The Carling Weekend Leeds Festival 2001
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The Carling Weekend / Temple Newsam, Leeds / Bank Holiday Weekend Leeds Festival

In its third year as sister to the inordinately bigger, grittier, smellier, more aggressive and bruise-inducingly legendary end-of-summer rock-knees-up that is Reading. The polite younger colloquial sibling if you will. But as the cliché goes, it's the quiet ones you've to watch.

So the festival winds down on Sunday night under a metaphorical mushroom cloud of blistering white noise, unsteadiness, verve, carnage and calm courtesy of the mightier-than-thou Mogwai and some surprisingly pleasant back-catalogue pillaging from the Manic St Preachers. The kids diffuse contently into the campsite, drain their last few tins of piss-weak lager and then proceed to kick the unholy fuck out of anything not pinned down too tightly. And those things that are soon enough find themselves burnt to an inconsequential pile of ash. Amateur anarchy ahoy!

Flames reach ridiculous heights, the sky gets choked with the quite real mammoth mushroom plumes of retching chemical-toilet fumes and the riot police show their highly protected faces, run about for a bit, have things lobbed at them and then piss off. The fire brigade reportedly refuses to come out. People run for their lives (or at least trundle homewards a tad disgruntled). It's somewhere between Apocalypse Now, the May Day riots, medieval war and Friday night in Bradford. Entertaining enough if you were out of the danger zones, and full marks to the man pitched by Crud who slammed 'Firestarter' onto his stereo the moment the first toilet block went up. Show your face man, we want to buy you a pint.

As utterly overshadowing as this was though we never feared for our lives watching the likes of PJ Harvey, and for that at least we shall remember the music. Not that we'd have probably minded going during the West Country goddesses' slinky clutch of sparse 'n' dirty groves, performed as though she felt at least as sexy as she clearly looked. And following Iggy Pop, a man who must feel little more than a slight pulse these days and looks little better, but still manages to put on the punk gig of the weekend, had to make for pairing of the festival. And hey, both managed to take to the stage after The Strokes, so life must go on, yes?

Incidentally, The Strokes - granted promotion to the main stage following the ridiculous media frenzy of the past few weeks - started off shaky, finished a lot better, impressed a few people, but not once looked like the future of rock 'n' roll. Much better were acerbic London four piece Ikara Colt who themselves packed in the thriftstore cool and new-wave jaggedness, along with the bluster of The Fall and the single most frantic shit-kicking mental drummer of the festival. NYC's other must-have-a-peep of the weekend, Moldy Peaches, in contrast didn't really falter, making you giggle like a child to their unashamedly adolescent humour delivered in the style of Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson via Kim Deal. Cute. On the comeback trail a couple of men whose back catalogues undoubtedly feature in collections of more than a few acts on this weekend's bill fare rather differently. On the main stage Frank Black may display an ever expanding girth, though that's not to say he's making any more room for rock in there. Sounding like 4th-on-the-bill-at-the-Bell-&-Whistle-Sunday-night-blues, even a strained 'Gouge Away' isn't enough to keep us there. And when King Adora grab the Pixies blueprint a day earlier, throwing it at Slade with a fistful of sexually ambiguity and sounding completely fucking nuclear for it, the artist formally known as Black Francis should feel very pathetic indeed. On the second stage however Evan Dando refuses to do anything other than shine. All the classics tumble forth, he's retained his cool, looks healthier than ever and still possesses a voice that could turn a Papa Roach fan to the light. And the new songs breathe with all the harmonic comfort they deserve. Though Marilyn Manson may have put on the rock show of this particular scribe's life and Papa Roach somehow pulled off looking credibly scarred for about 5 minutes, Run DMC ruled, Xzibit pulled the punches (despite constantly referring to us as "London!") and Eminem hit the spot with his D12 rabble regardless of playing it disappointingly straight himself, the real gems were found nurturing their strikes with much more elegance.

Mercury Rev brought the first day to a close with the most otherworldly grandeur imaginable, soaring through the dream-world showcased on the new album, drizzled with emotional peaks and troughs, all directed by the demonic conducting of Jonathan Donahue. And 'Goddess On A Highway' still just can't be beaten. Up on the comparatively microscopic Carling Stage, former 'Rev keyboardist Justin Russo steered Hopewell to more familiar but worthy peaks with an impassioned cry. Lowgold made a tatty but welcoming run through the gentle melodic pop of their 'Just Backward Of Square' album and as a reminder that twee indie never dies Teenage Fanclub proved that while they may not be going up anymore, they certainly ain't going down.

But it was Elbow that stood arms and shoulders above all else. Manchester's driving atmospheric youngblood pack out an early evening second stage and reward with the sound of belief, confusion, anger (and that's anger, not teenage angst), ecstasy and completion finding its slipstream. Guy Garvey swings from serenity to force ten emotion with a voice so powerful and genuine you never question a word that falls from it. As the horns join the furious march at the end of 'Coming Second' it's overwhelming and 'Newborn' climaxes like it could never be followed. As Crud finally settles down with the sound of war cries and the world crackling around our very ears there's at least the memory of that sound. And the two compliment each other beautifully.

In Brief… Queens Of The Stone Age did what they had to do… Lo Fidelity Allstars pumped their dirty big beats with intensity, but on the main stage in daylight (?)… Gay Dad seem to have fought out of their over-packaging and turned up the heat… The Cooper Temple Clause were a bit tidier round the edges than usual but still gave it in spades… Terris returned with their chaotic punk drive refusing to wane… Voy's bomb-laden intrinsic indie blew away the cobwebs with might… Vex Red, Ross Robinson's Brit nu-metallers, took all the hype and actually made some sense of it… Boyhitscar and Hed (PE) suffered terribly from trying to make nu-metal funky… Staind were, well, they don't really deserve the words… Supergrass are about one of the greatest pop bands we've ever spawned, and that didn't change here… Ash were Ash, only with dancing girls, which was probably a good thing… Ad Rock's BS2000 lifted the roof off the second stage with retro electronica Beastie style… Mull Historical Society grated where they could have flown… Folk Implosion, with a restrained but tetchy Lou Barlow, were warm and fuzzy and lovely… Trail Of Dead thankfully brought the tunes to match the drama… Travis, with that special Fran Factor, rolled out the rockers and went for it, in a nice way… Eels swung all over the place but a creeping cover of 'Get UR Freak On' dragged in the points… Fun Lovin Criminals did what they had to do…

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2-4-7-MUSIC.COM 2009

STILL refusing to dumb it down.