It’s Sunday morning, the final day of the festival and everyone’s tired, hungover or both, so surely the last thing anyone wants is some loud, fast music, right? Wrong, evidently, given by the rather large crowd that Gnarwolves (★★★★) draw for their set opening the Main Stage. It wouldn’t be completely unfair to expect the worst – skate punk isn’t usually a genre represented on the country’s biggest stage, and the Brighton trio are by far the most unpolished and underground band to grace the stage all weekend – but such worries are quickly put paid to. The band ooze confidence in front of their steadily growing onlookers, while songs like We Want The Whip and new single Smoking Kills sound absolutely huge out in the open air. Given that they’ve just smashed the biggest stage they’ve ever played, there is genuinely no limit to where Gnarwolves could go now.
Eighteen months ago, virtually no one knew who Lonely The Brave (★★★★) were. Today, they stand on the cusp of being one of Britain’s very best new bands. Setting foot on the Radio 1 / NME Stage (a setting far more grand than the Introducing Stage which they found themselves on only a year before), there are no contrivances or frills to be found at all, just some of the very best, most emotive rock music around today.
Frontman David Jakes pulls off a far more commanding figure than on previous occasions, moving from the back corner of the stage to front and centre, allowing his pained, weathered vocals on the likes of The Blue The Green and the grandiose Victory Line to travel a lot more, before closing with Backroads and showing perfectly how, despite being a new band, they already have nuance, subtlety and power down to a T.
The Hell (★★★), on the other hand, don’t know the meaning of the word ‘subtlety’, because who doesn’t want some loud, offensive, sweary hardcore delivered by a revolving door cast of masked borderline psychopaths (who still ‘may or may not’ be in other UK bands) at twenty past one in the afternoon? The likes of Groovehammer and I’ve Never Seen A Jackal On The 142 during their set in The Pit (née The Rock Stage) are fraught with one-dimensional clichés and are completely childish lyric-wise, but there’s a certain je ne sais quois that makes it all hugely enjoyable and funny, and to be honest, to take it all seriously would be missing the point.
To say that Royal Blood (★★★★) are the most hyped band in Britain right now is no exaggeration. Just looking at the capacity of the Radio 1 / NME Stage before they arrive onstage is enough to prove that. And fortunately, for all the build-up, they don’t disappoint. It’s still hard to believe that there are only two members in the band, such is the volume and power that is exerted from the likes of the supercharged grunge of Little Monster and the full throttle power-rock of Ten Tonne Skeleton.
Mike Kerr’s sweet, poppy vocals juxtaposes astoundingly well with Ben Thatcher’s floor-shaking drum beats, and the fact that such sturdy, ironclad riffs and solos come from a bass guitar is still amazing. The fact that the sound is cut off halfway through closer Out Of The Black (due to time constraints, apparently) is the only real problem to be found in a set that more than justifies the hype that surrounds them.
There are two songs in Lower Than Atlantis‘ (★★★★) set that stand head and shoulders above the rest, and they both come at the very end. English Kids In America sounds like summer diluted into three minutes, while Here We Go powers through metallic riffs before exploding into a stadium-sized chorus. Both of these songs are from the band’s upcoming new album, and from what they air today, it looks like they’re finally ready to step it up a gear.
The fact that the rest of the set pales in comparison to these new ones is a good sign, but that’s not to say that it isn’t great in its own right – the staccato riffs of Love Someone Else are still as crisp and catchy as ever, while torch song Another Sad Song retains its usual emotional heft and lighters-in-the-air quality. Being ‘downgraded’ from the Main Stage last year to the Radio 1 / NME Stage this year has also seemed beneficial, with frontman Mike Duce seeming noticeably more comfortable underneath the soft top. It’s a great set, but all it really does that they’ve never done before is whet appetites for the new album – then things will get serious.
God bless The Hives (★★★★). For years now they’ve been festival staples, always providing a glimmer of hope at even the most saturated mud baths. Fortunately for today it’s sunny as hell, giving them the perfect atmosphere to work in. With each of the five members clad in glorious white jackets, frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist once again takes up the role of loveably arrogant ringmaster, leaping into the first few rows of the crowd or dashing across the Main Stage when not barking out the lyrics to garage punk gems like Main Offender and Go Right Ahead, and doing his best to warm up the still lethargic crowd, a task that finally comes to fruition during finale Hate To Say I Told You So. Musically, it breaks about as much ground as a pencil being dropped onto a block of concrete, but there are much, more worse ways to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.
There’s an irksome predictability to Don Broco‘s (★★★) set on the Radio 1 / NME Stage this afternoon. In the past, the Bedford quartet’s live show has always been fresh and exciting due to brilliant songs and general onstage tomfoolery, but today, it dawns that these are same songs and tricks that they’ve been doing for about two years.
The songs themselves are still brilliant – Priorities and Whole Truth still have the choruses to fill tents many times this size, and the wonderfully laddish Thug Workout incites the most pits that this stage has seen all day – but there’s an inescapable feeling that everyone has seen this all before. New song Money Power Fame adds a bit of rearrangement to the old formula, and frontman Rob Damiani claims that the band are going to record their new album after the festivals, something that needs to happen sooner than later. It’s a good set nonetheless, but when they have some new songs in their arsenal, only then will Don Broco’s star continue to rise.
You’d think that, given this is their second set of the day, Marmozets (★★★) would be showing at least some kind of fatigue, but you’d think wrong. The purpose of their set in The Pit this evening is largely to showcase new material from their upcoming debut full-length The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets, and while a good chunk of the material they play is largely unknown (though hopefully, once the album drops, that shouldn’t stay the case for long) but it gives a solid indication of just how great it’s set to be.
It’s a lot more melodic than their early material, with Becca McIntyre straddling between screams and clean vocals with ease. There’s not much in the way of singalongs (for obvious reasons) but when songs like Why Do You Hate Me? and Move Shake Hide are played, the crowd response is phenomenal. It’s not perfect by any means, but after honing these songs live a bit and releasing the album, Marmozets are set to move on to much bigger things.
Technical gremlins have run rampant, and have caused a delay for the start of We Came As Romans (★★★) in The Pit, forcing a large chunk of their set to be cut out. It’s a shame, because for the very short time they are onstage, they’re on fine form. The Linkin-Park-meets-Sempiternal feel of newer material like Ghosts translates incredibly well live, with the muscular dual vocals of Kyle Pavone and Dave Stephens complementing each other greatly.
It’s just a shame that, due to less than ideal set time, it’s difficult to really become immersed in the music. A strong pair of Never Let Me Go and Hope closes the set, but it’s hard not to feel more than a little frustrated, especially given the potential that their full-length set would have had.
Why isn’t the whole world completely and unequivocally in love with While She Sleeps (★★★★★)? They’re one of the best metal bands around at the minute, have released one of the best metal debuts in recent memory in the form of 2012’s This Is a The Six, and are considered shining lights in the live arena. The onus is very much on the final point today; moving from the Main Stage last year to The Pit this year gives their set a much more intimate feel, with frontman Loz Taylor taking any opportunity possible to leap into the packed crowd, but also has an influence on the actual songs, making them feel far more dark and dirty, just as they were intended.
The gang chants on The North Stand For Nothing and This Is The Six sound absolutely religious, while Taylor’s vocals sound absolutely bang on the money, especially considering the throat surgery the vocalist had recently undergone. The emotional closer Our Courage, Our Cancer is merely the cherry on top of an entirely satisfying performance – soaring vocals, throat-searing roars and the sound of a band at the absolute top of their game.
Issues‘ (★★★★) meteoric rise to the top of the metalcore pile hasn’t been for nothing. Bursting onstage and into a riotous Personality Cult, the Atlanta sextet proceed to deliver some of the most innovative heavy music Leeds has heard all weekend. Tyler Carter’s note-perfect clean vocals shine on Mad At Myself and Never Lose Your Flames, while screamer Michael Bohn seems positively unhinged as he roars through Love Sex Riot and King Of Amarillo, punctuated by turntable scratches and electro wobbles courtesy of turntablist Ty Acord.
They still seem to favour tracks from their EP Black Diamonds over those from their fantastic self-titled debut (Life Of A Nine would’ve been a nice inclusion), meaning that those who arrived late to the party may end up feeling a little alienated, but there’s no denying the quality of all of the songs they play, and finishing with a huge rendition of Hooligans, in which not a single soul in the packed tent is not singing along, everyone seems to be in the mindset that the return of Issues cannot come soon enough.
Watching the Arctic Monkeys (★★) grow from a musical equivalent of the Inbetweeners to debonair rock stars is almost enough to make you feel proud. Their albums have improved, the venues they play have gotten bigger, and now they’re here, playing possibly one of the most important shows of their lives – headlining an entire festival in front of their home county, the people who got them where they are today, on the final date of the AM tour cycle, their fifth and most rock ‘n’ roll album to date.
So to take a knife to the wrist of their legacy right now is probably the least advisable thing to do, but they do it. Sure, things start out well, with the percussive stomp of Do I Wanna Know? and the reigned-in chaos of Brianstorm, but things quickly head downhill. They slow down most of their songs to a crawl, with the likes of Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair and No. 1 Party Anthem being enough to put someone to sleep.
Frontman Alex Turner either looks bored or like he would rather be anywhere else as he drawls through his cut-and-paste banter before going into another treacle-slow rendition of a fantastic song. It’s not all bad – Fluorescent Adolescent and the Sabbath-riffing Arabella maintain their usual vigour, though such moments are few and far between, and by the time the outro to R U Mine? rings out for the third time, people have clearly had enough, and it’s the dampest of squibs to end the weekend on.