ARTICLES BY: Charlotte Hardman

Charlotte Hardman

Arctic Monkeys

Posted:
Sunday 11:18 PM

Last days of an epic summer? Check. Standing in a field, arms around the shoulders of your best mates? Check. The most influential indie band of this generation currently performing, live, right before your eyes? Check!

There was only one crescendo on this festival could possibly end, and it’s with the Arctic Monkeys.

So much has been written about this band over their almost two-decade-long reign, that there is not much more that can be said. ‘R U Mine?’ was stunningly dark and sultry; ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ was silky and introspective, and, of course, ‘I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ was rowdy and brought complete and utter carnage to the mosh pits. Throbbing lights cast shafts of colour high into the inky black night air, as the enthralled crowd swelled and retreated like waves on the ocean at the band’s every command. Nobody wanted this epic grand finale to end, clinging to the barriers and to each other as the screens flashed and the music absorbed them for one last dance, one last shout-along, one last celebration of the summer, and what it means to be young and in love with music in all its glory.

There is no other way to end such a stellar weekend of the best rock, pop, dance, rap, and alternative music the world has to offer. Leeds 2022, you’ve been a blast!

Bring Me the Horizon

Posted:
Sunday 8:49 PM

Just when you thought all superlatives had been exhausted on this mega weekend of live music, along comes a band whose performance is nothing short of biblical.

That band are, of course, the incomparable Bring Me the Horizon. Plummeting into life with the blazing ‘Can You Feel My Heart’, the entire crowd was instantly electrified, jumping and screaming along to every beat as one pulsating entity. Much of the set was dominated by the band’s newer material, which finds them spin-kicking more squarely in the pop sphere than ever before.

But does that mean Bring Me have gone soft in their maturity? Absolutely not!

While tracks like ‘Teardrops’ definitely make the most of pop structure, they are far from lullabies, with Oli Sykes’ characteristic screams lacing every line with a palpable venom. Completely unhinged is the ferocious ‘Dear Diary’, which burns with a completely uncontainable, frenetic energy that sizzles on the air, and even the usually sobering verses of ‘Drown’ got a thumping makeover so that the energy hardly dropped for a single second!

The biggest accolade, however, has to go to the band’s creative team, who designed some of the most stunning production I have ever seen during a festival headline slot. Backing dancers dressed in intricate costumes; storytelling elements that flashed across the screens with haunting pre-recorded voices; pyro that blasted the eyebrows off anybody in a fifty foot radius; plumes of smoke that fired out across the crowd, flooding the air; and, an image that will remain forever burned onto the memories of the crowd – Oli standing centre stage, backlit in a burning red light, holding a flare aloft – a god amongst men in that moment. Congratulations Bring Me the Horizon, for pulling off a set that nobody in attendance will ever, ever forget.

Wolf Alice

Posted:
Sunday 7:27 PM

Over the last decade, the arena of bold, stunning alternative rock music has been dominated by Wolf Alice. In that time, they have penned countless magnetic, fiery choruses that speak to the universal experience of being a young person, in particular a young woman, growing up in the 21st century- of joy, sadness, despair, and most importantly, hope.

All of this is brought to life in the sultry vocal talents of frontwoman Ellie Rowsell, whose huge rock voice brings with it both enough subtlety to linger on the delicate moments of fragility, and then explode with a fire that carries itself across to the crowd on the brisk night air. Accompanying her are, as ever, Wolf Alice’s signature cool, grazing harmonies; groove-infused basslines that pop and flow in the undertow; paired with drums that tick along like a metronome, all melding together into a slick stadium rock swagger.

This is a band totally at ease with their own musical prowess and ability to bend a crowd instantly to their will.

Cassyette

Posted:
Sunday 5:35 PM

Many bands over the course of this weekend have attempted a fusion of pop-infused hardcore, and only a few have succeeded in doing it extremely ell. However, when it comes to Cassyette, she has managed to pull those two opposite genres together to absolute perfection.

Need an example? Look no further than the wonderfully named ‘Dear Goth’. It perfectly showcases the incredible range of Cassyette’s voice – from deep, sultry crooning to flickering screams, and powerful high notes worthy of acts like P!nk, she is simply incomparable vocally. Backed up by samples that growl away in the background, and a bassline that trembles through the ground like warning of an approaching tsunami, she stalked across the stage, commanding the crowd like she owned every inch of it. A sensational performance from a hugely talented artist, and one you shouldn’t turn your back on for long!

