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Last weekend, DiS went along to Leeds Festival en masse, and as well as putting together daily blogs such as this and this plus Gary Wolstenholme's excellent photo galleries, thought it would be a good idea to compile a diary of the weekend too. With straws drawn among our intrepid gang of Gary, Simon Jay Catling, Daniel O'Dell and yours truly, it was me that grabbed the shortest one, so with pen and notebook at the ready, here's my bit-by-bit account. Before we commence, I'd like to apologise for any obvious gaps that appear, usually the fault of late night shenanigans involving far too much alcohol, and references to certain people and their extra curricular activities.
As Bjork once sang back in the day, "Today is her birthday", and by some strange quirk of fate it's actually mine too. While there's something quite exciting having one's anniversary fall every August Bank Holiday weekend and the fact it coincides with one of the biggest music events of the summer, it also means I rarely get to spend it with the other half. Her dislike of festivals and music in general (bar The Hoosiers...) vocally augmented at every opportunity.
Having negotiated the A1(M) quite successfully despite the (typical) heavy rain, it's time to address the mud that has already turned the festival car park into what passes for the aftermath of a rugby match at Twickenham in February. Thank God I packed my wellies and umbrella. One of my favourite aspects of Leeds is that because of its close proximity to where I come from in the Midlands, many friends and acquaintances end up there every year, making it something of a "home from home" type gathering. Not to mention the Contactmusic crew from Leeds. Good times await!
I don't set my tent up as Dananananaykroyd are about to take the stage in approximately five minutes, which means a fair old sprint. Through increasing layers of mud. In wellies. Suffice to say, I only catch the last five minutes of the set. Undercover in the NME/Radio 1 sponsored tent seems the sensible option, and with the double whammy of Fucked Up and Best Coast coming up over the course of the next hour, it is where I stay. I bump into Rob McCleary of the excellent Spotlight Kid who wishes me a happy birthday and hands me a mastered copy of his band's forthcoming album. Best Birthday Present Ever #1! I also remember that an interview with the aforementioned Fucked Up is supposed to take place at approximately 2:30pm so movement is not an option. Bands come and go but I stay put. It's at this point I need to remind you that I'm still sober. It's mid-afternoon on my birthday and not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips. Not a single drop.
Fucked Up's affable drummer Jonah Falco hands me an all areas pass and takes me into an artists catering area where we sit and chat for half an hour. Much of that time is spent eyeing up the pasta dishes on offer but the less said about that the better. We say our goodbyes and part amicably, resulting in me wandering in between numerous bands and buses looking for an entrance back into the main arena. Doh! Heading back to the media area I spot four blokes in sunglasses standing over by the wall. It's Viva Brother. Eek. I leave, only to walk into a chorus of 'Same Jeans' by The View. Talk about a shit sandwich, but this one can't even be purchased from the folks at Subway, it's that bad. Warpaint are sublime, and gradually evolving into the incredible live band we kind of hoped they would. I guess that first beer had to come sooner rather than later and under the influence of Mr Catling, a couple of rounds are purchased before I watch Interpol. Unfortunately, it seems I'm in a very small minority as no more than a few thousand have decided to brave the now torrential downpour. Which is a shame really as Paul Banks and co. are on top form, playing a more singles rather than Interpol heavy set for the first time in months.
My camping buddies from Leeds inform me they've arrived, and a food stop back at the tent can't come quick enough. Now, I don't know about you but there are only two types of food required for a perfect festival - crisps and dried fruit. Asda do an amazing two for £3 range and the bag of processed mango goes down a treat aided by the vodka and Relentless Inferno combo my friends serve me. They've also brought me a birthday cake. In the shape of a rabbit. Lots of them in fact! Best Birthday Present Ever #2.
