Yorkshire’s biggest festival took place right here last weekend.
Leeds Festival returned to Bramham Park this weekend – and if you were one of the 80,000 odd jumping along to Billie Eilish on Friday or wading through the sea of people queuing for a glimpse of Matty Healy – you’ll know exactly what we’re on about.
As a festival that’s now in its mid-twenties, it’s certainly got older and wiser over the years – and the lineups just get better and better ever year.
Okay fine, there’s always criticism that there’s not the same ‘rock and roll lineup’ as in its earlier days (but in all fairness, last time we checked most of those artists even weren’t on the festival circuit this year) – but the festival clearly went to painstaking detail to balance new talent to suit both the younger audience on a post-GCSE results day weekend away with older fans that have followed the festival since being 16 themselves.
The Killers, for instance, first played way back in 2005 – and almost two decades on were just as well received as when the band first played Mr Brightside.
@thehootleeds “Coming out of my cage” #thekillers #mebrightside #leedsfest2023 #fyp ♬ original sound – Thehootleeds
This was a year for new records, not only did the three day affair end with the world’s biggest silent disco, but Friday night saw Billie Eilish become the youngest ever performer to headline the festival. At just 21 years old, the singer-songwriter took the spot off rapper last year’s headliner Dave, and continued to prove that age has no place in quantifying performance.
Dozens of fans ran in from 11am on Friday morning to secure a spot on the barrier, sprinting from the entry gates to camp out for over ten hours but for those that rocked up half an hour before and wound up at the back of the Main Stage crowd, Billie ensured that there was still a decent view.
Like we’ve seen on her Happier Than Ever tour – the stage was set with a large ramp, giving a much wider range to the fans that patiently waiting.
Performing a medley of hits, you’d be forgiven for forgetting the American pop star has only put out two albums. Jumping from one chorus to another, Eilish took the crowd on a musical tour of hits, fusing softer singles like idontwanttobeyouanymore and Ocean Eyes with upbeat crowdpleasers like Bad Guy.
Performing with younger brother and “best friend” Finneas O’Connell, Eilish told the crowd she hopes to keep performing as a family “forever” – we hope so too Billie.
Now that Leeds Festival is too big to just have one Main Stage headliner, it meant revellers were also treated to a headliner performance from Imagine Dragons as the sun went down.
A decade on from the band’s first performance, a teatime slot on the NME / BBC Radio 1 Stage, Imagine Dragons entertained the crowd flitting between hits new and old, breaking their stride mid-set remind the audience to reach out to those struggling with their mental health.
Lead singer Dan Reynolds’ heartfelt speech was preceded by Demons, a song that didn’t even make the cut for the band’s first set back in 2013 – but was very well received by the watery-eyed crowd this year.
The Main Stage was really just the tip of the iceberg of talent this weekend, and artists like Ethel Cain, Venbee and Somebody’s Child truly proved that the smaller stages were well worth heading over to Leeds for.
Saturday’s Main Stage also saw queues just as long – and for good reason.
Leeds-own Yard Act kicked off Saturday with a larger-than-life performance. The band’s latest single Trench Coat Museum saw poised ‘mannequins’ come to life and carry lead singer James Smith up in their arms – the four-piece set the energy high for the day finishing with the crowd on their feet with the single that started it all – The Overload.
Tion Wayne drew a younger crowd for a lively performance with special guest Arrdee, whilst Wet Leg ‘rocked too hard’ that lead singer Rhian Teasdale knocked her white stitched bonnet off mid-guitar riff.
Packing in a decade of music into just seven songs is never an easy task but You Me At Six effortlessly kept the crowd enthused in the sunshine with a riff of Yorkshire chants, crowd surfing and before slowing down for romantic single Take On The World, which frontman Josh Franceschi dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community.
The standout performance from the weekend came from Loyle Carner. After an emotional Glastonbury performance the rapper proved that with half the amount of time, he could still pack in all his best hits, including a song dedicated to his young son.
Headliners Foals and Sam Fender both finished the night with sets to remember – Fender reminiscent of on his own experience of Leeds Fest aged eighteen and pausing his set to help calm moshpitters getting a little too enthusiastic, before finishing with Seventeen Going Under.
Last but certainly not least came Sunday, and what a day it was.
Kicking off the day was up-and-coming pop sensation Bellah Mae who had crowds singing along to her catchy hits. It’s safe to say that if you’ve recently been through a break-up then you’ll be familiar with Mae’s music, her lyrics providing life-affirming and relatable advice for young women in their 20-somethings.
Next up was singer-songwriter Holly Humberstone who took to Main Stage East just as the rain started to clear up. She had the crowd in the palm of her hand, singing beautiful melodies with an energetic band behind her. From smash-hit The Walls Are Way Too Thin to new record Superbloodmoon we were reminded of Humberstone’s raw talent and were left assured of her future star potential.
Nothing But Thieves opened their incredible set with recent smash-hit Welcome to the DCC, frontman Conor Mason’s vocal range left us astounded as pyrotechnics were set off across the front of the stage. A truly fire performance (quite literally).
As the sun was setting, the moment we had all been waiting for came around – The 1975 began their 90 minute set on Main Stage West in replacement of Lewis Capaldi who unfortunately had to drop out.
Celebrating ten years since the release of their first album, the Wilmslow-born band took us through their seminal record from back to front before closing the set with a couple of crowd pleasers.
Las Vegas legends The Killers, fronted by rock star Brandon Flowers, closed the festival with an absolute bang. Guiding the crowd through their catalogue of absolute hits, Flowers performed a masterclass in showmanship and proved the band’s star status two times over.
Ending the set and the festival was probably the most iconic song of all time, Mr Brightside. Thousands sang along to every lyric, jumped to every beat and felt a feeling of togetherness as one simple melody brought us all together for 3 short minutes.
A truly magical experience which signed off Leeds Festival 2023 perfectly.
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We’re already counting down the days until next year – and we’ve even been asking festival goers who they’d like to see on the Main Stage.
@thehootleeds What would be your ideal line up? #festival #dreamfestivallineup #leedsfestival #bringmethehorizon #oasis #the1975 #harrystyles #fyp #myvitamins #myprotein ♬ Holiday – FASSounds
You can check out all the answers on The Hoot Leeds Instagram page here.
Feature Image – The Hoot Leeds