Enter Shikari

Posted:
Sunday 5:34 PM

It says a lot about the monumental power that a band like Enter Shikari wield that they can apparently change the weather completely on its head! After a full weekend of blistering heat, the cold winds of change began to blow fiercely across the festival site as the power rockers took to the Main Stage West, stirring up huge flurries of dust in their wake.

In fact, it soon became nigh-on impossible to see anything at all, when the band exhausted their confetti budget completely, firing white flakes into the air within the opening seconds, followed by a flurry of rainbow shards during the powerfully affecting ‘Meteors’, and a final storm of colour unleashed in the dying seconds of ‘Live Outside’! However, all the tiny paper shapes will undoubtedly degrade very quickly, as the band made clear their stance on environmental conservation. After technical difficulties interrupted his speech yesterday, condemning the polluting of our rivers and oceans by private water companies, frontman Rou Reynolds managed to deliver his impassioned sermon in full this time, to thunderous applause filled with genuine emotion from the crowd. Indeed, Enter Shikari’s entire set was filled with a palpable sense of unity – both on stage, when the band welcomed their friends in thrash rock outfit Wargasm to join them on vocals for ‘The Void Stares Back’, and off it, during the reverberating claps that adorned the band’s first smash-hit, ‘Sorry, You’re Not a Winner’. No matter how many times you’ve seen this band, they hit it out of the park each and every time, and it simply has to be seen to be believed.

De’Wayne

Posted:
Sunday 2:11 PM

He might be a relatively unknown entity to many, but those of us who have seen the Texan genre-blending titan before – and those with the good sense to stop by the Main Stage West to experience his set – were treated to an absolute masterclass in making pop songs with a genuine heart behind them.

Blending electronic swagger with gritty guitar tones and growling, punk-rock influenced basslines, every movement he made across the stage was dripping in swaggering stage presence. Yet, when addressing the crowd directly, he became incredibly sweet and humble, instantly endearing himself to the slowly amassing crowds.

Highlights of the set included the pumping chorus filled with bouncing pop sensibilities on ‘DIE OUT HERE’, which were overtured with De’Wayne’s impassioned delivery, as well as the straining ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, which showcased perfectly this brilliant artist’s ability to fuse the smooth, almost jazz-feeling pop of acts like The Weeknd with his own fierce vocal talents worthy of the meanest punk frontman.

So, if that’s convinced you, then get to know De’Wayne- you won’t regret it!

Static Dress

Posted:
Sunday 2:09 PM

If anyone else still had any last-day-of-a-festival fog clouding their vision, there could be only one band with the blazing fury to slice through it – Manchester thrash rockers Static Dress. Transforming the Festival Republic Stage into an unyielding cacophony of noise from the very first moment, it felt akin to being blasted in the face with a blowtorch this early in the afternoon – and the crowd appeared to be loving every second of it!

The flickering, white-hot screams from vocalist Ollie Appleyard rent the muggy summer air, as pulsating strobes made it feel as though you were being pulled into a paralysing fever dream. Yet, there is also a heart and melody at the core of these tracks that elevate them beyond being simply a crazed explosion of sound. Most notable in this regard was the rousing, melodic ‘push rope’, with its soaring chorus line that hints at a softer centre to this band, lurking behind the fierce, gritty exterior. This is a band who have taken all the best elements of the thriving Manchester metalcore scene from which they were birthed, and paired it with a stark artistry that makes them an infinitely intriguing prospect – with some great big punishing breakdowns thrown in there to boot, of course!

The Sherlocks

Posted:
Sunday 12:50 PM

For many people, the trip to Leeds Festival is the equivalent of a summer holiday- however, for local lads The Sherlocks, they are pretty much playing in their own backyard! And they certainly got the reception to go with it – despite it being barely ten minutes into the afternoon, the Main Stage West was packed out with an enraptured crowd of indie obsessives. And despite one of the genre’s stalwarts taking to the stage later tonight, The Sherlocks were not afraid to put their all into their own rippling indie riffs that bounce between a perfectly balanced quartet of chords. That, and the full commitment to the genre that is wearing a hooded parka in the beaming midday sun that was pushing 23 degree heat down towards the crisp grass – hats off to you, Kiaran Crook!