Feeling refreshed and in the mood for a party, Muse provide an engaging soundtrack for the next hour thanks to the awesome Origin Of Symmetry set they proffer. The rain falls even heavier. I really want to get my brolly out so politely ask the middle aged couple standing behind me whether they'd mind or not. They politely inform me that I will be wearing said umbrella if I decide to open it up. It stays folded in my bag. Another hour passes and I apologise to my DiS colleagues for suggesting Muse were a spent force. A simply incredible ending to the first day, not that our adventure is complete, as a walk around the main campsite is halted by the sounds of SL2's 'On A Ragga Tip'. It's a rave! In the woods! It's just like Latitude all over again except we're surrounded by hundreds of confused looking teenagers in My Chemical Romance hoodies. Oh well, the DJ's playing N-Trance now. Lovely stuff...
Rising bright and early with no sign of a hangover, I'm greeted with the first sight of sunshine all weekend. Maybe today is going to be a beautiful day after all (I believe Guy Garvey may have been singing this as we were taking our places at the front for Muse the previous evening)? More dried fruit consumed and the daily check-in with the loved one in hand, local heroes Pulled Apart By Horses are our first stop. Despite the early time slot and exceptionally high stage complete with moat-like gap between band and audience, it doesn't stop Tom Hudson from participating in his favourite party trick; jumping into the audience headfirst and playing most of the set from in there to boot. They're a glorious mess of hair and riffs, and a perfect way to start the day.
And then before we have chance to walk literally six feet, the skies open. Brolly at the ready, a couple of friends try to persuade me to go and see Does It Offend You, Yeah? It will take more than a can of Brothers cider to tempt me to watch that shower, and the more salubrious confines of the guest bar take precedence. I get to try on the new magnetic fluorescent armbands all Leeds & Reading Festival photographers will be issued with in 2012. The health and safety police don't look too impressed. With not much music on to tempt me, the alcohol is flowing at an alarming pace, and even when discussions with my fellow DiSsers turn to the beauty of housing thirty-one rabbits, it doesn't slow down. A text on my phone from one of my Derby friends informs me Cerebral Ballzy are about to take the Festival Republic stage in ten minutes, and this seems an ample time to "round up the troops" as it were. After two songs, everyone bar me looks distinctly unimpressed with their calamitous take on 1981-style agit-prop Britpunk, and even when singer Honor Titus decides to scale one of the scaffolds holding the tent in place at the end the yawns echo around our group like a dawn chorus.
More beers are consumed, and at this point my learned friend from the other side of the A52 introduces me to two seventeen-year-old girls he "pulled" the night before. At this point I make my excuses and leave, assisting Jo Contactmusic on an interview with The Antlers seeming a much more appropriate gesture instead. Returning to the Festival Republic tent for the Brooklyn outfit's set, it's a tad disappointing to find the space two-thirds empty, particularly as their set is the emotionally charged stormer that we've come to expect in recent months.
Returning to the media area to gather my thoughts (and more beers), The Offspring play in the background. Whatever I may think of them, they have nothing on the execrable waste of space that is Jared Leto and 30 Seconds To Mars. Dressed in what can only be described as a specially styled pure white "Jesus robe", he spends most of the set telling the tens of thousands out front how much he loves them, how much he loves Leeds, how much he loves England, how much he loves....oh, get on with it and play us a song. He does, and after one verse and one chorus we wish he hadn't. He then pulls a kid onstage from the front row and as a result reaches a new low in stomach churning levels of nausea. A trampoline is wheeled on stage where said kid is then instructed to bounce for several minutes. Why? Who knows. The band certainly don't. The set finishes (thankfully) with the most manufactured "stage invasion" I've ever witnessed, even to the point where kids that try to get on stage from the audience are aggressively man-handled back by security.
Anyway, back in the bar, someone points at a guy who's the spitting image of Paul Weller. With another guy who's also the spitting image of Paul Weller. And sat with them is a younger model sporting a perfectly coiffeured feather cut and stylish Pretty Green inscribed parka. Aha, of course, Beady Eye are playing later. Liam brings all the plastic mods and wannabe Mancs out you know? Not that we care. The Horrors are next on our agenda, and Mr Catling being the man-about-town that he is introduces me to a member of Milk Maid before we all head off merrily to cop a good spot for Faris Badwan and co. An hour or so later thanks to the power cut that ensues two thirds of the way into their set, we're all in total agreement (well I am!) that The Horrors are undoubtedly one of the most innovative bands in the UK at the minute. My musical highlight of the weekend so far without any shadow of doubt.
