The rise in popularity of music festivals over the past 15 years or so has a seen a dramatic shift in the make up of the audience. An audience once dominated by genuine and devoted fans of music has now been replaced by fans of the hedonistic revelry and reckless abandon that is all part and parcel of the festival experience.
Leeds Festival has always catered to a younger audience than a lot of other festivals I have attended and maybe attempting to keep up with the ever-changing trends of youth has also had an impact on Leeds Festival’s lack of a defined identity. This is not helped by the fact that Leeds Festival also offers day tickets alongside weekend tickets and so a large proportion of the crowd changes each day, drawn by whatever happens to be the dominant musical genre offered.
Criticism aside, there are some definite positives to be said for Leeds Festival. In previous years Leeds Festival had a reputation for a rather charged, aggressive atmosphere that erupted into riots on the final night. Even with the high energy performance of Metallica thrashing out their metal riffs and whipping the crowd into a frenzy it never felt like the atmosphere would boil over into the riots of the past.
Along with Metallica, Mumford and Sons also delivered a brilliant headline set on the Saturday night and, although a decidedly different vibe, the atmosphere was just as highly charged. Another musical highlight of the weekend was surely Wolf Alice who commanded the audience at the radio 1/NME stage on the Sunday. The energy didn’t drop for the entire set as the crowd jumped and danced relentlessly to track after track. The crowd surged into a full on mosh pit and people were crowd surfing throughout and even Theo Ellis, the band’s bass guitarist, joined in with the crowd surfing at the end of the show much to the delight of the clawing throng of fans by the front of the stage.
No review would be complete without mentioning the bizarre metal/j-pop fusion act that opened the main stage on Sunday, the inimitable and quite frankly awesome, Babymetal. With two girls immediately to my left dancing along to the choreographed routine of the trio of teen singers on stage and then a metre or so in front of me a mosh pit of several hundred grown men thrashing around to the tearing metal riffs this was undoubtedly one of the weirdest gigs I’ve ever attended.
In conclusion, awesome music not so sure about the festival as a whole.