Backing up the image, however, were the songs, each of which was teetering with bubbling melodies. From the funky, rollicking riffs and spirited chorus lines of ‘Magic Man’, to the exuberant ‘Will You Be There?’, The Sherlocks have absolutely succeeded in gently rousing the crowd from their final-day stupor, and teeing up a day of indie dominance in delightful fashion.

Fever 333

Posted:
Saturday 11:26 PM

It often comes at the end of a day of amazing music that you run out of adjectives to use to describe performances that keep increasing in quality – but when it comes to Fever 333, there simply aren’t enough superlatives in the English language, let alone in my lexicon, to describe this band!

Combining elements of slicing, cutthroat rap with fiery metal screams and thundering guitars makes for an adrenaline-inducing thrill ride from start to finish. As voracious defenders of the oppressed, they are willing to both hold your fist aloft and elevate your voice, and also deal you a fatal blow if you perpetuate the very violence they are trying, one brick of the wall at a time to eradicate. Or, in Jason’s plainer words: “If you dare disrespect a woman, I’m going to come pound on a motherfucker”.

As well as in his rousing speeches between songs, Fever also never falter in their message in their lyrics too. Most poignant amongst them is the sobering ‘Trigger’, which deals candidly with the inhuman issue of gun violence in the band’s home country of the USA. Filled with passion and unbridled chaos, Jason screams into the mic like a man possessed, pushing the sound in the room to well over 100db, and even scaling the rigging at the side of the stage to bestow his sermon from on high (although he was quickly bested by guitarist Stephen Harrison, who climbed his way to the very roof of the tent, guitar still swinging madly from his hand!).

One thing is for sure – there’s a motherfucking fever coming!

The Interrupters

Posted:
Saturday 11:25 PM

As far as wonderful surprises go, an unexpected set from the stellar cult band The Interrupters is pretty high up on the list!

Bringing all the energy of their unique brand of bouncy, playful ska punk, twinned with an equal dose of fist-pumping anarchy, the Festival Republic Stage seemed to be springing on its very foundations just seconds into the first tune!

From the punchy ‘Title Holder’ to the rousing, sky-gazing ‘On a Turntable’, and on to the cutting ode to survivors of domestic violence that is ‘She Got Arrested’, there was more than enough fight on display here to rouse cathartic feelings of anger and passionate rage. However, as ska punk has always been, this set was entirely about unity, and a little bit of hilarity to brighten up the darker days. You can always rely on the gleaming brass section to inject an instant sense of vitality and fun into proceedings, and guitarist Kevin Bivona took the lead on interacting charmingly with the audience, whilst vocalist Amy stood stoic and impressive amongst her male band mates.

Speaking of togetherness, even some of the band members themselves are blood family! The aforementioned Kevin, drummer Jesse and bassist Justin are brothers by birth – yet the entire band, and the tent at large felt like they were part of one big chosen family too. Nowhere was this more poignant than in ‘By My Side’, an ode to the incredible unifying power of music- and who doesn’t love turning a wall of death into a wall of unity, right?

As It Is

Posted:
Saturday 8:55 PM

When pop punk bands mature, their new direction can sometimes feel inauthentic or staged. However, while there is plenty of stage-presence in pogoing legends-turned-dark rock juggernauts As It Is’ set, there is certainly no lack of heart in their impassioned delivery.

Their newer material is pure pop structure, laden with gritty guitar tones and introspective lyrics looking back at a life lived and struggles battled with. On the surface of ‘I Miss 2003’, the references to early 00s rock anthems may seem to be a pure hit of nostalgia, but beneath is a powerful analysis of how the music we absorb in our early teenage years defines us – something As It Is have no doubt been for the generation of rock fans who came after them. Also included is the scything ‘I Lie To Me’, with its cathartic chorus that vocalist Patty Walters delivers with his chest puffed out and eyes gleaming through the gloom.

