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Festival Coverage: Leeds Festival 2016

Where Leeds was once a bastion for a more alternative North, recent years have seen the festival diversify to such an extent that it now feels like a very different event from that of a few years ago. This isn't to the festivals detriment of course, times and tastes change and companies (such as Festival Republic) have to adapt.


With adaptation however, comes the risk of alienation, and while Leeds Festival embraced the populist shift towards more electronically driven acts, much of the core fan-base, those that once decorated Bramham Park with their multitudes of sick, discarded beer cans and pierced, prostrate bodies with an almost religious zeal, have headed for the different (though arguably no greener) pastures of Download or further afield.


Of course, some of that are that faithful contingent still make their annual pilgrimage, joining the new guard of punters whose tastes might not be as alternative, but still manage to ornament the site in much the same way. And though the festival's larger stages do seem to have taken on a more mainstream approach, those looking for a little weight with their cider black need only look to the smaller stages further down the bill to find some pleasant surprises, allowing for both generations this year to have their cake and eat it, providing they didn't mind a little mud alongside.


Such was this year's diversity, that the only stages harbouring any distinct personality were the Lock Up/Pit and the BBC 1xtra tent (a recent addition which embodies just how diverse the festival has become). The once indie-centric NME Stage saw the likes of Blossoms precede the liquid sounds of Netsky, while post-punks Basement took to the stage before Manchester's Spring King. Elsewhere it was much the same. Saturday saw grime crew Boy Better Know warm-up a wet Main Stage for an even wetter Chvrches.


That said, while it did mean a fair amount of walking through ankle deep mud to go from stage to stage (resulting in many a skipped meal for fear of dropping an £8 burger in to a cocktail of straw, sludge and cider) it did mean much of the main crowd was more eclectic than usual, preferring to stay in front of the of the dry-by-comparison stage.


Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls drew their usual wide range of fans for a recording breaking tenth consecutive year, opening the Main Stage on Saturday morning with an uplifting and emotionally charged hour long set. It was Die Antwoord however, that drew the most diverse crowd. And it was clear from the look on many people's faces that phallic imagery and South African Rap Rave aren't quite to everyone's tastes.


It was however, to ours. Just a couple of rows from the front, the band's anarchic set was easily a weekend highlight. The trio segue through tracks old and new with a chaotic and wilful abandon that easily marks them as future headliners; the deft dichotomy of Yolandi Visser's imp-like falsetto and Ninja's aggressively nasal bars, playing out against a backdrop of hard-hitting electronica dropped furiously by the deity-cum-producer known only as GOD, proves an impossible act to follow.


As far as headliners go, this year saw organisers booking co-headliners for the Main Stage on both Friday and Saturday. The former offering both Fall Out Boy and Biffy Clyro while Saturday gave us Foals and Disclosure who, showing our age, we forgo in favour of gin and Maximo Park. Both Biffy Clyro, and to a lesser extent Fall Out Boy, are Leeds veterans by now, something was immediately apparent in their sets. But while Biffy still retain a certain air of rock and roll danger, Fall Out Boy are far too polished, mechanical even. And though an impressive stage show involving pyrotechnics and burlesque dancers suggests the band are well and truly in the realms of rock royalty these days, it does just seem like just another show. For someone who remembers them as a fresh-faced pop-punk band even before they were an emo band, it's all a bit much to take in.


Unfortunately, however, the only real, and arguably biggest, disappointment of the weekend comes from easily the biggest band there. Headlining Sunday night, Red Hot Chilli Peppers drew a monster crowd, stretching from the barrier right back to the food stands. From in the middle and off to the left, it was clear from about three songs in that they weren't exactly meeting people's expectations. At first it was just teenagers, saucer-like eyes seeming to swivel in search of a higher BPM. Then it wasn't. It was families and couples; a large amount of people for less than half way through their set.


In terms of set-list you couldn't ask for more. But early sound problems plagued the likes of 'Dani California', 'Scar Tissue' and 'Can't Stop' (the back end all but drowning out everything else), and though seemingly sorted by the half way point and 'Snow (Hey Oh)' the band still lacked the energy they're famous for, instead spending what felt like hours lazily noodling as if they were the house band at a jazz bar. We know you're a funk band at your core, but get the fuck on with it!


Despite feeling like a very different festival to the one I first walked through as a teenager, Leeds still manages stay relevant by moving with the times and adapting to suit it's demographic(s). For almost 20 years it's been a playground for beautifully delinquent northerners who once a year can lose their inhibitions, and if this year is anything to go by for some people: shoes, sleeping bags, sense of self respect. It's loud, tiring and messy, but will I be back next year? Too right.  

