Backstage video: Glastonbury mud and rain makes it a Leeds Festival to remember

VETERANS of music festivals said they had been through worse openings than the Leeds Festival experienced - but surely not many and not much worse.

A dark grey day moved into steady drizzle before a note had been played and stayed there.

By mid-afternoon, even some of the veterans were giving up and going home.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But there were plenty young enough not to care too much about being soaked, as long as bands were playing and beer was flowing and there were a thousand small parties going on back in the tiny tents which made up the campsites around the arena at Bramham Park.

You had to be below a certain age to understand what was happening. There were seven stages, for one thing - dividing the audience up into subtly graded special interests.

To distinguish between them, you had to be able to read a list of obscure bands like a crossword puzzler recognising clues - or to be able to recognise your particular tribe at a glance, even under polythene ponchos.

The rain confused everything too. The main stage offered its audience no shelter so people crowded into the tents for no better reason than they happened to be passing when the wetness got wetter.

In the venue run by Radio 1 and New Musical Express, there were people who had no idea who was the burly balding American on stage, stripped to the waist to show off his beer belly and tattoos.

He was the lead singer of an outfit whose name is unlikely to get past the editor of the Yorkshire Post - a punk version of Rather Mixed Up, put it that way.

For those old enough, everything was an echo of another decade. The singer in question summoned up the spirit of 1978, for example, by telling his audience: “You can all be in a band and you all should be. It’s the easiest job in the world.”

A bedraggled steward explained: “This tent is sort of punky while the main stage is more mainstream but tomorrow the main stage is going punker and this will be a bit more indie.”

All the guidance sounded like that. The Lock Up tent was “sort of hard-core moving towards dance”. The Alternative Tent was doing comedy - not all of it funny, but at least you knew where you were.

On the main stage, Frank Turner, an old Etonian successfully relaunched from the demise of a band called Million Dead, was looking a bit like Bruce Springsteen and sounding a bit like Billy Bragg. He was a hit at Leeds in 2008 and was going down very well yesterday, considering the conditions.

A girl with a ring in her nose said he was quite good but some of the acts were a bit too pop. “It used to be a lot more alternative here - it was somewhere to come to get away from all the chavs who are now coming back to it.”

They all used the chav word without shame. But whether there was more chavvery or less depended on who your mates were.

Except everyone agreed it was less chav than it was when the Leeds Festival actually took place in Leeds and was a distinctly edgy occasion. Out here, it was a bit more Glastonbury.

“You can bump into somebody and it doesn’t matter,” summed up Rachel Warwick, from Leicestershire, who had come with her husband.

To older generations, one striking thing was how peripheral Radio 1 now is in terms of setting the agenda. A lot of people were checking out bands they had found or been sent links to on the internet. A party from Newcastle were going to make a point of catching up with a Leeds band, Pulled Apart By Horses, which they came across that way.

Another striking thing was how much everyone had spent - £200 for the weekend, including camping fees, in many cases. Richard Crackle, 22, a computing student from Chesterfield, said that took his spend on festival attendance up to £500 so far this year ... “because it’s awesome to see live bands and that’s what I like to do”.

Friday’s headline acts were Muse and Elbow. Saturday builds up to My Chemical Romance.

Sunday has Pulp, The Strokes, The National, Madness and Seasick Steve. And all the time, on the BBC Introduction Stage, unsigned bands, mainly local, play away in the hope of catching somebody’s ear.