Now I'm really in the mood for a party, and where better to go than the guest bar and irritate various (ex)members of Grammatics, Lone Wolf and Team Contactmusic, not to mention the DJ, by constantly requesting then singing 'Glad You Came' by The Wanted every five minutes and getting on one's soapbox about why rabbits do not make good pets for children. Fun times for all. I think...? Needless to say The Wanted's finest hour doesn't get played. Time for bed I guess...
I'm awake at the surprisingly early hour of 9.30am, which considering the amount of alcohol consumed yesterday, is a pretty remarkable achievement. However, that is mostly down to the ketamine induced chatter that's taking place in an adjacent tent for what seems like the duration of the entire night. Now, forgive me for being a spoilsport but who in their right mind puts substances up their nose for pleasure that are prescribed to tranquilize horses? I mean, upon seeing what ketamine does to a horse I can barely imagine what effect it has on a human. Ketamine - just say neigh kids.
My kind friends from Leeds make me an offer I shouldn't refuse. A shower at their house and a pub lunch in their local. Which also has Sky Sports! And my poor excuse for a football team are live on the box at 1.15pm! Unfortunately, a prior engagement with The Joy Formidable means I have to turn their invitation down. And judging by the texts received over the course of the next couple of hours, it isn't a decision I regret, my team getting dishonorably turned over 4-1 at home. Damn.
Back in the media area, which also means bar, which also means beer, Mr Wolstenholme offers Team DiS a selection of edible looking snacks such as Cheese Grids, Pickled Onion Monster Claws and my personal favourite, Disco Biscuits (a pack of which Mr Catling is modelling above). Oh, the joys of Aldi. Musical treats again come few and far between for yours truly, although last night's recommendation to see Mariachi El Bronx coupled with Cults downbeat lo-fi works a treat in the late afternoon sun. Ah, the sun. Yes, it seems to want to put in a full day's shift today, and with more DiSsers arriving in the shape of Newcastle's finest David Edwards we sit down on the dried mud to discuss the merits of James Perch. Which takes approximately three minutes. Still, The National are on soon, which kind of makes me feel proud as they're about as far removed from the 21st Century band model as is possible to be, having developed at their own pace this past decade.
After a nervy start, Matt Berninger and band finally get into their stride, no doubt buoyed by a large and appreciative crowd that seem to know every song and sing contentedly, even the Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers material they slip into the mid-point of the set. It's a triumphant entry into Leeds main stage territory, and one that will hopefully continue into the future.
Now as the weekend is drawing to a close and the alcohol supplies have diminished, resources are pooled together among our intrepid group to the point where Rum & Relentless becomes the cocktail of the evening. Somehow this perks me up for The Strokes, a band I normally would have no discerning interest in whatsoever. Even more surprisingly I find their hour long set a fairly pleasurable experience, no doubt helped by being situated in the middle of the friendliest moshpit ever. New friends are made, old ones taunt me about my alleged "new found love for The Strokes". Now don't go too far old boy...
The reason I'm really here is so that I don't lose my spot about half a dozen rows back from the stage for Pulp, a band I can proudly boast to have seen eight times already. As with their previous shows I've witnessed this year at Primavera and Glastonbury, Jarvis Cocker and band are on fine form throughout, highlights coming thick and fast from start to finish. I kind of feel old when he introduces 'Common People' with a brief chat about their first festival show in Leeds back in 1995 (I was there!), yet also quite elated to have been present at possibly the greatest closing set I've seen this summer.
At this point it doesn't seem right to consume any more music, and although Becoming Real tempt me briefly for a few minutes, a helping of cut-price sweet and sour chicken with fried rice (Festival Food Tip: ALWAYS see what's on offer after the headline act has finished - you'll be surprised how many vendors give their remaining stock away for free!) followed by a refreshing bottle of water rounds off my Leeds weekend nicely.