Mud larks as music fans show Northern grit in rain

PIC: Mark Bickerdike
PIC: Mark Bickerdike
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After two days of downpours and storms, the Leeds Festival 2013 came to an explosive, if muddy, finish with a day of sunshine and a phenomenal headline set from American hip hop superstar Eminem.

Conditions over the weekend had been far from ideal after thunderstorms began lashing Bramham Park on Thursday evening, flooding parts of the site and reducing much of the stately home’s grounds to a muddy quagmire.

Inclement weather is very much par for the course at the Leeds Festival, however, and organisers did what they could to soak up the rain with woodchip and bales of straw laid out around the main walkways.

However, few of the 80,000 music fans who had signed up for the weekend were going to let a bit of rain spoil their party.

The festival has increasingly become a reward for the area’s youths following the exam period and as such there were thousands of teenagers fresh from their GCSEs and A-Levels and desperate to have a good time.

Yesterday was the first day of the festival weekend to escape any significant downpour, unlike the Friday and Saturday when rain pounded the site, prompting health and safety warnings from police for those travelling on muddy wet roads.

When rays of sunshine shone down on Bramham Park in the early afternoon, music fans let out loud cheers from all corners.

The biggest act of the day was Eminem, headlining the festival for the first time since 2001.

Taking the stage in his trademark hooded jacket, the 40-year-old rapper tore through a set that began with his new single Survival before playing a mixture of old a new material over the 90 minute set.

Earlier in the day British indie band Foals played a highly energetic set on the Main Stage, with their hit singles Inhaler and Spanish Sahara getting rowdy receptions from the muddy revellers.

Another highlight came on the BBC Radio One/NME stage when former Smiths guitarist and songwriter Johnny Marr performed a solo set.

Predictably the biggest cheers of the day came for the Smiths numbers he played, including Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before and There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.

An overnight storm and torrential downpours had blighted Saturday, turning vast areas of the arena and campsites into swamps.

Wellies were no match for the quaqmire as bedraggled festival-goers waded through floodwater that was in places more than a foot deep.

The covered stages were crammed from the afternoon as revellers took shelter under their canopies, leaving only the most hardcore fans watching Bring Me The Horizon and Frank Turner on the main stage during one particularly heavy shower.

And even inside the tents the rain threatened to steal the acts’ thunder as it pelted down so violently at one point that many in the crowds turned their backs on the stage to watch the weather instead. While the most enthusiastic fans refused to let the soggy conditions dampen their spirits, there were some who admitted defeat and trudged home early.

Among those queuing for the shuttle bus back to the city centre at 6.30pm were Warrington couple Chris Cotterill, 19, and Jasmine Davies, 17.

The pair who came to see Green Day, left two hours before the headline set began.

Taking off his boots and emptying out a good litre of water from each, Chris said: “As soon as we came we wanted to go home.”

Jasmine added: “Never, ever, ever again.”

American punk rock act Green Day paid tribute to British rock legends The Who, whose classic live album Live at Leeds was recorded in the refractory hall of Leeds University. Playing a brief segment of My Generation they then launched into the London band’s mini ‘rock opera’ A Quick One While He’s Away.

Returning to their own material they performed their classic 1994 album Dookie in its entirety, much to the delight of the tens if thousands of enraptured, if somewhat soggy fans, leading frontman Billie-Joe Armstrong to praise them as “much louder than Reading” where they had performed the previous evening.

There was also a strong set from American metal act System of a Down, returning to Leeds Festival for the first time since 2003. Singer Serj Tankian told the crowd the band “loved it here in the North” and surprised many by covering parts of Donna Summer’s seventies disco hit I Feel Love during their own number, Psycho.

Reading and Leeds festival organiser Melvin Benn said he thought that the annual event had gone extremely well at both sites though the weather in Leeds had been a challenge.

“There’s no doubt it was biblical really on Friday and it was there to test whether the crowd was truly Northern or not,” he said. “They demonstrated that they were and they put two fingers up to the weather and said ‘you’re not going to beat us’, they stayed the course.”