The Rakes (Reading, Sunday) could have been dismissed as the pfffft of the weekend, what with poor Alan lacking any sort of vocal cords and sitting at home with a whisky-laced lemsip. However, the decision to form some sort of Indie Band Aid is an inspired one that takes the singer-shorn trio from indifferent shrugs to big-assed hugs. Leeds sees Kele and Russell Bloc Party taking on 'Strasbourg' and '22 Grand Job' (with added help from like, Great Mate Donny Towers of London) and Reading two days later offers Russell and Gordon plus added Bobby Charlton comb-over antics with Paul Max-ee-mo Smith taking on Okereke duties. And more Towers of London. Event status, good will and a big indie love-in is assured, but more than that, it might just mark The Rakes' ascent into the big time. The crazy packed crowd in Leeds especially would imply so. Oddly enough the best song of both days is the Matthew Rakes-sung 'Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)', being how perfectly it encapsulates the bank holiday mood, particularly in sun-drenched Reading.
Ahoy! The Futureheads: (Reading, Sunday) bounding, gnat's-chuff-tight guitar heroes with a mean way in quadruple harmonies, or a band whose songs live sound all the sodding same? Actually, a bit of both. But adding the latter into the equation is somewhat damaging. How this band got to second-headline the biggest tent is a wonderous credit to them, because this writer has no sodding idea. Soon-to-be albatross 'Hounds Of Love' is the song that ignites the path to the home stretch, but fails to flame like a bank holiday BBQ. Equally, 'Decent Days And Nights' and 'A to B' are good, but they're not enough to send us into raptures. And the rest was indecipherably homogenous. The Futureheads have achieved the amazing feat of being so unique that they've become quite, quite samey.
Blood Brothers (Leeds, Saturday) spew distorted bass and an exclusively Crimes-based set. This is not a performance for the hardcore fan, instead it opens new ears to the haphazard sounds of hellish rabble-rousers mangling punk rock into an art-schooled grave. Fuck what the 'Powers That Be' claim as art-rock - this is the deal fo' real: jagged and skewed and bloodily barbaric. Fuckin' fantasmicorgasmic dance-punk histrionics dolled up in the tightest of slacks.
Hot Hot Heat (Leeds, Sunday) however, attempt the dance foray and fall flat on their face through lack of decent material. 'Bandages' does sound better if you sing any other rhyming word along with it: 'sausages', 'sandwiches', and the personal pissed-up sing-along fave, 'bag of jizz'. We favoured the latter, ran with it, and then departed. The new record's a stinker, anyway.
Minds were opened for Babyshambles' (Leeds, Sunday) charges to deliver, but all that was forthcoming was some second-rate pub rock and lyrics the wrong side of Oasis awful. Truly, madly depressing and a waste of everyone's time.
The Cribs (Leeds, Sunday) are the most rounded festival band you couldn't even manufacture. Massive choruses, endless on-stage antics and a home crowd that can't wait for a member of the band to shout "Wakefield". 'Mirror Kisses' sounds even more urgent and vital than it does on their sophomore LP The New Fellas and in a set encompassing tracks from both albums, life seems more palatable and fun. Perfect.
Two guys, a simple modus operandi: how much can it get fucked up? Some, and more, evidently. Quite how the Death from Above 1979 (Leeds, Saturday) pair conspired to dissolve any sense of timekeeping into a vat marked 'Shit Soup' is a saddening mystery, but these ears take their leave only a half-dozen songs in. Primal aggression, bare chests and bonkers speed are three things to be proud of, but keep the core compositional highs next time, eh boys? Without 'em you're just a noise, and Lightning Bolt do that much better.
Yourcodenameis: Milo (Leeds, Saturday) have a totally random girl standing on stage waving her arms around. She's probably hot. ...Milo are rocking; they seriously throw the “WARGH” shapes to their heaviness and make previous band The Black Velvets look pretty stupid.
If you managed to get in the tent to see Editors (Leeds, Sunday), then that Territorial Army form should be arriving any day now; however, if you refused to go potholing for a smattering of their Brummie miserablist charm, then it's likely that this time next year Editors will be deservedly higher on the bill, on a bigger stage and even more accomplished than they were today.
Easily one of the most anticipated bands of the weekend, The Cooper Temple Clause (Leeds, Saturday) expose their new material to an excited and enthusiastic audience. Obvious single 'Damage' is a particular highlight and the reworked version of second release 'Panzer Attack' starts as a swirling, atmospheric crawl and erupts into a wall of immense sound and perfectly executed heaviness. The Coopers are back and better than ever.
Despite seeing more Iron Maiden shirts than at a medieval Re-enactment society, the indie kids make their presence known. Maximo Park (Leeds, Friday) fires up the crowd with 'Apply Some Pressure' and 'Graffiti'. As singer Paul Smith went to grip the mic, his bulging biceps should actually dispel their geek chic tag. An album of the year, another great live show and surely the future for the 'Park is really quite rosy.
By comparison, The Duke Spirit (Leeds, Friday) seem a little lifeless, tuneless and distinctly unlistenable. How they escalated above Maximo Park on the bill is really quite unknown.
The real highlight of the stage (and one of the weekend as a whole) was always going to be Arcade Fire (Leeds, Sunday). With the kind of mentally packed tent you'd expect from this year's most revered act, singer Win Butler guides the crowd through a journey of the most beautiful yet danceable, intense sing-along majesty that Canada seems to effortlessly churn out. 'Wake Up' really does wake up the dozy Sunday afternoon crowd and each song is greeted with the warmth that belies their billing. A perfect festival band on top form.
Leeds: Colin Roberts, Michael Diver, Raziq Rauf, Lianne Steinberg
Reading: Gareth Dobson