Leeds Festival 2021 returned after what has been two long years away. With ninety thousand music lovers descending on the Yorkshire site at Bramham Park at the weekend, (along with the sister site in Reading) this was going to be the kind of party that music fans had been building up for.
Tickets on sale now for 2022 here
With plenty of festival-goers arriving on site on Wednesday and Thursday, there were plenty of revellers in the arena by the time the new-look festival kicked off on Friday. Showcasing a new layout which included two main stages it was up to power-pop Manchester outfit Hot Milk to kick things off in a suitably rowdy fashion in front of a healthy and very excitable crowd. A quick jog to Main Stage East saw Derby glam rockers The Struts bring a splash of colour to proceedings with frontman Luke Spiller showing exactly why the hard-rocking outfit deserved their place on the bill.
Elsewhere throughout the site, London rapper Russ Millions couldn’t wait to get down and into the mix as he left the stage early on to go walkabout around the audience posing for plenty of selfies with fans throughout his set. The Hunna woke up those suffering from a Thursday night hangover with their brand of gritty alt-rock, while back over on the Main Stage West, pop-punk favourites Neck Deep caused all manner of mischief in front of a crowd who sang their set back word for word. Always a great band to have at a festival, Neck Deep were the perfect musical accompaniment for an afternoon in the sun.
Photo Copyright © Jo Forrest
Rap/Hip-Hop/Grime and Drill are all playing a big part in this year’s line-up, much to the disdain of rock fans, but judging by the reaction to both KSI and Arizona Zervas who both took up main stage slots, both choices were favourably received by packed out stages. Shifting away from that though, cheeky pop-favourite Tom Grennan brought his usual swagger to the afternoon while over on the BBC Introducing Stage, it was the turn of local outfit Yard Act to stake their claim for a slot on a bigger stage next year.
As we head into the early evening, Wolf Alice return to the stage in the UK in support of their recent album “Blue Weekend” and show why they’ve quickly become one of the most talked-about bands of the rounds. If it’s carnage you want though, Doncaster’s very own Yungblud provided that. Taking to the stage in front of a giant inflatable duck, Yungblud incited mayhem in the mosh pit with some high-energy anthems and, with plenty of lookalikes crammed up against the barrier, Yungblud’s set proved to be one of the highlights of the day. In contrast, Holly Humberstone brought a touch of calm to the evening with another superb performance.
Replacing Queens of the Stone Age, Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro were the first headliner of the day and put in the kind of set that has cemented their place at the top of the pack. A late call-up, the Scots proved why they were the perfect way to close off the Main Stage West with a performance that was nothing short of epic paving the way for indie hero Liam Gallagher to sign things off in glorious fashion with a set laden with hits from both his solo and Oasis career. Never disappointing, fans young and old sang along to every single song as Liam showed the young up and comers why he is still the epitome of a rock and roll star.
Arriving on-site on Saturday, the heat was already creeping up by the time Nothing But Thieves hit the stage and, even one member down, got things off to a rocking start. Back over on the main stage, Demob Happy played to a crowd who, to be honest, were probably much happier sitting in the sun, enjoying a few beers while The Snuts brought their snotty Glasgow indie tunes to the Main Stage. Representing Ireland next, the highly-rated Inhaler drew in a hefty crowd putting in the kind of stint that probably ensured the last few tickets for their upcoming up tour would be flying out of the door shortly after.
Sandwiched in between the Irish indie rock of Inhaler, the anthemic Sea Girls and Duff McKagan’s daughter Grace McKagan, was another hugely popular rapper in the form of MoStack who didn’t disappoint his legions of fans camped out at the mainstage. Adorned in a stripy red and white catsuit, Declan McKenna certainly went for the attention-grabbing approach and it worked. With all eyes on Main Stage East, McKenna made sure that the flag-waving fans crammed up against the barrier were given the treat they deserved.
Photo Copyright © Jo Forrest
Away from the main stages, rising star Lady Ice brought her highly-rated rap game to the BBC Introducing Stage while Wargasm, by now a familiar face on the UK festival circuit laid waste to the Lock-Up Stage with their fiery punk rock anthems and attitude. Equally full of attitude was rapper Aitch whose set incited absolute pandemonium on the Main Stage West. Surely a higher slot on the Main Stage is due for the rising star of the UK rap game?
