Men! Women! Children! What are you up to from 23rd – 25th August? Maybe you’re planning a trip to Lanzarote. Maybe you want to lock yourself away for three consecutive days and eat nothing but bread and cheese. However, if you have any sense (and a couple of hundred quid), you’ll be at the Leeds Festival, socks over your knees, shorts at the ready, full of gin.
As I type, the Leeds Festival site informs me that there are 178 days (and 14 hours) until the doors/gates of Bramham Park are opened once again, and the frantic, fizzing hordes are let through. Inexperienced festival goers might be bemused by this determined countdown in the midst of snow and chilly temperatures, but that’s the beauty of Leeds – to the faithful, it’s a religion, and they remain true to the hallowed August Bank Holiday all year.
The Reading and Leeds festivals have managed to score a massive coup already this year, by announcing that universally-loved rapper Eminem will be headlining. He’s worth three nights of camping discomfort alone. The last time I saw Eminem (at Reading, a decade ago), none of us could quite believe that the angriest, most ‘street’ recording artist we’d ever heard of had agreed to come to the UK. To Reading! He may as well have bought a house in Epsom, and be done with it. We imagined that he’d probably set fire to Reading town centre before leaving, and deny ever being there. Our feelings of wonder were compounded when Mr. Shady proceeded to ‘pop a pill’ given to him by his ‘good friend Marilyn Manson’. Onstage drug taking, as recommended by the God of Fuck! It might be a Tic-Tac, it might not! You could hear the screams for miles.
Eminem is just one of the reasons that Leeds is so important. No, it’s not boutique – don’t bring your hairdryer, don’t bring a harmonica, don’t ask for hummus. What Leeds offers is relevant, exciting music with longevity – something for everyone, but drawing the line at Coldplay. Funnily enough, this year, Leeds seems to be giving a gentle nod to the early years of the noughties. System of a Down, Deftones, Biffy Clyro, Fall Out Boy – these are bands that the 25 – 35-year-olds out there will remember playing in their first cars and losing their virginities to. These are bands with substance. With style. And with hordes of fans who want nothing more than to sink a six-pack and shout along to songs they’ve known for most of their lives.
Happily for younger fans, the twin festivals (that’s Reading and Leeds, by the way) are also hosting acts that’ll blow their tiny minds. Jake Bugg, Foals and Bring me the Horizon will ensure a healthy balance between the old and the new, and electro-hero Sub Focus will win many new fans with his much-loved brand of dance-chart fodder.
Put simply, Leeds is a bit like those meals that your Nan always wanted you to eat. Yes, they were healthy. No, they weren’t made up entirely of biscuits or chocolate, which is what we always thought we wanted. But they filled you up, they were well-balanced, and you never felt rubbish afterwards. Leeds is much like a Nan-meal – it takes a while to arrive, but when it does, it’s quality through and through. If you love to float fancifully around a boutique festival hidden in a wood, flowers in your fists, breath scented with Lambrini, you probably will find Leeds is an entirely different world. But it’s a good world – a world of shouting and laughter, picking up discarded jumpers and using them as pillows, and seeing the bands you’ll be telling your grandchildren about in fifty years’ time. Save your cash up now, come to Leeds, and come home elated and mud-covered – I can pretty much guarantee it’ll be the best fun you’ll have all year.
Watch the best bits from 2012: