Due to work being bastards (and the fact I won’t camp because it’s a fucking disgusting way to live) I missed Friday at Leeds, forever known as the day “The fucking Used” played, but was there with a vengence for the final two days. The toilets were fucking rank, the beer overpriced piss and the ¶œ4 burgers a disgrace. Oh, and the ¶œ6 cardboard pizza is best left unspoken about. But then it wouldn’t be Leeds if you weren’t ripped off to high heaven. Still, the switch to Bramham Park was a success, people behaved and the sun shone. So much so that we all got burnt.

Saturday started with a trip to the main stage to see BOWLING FOR SOUP, an obvious start to the day really because with the sun beating down so much no-brainer pop-punk was really the order of the day. If it had been done well that is. Instead BFS ran through their predictable fare with the usual penis gags, making sunbathing a far more worthwhile option. The singles went down well, getting the crowd to do raspberries instead of cheering wasn’t. ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’ and ‘Summer Of 69′ were ok – but I get the impression that the band are only attracting attention now because they have a fat guitarist and funny videos. (4)

Last year FINCH opened the Radio 1 stage – how far they’ve come in a year. Totally deserving of their part on the bill, the Temecula quintet walked on stage and pounded the life out of a largely unsuspecting audience. Looking fresher than they did on their last UK tour, the band ran through their more aggressive songs which may not have won that many new fans over, but certainly did thrill those singing along with fervour at the front. ‘What It Is To Burn’ starts things off, ‘Worms of the Universe’ takes things to a heavier level but the closing ‘Project Mayhem’ is just punishing. There’s no ‘Letters To You’ which is surprising but two other new songs are aired too – ‘Bitemarks and Bloodstains’ sounds a little like Glassjaw but still sounds like Finch. A good but not great set, the new material makes the next record highly anticipated. (8)

While Finch played pretty much to their fans, LESS THAN JAKE gave the perfect festival set for all. There are songs from every LTJ generation and all the classics are present and correct, from ‘All My Best Things Are Metalheads’ to songs from the new album. Chris and Roger have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands, even getting kids to get on each others shoulders in the pit at the front. Kids are skanking everywhere and there are smiles on nearly everyones face. ‘Plastic Cup Politics’ was the highlight for me – blue skies+LTJ=fantastic festival fun. (9)

A trip back to the campsite, some food and some drink later and the band I wanted to catch the most were about ready to hit the stage. It’s been three years, but welcome back BLINK 182. Not much has changed – Mark and Tom still can’t play and neither can sing that well, but fuck, there’s something about them which makes them untouchable. The lack of old material was a big downer, with only ‘Dammit’ being aired pre-Enema, but still the old magic is there. Opening with ‘Family Reunion’ and running straight into ‘What’s My Age Again’, the jokes are there and the Blink we’ve all come to love are back. ‘First Date’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me’ are massive and even the three new songs show the band still have it. ‘Go’ is old Blink, ‘Action’ – complete with dual vocals – sounds like Boxcar Racer. They promise to be back soon and I for one cannot wait. (9)

And so on to Sunday and straight to the Concrete Jungle stage. The orgainsers made a bit of a boob plonking it in the smallest stage possible and the crowd for FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND carries on for over 20 rows outside. I think this is what a Kerrang front cover and the new “best band in the world” tag does for you. Even though their vocalist can’t sing because of Glanduleur Fever, the band rock the stage with abandon and while it’s currently cool to hate FFAF (see Lostprophets in early 2002) there’s no doubting they do what they do very well. ‘Juneaux’ obviously gets the best reception, this time next year they will be on the main stage. Guaranteed. (8)

