(Words by Mike Oglesby and Sue McTeer.)
I do like a good hill at a festival. I found one at Live at Leeds in the Park at Temple Newsam 2022. With the towering Georgian Temple Newsam to the left, the usual jumble of International food stalls to the right, facing the Main Stage and within earshot of all 4 Stages, it was the ideal spot to soak up the atmosphere of the day.
It was both cool and cloudy when proceedings commenced around midday but what a festival feast it promised to be. With a musical melting pot of bands as diverse as Punk Trio Dream Wife, high camp Ozzies Confidence Man, Mercury winner Arlo Parks and experienced festival veterans The Vaccines and Bombay Bicycle Club, there was something for everyone. Throw into the stew a mixture of up-and-coming bands and solo artists such as Stone, ZuZu and Alfie Templeman and we couldn’t wait to fill our boots.
This was our first festival after the lockdown and our only dilemma was how to squeeze it all in despite the numerous schedule clashes. The Live at Leeds App assisted in helping us plan our day but sadly we weren’t able to see everything.
We were excited about our long day of music ahead and headed straight off to The Lounge Society in the DIY Big Top. The Yorkshire 4 piece from Hebden Bridge did not disappoint. All jangly guitars, cowbells and deadpan lyrical delivery. Think a raucous Mark E Smith and you have the very talented Cameron Davey (vocals and bass). I loved “Burn the Heather”, a song inspired by their surroundings and a dig at the annual grouse shoot and its pomposity. These lads have a bright future.
Next up The Royston Club at the Hill Top Stage, a 4 piece guitar band from Wrexham. 4 school friends who only started playing music together in 2017 and straight from their UK Tour made up of Ben Matthias lead guitar, Tom Faithful lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Dave Tute bass and Sam Jones drums. They produce an upbeat, young fresh sound and have a lot of variety in their music including spoken word poetry in “Infatuated”, a breakup song full of teenage angst and heartfelt pain. Classic Indie tunes from the valleys. Really glad we caught them. Talented lads and a great start to the day.
Lauran Hibberd burst onto the Main Stage resplendent in a bright orange trouser suit with feather cuffs. With her distinctive slacker pop style, she certainly wowed the Leeds crowd who immediately warmed to her all-high kicks, and high-energy performance. I wasn’t sure if I would be a big fan of her music but she is a real talent and her eagerly anticipated album “Garageband Superstar” is available now to pre-order release date of August 19th, 2022.
Dream Wife exploded onto the stage with their unique brand of kick-ass, high-energy Indie Punk to the opening song “Hey Heartbreaker“. Rakel Mjoll lead vocalist displayed the elegant poise of a cool Icelandic queen while Bella Podpadec the bassist and lead guitarist Alice Go immediately began tearing up the stage with a combination of high kicks, pivots and back arching all without missing a note. Soon Rakel was joining in and it was infectious with the crowd moshing as if their lives depended on it.
The songs celebrate female sexuality and empowerment although the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. In “So When you gonna? “ Rakel confesses at the end that the person she wants to kiss is a bad kisser anyway and they launch into a version of the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” in the middle of “FUU”.
Rakel soon has the audience lapping out of her hand and introduces us to the concept of “bad bitches“ in which anyone can aspire to the identity of being a bad bitch, regardless of gender. This was followed by the song “Somebody“ with the lyrics “I am not my body, I am somebody” reflecting the strength of their support for women and the non-binary community. She also set up a competition between the two guitarists based on the noise from the crowd for the song “Sports!” and it is clear that the band has a loyal following and that their gigs are very interactive events. I even spotted one of the Security team having a secret shimmy.
The final song “FUU “is a Dream Wife fan favourite and the place erupts as Alice Go’s frenzied lead guitar builds in momentum and Rakel screams down the mic in true Punk tradition. I feel empowered, like a bad bitch and decide to go and buy a cup of tea to celebrate my new status.
We darted across to The Hilltop stage to catch Stone, another Liverpool band full of pride and passion who erupted onto the stage. Fin Power strutted his stuff and they thrashed out “Leave it out”. “People keep asking me who I am today we are STONE and this is my Band” he informed us. Raucous post-punk at its best, the sun’s out, guns out and the bare-chested singer stage dived into the Mosh. BOOM… So much energy the crowd loved it and briefly, the sun shone, nothing else was needed. Stone is honing their skills and growing a fan base. Catch them if you can.
If you want to see the hottest act on the planet, go and see Confidence Man. From the minute Australian duo Janet Planet and Sugar Bones appear on stage in oversized matching black suits, you know this is a visual extravaganza not to be missed. Their high-energy antics make a Duracell battery-charged rabbit look like a sloth covered in syrup as they kick, jump, contort and grind themselves through their high camp, clubby 45-minute set, stopping only for 2 costume changes. The music is retro 70’s disco/pop, the choreography is slick and perfectly synchronized and the stamina is of Olympic standard. The lyrics are as fruity as the outfits with the line “with an ass like that you don’t have to work hard” in the opening track “Toy Boy”.
