27th-29th July | The Wyldes, Cornwall
Photo: Phil Watson
There’s nothing better on a summer’s evening than being shouted at in a field by Joe Talbot of IDLES. That may sound counter-intuitive, but if you were at Leopallooza, near Bude, on Saturday 28th July, you’d know what I mean. The self-proclaimed ‘House Party In A Field’ (as was its origin, thirteen years ago) opened its doors to the most urbane punks you can find and they reciprocated that invitation with a performance that was generous in energy and rich in humanity.
Returning to a festival for a second year running (as I was) always leads to comparisons, so a 2017 vs 2018 Top Trumps pack would have winning scores for – 2017’s rain, 2018’s gales, 2017’s Main Stage and 2018’s Second Stage. You’d be splitting hairs to differentiate between the community spirit at either one, as both were hugely friendly and relaxed, despite this year’s weather getting carried away and trying to build its part up, thinking we had all gathered for Gustonbury or Festival No. (Gale Force) 6.
On their most recent track, ‘Samaritans’, IDLES deliver the line, “That is why you’ll never see your father cry.” Whereas there seemed to be a few teenagers hoping that Tom Grennan would come back on and making “What’s this shit?” faces during their set, the vast majority of us, including many Dads having sudden, emotional, middle-aged epiphanies, were riveted by Joe’s impassioned sincerity and Bobo channelling Freddie Mercury’s moves.
Leopallooza didn’t solely belong to Bristol this year, but if we’re playing Top Trumps again, then Keir Version 2018 inexplicably beats the 2017 iteration. That’s an unexpected outcome, as his Second Stage set last year was captivating, yet in 2018, he filled the entire Main Stage with his charismatic presence and vocal mastery. At the end of Sunday night, once the main arena has gone to bed, the scheduling of Roni Size to headline The Treeline Stage provided those who couldn’t bear for the party to end the chance to take the festival well into Monday.
Of the headline acts, Public Service Broadcasting made Friday night complete. In the same way that you might expect the intensity of IDLES to dissipate in an open-air arena (it doesn’t) you could be cynical in wondering what a set that relies on samples and AV might seem like in a field. Similarly, how much would a gin-soaked crowd, who’d giddily hit the bar with day-one over-excitement buy into the race for space or the demise of the South Wales coal industry? Worriers, as is often the case, needn’t to have worried. PSB were accomplished and intriguing.
St Paul and the Broken Bones seemed the ideal act to bring Sunday to its peak. Paul Janeway could probably sing you the Shipping Forecast or the minutes of the most tedious meeting you’ve ever been trapped in and make it sound like a spiritual experience. Conversely, Kelis’ Saturday night appearance seemed phoned-in. Considering the effect her milkshake is supposed to have on those nearby, her performance was too much a case of Skimmed UHT/Nesquik.
Ratboy reminded us entertainingly of the benefits of ‘Fake ID’. Bryde showed us how quickly she can veer from fragile to ferocious. Velvet Hands gravitated from indoors to the outdoor stages this year, proof enough that they are on the rise. Rue and Milo Gore represented Cornwall most notably. Rue made Sunday afternoon feel more like a chilled Saturday night from the Second Stage, whereas Milo Gore’s indie-folk was multi-layered and thoughtful on the BBC Cornwall Introducing Stage. Repping Dorset with one of the stand-out sets of the weekend was Gris-De-Lin, steeped in many decades of musical history, but very much fresh and current.
Permitted across the border from Devon, Moriaty opened the festival on Friday with their indie-blues. Apre reminded us that it is now nearly the twenties, so it is possible to be nostalgic about the sounds of the noughties as well as the 80s with their synth-soaked indie-pop. Putting Hull’s sweet and tender hooligans, Life on three hours before IDLES gave us a taste of the heady magic to come. Her’s were so personably daft and infectious that even the most confirmed grammar pedant would forgive them that apostrophe.
The Mono tent was like an ear enema, the most cleansing set coming from Pins, who were scheduled against PSB on the Friday night, but got the approval they deserved from those who attended. Swedish Death Candy and Hello Operator made the Earth move and if you wanted a truly obliterating end to the festival, Graveltones were the people to empty your tank, good and proper.
If you’re at all sceptical about festivals, then book in for Leopallooza 2019 and be willing for it to change your perspective. I’ll be back.