Leeds Festival Review: Day 1

Before me sits the remnants of a full English breakfast, served to me with piping hot hash browns to mask the fact that the rest of it was clap cold. I’ve paid £7.50 for the privilege. I’m just wondering if I’ll manage to be be able to consume my body weight in orange juice from the refillable dispenser before they tell me to shit off.  You’ve got to get your five a day somehow, but fruit & veg isn’t especially forthcoming at a festival.

I arrived here yesterday morning intent (and with tent) on having enough time to pitch my canvas Shangri-La before going to catch The Walkmenopening up the Main Stage at Noon. But for a false start where I had to return to my temporary home after being denied entry due to possession of a can of well-known stout (cans not allowed apparently – though I later noticed that the novelty of the power wielded by the “Customer Protection Office” had waned after a few hours and his bag check became somewhat less censorious) and the fact that the splendid New York noiseniks start 8 minutes early for some reason, I’d have pretty much timed it to perfection.

The Walkmen: larger than actually pictured.

The Walkmen: larger than actually pictured.

I saw The Walkmen more years ago than I care to remember in an Islington night spot and was astonished by lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s extraordinary height. On that occasion the ceiling was not sufficiently high to accommodate him and he spent the gig stooping like some sort of gravel-throated Sycorax. On this vast outdoor stage there is no such problem and from this distance his Peter Crouchety is not immediately evident, though I like being in possession of facts that my fellow revellers may be utterly unaware of. I’m half tempted to nudge a stranger and say, “He’s ludicrously tall, y’know” then look all pleased with myself in silent contemplation.

It’s something of a thankless task to open up proceedings, I realise, as people are still milling around, having a look at what’s around or shouting “So where the fuck are you?” into mobile phones to friends who have erected their tent somewhere in the next county.  There is also the inevitable anti-climax for those who’ve been waiting for the chance to jump up and down in joyful abandon, as being first on – even on the Main Stage – probably means that not many people actually know your songs.  I’m pleased therefore that the opening guitar thrutch of arguably their most famous song The Rat- a very minor hit back in 2004 – is greeted by pockets of cheers and even a spot of lunchtime pogoing.  It’s the penultimate song of the set and its success seems to make the band and me alike glad that they turned up for it.

Having ticked off one of my “must see” bands first up I go for a good old English potter around the Guest Area.  Being a highly-respected radio disc jockey with up to 3 listeners allows access to places that the likes of you and your bad smells can’t get into.  Oh my- there’s actual flushing toilets here.  As a man who poos more than any other living being this is terrifically good news and I celebrate with a pint of beer and lunch of pie and mash.  The pie is made with beef reared on the local farm apparently.  Look at me supporting the natives.  As the dead cow dances on my taste buds the sun rains kisses warmly onto my forehead.  I like it here.

James and Ash's Rick McMurray

James and Ash's Rick McMurray

BCB duty calls post luncheon, so myself and the delectable Cheryl Thompson – who does the whole media darrhling-great-to-see-you cheek kissing with The Important People here much better than your curmudgeonly scribe – make a plan of action as to who will interview whom.  James Long is here also, and he is charged with pressing the flesh with Ash‘s Rick McMurray, Cheryl grills The Libertines‘ drummer Gary Powell about the tonight’s reunion and his new band The Invasion Of…whilst I am charged with speaking to a man called Biz about his Harrogate-based band Kasiuss.

Biz from Kasiuss and yours truly.  It's not the greatest photo of me ever, but I still think I came out of it better than he.

Biz from Kasiuss and yours truly. It's not the greatest photo of me ever, but I still think I came out of it better than he.

Biz takes the clear fact that not only have I not seen the set but also never heard of them with good grace and is readily happy to chat and be perfectly personable – so much so that I think it unfair to tell him that in my family “biz” is an alternative expression for going for a shit, and keep this to myself.

The interview can be heard on this lovely streaming wotsit courtesy of Soundcloud.  Just click on the ruddy great big play button to play.  It’s quite simple and if you can’t work it out you should probably never be allowed scissors or even proper pencils.  If you really want to, you can download the interview as an .mp3 so that you can hear my Robin Day-style questioning on your portable record players whilst on a bus or whilst stalking your attractive neighbour.  Click on the arrow on the right hand side of the player and then click “Download”.

