Leeds Festival Report - Friday!
From Macc lads The Virginmarys through to Scots Biffy Clyro, Rhiannon Boden reports on day one of Leeds 2016 with overpriced vodka, mud and some great music. Cai Dixon takes the pics!
Somewhere along the road to it's 18th year, Leeds Festival became the quintessential ‘results day’ festival, drawing to Bramham Park thousands of teens desperate to either celebrate or commiserate their academic futures with overpriced vodka and great music. However, as the 90,000 strong crowds prove beyond doubt, the festival’s appeal is far-reaching, with neither the mud nor the famous Reading rivalry able to dampen the weekend’s ineffable Northern charm.
It was under an uncharacteristically blue sky that The Virginmarys  took to the stage, tasked both with bringing back to life those that were already on their third day of campsite food, and getting the new arrivals into the spirit of things, with their surprisingly optimistic blend of hard rock and grunge. Old fans were rewarded with offerings from debut album King Of Conflict, both the driving classic Just A Ride and the more cutesy acoustic Keep Me On The Run, but it was clear from the dancing crowd that both new fans and old were won over.
Coheed & Cambria  were the next to tackle the Main Stage, with their first chords cutting through the ominous warning of their entrance monologue and hitting like thunder. Alternating between complex, layered melodies and truly brutal breakdowns, the progressive metal band opened strong, but more pop-punk fare like Blood Red Secrets and A Favour House Atlantic switched the genre whiplash-fast, to the point of feeling a little jarring. Though a deliciously heavy cover of Nirvana’s Drain You ensured the set ended on a high, it was hard to avoid the feeling that from that set, it was hard to know who they were as a band.
Over on the Lock-Up Stage, Modern Baseball  delivered a set that would not have been out of place at Warped Tour, drawing in a crowd that spilled far outside of the confines of the tent. Having missed out on an appearance at last year’s festival due to mental health issues, the four-piece seemed determined to make it up and apologised profusely for their absence, laying down choice cuts Fine, Great and Tears Over Beers in quick succession all to rampant applause. When fan-favourite Your Graduation rolled around, frontman Brendan Lukens was rendered speechless by the response, letting the crowd take the vocals for the entire track and only interjecting to squeak, somewhat tearfully, “you guys are sweet” during the instrumental.
Arcane Roots  followed, playing to an admittedly smaller crowd but bringing the heavy nonetheless. Andrew Groves proved a frontman of few words, only pausing in the set to mumble the occasional “thank you”, but that ensured all focus was on the music, with the trio’s dark and sludgy mix of post-hardcore and maths rock whipping the crowd into a knot of pure frenzy. Over and Over and If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves elicited chanting that endured even after the band had taken their last bows, and there was a coherence in the way the songs flowed into each other that betrayed the cleanness only found in bands that have spent nigh on nine years together.
Then it was time for Fall Out Boy , who brought a classic a classic discography and leather clad, fire-wielding girls to the mainstage. In a set that spanned from emo classics like Dance, Dance and I Don’t Care to newer, more radio-friendly offerings like Uma Thurman and The Phoenix, Patrick, Pete and the guys delivered a high-octane performance that showcased every year of their experience and charisma. Though the theatrics were ever-present, the band opened with a video of a motorcyclist riding through a post-apocalyptic desert and the ‘Bloom’ emblazoned on the back of the bands’ jackets was part of a ‘tour-long art project’, they also knew how to dial it back, breaking out a piano-led rendition of Disloyal Order of Water Buffalo just as it was most needed. Then, as the set wound to a close in a whirlwind of Patrick leaping into the crowd, a touching David Bowie tribute in the form of Save Rock and Roll, and a double whammy of Sugar We’re Going Down and Irresistible, it was clear that although Fall Out Boy’s appearances outside of the United States may be few and far between, they truly deserve the ‘modern legend’ status that is cemented every time they return.
Of course, even though there was no denying the American pop-punk charm, the first day of Leeds Festival closed out by taking it all the way back to Scotland, with a blistering Biffy Clyro  set. Frontman Simon Neil was on top form from the start, emerging shirtless onto a stage reflecting back distorted images of the band, and proffering more lasers than were perhaps entirely necessary. From his clumsy attempt at a Yorkshire accent (“Ey up guys!”) to his admission that "nowhere sings like Yorkshire, well maybe Glasgow does" the show was a perfect mix of humour and technical chops, expertly bringing together the band’s newest single Wolves Of Winter with classics like Biblical and Black Chandelier.
The set ended with fireworks over a miraculously clear sky, and as the last chords of double feature The Captain and Mountains faded away and the first hints of rain could be felt in the wind, it was clear the Scottish giants would be hard to beat. However, the great thing about the first night of a festival, is that there’s an entire weekend to go.