Bramham Park. The site of the annual Leeds Festival since 1999. This year's line-up suggested anything other than an unlucky thirteen. More than a hundred and fifty bands and acts from Sheffield to Sacramento would share the same stages for four days of excellent entertainment like no other.
Here's day one:
The first band of the weekend was local rapscallions Pulled Apart By Horses, opening the Main Stage to a raucous reception. Easily one of the most inspired choices for festival opener ever, their energy on stage was lapped up by the crowd, the first Leeds moshpit of the weekend within 45 seconds of kicking into 'Back To The F*** Yeah'. 'V.E.N.O.M' from this year's Tough Love sounded huge and by the end of their all-too-short set, everyone was nicely prepared for a day's music. Next up on the Main Stage were Alberta Cross, the bluesy power trio offering a much more measured approach. Part White Stripes, part ZZ Top, they proved surprisingly popular with the crowd, though not as much as the excellent Eagles Of Death Metal. Proving to be excellent entertainment, frontman Jesse Hughes' enthusiasm was mirrored by a sunny spell matching their fried-bluegrass tunes.
However, by the time they were getting into their stride, the Lock Up stage beckoned for something altogether darker. New York mob This Is Hell came highly recommended, but their brutal brand of hardcore fell largely on deaf ears, despite the energy from the band. That said, a small group of fans made the best of it, offering some reward for the band's efforts. Back on the Main Stage, The Gaslight Anthem experienced exactly the opposite in terms of reception. New songs from highly rated album Handwritten fell perfectly alongside older material, played to a crowd far surpassing anything else seen that afternoon. Before long, Gaslight will be one of the quintessential festival bands, knocking the Kings of Leon off their perch and claiming a mantle they surely deserve.
Following them, pop punks All Time Low set about continuing the energy. Enthusiastically lapped up by the younger contingent of the crowd, they offered all of the elements that make pop punk so much fun, penis jokes and inflatable dolls in abundance, but unfortunately, they were lacking one thing... memorable songs. Fortunately, a certain Bullet For My Valentine made everything better. The biggest UK metal band of the 21st Century playing a perfectly pitched greatest hits set to a ravenous crowd, the likes of 'Tears Don't Fall' balanced comfortably alongside recent hits 'Your Betrayal' and 'The Last Fight'.
The next port of call that afternoon was, once again, the Lock Up Stage, via a cursory look towards the Kaiser Chiefs' Ricky Wilson dad-dancing like no-one's business. Waiting inside the tent were hardcore mob Trash Talk. Gaining a fearsome live reception on the back of extensive touring, the Sacramento crew caused a riot in the tent. Vocalist Lee Spielman spent the entire set in front of, on top of and in the crowd, before inciting a stage invasion that left fewer people in the properly in the tent than sharing the floor with the band. As the last of the invaders made their way from the stage, the Kaiser Chiefs broke (somewhat suitably) into a surprisingly heavy rendition of Oh My God, the crowd going suitably crazy for their local heroes.
After the hubbub subsided briefly, a Lock Up Stage double bill was on the cards, starting with an excellent set from the brilliantly camp Turbonegro, offering the finest in Swedish Death-Punk anthems and an encore of 'I Got Erection' made complete with a guest appearance from Wade MacNeil. Half an hour later, MacNeil returned to the stage with a revitalised Gallows, who were easily the band of the day so far. Three quarters of an hour of punk rock mayhem with a wealth of new material standing shoulders above classics 'Misery' and 'Orchestra Of Wolves'. The crowd loved it, proving that there was no Frank Carter hangover in the tent that evening. Who in their right minds could follow this? Oh yeah. The biggest rock band in the world: the Foo Fighters. Grinning from ear to ear, Dave and co. took Leeds on a 160-minute tour of their back catalogue, greatest hits complemented with cuts from last year's excellent release Wasting Light. Despite impeccable main stage sound all afternoon, the opening trio of 'White Limo', 'All My Life' and 'Rope' were a little muddy, but, after a quick stroll to the other side of the stage, the band came through loud and clear.
The response was electric; the entire arena screaming every word of their career spanning set, from 'This Is A Call' through to latest single 'Walk', as did the rest of the thousands in attendance. By the time the set was properly drawn to a close with 'Best Of You', the crowd noise far surpassed anything I've ever witnessed... drowning out the PA with ease. If that wasn't enough, the four song encore that followed saw a largely solo rendition of 'Times Like These' followed by Rufus Taylor, son of Queen's Roger, taking to the kit and allowing regular drummer Taylor Hawkins to belt out the customary cover 'Tie Your Mother Down' with the energy and vigour leagues above the original. Finest moment 'Everlong' brought the house down before confetti was blasted over the crowd to the accompaniment of fireworks. How to pull off the perfect festival headline set volume 1, by the Foo Fighters.
Click here for Saturday 25th Leeds Festival Review 2012
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