Leeds Festival 2013 will probably be remembered by a large chunk of its guests for one overriding reason – the weather. The torrential rain and thunderstorms resulted in what was essentially a large scale swamp with the occasional floating tent and knee-deep trilby-wearer. However, it would be unfair for this to be the only thing people mention when referring to a weekend of highly varied music and endless make-the-best-of-it fun.
The festival’s line-up has changed a great deal in recent years. No longer will stereotypically indie bands such as The Strokes and Foster The People top the bill in the main arenas; there seemed more of a focus on electronic music, with Chase & Status making an appearance, along with Skrillex and numerous hip-hop acts like A$AP Rocky and P Money. And the inclusion of Eminem could not be a clearer indication of the more mainstream, popular direction the festival has taken recently.
I had to see Green Day. A band I’ve always enjoyed, not necessarily my genre of choice, a little punky perhaps, but too large and prominent an act to ignore, especially live. They didn’t disappoint, the crowd were excited and involved, and it was clear to see that many of them had travelled miles to see just this band. The set was long and detailed, with some quirky moments; a personal highlight was a supposed member of the audience going onto stage and performing a song impromptu. Staged, probably, maybe a genuine act of festival spontaneity, but either way the crowd loved it.
Taking a considerably different musical direction, the next day I decided to watch Modestep, to kill time more than anything. However, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by the raw energy and visceral power of their set. Seeing what is essentially an electronic act use guitars and drums was a hugely rewarding departure from the usual slightly awkward-looking guy perched behind a Mac for an hour. The crowd went absolutely mental for such an early showing, starting huge, genuinely terrifying mosh pits all the way at the back of the arena, but even this was no match for the unsurpassable energy of the frontman.
Seeing Frank Turner was another nice surprise for me, having always assumed (more out of lazy ignorance than anything) that he would be a little boring live. The entire set fizzled with emotion, one standout point was when he sang ‘I Still Believe’, causing the entire crowd to join together and roar it back at him. It was one of those moments, unique to festivals, where you feel a brief yet amazing connection to all the complete strangers around you, prompted and guided by the brilliant on-stage presence and wellspring of anthems of Mr Turner himself.
I’ve been pretty positive so far, and rightly so, perhaps spurred on by a desire to defend Leeds from all the rain-related (and totally undeserved) criticism I expect it to receive in coming weeks. But one act I can’t say I enjoyed was the one that seemed to command all the attention of the weekend. I’m talking about Eminem, of course. I’m not a fan, outside of the few songs of his that literally everybody knows, but I thought I’d turn up, largely due to the peer pressure I was being relentlessly subjected to; and in all honesty, I did think that he would put on a pretty good show. However, he was, there is no other way to put it, a let-down. Perhaps owing to the sheer size of the crowd, there was no real vibe or energy; most people seemed to be simply stood about watching the big screen that seemed to provide more audience engagement than the on-stage figure himself.
I don’t think Eminem belonged at Leeds. And even as a big fan of electronic music, I think there were too many acts from that genre there. I massively enjoyed the weekend, in spite of the adverse weather conditions, but I am well aware of the direction it is beginning to take. There are a million and one places I can and will go to see electronic acts, but I come to Leeds to see proper guitar bands, and they seemed somewhat underrepresented in the line-up this year. That said, it was a great weekend full of awesome live music, a brilliant atmosphere, and unforgettable memories. Leeds never disappoints.