REVIEW: Leeds Festival 2021

It’s been some time since Halfway 2 Nowhere hit the mainstream but this weekend, we were fully immersed in the spectacle that was Leeds Festival. Friday and Sunday were an absolute triumph and whilst we couldn’t attend on Saturday, the early reviews and comments suggest the entire weekend was a resounding success for all in attendance. Enjoy our highlights, lowlights and surprising moments below and let us know in the comments who you loved this bank holiday weekend!

The Highlights

With several keynote cancellations from artists we were looking forward to, on Friday morning I found myself really scrabbling together 2 days of music that I’d really enjoy. That being said though, there were some absolute stand out artists that blew us away across the weekend.

Friday saw the masters of festivals, Biffy Clyro, headline the Main Stage West – a new concept for Leeds having 2 main stages instead of one – and it was without doubt, the set of the weekend. Walking on stage in a full dress, frontman Simon Neil completely owned the stage, and the tracks from their latest record “A Celebration of Endings” truly stood up to the classics. Kicking off with the anthemic North Of No South, Biffy were on top form, rifling through a set filled with sing-along choruses, intricate guitar-play and some typically large “wooah wooah’s” throughout.

Throughout the day there’d been some festival sets to remember. Gerry Cinnamon had the crowd right where he wanted them, Yungblud showed that he belongs on the main stages of major festivals and Liam Gallagher was as good as I’ve ever seen him. Jake Bugg showed up for a rowdy secret set; gone are the days of the Nottingham singer-songwriter standing on stage with a lame crowd, this was a packed tent of young people with loads of energy; the new songs have turned him into an artist with wider appeal and I for one love his change of direction.

Stealing the show though on the Main Stage East was Wolf Alice. With the addition of “Blue Weekend” their recent UK Number 1 record, to the set, their sound has evolved from a heavy, exciting place, to a refined, classy and euphoric one. The soft, subtle “Last Man On Earth” traversed well with the likes of “Moaning Lisa Smile” and new one “Smile”; the crowd wanted more, that’s for sure, and the Wolf Alice set is now one that really does need to be heard in huge venues.

Sunday was always going to be a different kind of day, with music less to our taste and style across all stages. That being said, the last minute addition of You Me At Six to the Main Stage was a welcome treat, with Josh Franchesci and co. rattling through a huge set of hits and new songs. Beautiful Way provides a new edge to end their set, SUCKAPUNCH is an instant festival classic and Underdog certainly got the crowd going first thing on a Sunday afternoon.

We went back and forth between stages, seeing Chris Washington perform a great show on the Alternative Stage, Becky Hill draw one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, and Sigrid performed a nice set of tracks. The two stand outs though for us, were the golden oldies, The Wombats and Two Door Cinema Club. Both drew in the masses and the singalongs were as big as any over the weekend. The Wombats are due to release a new record in January and they will have secured several orders based on the reaction on Sunday to their latest tracks.

Two Door Cinema Club are a band I don’t give enough time day to day but they destroyed the main stage with 12 tracks, all of which I was hooked to. They created one of the loudest sounds of the weekend too, managing to beat the poor Leeds Festival sound systems (see below), and actually produce some volume! A great band I’ll be seeing on any upcoming tour based on this set.

The Lowlights

Having been to every Leeds Festival since 2012, I can safely say this was the weakest overall lineup of any I’ve been to, for our taste. Big guitar bands were almost non-existent across the lineup, the introduction of the second main stage meant we missed out on some extra grassroots and circuit bands that would usually play across the Festival Republic all weekend and the NME/Radio 1 stage in years gone by. It seems the festival has been taken over by rap artists, major pop chart toppers and many acts high up the bill I genuinely haven’t heard of.

Some will see this as a plus, and it was certainly the case that the likes of Becky Hill and KSI pulled larger crowds than their indie/rock counterparts but for me, as a historic Leeds Fest-goes, it’s lost it’s charm, it’s lost it’s nous, and I’ve never heard more autotune or “Spotify Live” acts than I did across the two days.

I always get asked, “what’s the worst live show you’ve ever seen?” and I’ve always struggled to answer it. I’ve seen underwhelming performances, songs that weren’t performed well, and artists having “off-days”; but I can now answer it and will never hesitate again when asked…the answer, The Kid Laroi. I went in with huge expectations, “Without You” is a track I’ve played on my radio station for some time, and I thought the set would follow suit, but he had a complete lack of talent, a lack of identity and to be frank, the set was a complete mess. I didn’t enjoy a second of it and although stuck it out for the majority (due to there being nothing else of note on any of the stages), it was a hideous 30 minutes and unfortunately is scarred in the memory for all the wrong reasons.

All stages also seemed to have a sound problem. Whether down the front for Biffy Clyro, at the back for Two Door Cinema Club, or at any other part of the main stages or the tents, there simply wasn’t enough volume. A criticism I’ve had of several festivals recently, it seems the PA and sound has been toned right back and you have to be in the absolute perfect spot to really experience the music properly. A shame, and when I can hear myself talking at a Badflower show, you know things aren’t going well.

I could go into detail about the bottlenecking between the main stages, the drugs and alcohol that seemed worse than ever before and the extortionate pricing of drinks and food but it’s all been written already; overall the experience was one that wasn’t too pleasant but a few acts salvaged it to be an all in all positive two days.

The Standout Performer

From the negatives into a final positive. There was one act that blew me away more than any across the two days and it wasn’t a main stage act. The Pit on Sunday, with the original lineup was destined to be huge. cleopatrick from Canada, Southampton’s Creeper and from the United States, Badflower, three of my favourite artists right now. Only one managed to make it to Bramham Park though, and they certainly made up for the others not being there.

Badflower kicked things off with some technical difficulties, but as soon as mic and sound were fixed, the following 30 minute set was without any doubt, the most energetic, exciting and raw set of the weekend. Each track had something different, from fan fave The Jester, through to Ghost, and personal favourite, 30; they were eclectic, they were on real form, and they were seriously tight. The crowd, not so brilliant but the diehards amongst us didn’t care, we were witnessing something special, a set that was performed from the heart, with no s**t auto-tune, no crap backing tracks, just guitars, drums and a whole lot of vocal. Incredible.


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