Leeds Festival 2023


Alexandra Pullen (she/her) joins URY’s Music Team on the final day of Leeds Festival 2023

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Image by Alexandra Pullen

By Alexandra Pullen

The August bank holiday weekend was an extremely busy one for music lovers across the UK as several festivals took place including Reading and Leeds Festival and Creamfields. I joined the Music Team at University Radio York, Joe Brearley (Head of Music), Tom Foreman and James Taylor, to attend the closing day of Leeds Festival 2023, which was not one to miss.
Going into Bramham Park, I was not sure what to expect, as the extent of my festival history starts and ends with Lytham Festival, which is a completely different experience altogether. Despite my uncertainty, and the few showers we saw during the Sunday morning, Leeds did not disappoint.
The first act we saw was Baby Queen, performing on Main Stage East. Arabella Latham, who has the stage name of Baby Queen, is an alternative singer who was born and raised in South Africa, but moved to London at the age of 18. She is most well known for her track ‘Colours of You’, which was used to promote the first season of the Netflix show Heartstopper.
Despite this, she did not play it on the Main Stage. Instead, she opened with ‘Internet Religion’, a single from her 2020 EP Medicine. Also from this EP, she played ‘Buzzkill’ and ‘Want Me’ as the closer, during which she came down from the stage and into the audience to see her fans, the “Baby Kingdom”. Other songs on the setlist included ‘Raw Thoughts’, the first song she wrote back in 2017, ‘Dream Girl’ and ‘We Can Be Anything’, which are two of her newest singles, and ‘Dover Beach’. A stand out for me was ‘We Can Be Anything’, a song with a powerful message about freedom in identity. Latham’s outfit was just as impressive; she wore a khaki green top with e-cigarettes on the front and the back read “Quarter Life Crisis”, the name of her debut album which comes out in October. However, her skirt was the real highlight, as she rocked a blue-green tartan skirt with layers of multi-coloured ruffles underneath.
Next up, we saw easy life on Main Stage West. Before attending the festival, I had heard of easy life, but was not familiar with their music. However, after their performance I will definitely be listening to their songs more, as they were one of my favourite acts of the day. The alternative-indie group from Leicester won the NME Best New British Act in 2020, and since then have been on a rapid rise. The stage set for the band was an interesting one, with several walls with floral wallpaper around them.
They opened their set with ‘BEESWAX’, the first single from their album MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE…, then moved on to ‘pockets’ which was their debut track. After this, they sang ‘sangria’, a song which usually features Arlo Parks, but in this instance the crowd filled in for her parts. The closing song ‘nightmares’ also caused a buzz throughout. During the set, frontman Murray Matravers sent drummer Oliver Cassidy into the crowd in his place because of an injury to his back. While there, Cassidy joined in with a mosh pit and danced with fans as Matravers remained on stage.
As easy life were finishing up, L’objectif were beginning on the BBC Introducing Stage. The Leeds based band released their debut EP Drive in Mind back in 2021 and it was met with very positive feedback. They opened their set with ‘Same Thing’, the lead single from their second EP which was released last year. Moving on to ‘Lily of The Valley’ and ‘Drive in Mind’, the band’s bassist, Ezra Glennon, brought a booming energy to the stage which seemed to hype up both the other band members and the crowd. The set was closed with L’objectif’s most recent single, ‘The Dance You Sell’. They left the stage amid lots of cheering from their fans, friends and family.
Whilst walking around the guest area, James and I had the delight of meeting Jedward. The Irish duo, best known for their time on X Factor (and their fabulous hairstyles), chatted with us about their experience competing in Eurovision, as well as how they were feeling about their upcoming set at Leeds Festival. The pair were lovely and made sure that they could make time to chat with fans and fellow artists.
Later in the day, we saw the headline act for Main Stage West, The 1975, who were celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut album The 1975 by playing it in full during their time at Reading and Leeds. The band headlined the festival in 2022 and were not meant to play this year, but stepped in to replace Lewis Capaldi after the Scottish singer announced his break from touring earlier this year.
Originally released in 2013, the debut album contains hits such as ‘Chocolate’, ‘Girls’ and ‘Sex’, which defined an era of music for people of all ages, but specifically spoke to teenagers of the time. Over the past year however, The 1975 have taken the world by storm, following the release of their fifth album Being Funny In A Foreign Language, which led to their ‘At Their Very Best’ tour.
As well as their debut album, the band from Wilmslow played songs from all four of their other albums, but a clear crowd-pleaser was ‘The Sound’. The song came directly after a fan shouted “play ‘The Sound’!” and lead singer Matty Healy teased the crowd by raising his hand to his ear as if to ask what that “sound” was. I was expecting that they would put on a good show, after seeing them live during their 'Music For Cars' Tour in 2020, and they did not disappoint.
To end the day, and the festival as a whole, we watched The Killers. They were the perfect closing act, playing songs from the entirety of their 22 years together including ‘Your Side of Town’ which they debuted the night before at Reading. Thousands of people piled to see the Las Vegas band and for good reasons, as they brought such enthusiasm to Main Stage East. As someone who is not an avid fan of The Killers but can appreciate their music, I was blown away by the stage presence of Brandon Flowers. He brought such liveliness to his performance which reflected his passion for the songs he was singing.
Some favourites of mine from the set included their Grammy nominated singles ‘Somebody Told Me’ and ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ alongside ‘When You Were Young’, which all received roars from the crowd reciting every lyric. As well as these, the encore was a highlight of the whole day, beginning with ‘The Man’ and followed by ‘Human’. Of course, to round up the entire experience was a song so detrimental to British culture that every single person screamed the lyrics two times: ‘Mr Brightside’. To start, the band played a more stripped back version of the song, almost as if they were easing everyone into what was to come. Then, after the first chorus ended they restarted and jumped into the classic rock song we all know and love.
Overall, the Sunday of Leeds Festival was not one I will forget and I would definitely love to go again. A big thank you to the URY Music Team, who made the day even more enjoyable and for making the experience possible.