There are also some older tracks woven in of course – from the heartfelt ‘Hey Rachel’ to the galloping ‘Dial Tones’ to close, throwing it back to the very origin of the band’s wild success. However, the highlight of the set is a track which nestled itself in the midst of the band’s second-latest album, ‘The Truth I’ll Never Tell’. Heartbreakingly poignant and scaldingly candid, it moved many in the crowd to tears with its stark portrayal of mental health and the burden of carrying it alone. However, after witnessing that set, nobody in that tent need ever feel that they are alone again.

All Time Low

Posted:
Saturday 6:31 PM

For many, All Time Low are a band synonymous with the ever-present feature of alternative TV music channels in their teenage years, and as such, their songs from the latter part of the last decade remain their most beloved – a fact they cheekily acknowledged by teasing the opening of their smash-hit ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’ mere seconds after appearing onstage!

However, as they gamely instructed the crowd, “You’ll have to wait, because we play that one last!”. So instead, the expectant audience clustered around  the Main Stage West were treated to a sampling of an All Time Low that have grown from a scrappy pop punk quartet into bona-fide pop rock kings. From the pounding radio-ready single ‘Sleeping In’ to the smooth, sultry ‘Monsters’ (in which vocalist Alex Gaskarth pulled off the rap in the bridge, reserved on record for blackbear., with impressive ease), while the sometimes-crude onstage banter from guitarist Jack Barakat was still present-and-correct, musically, the band feel as though they have matured and fully grown into their new sound.

Not that all the classics were absent, of course! Opener ‘Lost in Stereo’ immediately won over the slight hesitation in some of the crowd, and the boyish charm of ‘Damned If I Do Ya, Damned If I Don’t’ was as liberating and endearing as ever. And, of course, the full version of ‘Dear Maria…’ came thundering down at the close, accompanied by a shower of rainbow confetti. So, whether you like your pop punk classic or reimagined, an All Time Low show undoubtedly still has plenty of both – and it is all very, very fun indeed.

Circa Waves

Posted:
Saturday 5:13 PM

As the sun begins to edge lower towards the horizon and the evening begins to draw in, Circa Waves are living up to their name in bringing the calming sway of all the modern indie goodness you could possibly ask for! Bright, stereo-effect guitars, a bouncing, sunny disposition set against vocal lines tinged with melancholy – what more could you want!

Rarely has there been a band’s rise as meteoric as that of Circa Waves, and it shows. Barely a year ago they were carving out their name on the saturated world of indie music with their debut record, and now they are drawing huge crowds to the Main Stage East like moths to a flame. Despite their insistence on wanting to ‘Move to San Francisco’, it seems all the sunshine you could ever need is right here, as the stage is bathed in golden light, and the speakers pump out direct, catchy riffs that wriggle into your ears and latch themselves there for the remainder of the day.

But despite their already impressive launch into the stratosphere, their new track ‘Hell On Earth’ evidence of a renewed fire in the belly of the band to ascend to heights even more atomic than they have yet, as the fizzing guitars serve as a direct punch to the core of your nostalgia for summers gone by. This is summer festival music at its very finest!

Deadletter

Posted:
Saturday 5:11 PM

What would you get if you mixed the radio-ready energy of Franz Ferdinand with the raw gut-punch of The Jam? As it turns out, they are called Deadletter!

Fusing funk-inspired guitar lines with guttural spoken word lyrics, each track is pumped up and infused with a virile energy. Whereas the musicianship was all about melding discordant instrumentation, the vocals are as stripped back and raw as they come, each word punctuating the air with the plosive force of a bullet. On ‘It Burns’, the discordant guitar tones enfold into a gambolling melody accompanied by a cacophony of crashing cymbals, while the passion behind ‘Fit For Work’, which tells of the ludicrous measures taken by the government to force sick and dislabed people back into employment, certainly captured the latent anger and fire in the bellies of the largest crowd at the stage so far this weekend!

In the end, it was ‘Quite the Uproar’ indeed – as ever, BBC Introducing Stage, thank you for introducing us!

Griff

Posted:
Saturday 3:25 PM

Despite only releasing her debut single a mere three years ago, Hertfordshire’s Griff has taken to the Main Stage East like it is her second home. Throughout her set, her vocals pour out from the stage with perfect diction as well as a huge amount of bright tone for such soaringly high notes. Every track is set against a unique, rippling backdrop of synths, each gilded by the warmth of her hugely impressive vocal range.

