Leeds Festival has become a tried and tested fixture at the stately Bramham Park, near Wetherby, but does it still have the edge it had when it first came back in 2003? Weekend editor GRAHAM CHALMERS reports.
The unshaven, ginger-headed guy in front of us has suddenly put on a rubber dear’s head and is attempting to impress his male chum by dancing like a loon.
How appropriate.There’s always something gloriously animalistic and ugly about The Horrors live.
On a bigger stage this once unfashionable band are beginning to edge towards the mainstream after the success of last album Skying.
The formidably large backdrop with their name, the towering sliver of stage light which seem to imprison individual members of this non-nonsense, black-clad five-piece inside individual starring roles.
Despite the atmospheric, motorick, synth swell of their best tracks – Sea Within A Sea, Still Life and Moving Further Away – there remains that garage band spikiness to The Horrors which means for all their might and majesty they are unlikely to turn into Simple Minds even should they become as successful as they desire and deserve.
Sound-wise things could be better in the NME/Radio 1 Tent, perhaps a result of its huge size, seemingly a third larger than the last time The Horrors played here, not being matched by the size of this year’s audience.
No matter. Lead singer Faris Badwan and co are a proper band who would come across well in any circumstance and by that I mean a band whose character and spirit transcend the quality of the material.
A bit like Django Django. This tight little band are related by family ties and, in part, musical style to the late but great Beta Band.
Though they retain the latter’s pop hooks, spaciness and love of Beach Boys harmonies, there’s also a hint of cool French band Phoenix’s love of danceable rhythm best expressed in standout track Default.
Their greater coherence but lack of musical ambition compared to the Beta Band can be judged by their willingness to wear colourful, matching short-sleeved shirts like we were, indeed, watching Brian Wilson or Mike Love.
It’s easy to get around from stage to stage today, which is nice, partly because the rag-bad audience of different ages, different T-shirts and GCSE girls in short shorts (this year’s fashion must) doesn’t seem as big as recent years at this phenomenally successful music festival.
It means I can pop across to the main stage to catch The Happy Days band, oops, I mean All Time Low.
Despite this effervescent bunch of young Americans musical heritage lying in Green Day not Chuck Berry, they’re formulaic and safe enough to be the house band for the Fonz, Potsy, Mrs Cunningham and all, a mirage which evaporates when the lead singer decides to show how cool he is by using the un-Happy Days-like f word and talking about his penis and getting laid. I bet he’s never had sex.
Still, these tame, would-be deliquents are almost preferable to today’s big headliners on the main stage, the Foo Fighters.
I’ve seen the god-like Dave Grohl and his impressive band three times before and always loved them even though, like most classic rock bands, they’ve produced a lot of average album tracks amid the gems over the years.
Perhaps they’ve simply got too good and been too successful for too long or maybe it’s the curse of the main stage but tonight they fly too close to the sun and get burnt.
People around me whoop for the first five songs or so in an epic two and a half hour set, even when Grohl messes around something rotten with the stone cold classic All My Life.
Then the whopping stops from everyone beyond the halfway mark hill.
Songs are being stretched out by an extra two to three minutes at a time as Grohl stops and starts to make a point or add a solo or interpose a change of direction.
For a band famous for their ferocious energy, the Foo Fighters are behaving suspiciously like a jazz band.
The trouble is they’re not playing jazz music, they’re playing three or four chord rock songs which don’t suit this approach.
The punchy Monkey Wrench goes on for what feels like ten terrible minutes.
Led Zeppelin tried this sort of behavior back in the 1970 until punk ran them out of town and they had about ten to 15 styles of songs in their back catalogue.
The Foos only have three and what they are doing on stage tonight is more of a lap of honour than a gig, though I’m sure edited down to an hour on TV you’d probably still lap it up happily with a cold beer.
Nope, as much as I admire and respect Mr Grohl, perhaps it’s time for a younger generation to step up to the plate.
I’m not sure it’s going to be S.C.U.M. not because they’re not good enough but because I’m not sure a wider audience will ever warm to their gloriously foppish ways.
Cut from the similarly goth cloth as The Horrors, this compelling young band’s musical mix of rave generation breakbeats with mid-60s garage band rock and late 60s psychedelic dandyism is reflected in their dress sense.
Their pretty boy lead singer looks like a reverse image of Mick Jagger at Hyde Park 1969, an effeminate, long-limbed, lank-haired Lord Byron in flowing black robes as opposed to languid white.
The bass player, on the other hand, with is early Stone Roses bowlcut and pale blue and white striped shirt is all studied, sub-Brian Jones cool.
Cutely at one point he breaks the pose to glance back towards the band’s blonde-haired female drummer and exchange a fleeting smile.
Which sort of sums up S.C.U.M. and their slight dilemma. They know they’re good, despite playing the same short set as they’ve been serving up for more than a year now, but also know they’re not popular enough yet to really let themselves go, to be themselves, fully and truly.
Then they launch into their final, and best, number, the awesome Whitechapel off their brilliant Again Into Eyes album.
The reaction of around half the crowd, that more enthusiastic gaggle of youngsters away to my left, is immediate.
Spotting this, S.C.U.M’s lead singer moves away from his comfort zone in the centre of the band for the first time in the whole gig and edges along the side of the stage until he reaches the exact spot where he is being best received.
Tentative no more, he swings his arms wide and sings this hymn to romanticism for romanticism’s sake directly to the epicentre of devotion with the same newly-discovered self-confidence and narcissistic self-regard as the young Mick Jagger must have done for the first time at some point.
Fashionable or not, these slightly lighter but no less impressive junior cousins of The Horrors are important because they aim to create beauty and, at their best, that is what they achieve.