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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 August, 2004, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Leeds rocks to festival sounds
By Jacqueline Head in Leeds

Festival-goers
Festival-goers braved unpredictable weather at Leeds and Reading
It's cold, a bit wet, and very loud - welcome to the Leeds festival 2004.

Part of the Carling weekend, originally the Reading festival, this year's event went without a hitch.

Despite a few showers and some chilly winds - which one MC kindly blamed on Morrissey - bands turned up on time and most managed to impress.

The Reading festival was originally set up as an alternative to the hippie-fest of Glastonbury, aimed at satisfying the tastes of local rock 'n' roll punters.

Leeds began around six years ago as an extension of the festival, serving northern rockers alike.

This year's event saw the return of The Darkness and Placebo, while adding a hip-hop dimension with acts such as The Streets, 50 Cent and rising stars Goldie Lookin' Chain.

The crowds are fantastic here, this is the only festival I used to attend as a punter.
Justin Hawkins, Darkness frontman

But rock was still there in all its glory, with big acts like the White Stripes, Morrissey, Franz Ferdinand and the Hives, while punk rock also filled some major slots with the Offspring, the Libertines, Green Day and the Ordinary Boys.

Most festival-goers dressed the part - black being the general colour of choice.

Although Leeds does not pull any major punches - there is no legendary tent or hang-out area - it does offer some positive attractions that others do not.

Being smaller means a more intimate setting and an easier site to navigate. Having less people also means there is not the mass struggle to get from one stage to the next.

The other bonus is the rock 'n' roll ethic. The punters are all there for the music, and open to discovering some new talent along the way.

Long-time festival fan and rock 'n' roll master himself, the Darkness' Justin Hawkins told BBC News Online what sets Leeds apart from the rest.

Justin Hawkins, The Darkness
Justin Hawkins used to attend Leeds Festival as a punter

"I think its heritage sets it apart for a kick-off, the organisation sets it apart, I think the bill sets it apart.

"The crowds are fantastic here, this is the only festival I used to attend as a punter. We played here last year and it went down really well."

He added this year had been "fantastic".

As for the inclusion of hip-hop acts to the bill, Hawkins was positive: "The bill's more rock-related, same as it always has been. It's not downloads, it's not nu-metal, it's something for everyone this bill."

Festival-goer Iona Flett, who travelled down to Leeds from Edinburgh, liked the intimacy of the festival. "I like the fact there's only three stages, and it's really easy to move between them.

"The line-up here is excellent, and there have been heaps of surprises - bands I thought would be average that turned out to be really good."

'Ritual'

Leeds kicked off with a huge bill. Even Friday's early acts have cult followings. Buck 65, The Stills and the Secret Machines are all up-and-coming stars.

Buck 65's unique blend of hip-hop and electronic lo-fi is rapidly gathering a strong band of international followers.

Meanwhile, New York's Secret Machines stunned an afternoon crowd with a mind-blowing, heavy-sounding set.

Speaking after their performance, bass player Brandon Curtis said: "People here really embrace the festival - they're in costumes, going on rides, I mean, they're camping! It's like a ritual."

US punk band Green Day closed Friday's main stage, while UK pop legends Supergrass filled the Radio 1 tent.

Leeds also brought in some disco music for those up for a boogie. Har Mar Superstar got the crowd pumping, and got himself pumping too.

Irish pop band Ash had a go at being 'rock' on Saturday with frontman Tim Wheeler coming on stage with his guitar in flames.

The 5.6.7.8's
Japanese rock band The 5.6.7.8's also performed at both venues

The Darkness closed the main stage, doing their usual glamrock crowd-pleasing act. Hawkins appeared on stage in a very tight, glittering catsuit and a Napoleon hat.

And despite their doubts over their new material, the crowd went wild during their three latest songs.

The Darkness also included a rocked-up version of Radiohead's Street Spirit, which left fans not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

On Sunday, the masses were treated to the legendary Morrissey. Songs from his latest album You are the Quarry were met with loud reception, as were his odd little stage antics.

The band everyone had been waiting to see, however, was the White Stripes. Appearing in matching tight red pants, Jack and Meg White launched into 90- minute set that left everyone cheering for more.

While Meg appeared to effortlessly play the drums while simultaneously maintaining her stylish hairdo, Jack belted it out on the guitar and keyboards in an absolutely amazing display of sound and light.

And as the music died down and the winds started up, campers returned for one more chilly night's sleep before heading home for a long hot shower, and to await the next festival season.




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