On ‘One Foot In Front of the Other’, a chorus of orchestral synths worthy of the Nine Muses underlies an affecting, unearthly ensemble of harmonies; yet, on the even poppier ‘Head on Fire’, her collaboration with soft pop starlet Sigrid, squeaky clean melodies and a precise, marching rhythm take centre stage. Griff is, therefore, an artist who has proven she can cover all bases and encompass the best of what current pop music has to offer – not forgetting a nod to the inspirational women of pop who came before her, in merging her own track ‘One Night’ into sample of Whitney Houston’s timeless disco classic ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. Keep an eye on this one, because Griff is not a name you will be able to forget in the not-too-distant future…

Witch Fever

Posted:
Saturday 2:50 PM

A rousing call to arms to stir the spirit and move your body to action, anyone? If the answer is yes, then look no further than Manchester’s grunge punk stars Witch Fever! Combining a punching bassline that induces tapping feet and bopping heads without effort, with white-hot vocals tinged with a raw energy that you can all but taste on the air, it is undeniable that this is the real deal, plain and simple.

However, this is not a set for the faint-hearted. The darkly delightful ‘I Saw You Dancing’’s whimsical title is a complete and utter misnomer, as its menacing guitar riffs stirred up some of the fiercest mosh pits of the whole weekend. That’s not forgetting the brutal genius of the galloping melodies that rumble and thunder along at breakneck speed through ‘Bully Boy’, each word punctuated with deliberate venom. This is how you mould anger into a powerful piece of art, and it is utterly delightful!

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes

Posted:
Saturday 12:52 PM

If anyone was feeling any early morning cobwebs lingering in the recesses of their brain this morning, the perfect tonic was first on the agenda on the Main Stage East – a thoroughly raucous set from the frenetic Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. It was hard to believe that the set was only half an hour long, as they managed to pack so much frenzied excitement into just a handful of songs.

Opening the pit up to all who identify as women during ‘Wild Flowers’ made for, in Frank’s own words, “the happiest mosh pit you’ll see all weekend”, as girls flooded into the centre of the crowd, hands raised and wild eyes gleaming in the blistering midday sun. Not that the men, including Frank himself, were going to be left out of the action for long! Jumping into the crowd with unbridled abandon, he hoisted himself up to his feet, borne like an Egyptian pharaoh on the hands of the adoring crowd. As guitarist Dean Richardson was hauled up parallel to him, the crowd began to swirl like two vicious whirlpools around each of them, as though the packed mass of bodies had become liquid, drawn in by the sheer force of the band’s enigmatic stage presence.

The blistering ‘Devil Inside Me’ rode white-hot from the speakers, calling to the anarchist inside each of the enraptured crowd, and by the time proceedings closed with the thunderous rager ‘Crowbar’, not a single member of the crowd was left without a sheen of sweat on their brow and the broadest smile upon their face. This band has already shaken this festival to its foundations, which is no mean feat at any time, let alone as the first band of the day! But mark my words, they won’t be reserved to such an early slot for long – here, we definitely have future headliner material on our hands. GOOD MORNING Mr Carter!

The 1975

Posted:
Friday 10:01 PM

Stepping into a headline slot with barely a fortnight’s notice requires a band with nerves of steel, as well as a back catalogue extensive and beloved enough to mend festival goers’ wounded hearts instantly. Thankfully, one such band exists just over the Pennines – Manchester’s The 1975.

And that’s roughly how many hits they have! Just in the opening minutes of their set, they unleashed the delectable ‘Chocolate’, the track which catapulted them into the limelight almost a decade ago. With sensual vocals and a groovily sluicing melody hook, any fears that may have lingered about the band’s last-minute appointment were quickly assuaged. The equally melodic ‘Love Me’ slithered out on the night air like an intoxicating breeze, drawing the crowd into a slowly swaying malaise, entirely captivated by the band’s alluring demeanour. Swaggering along in his perfectly tailored suit, frontman Matty Healy casts an impressive figure, who manages to pull sensual hip swings off with far more grace than most! With the perfect balance of well-crafted pop melodies with earworm-creating hooks, and enough self aggrandisement to fill ten of the Main Stage East, there can have been no better choice to fill those ever-so-large shoes of a headliner. Hats off to you, The 1975!

