Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Leeds Festival - This Feeling Stage - Sunday 28/08/16

So I had no desire to go to Leeds Fest at all. The massive festivals don't appeal to me and the Leeds line up didn't have me rushing for my debit card. Then This Feeling announced their line up. It truly was the cream of the up coming crop. Check out their Leeds listings and make it your mission to go see ALL those bands as soon as you possibly can.

I was still umming and ahhing though. A weekend ticket was a financial and logistic impossibility. Running my own shop does mean I can just bugger off should I fancy. Buggering off doesn't put money in the till though. To be fair being open 6 days a week doesn't put much money in the till either but, well, you get what I mean.

I was toying with the idea of buying a Sunday ticket. Bang Bang Romeo were playing the Sunday and I really wanted to see them round off a phenomenal festival season. Getting there was doable. Getting home was gonna involve begging for a bed somewhere or sleeping on a station. 

Now in my youth I spent a lot of time sleeping on stations. One night at Kings Cross after a Pogues gig in 1987 was particularly memorable. ('Do you want a cabbage mate. Free. Here, have a cabbage'. Maybe you had to be there). Manchester Piccadilly was an OK place to sleep too. Birmingham New Street less so. Didn't help that they made train announcements as I was trying to phone in sick for work. Bristol Temple Meads was lovely. Edinburgh Waverley was my favourite though.

 I digress. As a 48 year old who's had heart surgery (yes I'm still clinging to that as my go to excuse) none of that really appealed.

I put a shout out on facebook and my Welsh Sine FM colleague JJ answered the call. He was at Leeds all weekend but going home after it had all finished Sunday night. Logistics sorted I bit the bullet and bought a Sunday ticket. 

The next day Bang Bang Romeo messaged me to say I was down as crew for the Sunday. Another facebook shout out to sell my ticket. Thankfully Sheffield's finest, the erstwhile Mat Hume was buying. 

As I plied my vinyl wares reports were coming in of the somewhat moist conditions in Leeds. I say Leeds, we all know it's Wetherby Festival really. By the time I got there on the Sunday it looked like this:

Sam Craggs. Hat and glasses model's own. Mud courtesy of the British weather

I have no wellies. The boots were gonna have to take the hit. Shorts too as I'd rather have wet, muddy legs than wet, muddy jeans. The festival hat was dug out for one last foray and 9am Sunday morning found me at Bentley train station with a bunch of festival goers all in the wrong attire.

I had an email saying follow the arrows at Leeds station for the festival shuttle buses. There was one arrow. Pointing the wrong way. (There was going to be a lot of boring travel waffle now. Some walking too. And a bit about nettles but let's skip to some festival stuff)

You find me back stage at the This Feeling Jack Rocks stage with one half of Bang Bang Romeo (Ross and Joel), some Heavy Suns and free Jack Daniels. As we hung around Judas arrived with Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy in tow. (Judas' singer John is Abbey's brother). I complimented Crouchy on Saturday's goal line clearance then asked for the obligatory photo. I did claim I just wanted my photo took with someone taller than me but we all know I'm just a horrendous name dropper.

One of us has 22 goals in 42 England appearances

Having told the big man that he had to check out Bang Bang Romeo later in the day I headed out to catch Heavy Suns.

Heavy Suns were the opening band. A big ask at any time. A huge ask on the third day of a festival. A massive ask given the line up that was to follow. They were quality. Anthemic, guitar laden pure indie rock 'n' roll with (favourite DJ) Ross Micklethwaite throwing some psychedelic guitar and keys over the whole mix. A cracking start to the day and a bar already set high. 

Heavy Suns
Heavy Suns

Mat Hume had hoped to be there for 12. At some point I'd have to brave the main festival site and the knee deep apocalyptic mud to deliver his ticket. 12.30 and his lift still hadn't arrived. When I did Leeds Fest for the full weekend in 2012 I took an old Nokia. By the Monday morning it had lost one bar of charge. Today, within 4 hours my iPhone was already thinking about calling it a day. Worrying when you're trying to make vague arrangements to meet someone. 