Mabel is somebody who makes this look easy and, as she struts and grinds about the Main Stage East, it almost felt like the temperature had jumped up a few degrees. Packed with slick dance moves, the grin on Mabel’s face showed that she was enjoying this as much as her growing legions of fans. Songwriter Sam Fender followed that with an absolutely jaw-dropping performance and, with fans pouring in from the North East, it must have felt like home as he put in one of the sets of the day in front of a sea of banners and Newcastle United shirts.
Back on the Main Stage East, AJ Tracey had the crowd bouncing with his special guest slot and, although there was no denying he was another popular choice with the young crowd, by the time Stormzy announced his arrival late in the evening, there was no question as to who was going to be the talk of the weekend. With a suitably festival sized production, the London superstar took to the stage to a fanfare of fire, pyrotechnics and massive grime anthems. Accompanied by what looked like a good hundred or so of his closest friends, the Londoner delivered the perfect Saturday night headline performance. Packed with hits, the Godfather of UK grime had the crowd under his spell with a set that was simply flawless.
Despite being greeted by an overcast sky for the final day, things soon warmed up as Main Stage West openers The Hara exploded out of the wings. Already a regular on the returning festival circuit around the UK in 2021, the band whipped up quite a storm with their alt/pop/rock and were the perfect start to the day.
Elsewhere, Noisy and Gender Roles both showed the diversity of the festival line-up this year while the late addition of YouMeAtSix in place of the aggro-punk metal of Fever333 seemed to be a popular choice judging by the reaction to tracks like Undercurrent. Equally popular but clearly on the wrong stage, KennyHoopla delivered a thunderous set of pop/punk, Travis Barker endorsed carnage from the dance tent.
As well as getting to hang out with friends in a field watching your favourite bands, festivals like Leeds are a great way to discover new artists which is exactly what happened with Beabadoobee who had us transfixed with her easily digestible, wonderful songs. Tickets booked for her upcoming tour straight after. Having seen the emotional scenes as pop favourite Sigrid took to the stage at Reading 24 hours earlier, it was nice to see she was all smiles as she whipped the Leeds crowd up into a bouncing mess.
Back over on the Main Stage West, controversial rapper Slowthai was whipping up a different kind of chaos. Spitting out his aggressive rap anthems as he strutted about the stage, Slowthai put a bit of attitude into proceedings but there was sadly no duet with Katherine Ryan who was a few hundred yards away getting ready to perform in the comedy tent. You can see what we had to say about the Alternative tent here.
Photo Copyright © Jo Forrest
As we headed into the final straight now, the remainder of the evening was handed over to the indie bands with The Wombats greeted by thousands of bodies all singing and bouncing along to jangly indie anthems like “Moving To New York”. Back on the Main Stage East, it was the job of Two Door Cinema Club to keep fans entertained for the main event and, while it was obvious the crowd were readying themselves for the main event, the Northern Irish band put in the kind of stint that certainly warrants a headline slot at a festival like this one.
And so Leeds Festival 2021 comes to a close. F0ur days of partying may have taken its toll on some fans but, judging by the fact that there was not a spare inch by the main stage for the headliner, these ninety-thousands fans had enough left in the tank to make sure they were ready to party with Postie.
Putting on a typically laid back performance, headliner Post Malone isn’t about big, massive productions. He left that to Stormzy twenty-four hours earlier. There isn’t a massive stage set other than a huge platform hanging from the top of the stage. Other than that, this could have been anywhere and you’d have got the same humble Post Malone playing the same songs to fans who absolutely worship him. He may be one of the biggest stars on the planet but judging by the smile on his face to the reaction for “Better Now”, it still feels like it hasn’t quite sunk in.
In a t-shirt and jeans, Post Malone ambled his way through this headline set and, while it may have been the second time he’s appeared on this very stage in as many years, nobody here was about to complain. Raising a beer to the crowd early on in the set, his chilled out songs were the perfect way to end the perfect weekend.
A Few of the Crowd
PhotoCopyright © Jo Forrest