Bastille

Posted:
Friday 7:17 PM

If electro-pop at its very finest is what you had planned on ordering for tea tonight, then Bastille are just the treat you need! From the very opening moments, vocalist Dan Smith’s ethereal, echoing vocals glide out over infinitely danceable synth-heavy beats, that mean you can’t help but sway along to the heavy thump of the bass.

The set was packed with more hits than you can shake a stick at – from the low, swinging groove of ‘Good Grief’, to the sunny disposition of ‘survivin’, the entire band looked as though they were having just as much fun as the audience! Smith looked as though he was in the midst of an intense sugar rush, as he went jumping around from a platform over the drums, down to the front of the stage and back again, and then to lounging elegantly on a recliner chair in front of the kit, all in less than 30 seconds!

However, his efforts paid off, and the entire set felt like one exclusive dance party – so much so that the gang vocals in new track ‘Shut Off The Lights’ felt like a karaoke moment, with the lyrics pasted in huge letters across the back of the stage. Even the incredible backing vocalists (whose supreme talents cannot be overlooked!) joined in the party, bringing even more buzzing energy to the stage. As if things needed another gear, the plinking xylophone melody of ‘Rhythm of The Night’ set a night of raving ahead off in style, and the closing number – which was, of course, their huge smash-hit ‘Pompeii’ – felt positively biblical. It’s going to be a fun night ahead now, that’s for sure!

LICE

Posted:
Friday 5:58 PM

Never has the word ‘cacophony’ been more appropriate to describe the eclectic madness of a band than when it is attributed to Bristolians LICE. Taking to the BBC Introducing Stage as though it was a headline slot, they treated the assembled crowd to a tumult of thrashing melodies, interwoven with straining, politically-charged spoken word lyricism that was just penetrable enough to keep you hooked into the mania.

Whipping up the first circle pit of the day with an Introducing stage crowd is no mean feat, but those in attendance felt almost as though they had been caught in a whirlwind, and found themselves almost involuntarily thundering along with a recklessness that bordered on insanity.

If you want a taste of just what that head-spinning experience was like, then take a long listen to ‘Conveyor’. With a bassline that fizzes deep in your chest, vocals that climb and fall all over the track, and a chorus that descends into absolute unbridled chaos, it is about as close as you can get to feeling the mind-bending madness of LICE live-and-in-colour.

Crawlers

Posted:
Friday 5:57 PM

Winning over a crowd instantly is an oft-aspired-to goal for bands breaking into the alternative scene, but rarely has that been achieved as completely as Warrington-based rockers Crawlers did at the opening of their set on the Festival Republic Stage! Their penchant for great big stonking chorus lines filled with infectious energy made them an instant hit with the crowd, and meant they had the entire tent bouncing along before they had even completed one number!

Another of Crawlers’ many charms in their unflinching lyrical candour. Tracks like ‘Hush’ put the tumultuous emotions caused by anxiety microscope, examining them with a dry venom and punk rock bite that threads its way through each and every one of their tracks. Each verse built into a throttling chorus that stamped and snarled with a vicious power – the phrase ‘girl power’ feels far too infantile a statement for these renegades- this is WOMAN power at work.

As if that wasn’t enough, Crawlers broke the mould even further with a brilliantly delivered stunt; of all the badass ways to announce the drop of your debut album, producing a huge banner from seemingly nowhere and stringing it across the stage is about as infinitely cool as they come!

By the time the penultimate track came around, a fierce chorus of voices and a sea of glittering lighters joined the band in their melancholic grandeur – ‘Come Over Again’? Don’t mind if I do!

DMAs

Posted:
Friday 5:14 PM

Just as the afternoon sun was beginning to wane, and people’s energy began to fade with it before the evening’s second wind arrived, what better time to be greeted with the dulcet tones of Aussie indie stalwarts DMA’S? Opening their Main Stage West set with ‘The Glow’ brought all the glimmering summer warmth that you could ask for shining down on the Yorkshire countryside, dousing the crowd in their smoothly beguiling melodies, transforming them into a sea of bobbing heads and contented smiles.

Each track was laced with vocalist Tommy O’Dell’s characteristically soaring, buttery vocals – yet, behind the apparent calming simplicity of the tracks, there was a joyous hidden complexity bubbling away at their heart.