Live At Leeds 2016: A Dozen Bands You Need To Check Out

Live at Leeds

While festivals were once reserved for rural locations, it seems recent years have seen a proliferation of inner-city events across the length and breadth of the country. From Brighton's Great Escape to Sheffield's Tramlines. Liverpool Sound City to Stag and Dagger in Glasgow, these inner-city festivals are a far cry from the three-days of debauchery your more traditional festivals offer and instead provide a single day of venue hopping across your city of choice.

One of the most reputable of these single day showcases, is Live at Leeds. Often the start of many people's festival calendar, it's a sure fire way to find favourites for those festivals it precedes, providing punters with a veritable who's who of the year's most promising acts, a slew of home-town heroes and a few names you'll see a lot more of over the coming months. Ahead of this year's festival, we've selected 12 acts you need to see if you're attending.



Not from Leeds, but signed to one of the city's best DIY labels, (CLUE Records) TRASH have rapidly made a name for themselves with their brand of heartfelt slacker pop. Rich in melody and self-deprecation, TRASH will kick off festivities on the Too Many Blogs stage (Oporto) at 12pm.


Natalie McCool

Liverpool-based songstress Natalie McCool brings her effortlessly elegant alt-pop the length of the M62 in order to play an early set at Nation of Shopkeepers. Creating a surprisingly full sound for a solo artist, Natalie's refusal to be bound by pop conventions allows her idiosyncrasies to bleed through in to her records and her live shows.




The second band from the CLUE Records' roster, NARCS hit the DIY stage at Leeds institution The Brudenell Social Club at 1pm. Having caught the band at last year's Leeds Festival, we know they're not ones to be missed. And if you have a thing for all things CLUE, you'll be able to run from TRASH in time to catch them. Your legs won't thank you, but the band sure will.




Another band who quickly made a name for themselves last year, Kagoule's wonky indie pop recounts the heady DIY days of the '80s and '90s, completely belying their relatively young years. The band follow NARCS on the DIY stage, so if you make it all the way up there, stick around, you won't be disappointed.



Fizzy Blood

Fusing together the grunge for which the city has become synonymous, with classic rock flavours, Leeds locals Fizzy Blood promise to tear up The Key Club early on. Having already earned somewhat of a reputation with those in the know, their set promises to be a rammed and raucous affair.



The Jacques

After signing to 25 Hour Convenience Store a little over a year ago, The Jacques began to quickly make a name for themselves thanks to their indie oikishness and a sound reminiscent of The Libertines. Now heading in to their second season of festivals you can catch The Jacques at 2:30 at The Faversham.



Holy Esque

Fresh of the back of their debut LP At Hope's Ravie, Scottish rockers Holy Esque promise to bring a set of monolithic proportions to the Too Many Blogs stage at Oporto. Coming across as a more brooding Augustines, this is introspection at its most anthemic and not something to be missed.




Local lads The Carnabells will be a familiar sight to anyone who frequents Leeds' various venues. Their upbeat and punchy indie pop is sure to brighten even the gloomiest of days, providing the jangle-pop of the1980s with a distinctly contemporary twist. They play the Gigwise Stage at 5pm.



Where Fires Are

Leeds-based Where Fires Are create an atmospheric brand of alt-rock whose lyrical themes are matched only by the musical ambition. Intricate and intelligent, the quartet fall somewhere in between Biffy Clyro and Everything Everything and will take to the Briggate stage at 4pm.



Colour of Spring

Quickly following are local shoegazers Colour of Spring. A four-piece who manage to encapsulate the spirit of the scene that celebrates itself without being derivative. With a penchant for exploring dynamics, the band segue from lush dreampop to towerings walls of noise effortlessly. They play Briggate at 5pm.



Forever Cult

The last band from the Clue Records stable, Forever Cult make the leap from opening proceedings at Key Club last year, by taking to the Leeds Beckett stage at 5:30. Perfectly encapsulating the city's grunge scene from which FC come, their blend of warped slacker rock and weighty riffs will leave a lasting impression.



Los Campesinos!

One of two bands on the list that shouldn't really need any introduction Los Campesinos! are old hats in comparison to much of the line-up. As a result, their live shows are some of the best we've seen from bands of their size and will prove to be a hit at this year's festival. LC! play the Gigwise stage at 8:45.


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