The backing band consists of a keyboardist and a drummer who is inexplicably dressed in black gowns and veiled black hats hiding their identities which adds to the hilarity of the act. The highlight of the show is when Sugar sprays the audience with champagne and the penultimate costume change involves Janet wearing a short white tasselled dress with pointy Bra cones on top (a la Madonna) and bare-chested Sugar wearing white braces and illuminating shoulder lapels both costumes lighting in time to the throbbing beat. What is not to love?. Beg steal or borrow a ticket for Confidence Man before they disappear back to Oz to continue their tour. And get down the front.
Back down the hill to the Main Stage to see Sports Team. They might be from Cambridge Uni but these posh lads (and girl drummer from Leeds) certainly know how to deliver. It’s all showmanship and sheer musical talent. Songs like “M5” and “R Entertainment” have real staying power and you can imagine them equally at home on the live gig scene or on a TV soundtrack. Perfect for Match of the Day! The scrum in the mosh pit was the biggest of the day so far and it culminated when lead singer Alex Rice indulged in a bit of crowd surfing whilst singing “Here’s the Thing”. Awesome stuff.
Arlo Parks radiated star quality. She burst onto her flower-decorated set wearing a simple black T-shirt and shorts and a huge smile. She seamlessly took us on a journey through her debut album “Collapsed in Sunbeams” with a few other earlier releases chucked in. By the time she reached her second song “Cola”, the crowd was piling into the blue womb-like tent and were singing along to her well-played songs with great gusto.
The appeal of Arlo is apparent to see. With lyrics that speak directly to her generation on the subjects of relationships, heartbreak and mental health, she is known for her empathetic style. The biggest roar from the audience came after she performed “Hurt” and when she announced this was her first UK gig this year, she was rewarded with mass chanting of her name. On top of this, her well-crafted songwriting, pure and soulful voice and the funked-up band got everyone getting on down and the only surprise here is that she is at the very start of her musical career. Running down the hill after Arlo Parks to the Main Stage to the sound of “I Always Knew” by The Vaccines was one of the magical moments of the day. Having missed the start of The Vaccines, already the stage was surrounded by a mosh pit of swarming bodies. Settling for a big-screen view, the band were in fine form, hurtling through all their old indie bangers as well as their new album “Back in Love City”.
Lead singer Justin Young is a charismatic front man, he confidently handled the adoration of the crowd and generally looked delighted to be there. His voice is strong and delivered well the anthem-like quality of the songs, most of which are upbeat and humorous. Hits like “If You Wanna”, “Post Breakup Sex”, “Jump off The Top”, “Teenage Icon” and “Wet Suit” all have instant appeal while the more recent “El Paso” is quieter and more melancholic. I fully enjoyed the performance and am a definite convert.
We popped down to the Dork Presents stage to catch Liverpool Grunge Rockers The Mysterines and we were soon rocking out. Lia Metcalfe hit us with “Life’s a Bitch (but I like it so much)” from their debut album Reeling. They are absolutely brilliant live. You heard it here first. We definitely were left reeling and begging for more.
The evening was drawing in and the temperature started to drop again. As we say in Yorkshire “It was bloody nithering”. We left the warmth of the tent and headed for the Main Stage for our final band of the day clutching hot chocolates and a bag of doughnuts (very rock and roll).
Our fears of lasting through the cold night were soon dissipated as Bombay Bicycle Club warmed up the crowd once more with a combination of old favourites and tracks from their latest album. We thought that they may be a bit too mellow as a headliner for a cold June evening after the excitement and high energy of The Vaccines but we were proved wrong. After 10 years in the business, they soon established why they still deserve to be festival headliners with the huge sound they create, sophisticated musical arrangements and perfectly crafted singalong melodies with empathetic lyrics.
Old classics like “Overdone” and “Carry Me” got everyone dancing and new tracks like “Is it Real?”, “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing but You)” remind us how good they still are after a three-year break. They ended on “Always Like This” which closed the set with a full-on party atmosphere delivering a fitting end to the show. However, it was “Everything Else has Gone Wrong” the album title track played towards the end of the set that left the biggest impression.
Jack Steadman introduced it as when things are going wrong, you can listen to your favourite music and it cheers you up. This message seems to be the theme of the latest album and with its singalong melody the message is drilled home in the repetitive chorus of “yes I found my second wind, yes I found some hope again”. This is born to be a festival classic with the crowd quickly picking up the lines and finishing the song at an all-time high. It also summed up the whole day and its message of the power of music in times of adversity and how music festivals will always raise the collective spirit.
We trundled back to our car, tired, hopeful and with a belly full of music.