Leeds Festival Report - Sunday!
Words: Rhiannon Bodem, Photos: Cai Dixon
Watching the pilgrimage from the campsite to the arena, on the last day of a festival, is a very unique thing. The clothing becomes inventive: a beg, bought and borrowed mix of whatever dry clothes were tucked away at the bottom of a rucksack and whatever was drunkenly bought to give protection from the rain, and everyone seems to have been infected with a a layer of grime and glitter even the most stubborn baby wipes can't budge. Then the motley crew have to traverse the lakes of sludge that lay between them and the music, fighting not to leave wellies or friends behind in the mud, all in the interest of one last hurrah before home time. It seems a thankless journey, but with some of the best alternative bands being saved for last, the brave soldiers were rewarded for their efforts with some of the best shows of the weekend.
That said, the cornerstone of any festival is the secret gig, and on that front this year really delivered. Whereas in the past surprise acts like Green Day were relegated to Reading alone, the entire weekend was abuzz about a strange two hour gap in Leeds’ own line-up, and by Sunday morning the rumours were confirmed, with You Me At Six  announcing their intention to make an appearance.
By 3PM The Pit was overrun, with crowds jostling for position within the tent but settling far outside of its surrounding walls. When the band arrived, with frontman Josh Franceschi sporting a new look and a renewed attitude, they tore through a set of old and new favourites, opening with a version of newest single Night People that all but brought the tent down around the ears of the listeners. Favourites Room To Breathe and Loverboy resulted in circle pits galore, whilst the sly addition of The Killers’ When You Were Young into their rendition of Losing Sleep caused a stir even amongst the most casual fans. By the end of the set, the band had apologised for their absence and built hype for the newest album in the best possible way, by proving that in the eyes of their fans they never really left.
Then it was the turn of Giraffe Tongue Orchestra , a band whose individual members, William Duvall from Alice in Chains, Brent Hinds from Mastodon, Den Weinman from the Dillinger Escape Plan, Thomas Pridgen from the Mars Volta and Pete Griffin from Dethklok, had nothing to prove but who as a group were making their debut UK appearance. Tearing through a set filled with songs from soon-to-be released Broken Lines, the progressive punk rock dance band proved they were a supergroup to get excited about, even in what Metal Hammer called the “year of the supergroup”, with Blood Moon and Crucifixion in particular making an impression on the crowd. Those in the The Pit may have entered the tent not knowing what they were in for, but they left convinced that Giraffe Tongue Orchestra were more than the sum of their parts.
Meanwhile, Northern darlings The Courteeners  were charming The Mainstage with a slew of tracks from up and coming album Mapping the Rendezvous, with both The 17th and No-one Will Ever Replace Us. Hardly strangers to the festival circuit and the predominantly indie audience, the post-britpop band could do no wrong, with old favourites Small Bones, Are You In Love With A Notion and going over with equally practised ease. With a sky that steadfastly held back the rain and a crowd proliferated with flares that had inexplicably wormed their way past security, the feel-good, radio friendly, sing along set was exactly what the downtrodden punters needed, distracting people from the mud and the rain and the grime just long enough to get everybody dancing. Which is of course, what British festivals are truly all about.
Then, as the sky got darker, the music got heavier, with Dillinger Escape Plan  taking to The Pit for an hour-long set of good old American mathcore. After going on record to say that following upcoming album Dissociation the band would be going on indefinite hiatus, the now legendary 5-piece put on a blistering performance that showcased every bit of experienced gained in their almost 20 years of performing together. Songs like Milk Lizard, Farewell Mona Lisa and 43% Burnt seemed to hit harder than ever, with their signature live ferocity creating an atmosphere almost feverish in its intensity, boasting a vitriol seemingly absent from main stage competitor Imagine Dragons . Both in terms of the gig and their career in general, it was clear given the frantic fans that people just couldn't get enough.
Until, of course, Mastodon  took to the stage. Lacking the high production value and light show afforded by the Mainstage slot, armed with the knowledge that they pulled out of last year’s scheduled performance, the sludge metal giants from Georgia seemed determined to up the energy even further by any means necessary. Their signature wall of sound was in full force, with an expert trade-off of vocals between Brain Dailor and Brent Hinds, and lyrics and melodies that led complexity and absurdity to an otherwise brutal set.
Digging into a quality discography six albums deep, songs from second album Leviathan seemed to be the most popular, unsurprising given its status, at least in the eyes of Kerrang!, as one of the most formative metal albums of the 21st century. Offerings like Tread Lightly, Ember City and Oblivion whipped the crowd into a frenzy of activity, but it was the epic conclusion Chimes At Midnight and Blood And Thunder that truly cemented them as one of the best acts of the weekend, and raised the bar truly skyward for any acts looking to match that level of energy when 2017 rolls around.