Another quarter of Bang Bang Romeo (Richard) had arrived with stage tech extraordinaire Sam Craggs so after Heavy Suns had finished I did my carrying heavy things bit. My basic contribution to TeamBBR is to play their songs on the radio and carry an amp occasionally. I am fully aware of how lucky and spoiled I am to be part of the set up. I am angling to be official biographer one day though. 

More free JD (told you I was lucky and spoiled) then back to the stage for Leeds band The Strawberries. They are alarmingly young. Christ, when singer Sam Neil was born I already had one divorce under my belt. They have a sound that belies their age though. Songs that should be sung in smoke filled seedy back rooms. I absolutely love 'em.  Plug time - Social bar, Doncaster, October 14th. 

The Strawberries

It was at this point that I made my first venture to the main site. Sam needed cash and tobacco. I wanted to get my bearings for the two meet ups I had planned. (Mat's ticket and JJ's lift home). It was carnage. If you stood still for any length of time you'd still be there now. And people. So. Many. People. This body just isn't designed to yomp through mud. 

It was just too much. We headed back for the relative calm of This Feeling pronto. Plus Dantevilles were on and we both wanted to catch them. 

Mat update: 13:30 - Set off but nowhere near yet. 

Those that know me will know my weakness for jangly indie guitar bands. Dantevilles can't fail for me. Fresh from supporting Blossoms at their (No.1) album launch Dantevilles are on fire. Their brand of catchy, indie pop has the tent bouncing.


The Leeds main stage has nothing on what Mikey Jonns and This Feeling has put together here. I can see why it's been nicknamed 'The Zone'. It's one big, gloriously talented family. The support all the bands show each other is admirable and something a lot of musicians, no matter what level they're at, could learn from. 

14:00 - Mat's in Leeds but the traffic is at a stand still.

Judas next up. Remember when U2 were good? I mean really good. Before they took over the world and way before Bono got a God complex. We're talking Boy, October, War era U2. Judas are reminiscent of that but better. Still raw but coherent with it. A polished rawness if you will. They rock. They really rock. They had a main stage slot today too and it was clear why.

John Clancy - Judas

The last of the BBR quartet (Starsie) had turned up now with her entourage. They were there for the whole weekend. I just wouldn't have coped. Good work ladies. 

Mat now in the car park queue but not moving. 

Given that my phone was never gonna cope with the tedious job of phone calls and a host of messages to Mat I decided to get some food and head up to the main entrance. Bumped into JJ at the steak sandwich (that was never medium rare) stall and made very vague arrangements for my lift home. When it comes to organisational skills I have none. I started my trek through Armageddon to find the main entrance.

I missed it. Walked from one end of the site to the other. The main entrance is the yellow gate. I'd seen a yellow flag in the distance and went for it. I ended up further away from the main entrance than ever stood under an inflatable banana. My eyes aren't what they were. At least from my vantage point I could see where I'd gone wrong. Back into the melee. It was around this time that I made the decision that no matter who was playing elsewhere I wasn't leaving the Jacks Rock stage again. (It meant missing Blossoms and Avalanche Party but both are on the radar in the next couple of months. And there was no-one else I was desperate to see away from This Feeling).

Arrived at the main gate and collapsed. Someone in the box office kindly charged my phone a bit so I could let Mat know where I was. No bottles are allowed on the festival site so as I sat waiting for Mat I was given so much reviving bottled beer. I love JD but it's not a session drink. This was such a relief. 

Mat duly arrived with crushing man hugs and I headed back to the mud free relative calm of the This Feeling stage just in time to catch the end of Medicine Men. Gutted that I'd missed Liberty Ship but back in time for Paves.

I love Paves. Face melting blues/rock delivered with so much energy it leaves you exhausted just watching.  Luke Shield has one of those voices. You look at his slender frame and wonder just where it's coming from. Tom Triggs beating his kit into submission so much that after the set he could barely walk. Tikz shredding with consummate ease and Perry (I got their names right for once) delivering the stage dive of the day. I think he was trying to climb on his monitor. It slipped and he went head first in the photo pit. I honestly thought he'd killed himself, crumpled like a Dutch cyclist before he leapt back up to help Tom batter the drum kit. 

Another plug - Social Bar, Doncaster, Sept 30th. 


