that the sun was shining, that so few people had taken up their offer of a Sunday afternoon in the park with free big-name DJ sets thrown in. From a personal point of view it still seems a shame a DJ isn't nearly as respected by many people as anybody who can play three chords on a guitar.
Credibility of the event was an issue; the event was 'aimed at young people', specifically teens, resulting in an over-sanitised kids-version of the Reading/Leeds festival due to hit the same area only a month later. Next to the two large DJ tents stood three very generic kids fairground rides, half a dozen similar-looking hotdog stalls, and a single small tent offering colourful sarongs and some hanging displays. The festival only ran for the respectable hours of midday 'til 9pm, alcohol was forbidden and everybody who entered had their body and bags searched, and as a result of all this, there was something a little patronising about the whole thing. Since teens are notorious for rebelling against anything that's actually meant to be good for them, it's perhaps hardly surprising that Leeds' local 'young people' stayed away in force. (Although the average age of attendance probably remained around 15, as Leeds' adult population weren't there in significant numbers either.)
This low attendance unfortunately marred a festival which, otherwise, was actually a really good idea. It's difficult to properly enjoy a driving hard-edged four-to-the-floor hard house set from Aire FM's Ingrid or an eclectic ambient-reggae-jungle set from Alex Paterson when you're one of less than a dozen people in the tent and the others are all lying down. Some great mixes were thrown away into the afternoon Leeds air almost completely unheeded.
The main tent- capacity 7,000, actuality rarely 70, was a continuous stream of nine hours of bass drum beats, with highlights including the Utah Saints' effect-laden mash-up (the first artists I've seen to install effects units into the mixer set-up without ever interrupting the beat) and Lisa Pin-Up's accessible trance, probably along with Jarvis Cocker's as the only two sets of the day that contained music that 'the kids' might have recognised from mainstream MTV.
The second tent was a feast of breaks, big beat, and musical variety; and almost no people. As a more open tent, there was a greater opportunity to lie on the grass and soak up the sounds, of which the best selections came from Mekon (scratch-o-rama) and the almost completely one o'clock set from Moose. Alex Paterson and Jarvis Cocker & Steve Mackie's adjacent sets seemed to be the random offerings of people who didn't really care, or who had decided to practice their DJing skills a little bit- shifting from recent two-step pop hits such as Gorillaz, to incomprehensibly fast jungle, to beatless ambience such as excerpts from the KLF's "Chill Out", in a matter of minutes. A great exercise in musical eclecticism and record trainspotting it might have been, but sadly it didn't seem to suit the palates of the local young teen population as much as it might. And as a side note, Jarvis Cocker seems to be a strong advocator of the method of DJing known as walking around the crowd to sign autographs while the other bloke actually plays the records.
Other more minor niggles included the restless behaviour of ShowSec, in charge of event security, who made a meal of even the slightest argument in the crowd and whose 'thorough' security searches managed to pour most of the clothes in my bag out onto the ground, but completely missed the large packet of throat pastilles in the side pocket (which could have been a packet of absolutely anything at all).
The Breeze Festival 2001 was in principle just as good an idea as last year's festival, but didn't seem to learn from any of last year's mistakes, and an almost absurdly low attendance resulted in a largely non-event. Had tickets cost only a couple of pounds, they might not have sold out but at least those who bought a ticket may have been more likely to attend. A handful of people who really wanted to got to see some of their favourite artists DJing close-up, and that's why you should attend next year, in case the Council iron out the problems and this event blossoms into what it has the potential to be.
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