 Patrick Thornton speaks to Biz from Kasiuss by PatrickSelectionBox

Me with Dave (left) and Jaff from The Futureheads.  I don't remember spitting on him, but this photo suggests I may have.  If I did I assure you it was an accident.

Me with Dave (left) and Jaff from The Futureheads. I don't remember spitting on him, but this photo suggests I may have. If I did I assure you it was an accident.

The next round of interviews sees Cheryl meet Frank Turnerwhilst I do battle with Dave & Jaff from The Futureheads.  I can’t decide if Dave hates me for being alive or if he’s always like this, but the part of me that quickly descends into the gutter is thrilled when he states that he plays purely to keep his collection of dildos stocked up.  Jaff, however, is far more willing throughout to follow my flights of fancy and is highly entertaining company.  It’s a shame, then, that I blot my copybook by making the schoolboy error of asking what time they’re on stage only to be told that they’ve already been on and now they’re off to do the decent thing and get pissed up on booze.  About 20 minutes later I see Jaff getting salivaed up on a young lady’s face.  Life at the coal face of rock stardom there.

Blah blah blah, listen via Soundcloud, blah blah blah download etc etc:

Patrick Thornton speaks to Jaff and Dave from The Futureheads by PatrickSelectionBox


A quick visit to the glorious flushing toilets reveals that even at this early stage one of them has been blocked by the most gargantuan example of human faeces I have ever seen.  I’ve seen shorter novels.  I’m too impressed (and a little envious) to be completely repulsed, though the temptation to take a photo of it is tempered by the fact that I don’t want a photo of it.

Cheryl with Frank Turner

Cheryl with Roland Rat - though apparently he's going by the name of Frank Turner now.


After the briefest of brief rain showers and a quick trading of insults with friend of mine I’m aware that my other chum will probably be arriving from London around now, and I am dead right and my timing is exemplary as here he comes now walking towards me.  We walk up to the top end of the camping area so that I can show him where I have put my tent only to discover that I have been the victim of a quite staggering act of bastardry wherein person or persons have decided that they liked my spot so much that they wanted to camp there themselves.  They have pretty much pitched their tent across mine – the guy ropes of my tent are actually about three foot under the main body of theirs.  They have also unhooked several of my tent pegs so that it now looks like a rather sorry little soul flapping in the breeze.  As a rather bizarre final insult they have consumed the contents of a tin of Spam at some point during their tent erection and left the tin by the entrance flap of my tent as some sort of bizarre calling card.  I hope they choked to death on it, or that they are so wracked with guilt that they slashed their wrists with the jagged edge of the tin lid.

The tent ate some Spam, then started to eat my tent as a pudding.

The tent ate some Spam, then started to eat my tent as a pudding.

I’m far too amused by the sheer front of their action and the Spam coda that I can’t be entirely furious that my innocent wee tent has been so spectacularly bullied by this leviathan, but that doesn’t stop me showering expletives at the tent in the vague hope that these rude set of shitblisters will be inside cowering too ashamed to come out.  We move my tent to a new location and with delicious glee steal a number of their tent pegs in retaliation, though it doesn’t occur to me until the next morning that this is actual theft.

Having “successfully” pitched my tent for a second time we manage to catch the last few numbers from Dizzee Rascal‘s set.  I really like some of Dizzee’s early records but I caught him at Glastonbury last year and found that live his act seemed to be little more than a lot of shouting whilst various people buggered about on stage.  I must be getting old.  This performance didn’t seem to offer much different from the one I had previously experienced and so I didn’t feel I’d missed out by failing to catch the first 50 minutes.

Cheryl with Gary Powell from The Libertines

Cheryl with Gary Powell from The Libertines

There was time for a quick spot of drinking with my friend that I’d had to abandon an hour or so earlier before the public reunion of The Libertines.  I dare say that this was supposed to be The Great Event of the festival this year, but as someone who has never subscribed to the legend of Doherty-As-Flawed-Poetic-Genius the sense of occasion failed to overwhelm me.  In fact, if we’re entirely honest, I thought the set was ruddy awful and halfway through suggested to my friend that I might nip off and fetch my coat.  He was rather pleased to be able to admit that he had had the same thought, so off we went like a pair of old men to protect ourselves from the risk of a life-threatening chill.

