Well, 20 degrees outside and not a cloud in the sky, this sunny afternoon in Leeds promised to be quite the event. Meeting many bands beforehand and soaking in the excitement of the fans lying in wait, it is plain to see that the sweltering heat isn’t going to dampen today’s exploits. 5000 people are piled into the university today, and although breathing space was at a minimum, the atmosphere was undeniable.
First up on the UK Now! Stage was the ‘People’s Choice’ Winner, Winch House. Getting a very respectable crowd, albeit a heathen of shiftless kids waiting for the main stage action to commence, they play a tidy set of toe-tapping but ultimately flat pop-punk songs.
Kicking off the action on the main stage was Cash Cash, delivering a catchy but pretty generic set of day-glo electro-rock sound bites, with the use of vocoders and synths bordering on cringeworthy at times. Nevertheless, songs such as Electric Hearts and Party In Your Bedroom get many a punter bouncing and immediately sets the tone for a highly energetic day.
Over on the Vans stage (which I was led into against my own will by a baying crowd), The Skints were deep into a set of lively, parpy ska. Now normally this type of music isn’t my thing, but I was left relatively impressed, despite the low attendance around me.
Returning to the main stage, Hey Monday were up next. A clean, unthreatening, female-fronted pop-punk act, it would be impossible not to compare them to contemporaries Paramore. However, lead singer Cassadee Pope is gifted with a excellent singing voice that manages to send the crowd into rapture and fend off this obvious comparison, with hits such as ‘Homecoming’ and ‘Arizona’ signalling bigger things to come for these guys.
Following a quick break for oxygen, I return to the main stage for The Audition. Having just completed their 3rd album, they were today’s veterans, and as such, had the most extensive back catalogue to select from. As such, today’s setlist was exceptional, with hit after hit being blasted out by singer Danny Stevens. Older songs like Approach The Bench and Lawyers flow perfectly with newer songs like The Way You Move and My Temperature’s Rising, and it becomes apparent that their relatively low position on today’s list of bands is farcical.
However, an amazing set is completed with a quite inauspicious ending when Stevens cannons himself from a balcony 20 foot below, straight into a fan, who allegedly sustained a broken collarbone. It remains to be seen what effect ‘Jumpgate’ will have, but it certainly opens your eyes to the incompetence of the security guards in their inability to stop him from doing a clearly dangerous stunt.
Following this, I scheduled myself to see rap-rockers Hollywood Undead. However, the frankly maze-like set-up of today’s festival meant that this was missed, and as such, I again crossed over to the Vans stage, this time for ska outfit Sonic Boom Six. A much more populated room this time around, SB6 are a very adept live band, and get the crowd dancing and having an all-round good time.
Back to the main stage, this time for pop-rockers We The Kings. Having already played Slam Dunk last year, and having very successful support slots with Cute Is What We Aim For and The Academy Is…, they pull a frankly massive crowd, and have markedly improved their live presence. The songs do have an annoying habit of sounding almost identical, but then again, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Songs such as Secret Valentine, All Again For You and Skyway Avenue elicit mass singalongs, and a very well-executed cover of Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle contribute to a very strong set.
Then, proceeding a barbecue break, my final main stage act for the day was Kids In Glass Houses. Currently hard at work with their second LP, this is one of very few dates they would play in 2009. However, this means that their set is played with an added vitality and dynamism. The start to their set is very shaky, with Good Boys Gone Rad being marred with a constant battle with Pablo the Soundman. From this point forward however, the Welsh boys produce one of their finest ever sets, with Fisticuffs and Saturday making the surprisingly non-fatigued crowd more wild than ever. Moreover, a snapshot of an as-yet-untitled new song hints at what could be a potentially stunning upcoming album. Then, a cover of Glassjaw’s You Think You’re Fucking John Lennon stuns a pre-pubescent audience into baffled silence. Closer Give Me What I Want manages to turn this round however, and concludes what has, for me, been an extraordinary day.
And, although the poor quality of today’s public transport and the fact that I couldn’t get into what was an apparently below-par club night meant I missed the final two acts I wanted to see, Cobra Starship and You Me At Six, I left Leeds with my body completely exhausted, my hair looking pretty disastrous and my clothes reeking of other people’s spilled booze, I left with a big smile on my face, safe in the knowledge that I’d just witnessed what is sure to be one of the highlights of 2009.
Stay tuned for more reviews from George and Faye; interviews; and our video diary of the day!