Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Leeds Festival: Day 2

Saturday 23rd August 2008

It’s a young crowd that make it out of the campsite in time for Dizzee Rascal at 2pm, probably because they’re the only ones with enough hungover resilience to drag themselves though the foot-deep muddy ditches that have formed a moat in front of the arena entrance, or maybe because Dizzee and Leeds go together like, well, an east London grime artist at a luke-warm Tuborg-swilling Yorkshire festival. There’s a large amount of tongue-in-cheek bouncing along in the crowd, especially for ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’, as is to be expected, but the rest of the set is largely spurious fodder.

Over at the Lock-Up Stage Frank Turner is proving himself as Dizzee’s cultural antithesis. His band have stepped straight out of Napoleon Dynamite: the guitarist is visibly terrified by the crowd before him while the bassist attempts nonchalance by leaning on an amp, looking every inch like a mathematics lecturer. The keyboardist is just a mass of hair on a stool. And the music is almost unbearably cheesy in the most wonderful, northern, sing-a-long way imaginable. Everyone is singing. Everyone knows all the words. Frank shamelessly instigates as much audience participation as possible (at one point getting everyone to do-si-do), cites the experience as the highlight of his career, gives a shout out to his little sister, and then leaves the stage grinning.

Which is much more than MGMT can muster over at the Radio 1 stage. Today the Brooklyn duo look and sound like a pretty nasty comedown, perhaps due to their previous night’s success at Reading. They have pulled in a huge turnout, unsurprising considering MGMT’s astronomical leap into psychedelic-rock stardom this year. Their set does very little to excite the punters, not helped by Ben Goldwasser appearing utterly vacant, his baby-face pallid and clammy. Album tracks and downtempo numbers such as ‘The Youth’ and ‘Pieces Of What’ disappear into the ether, while even ‘Kids’ is entirely driven by the defiant energy of the tipsy mid-afternoon crowd.

Saturday night boasts the double bill of Queens Of The Stone Age and Rage Against The Machine. It has the potential to be a defining moment of the summer festival season, but technicalities complicate both performances, and festival greatness proves elusive. Queens Of The Stone Age suffer from shockingly poor sound during their 8pm set on the main stage, both patchy and too quiet to do justice to the awesome, polished American rock that exudes from up front. Favourites ‘No One Knows’, ‘Go With The Flow’ and ‘Little Sister’ are dispersed between tracks from last year’s Era Vulgaris album, all delivered with a slick ease that cements Josh Homme’s place among the American rock greats.

Rage are thirty minutes late, and do not give Leeds the same theatrical performance as the previous night’s set at Reading, where they emerged onstage sporting Guantanamo boiler suits. Instead, the cameraman up front keeps rather pointedly zooming in on frontman Zack de la Rocha’s Nike trainers, as if to demonstrate his artistic hypocrisy. Which is almost criminal considering that the sound technicians and security alike should be doing a much more professional job than they evidently are. Rage only make it to fourth track, ‘Bombtrack’, before the sound dies. Moments later de la Rocha begins to plead with the crowd to move backwards so that the people at the front can breathe, saying, “We don’t want to have to stop the show.” Eventually they plunge straight back in where they left off. There is a huge, moshing, metal contingent up front, but most of the crowd are clearly loitering on the fringes, waiting to hear ‘Killing In The Name’. Again, Rage prove themselves masters of their craft, especially with Tom Morello’s driving guitar work, but their set irretrievably suffers from technical problems that mar its impact.

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