A harsh mistress of a festival
At the Drive-In - Leeds Festival 2012

For many Leeds is their first festival, which is why we’re not surprised that on the bus there everyone looks like Harry Styles and we look more like the Child Catcher. It’s often seen as an initiation right for the GCSE and A level result lot, and since those days are long behind us we were worried that we wouldn’t relate to the whole experience anymore. It takes about twenty-five minutes and a sack of wine to disregard this questioning.

Leeds lads Pulled Apart by Horses open the Main Stage on Friday with a glorious awaking set that shakes away the cobwebs of the Thursday night booze-fest. Along with this guitar-heavy day is the new and fresh addition to the festival: The Black Keys, and they prove a formidable force amongst the recycled bands of the evening.

Foo Fighters, Less Than Jake and Justice all headline on the Friday night, so a major run around is needed to catch all three. Foo Fighters are up first - a recurring headline band, but with a vast array of sing-alongs it’s obvious why they should return. ‘Rope’, ‘Learn to Fly’ and ‘All My Life’ are all played early, but the hammering of the greatest hits fails to leave the ground running. The news that they are to take some time out for a while is greatly welcomed, we’ve just heard it all too much before. Less Than Jake start with ‘Gainesville Rock City’, which is greatly welcomed by a circle pit and flashbacks of Tony Hawk PlayStation games. After about half an hour of LTJ it’s off to catch the end of Justice, who are bringing the night to a close with their alternative electronic goodness. The first time I’ve used this word to describe an atmosphere, but with everybody gurning their chins off the place is fairly chemical, which is kind of weirdly beautiful in the lights of their cross fronted stage show.

LA waster punks FIDLAR play the Festival Republic stage early on Saturday, who seem to have found a number one fan in Kate Nash, who dances and takes pictures in the crowd. Their frontman makes the mistake of saying: “Reading moved a lot more,” but the lack of energy from the crowd stops any piss chucking, which kind of proves his statement right.

On the main stage Alice Glass brings her A game with Crystal Castles. Opening up with new track ‘Plague’, Glass constantly alternates between supping on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and running into the crowd. A disappointment occurs when Robert Smith doesn’t come out for ‘Not in Love’, but the duo prove that the song only needs two troubled dark figures to make it amazing.

We don’t know if it’s the pure brilliance of The Cure’s show or just the wrong setting, but The Maccabees just don’t click. Everybody is upset that they don’t play ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ and rely more on their newer material, which doesn’t really fit with the Tuborg-drenched audience.

On the Sunday, Santigold puts on a chaotic, random show. She invites around twenty fans on stage for a dance off, which is shortly followed by an appearance from someone in a horse costume being whipped by the world’s worst backing dancers. The bearded middle-aged cameraman who decides what to put on the big screen switches the camera to himself, with his hand reading “TITS”. Simple yet effective, many women do get their boobs out.

Leeds isn’t just about the established acts though, as it boasts some of the best new names too. Jake Bugg is one of these, and the turnout for him is phenomenal. ‘Taste It’ is already a massive anthem and the rough and readiness of it communicates itself well in the tiny jam-packed tent. Azealia Banks is another one of the hyped artists playing, and the Dance Tent is even more loaded than Jake Bugg’s was. Everyone is here for ‘212’ and the filthy mouthed rapper doesn’t disappoint. Who knows how long this hype will last for, but for around twenty short minutes it most certainly is justified.

Since we don’t have the energy or the patience to get soaked by bodily fluids at Kasabian, we go catch The Cribs and At the Drive-In bringing the weekend’s music to a close. The Cribs, as usual, put on a raucous show full of smashing things and shouting, whereas the recently reunited ATDI put on quite a relatively tame show to what was expected. Not terrible, but The Cribs definitely should have been at the top of the bill.

Of course, this all wouldn’t be the same without the camping experience, which in some cases is just as memorable as the music. Whether it’s just sitting around the campfire with friends drinking cheap beer, or men dressed as Pikachu chugging your urine through a box of Fosters, this place is like Disneyland for pyromaniacs - and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Until next year, Leeds, you harsh mistress.

Words by Jamie Carson
Photo by Emma Stone

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