I decided on a bit of a chill backstage while watching Tom struggle to lift a sandwich before it was back into the throng for Asylums. Such an aptly named band. They're brilliant if not a little crazy. You'd love to go for a beer with them but you'd have the emergency get out phone call planned just in case. Imagine The Vaccines doing the soundtrack for Naked Lunch. Another band destined for main stage slots - they have the tunes, the presence, the energy and the hair. JJ had told me they were ones to catch and he was so right. Thankfully JJ was there photographing (with his already full memory card) and I could let him know my change of plans. Sam had kindly agreed to put me up in Sheffield that night so I didn't have to worry about trying to find a small Welshman in the dark at the end of a very long day. 


By now Bang Bang Romeo had a dressing room with all the luxuries that that entails (beer, sandwiches, plug sockets) and I decided to rest my weary boots.

All the This Feeling bands had played to decent sized crowds but there was definitely a buzz going round about Bang Bang Romeo and from my vantage point backstage I could see the crowds flooding down the hill to the Jack Rocks stage. I'd been given the important job of removing Starsie's wellies before they went on stage. I do have my uses. Wardrobe now. I'm not sure I can do justice to what happened next but I shall try.

Bang Bang Romeo

Revolver is now firmly down as set opener. It had barely kicked in when Abbey Clancy leaned over to me and said 'These are fucking amazing'. Not one song in and the masses are already bouncing. They were perfect. I pity those people for whom music stops at their ears. Music of this magnitude grabs your body and soul and takes over. The band, the crowd, the songs become one entity. It takes on a life of it's own. This is a band already fully aware (when on stage) of just what power they have. An obviously emotional Stars still has the crowd wrapped round her twirling fingers as the powerhouse of Ross, Joel and Rich hammer one crafted gem after another deep into the heart of the This Feeling crowd. Stars' voice is a brutal, beautiful weapon. I've said it before - there is no better singer coming out of the UK at this moment. A voice like that could easily distract from the band but it doesn't. The unit that is Bang Bang Romeo is phenomenal. 

Joel and Rich are as tight a rhythm section as you will find. It's impossible not to dance to the groove they deliver during The Bliss. Ross' guitar drags you through the most gorgeous nightmares. The riff for You And I is just dangerous, backed by Rich's machine gun drumming. The tears came as they slowed things down with Chemical, by far the oldest song in the set but still as fresh as when I first heard it 5 (?) years ago. Stars was fighting back the tears as she mesmerised the enraptured crowd. That set me off. Looking around I was far from the only one. 

Johannesburg and Reach Out gets the audience flying again. 'Whisper the words of.....drums' maybe my single favourite moment of any live BBR set. I looked over to the side of the stage and Crouchy is jumping higher than he did when he netted against Trinidad And Tobago in the 2006 World Cup. (Unassisted this time). Invitation kicks in. It's a monster of a finale. Bodies are flying everywhere even before Starsie's crowd invasion.

I'm still gamely jumping with a Paves guitarist on my shoulders but I was relieved when a steward told us to behave. As Revolver is a perfect opener, Invitation is a natural set closer. 'A little more now' demands Stars, the band reaching a glorious, cataclysmic crescendo. The crowd give a little more and then some every time.

If there is any justice in the world Bang Bang Romeo will be delivering sets of this immensity on the biggest of stages next festival season. 

Back stage the band are mobbed as I wander round with the stupidest of grins on my face carrying Starsie's wellies. Abbey Clancy is already on the phone to Jools Holland. I mentioned that on stage the band are fully aware of the power they deliver. Backstage 'what just happened?' seems to be the delighted mantra. I collar Peter Crouch for an 'I told you' moment. He just leaps on me with words like 'massive' and 'the find of the festival'. 

I'm done. Nothing can follow that. Not even Chili Peppers on the main stage. I carry an amp all of ten yards to a van then collapse on a sofa unsure if I'll move again. There's still 2 bands to play Jack Rocks but I'm gigged out. Sam, being the diamond that he is, has decided to give me and Rich a lift back to Doncaster. I'm so grateful I could have cried. 

This Feeling Jack Rocks Stage, Leeds Fest 2016 - you were magnificent. 

No comments:

Post a Comment