The final moments of this year's Leeds Carling Weekend saw two port-a-loos up in flames and 300 festival-goers clashing with police. But considering those numbers, that no serious injuries were reported and only five people were arrested were two more spots of fortune for an event that has benefited from good timing all year.
Most people are more familiar with Leeds' sister site in Reading, but from here on out the two festivals will be thought of on the same level. Leeds nabbed Guns n' Roses for their first U.K. show in nearly a decade, not to mention a performance from Foo Fighters, a band that has lately seemed like Dave Grohl's side project. A British DJ was even spreading rumors that the Foos' gig here last night would be their last together. Not true. But maybe that did explain why, on Friday morning, we were stuck on the motorway in a traffic jam fifty-thousand strong. No one wanted to miss this, whatever it was or wasn't.
Friday, August 23rd
2:20 p.m.: The tent finally set up next to some people from Liverpool and our valuables safely stored in the car, we make our way to main stage. The Slipknot t-shirt count is already at a whopping seventy-four. Puddle of Mudd, Fred Durst's, er, "Nirvana," as he calls them, are jock-rocking away, so we use the opportunity to call up a friend back home, eight hours behind and wake her up with Wes Scantlin singing "Can you take it all away -- hey!" She hangs up on us.
4.40 p.m.: Apparently no one in England knows any Incubus songs at all. Guitarist Mike Einziger later tells us this is an unfounded observation, since they've sold out London venues that hold 15,000. We want to tell him that the Teletubbies have too, but we refrain from doing so. Brandon eventually takes off his shirt, and three girls swoon.
6:00 p.m.: F**k, Bas***d, People = Sh**, man. Slipknot are back in the masks and boiler-suits on and its time to Rock! Or go to the bar, which, thanks to the band's appalling large following, is now completely empty. Pints rule!
9:00 p.m.: We arrange to meet Dexter Holland backstage to quiz him on the new record, but he's running late because he's gone on a food-finding mission. Incubus who we met earlier in the evening had several plates of freshly cut sandwiches, crates of beer and bottled water in their trailer. So when we finally barge our way into Offspring's dressing room, we are curious why their goodies table is noticeably bare. Dexter eats some chips, no fish, with salt. How very punk rock.
11:10 p.m.: Missed the Prodigy but we heard their dad-dance was as uninspiring and dated as it was at Coachella. Since Offspring forget to take their backstage pass from us we stick around to see if we can spot Axl Rose and confirm those rumors about his hair (you know which ones we mean). Security step in to stop us and everyone else on either side of the stage from moving as they clear a path behind the main arena. Offspring, Slipknot, Incubus and various stagehands are caught up in the cattle stall. Twenty angry minutes go by before finally two funeral-style black cars drive up. Axl, dressed in a black football jersey with the number 99 on it, black pants and a red bandana gets out and makes his way up the staircase toward the stage. The VIP's start booing him. Some throw beer cans. Axl waves at us like the pope and runs on stage.
11.30 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.: "Welcome to the Jungle" is how Gn'R start their set, an hour and a half late. They play all the hits: "You Could Be Mine," "Live and Let Die," "November Rain," "Sweet Child of Mine," and a few of the new ones which are slightly electronic. Lucky for us they get back to the rest of the hits fairly quickly.
Buckethead, the new guitarist, wears a bucket on his head, a creepy white mask and swings his unusually long facial hair. The new bassist jumps around in a prison style suit and Axl's rocks his red dreads which Liz, a Slipknot fan from Liverpool, claims are made of cat hair. At one point someone from the pit shouts, "Where's Slash?" to Axl. "Where's Slash," he replies. "He's up my ass."
Saturday, August 24th
12:00 p.m.: The great thing about these British music festivals is no matter what the weatherman tells you, he's always wrong. He told us to expect light showers, but about a minute into the drizzle, mother nature decides to have a little, no, a lot of fun, tossing the wet stuff down in buckets. Some dull British girl rock band is on the main stage, so we shrug it off and make a beeline for dryness under the VIP bar. So have the Lo Fidelity Allstars, various unknown members of British indie bands (the hair horrors!) and the Breeders' Kim Deal, who asks us about Gn'R last night. We direct her to "G," a hatted man who doesn't want anyone to know he video taped Axl and co.'s performance, unless of course that person is famous.
3:00 p.m.: The Dandy Warhols, who are over here so much they might as well be British, jump the main stage. We'd like to hear the new stuff they've done with Duran Duran, but they stick to the hits like "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth."
3:35 p.m.: Jack and Meg White Stripe are attempting to fill a field with the sounds of one guitar and a drum kit. They can't, so we walk over to the Evening Session stage to see all methods of mayhem break loose for New Found Glory. As it turns out British kids are just like American kids when it comes to this wall bouncing, tattoo ridden, agro, punk rock as all manner of skate gear, wallet chains and various limbs go flying about the arena.
3:45 p.m.: It's a regular old mud bath, but we trek up the hill to see V2's new signings, kiwi band the Datsuns. The New Zealand four-piece have yet to be convincing on record. But live, in their lunchbox-revealing trousers, they charge through "Lady," "Mother Fucker From Hell," and "Supergyration," like Led Zeppelin on a speedball.
8:00 p.m.: We've got booze in the car, so we're head back to the car park when Eric, a campsite pal, runs up to us fresh from the main stage. "Jane's Addiction! Oh my fucking god!" is all he can muster before passing out.
9:45 p.m.: Last year the Strokes played this stage mid-day, but tonight they are headlining. We're wondering how much longer they can sell records on the back of being young, beautiful and in fashion. We give it another album and head off to find Aphex Twin.
Sunday, August 25th
10 a.m.: We've been instructed by our lawyers that for legal reasons we cannot reveal what happened last night, back at the campsite, after the show. But we can tell you a little bit: There is one less boom box blasting disturbingly bad dance music at 4 a.m. We can also tell you that you that on the path to the communal showers, we are dodging many multi-colored patches of puke. Not all of them are ours.
1.30 p.m.: Andrew WK starts off his set with that song from the beer commercial. A few songs into it those fickle Brits who so lauded the Motor City man in white turn on his flavor-of-the-month status. WK gives props to one guy holding up a sign that says "Andrew WK: Party Hard," until the guy turns it around to reveal the word "Wanker."
4:30 p.m.: They festival crew have put down piles of straw in order to save people from the mud baths of yesterday, so we slosh through it to the main stage for those suit-donning Swedes the Hives. Howlin' Pelle tells us everything else at the festival was an appetizer and they are the main course. They play about ten songs, with a pause between each one while Pelle waits for the crowd to appease his ego with their cheers. Despite the fact their black suits blend them into the stage, they're pretty good.
9:30 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.: The Foo Fighters are not playing their last gig together. But they are playing with a kid dressed as Spider-Man. It's sort of fun. But as it is the last night, people are drinking in excess and trouble is brewing. A group of hooligans, obscenely drunk, knock over what are now some thoroughly vile toilets. They then set them alight, the smell of three-day-old, burning feces wafting through the air. Law enforcement ensues. We come out unscathed.
Back again next year? You better believe it.