We returned with some illicitly smuggled cans of booze, which I’d managed to secrete in some splendidly spacious inside pockets.  (The can ban is there presumably because arseholes cannot be trusted not to use them as dangerous missiles.  Thankfully, I know I am not an arsehole and will even go to the trouble of looking for a bin.)  The Libertines were just finishing up and from what I could tell had not got any better as the night wore on.

It would appear that fans of The Libertines really don’t like The Arcade Fire, as once Doherty, Barratt et al had said their goodbyes we were heading in the opposite direction to everyone else in the World as they filed en masse away from the Main Stage.  This was perfect for us, as suddenly the space opened up and we were able to stride purposefully towards the front in preparation for the slight controversial headliners.

There had been a certain amount of sneering that The Arcade Fire – whose definite article seems to get dropped these days but it is The Arcade Fire – were not a big enough band to top the bill at a major UK festival.  However, the band have two facts in their favour as to why they can raise a similar number of digits to their doubters.  One is that their new album The Suburbs has shifted a bucketload of records.  The other is, quite simply, that they are ruddy great.

As someone who always prefers favourite bands to be my own little secret, I’d have been more than happy to see The Arcade Fire demoted to a small tent where I can watch from a position close enough to smell Win Butler‘s lop-sided hair.  Indeed a similar thought occurs to me during this performance as I try to imagine quite what it would be like to watch the extraordinary energy and instrument inter-changery of this remarkable 5-piece+friends in an intimate setting like the glorious sweatboxes I usually see gigs in.

At a large arena gig its often easy to find yourself watching the screens rather than the tiny dots on stage, but pointing the camera at it for the purposes of a photo was pretty much the only time my attention moved from the real life version.

At a large arena gig it's often easy to find yourself watching the screens rather than the tiny dots on stage, but pointing the camera at it for the purposes of a photo was pretty much the only time my attention moved from the real life version during the headline set by The Arcade Fire.

Still, this is a minor personal quibble at what is an otherwise staggering set.  I’ve not been immediately taken with The Suburbs as yet, but had always suspected that many of the tracks would work better in a live environment.  With a big smug face I found I was right – the new album’s title track and We Used To Wait being highlights amongst the new material.

The Arcade Fires Funeral album.  If you dont own this you are probably a poltroon.

The Arcade Fire's Funeral album. If you don't own this you are probably a poltroon.

As I glance into the sky and see an alarmingly bright moon illuminating the night, and thence back to the stage to see one of the finest bands currently operating in the World I have one of those moments of exhilarated satisfaction where life seems like a jolly good do.  I’m sure I’ll be back to hating everyone and everything in no time, but right now I even find myself jumping up and down like a demented flea as the band thumps out the likes of Neighborhood [sic.] #1 (Tunnels) and indeed Neighborhoods #2 (Laika) and #3 (Power Out) from their debut album Funeral – arguably the finest LP of the 21st century so far. 

There’s a bit of a false encore moment where the band says goodnight and the crowd begs for Wake Up.  This same thing happened when I saw The Arcade Fire play at That Fancy London’s Alexandra Palace a few years ago, and it is even more clear on this occasion that the punters will be obliged that it was even back then.  Still, even a churlish git like me can’t help but feel the raw euphoria of the anthemic singalong when the inevitable occurs and its a fitting epilogue to a truly marvellous performance.

We filter away and there’s still enough time in the evening to gob down some really very delicious pork noodles, reaquaint myself with one of the great loves of my life – the dodgem cars – and drink some more booze before I decide it is time for my head to hit the pillow.  This is a metaphorical pillow and I haven’t brought one and I have plenty of time to envy my friend’s blow-up bed as I lie in my tent with the uneven ground poking my back as if to act as a perpetual reminder that I hate camping.  I wish I’d got significantly more drunk now so I could just pass out.


Patrick Thornton presents Selection Box every Monday at Midnight.


7 thoughts on “Leeds Festival Review: Day 1

  1. avatarBloody Nora

    That Biz man is super hairy, ain’t he? I too went on the Friday, with a friend and our kids. My ten year old summed Dizzee Rascal up perfectly when, after a barrage of fuck words, he rolled his eyes to the sky, tsked and said “Doesn’t he know any other words?” Unlike yourself we enjoyed the Libertines, though Arcade Fire and that glorious moon were also my highlight. Good blog, cheers.

  2. avatarPatrick Post author

    Oh dear, I seem to be getting something of a reputation for “car crash” broadcasting – apparently my 3rd birthday show with young Phil Cope was described as such.

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