KING PRAWN are missed in favour of food and drink (and the fact I’ve seen them before and think they’re overated) but I do catch a little of CAVE IN who sound really good. I didn’t see enough to score them, but will certainly get round to checking them out more. THRICE fucking rock. Despite the fact that the sound is a little weak, making Dustin Kensrue‘s roar a bit ineffective, the band win a lot of fans. Basing their set around their new record ‘The Artist In The Ambulance’, the tent is pretty packed and plenty of people are singing along. ‘Under A Killing Moon’ is the highlight for me, although the new album’s title track ran it close. I don’t think (although I may be wrong) that they played ‘Deadbolt’ though… (8)

I missed POISON THE WELL but THE MOVIELIFE were fucking amazing. From the first bars to the last Vinnie Caruana has a massive smile on his face and that is because the crowd, one of the smallest of the day, is singing along with every word. The NY quintet are all over the stage and appear to be having the time of their lives. Even if their new material is more pop than anything else, ‘I Hope You Die Soon’ and ‘This Time Next Year‘ keep us old-skool fans happy. ‘Hand Grenade’ and ‘Kelly’s Song’ get big singalongs and Vinnie just keeps on smiling. I wasn’t going to see them in October for various reasons, but now I’ll bust my balls to try and make it. They deserve to be bigger than they are for sure. (8.5)

I’ve always thought BOY SETS FIRE were good but not great and today they prove my theory. Tracks like ‘My Life In The Knife Trade’ are immense but at others they don’t really stand out for me. Being political is all well and good but I personally feel the band preach a little too much – sure, get your message across but don’t tell me what’s wrong. Inform me…there’s a big difference. Anyway, I stood for two songs and then sat outside the tent having a beer. It sounded ok…but not great. (7)

I don’t like TURBONEGRO so used the opportunity to fuel up in prepartion for the MAD CADDIES who as usual didn’t disappoint. As LTJ had done the day before, their set was perfect for the conditions. The band thrive on their audience and to see a stupidly rammed tent go off repeatedly for songs from their back catalogue was a highlight. ‘Monkeys’ always goes down well, but the best parts for me were plenty of tracks from ‘Duck and Cover’. Sun+ska=fun. (8.5)

When I saw ALKALINE TRIO in 2001 they rocked my socks off and so I was eagerly anticpating their set. Sadly they were the biggest disappointment of the weekend for me. Alk3 were boring, hardly interacted and played far too much stuff from their new record. Weirdly they mostly ignored songs from their ‘From Here To Infirmary Opus’, ‘Private Eye’ aside which isn’t the album’s best song. There was no ‘Radio’ or ‘Fuck You Aurora‘ either and after 20 mins I’d had enough. An off day perhaps, but very, very disappointing. (6)

On the other hand THE ATARIS couldn’t have been more exciteable if they’d tried. Opening with ‘Your Boyfriend Sucks’ they played a really festival-friendly set that took in everything you’d want to hear. Kris was in playful mood and the crowd just wanted to sing. And sing they did. There are too many highlights to mention really – ‘So Long Astoria‘, ‘Make It Last’, ‘Boys Of Summer’, ‘Summer Wind…’ every moment was a high point. I’ve seen The Ataris several times now and it was the best they’ve ever played – fucking intense at times. Kudos to Kris for stopping ‘San Dimas’ while some security guard was panning the shit out of a crowdsurfer, give a man some power and he’ll no doubt abuse it. Still, for me it was the set of the weekend – they were the only band I saw to have people chanting for an encore… (9.5)

On such a high after that I went for even more food and drink before catching the end of HUNDRED REASONS. Solid as always, the five songs I did catch included a hilarious version of Green Day‘s ‘All BY Myself’. ‘If I Could’ is still great mind, but I got the impression that too many bands had already upstaged them and compared to The Ataris…well, there was no comparison. (7)

And with that I went home. Yep, I missed AFI, Pennywise and Lagwagon, but I’ve seen the latter two a couple of times before so I wasn’t too disappointed. Best news was that the fires and riots were avoided, although if I’d had to wrestle with the trench of shit and piss known as the toilet again I probably would have instigated a ruckus. Great fun, great weather…can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Reviews of Reading from Ben and Ross’ view of Leeds will appear later this week.

Paul