Nowhere was this better signified than on the band’s new single, ‘I Don’t Need to Hide’. Here, a soft orchestral intro blossoms over a bed of rippling drum samples, blooming as the song progresses into a full-hearted pop-rock chorus. Then, almost without warning, those layers all fall away again, stripping the track back to its soft opening refrain and rebuilding all over again. Weaving all these elements together in such an absorbing is testament to DMA’S supreme musicianship – whoever said indie could only be a couple of chords and some shout-along choruses, eh?

Pale Waves

Posted:
Friday 4:17 PM

It takes an ungodly amount of both comfort in your own skin and stage presence to announce you are from Manchester mere minutes into a main stage performance on the other side of the Pennines. However, it is testament to Pale Waves’ enduring appeal that even such a heinous crime as being Mancunian was forgiven by the rapturous crowd as soon as the first of their bolstering tunes flooded out from the Main Stage East’s speakers.

With sultry radio effects coating her voice, vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie overtured the big, boasting guitar lines that have become synonymous with Pale Waves’ own brand of indie pop, which injected the genre with a much-needed boost of uniqueness and edge when they first broke onto the scene just four years ago. While many of the infectious riffs in their set come straight from the early 00s radio rock playbook, it is impossible to argue that they are at all out of place – after all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

That’s not to say that Pale Waves have succumbed to the weight of expectation – in fact, far from it. ‘Unwanted’ feels as though it is building into a mournful ballad, until the thunderous drop into a raucous chorus turns that entirely on its head! However, if it’s overwrought emotion that you’re after, look no further than ‘She’s My Religion’, an empowering queer love song for the ages. And, just to prove that they can do it all, they crown their set with an all-out pop punk offering in the form of ‘Reasons to Live’, which boasts all the characteristic chugging bassline and relentless drums you could ask for! So, move over blink-182, I think Pale Waves can take it from here!

Gayle

Posted:
Friday 3:15 PM

Gayle’s brand of fiesty pop rock has dominated the airwaves and the online space in recent months, and within the first few minutes of her set on the Radio 1 Dance Stage, it is more than apparent why. Her performance is as much of a release for her as it is for the audience, a cathartic refusal to be silenced in speaking her truth about growing up as a young woman in both the online and offline world.

Coating her biting lyrics that tackle subjects from sex, drugs, relatuonships and religion in gravelly, radio-ready melodies worthy of genre stalwarts like Weezer makes for the perfect blend of an earworm in ‘ur just horny’. Yet on ‘sleeping with my friends’, it is Gayle’s voice that takes centre stage, as her warm, richly textured vocals gave way to an impossibly long high note that drew screams of appreciation from the enraptured crowd. These are songs that are built to be the anthems to countless people’s teenage highs and heart breaks – much like the female rock and roll powerhouses that came before her, to whom Gayle paid homage with an impassioned cover of ‘Bad Reputation’ by the incomparable Joan Jett.

In preaching to a rapturous chorus young women gathered at the front of the stage with shining eyes and waving fists – and, if the taster of her next single ‘Snow Angels’, due for release in October, is anything to go by – Gayle has undoubtedly stamped her mark as the next in line to inherit the crown of powerful women unafraid and unashamed of speaking their truth.

Willow

Posted:
Friday 1:45 PM

She may have one hell of a famous surname, but by absolutely dominating her performance on the Main Stage East, Willow proved that when it comes to her music, her artistry is all her own.

Clean guitar lines bound and gamble throughout the set, accompanied by gorgeous self-harmonising backing tracks that elevate every single melody. However, Willow has such a profound tone to her voice, alluding to a soul far beyond her mere 20 years, that she hardly needs the assistance to capture the audience’s ear. While punchy tracks like ‘hover like a GODDESS’, alongside the effervescent, bubbling TikTok anthem ‘Wait a Minute!’, seek to make the alternative strand of pop rock young and fun again, Willow also expresses her desire to one day pen a rock opera for the ages, for which ‘Lipstick’ is her opening gambit. Based on this offering alone, that prospect is very exciting indeed – from the roaring guitar lines to the piercing high notes that border on whistle tones!

Props must also be given to her drummer for being brave enough to attempt, and achieve, keeping excellent pace with the percussion wizardry of Travis Barker – what a bold start to the weekend indeed!