Review: Leeds Fest 2017

Exposed decided to hop up the M1 to Leeds to check out what the 2017 line-up had to offer and bring the experience to you. Here’s rock blogger Chris Lord’s report from the muddy front lines on the best (and the worst) of the festival:

Given that it’s their fifth appearance at the festival since its inception in 2002, it’s fair to say that Jimmy Eat World were on cruise control for their Saturday afternoon performance, having mastered the art of the late afternoon slot over the years. The Arizonians only aired two songs from this year’s Integrity Blues, as they opted to play it safe and lean heavily on their 2001 breakthrough release, Bleed American. After opening with the stormy self-titled track from that album, the atmosphere soon nosedived once the quartet began to churn out their newer, mellower material. While the progressive Pass The Baby had its moments, the drab duo of Sure And Certain and I Will Steal You Back sapped a considerable chunk of the crowd’s enthusiasm. But like any seasoned festival act, the band always had a hit or two in reserve, as the closing one-two of Sweetness and The Middle expertly salvaged a dwindling performance.

© Sarah Koury

Delivering an emotionally-charged set as Saturday’s penultimate Pit stage act, Australian metalcore outfit The Amity Affliction hit some serious form, as the four-piece reached the end of a month-long European tour. Tempestuous opener I Bring The Weather With Me perfectly showcased the striking juxtaposition of Joel Birch’s belligerent screams and Ahren Stringer’s poignant clean vocals, with the tent already swelling to bursting point by the time the djent-flavoured Open Letter detonated through the assembled mass of bodies. Accompanied by some bold pyrotechnics, an airing of Pittsburgh – perhaps the band’s best-known song – found their spirited audience in full voice. The unsung hero here, though, is guitarist Dan Brown. While Birch and Stringer stride across the stage with undeniable charisma, Brown quietly went about his work, conjuring huge tapestries of razor-edged riffs and haunting melodies. It was a stellar performance, and one that their Commonwealth peers, Billy Talent, struggled to follow.

© Sarah Koury

Just when you thought your Sunday morning hangover couldn’t possibly dig its claws in any further, The Pretty Reckless arrived to serve up what might have been the most grating, disingenuous performance of the entire weekend. Considering the Taylor Momsen-fronted band’s intro tape is the sound of a woman climaxing, before the New Yorkers even took to the main stage, they’d already adhered to every misogynistic, pig-headed stereotype unfairly attributed to female-fronted bands the world over. And not only that, there was no climax – or indeed foreplay – to be found anywhere during this vanity project’s set. While former actress Momsen shrieks and struts around in full rock star bullshit mode, her trio of peripheral, aviator-sporting blokes provide a backdrop of insipid cookie-cutter hard-rock sounds. A comprehensive advert for corporately-assembled music and abject sexualisation, this six-song Poundland Blondie set couldn’t come to an end quickly enough.

© Tracey Welch

The opportunity to drink your body weight in piss-warm lager and bask in your own piggish filth without judgement for an entire weekend aside, the true essence of any festival is the potential for unearthing your new favourite band. Enter Zeal & Ardor. When an audience is this spellbound by the musicians stood before them, and only able to muster wide-eyed grins and frenzied applause, it’s generally the mark of a special performance. Combining elements of Norwegian black metal and American slave spirituals, Manuel Gagneux’s zany avant-garde project delivered a wonderfully bizarre half-hour set worthy of such acclaim – winning over a flurry of new fans in the process. Z&A’s expanded touring line-up included two backing vocalists tasked with providing mournful gospel harmonies, while Gagneux screamed himself silly to a canvas of blast beats and thrash-inspired riffs. As jarring as it might sound, it was a match made in heaven, or perhaps a 19th-century Louisiana plain full of men wearing corpse paint. Come On Down and Blood In The River share a genuine charm – especially when the fiercer moments make way for swaggering, bluesy grooves – before the phenomenal Devil Is Fine leaves the band’s Pit stage converts bewildered and delighted, not knowing what the fuck they’d just witnessed, only that they desperately wanted to hear more.

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