Leeds Festival – Friday Review

Reviewed by Jake Cartledge
Live music returned to Bramham Park for the first time since 2019 as Leeds Festival got underway with huge sets from the likes of Biffy Clyro and Wolf Alice.

It was fantastic to be back at the festival and despite an early downpour just before the arena opened, you could sense that everyone was ready and raring to go.

The photographers and journalists in the press tent were getting every last detail ready as they waited for the music to start at 12pm. The first act I encountered was a great young band from Nottingham called Blondes, who I’d never heard of before but as I was near the Festival Republic stage, I thought I’d check them out.

They played a set full of upbeat guitar-pop tracks which were well-received by the relatively small crowd who’d wandered into the tent. I managed then to catch a couple of songs of rising talent Andrew Cushin from Newcastle who played a set on the BBC Introducing Stage to a crowd of his fans, a fair few who seemed to be from the North East.

Following him I decided to check out comedian Lloyd Griffiths on the Alternative Stage, who until a couple of years ago was presenting Soccer AM on Sky. His interactions with the crowd were funny in parts but his stories and jokes didn’t really seem to hit the mark unfortunately.

Following that I moved back to the Festival Republic stage, where Sheffield indie-pop band Sophie & the Giants played. It was a joyful and energetic set that appealed to both their fans and any newcomers to the group.

After that, I stayed at the same stage to catch an act that I’ve loved listening to over the last year or so during lockdown, Baby Queen. Real name Bella Latham, Baby Queen writes and performs under that guise and makes brilliant guitar-driven pop tunes that automatically stick in your head.

Baby Queen, Photo Credits: Jake Cartledge

She’s already had lots of play on Radio 1 and despite this only being her fifth ever gig, she has quite the following already. Songs like Internet Religion, Want Me and closer American Dream, have a real energy about them that whips her young crowd into a frenzy. After the set she even stuck around and did some shots of tequila with her fans, something she might not be able to do in a few years time when she inevitably becomes huge.

As soon as the crowd spills out of the Festival Republic stage, more pile in as a secret set from Jake Bugg is announced. I manage to catch the first couple of songs of the set, mainly squashed in amongst hundreds of fans looking to catch a glimpse of the Nottingham singer.

But I wanted to head to the Main Stage West to catch some of Blossoms set, so managed to wriggle out of the packed tent and head towards the Stockport five-piece. They start with the first single from their 2020 ‘Your Girlfriend’ which draws a huge cheer from a massive crowd as the sun tried to peak through the clouds. They run through a set of their greatest hits including ‘There’s a Reason Why (I never returned your calls), ‘The Keeper’ and the now indie classic ‘Charlemagne’.

From there I quickly walk over to the Main Stage East for a set that I’ve been waiting nearly 4 years for. Wolf Alice take to the stage to a surprisingly smaller crowd than I expected, but they make up for that with their huge sound and great stage presence. They kick off with recent single ‘Smile’ which sounds massive on the Main Stage before moving onto radio hits ‘Bros’ and ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ which get a great reaction from the Leeds crowd.

Wolf Alice, Photo Credits: Jake Cartledge

They then delve into tracks from their recent chart-topping album ‘Blue Weekend’, including ‘Lipstick on the Glass’, ‘How can I make it OK?’, and the stunning and atmospheric ‘The last man on Earth’. These three tracks provide a bit of relief before launching into ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ and ‘Giant Peach’, two proper rock tunes that open up the mosh pits and really show what a tight guitar band Wolf Alice are. After that, the band close the set with the gorgeous ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ which provides a final singalong moment for the crowd.

And to finish off the day, I headed back over to the Main Stage West to catch the sounds of one of my favourite live bands, Biffy Clyro. They open with ‘North of No South’ from last year’s ‘A Celebration of Endings’ which sounds massive and sets the tone for the rest of the next 80 minutes. They fly through their back catalogue and sound epic as always, showing no signs of rustiness despite barely playing live over the last 18 months. It’s a set full of greatest hits with tracks like ‘That Golden Rule’, ‘Biblical’, ‘Mountains’, ‘Black Chandelier’, ‘Bubbles’ and classic ‘Many of Horror’.

Biffy Clyro, Photo Credits: Jake Cartledge

It’s the perfect festival set and is made even better by an incredible light display and some fantastic pyrotechnics. The penultimate track ‘Cop Syrup’ is the perfect example of that, with blinding lights, stunning visuals and fireworks going off as the song reached its crescendo. Final track ‘Machines’ is something of a subdued ending to the set, with just Simon Neil playing an acoustic guitar alongside a couple of violinists.

It’s a beautiful ending to a set that showcased why Biffy Clyro are the ultimate festival band, uniting the crowd as they sing in unison, something we haven’t been able to do for 18 months. Live music is back, and it’s here to stay.