Festival Review: OnRoundhay

Leeds is a hub of live music; there’s always an exciting gig to go to somewhere in the area. The new one-day festival OnRoundhay, partnered with John Lewis, was very well-received by students and locals alike. The atmosphere was family-friendly, and the sunshine gave everything a summery glow, lifting everyone’s spirits (in fact, a lot of the new festival’s success seems owed to beautiful weather). Held in Roundhay Park, it was laid out like any other UK festival; plenty of bespoke food stalls, numerous bars with pricey pints, colourful decor, a children’s area and the main stage. However, OnRoundhay was a better mix of relaxed and chaotic than many of its competitors. There were people of all ages, young couples, families, groups of friends, and each demographic was offered everything from John Lewis cooking demonstrations to a Beatrix Potter children’s show.

   I caught Wolf Alice’s set in the early evening, watching and listening with indifference. I was left uninspired and still indifferent. There’s been a huge buzz around the London four-piece in the past couple of years, so understandably, there were a lot of avid fans milling round the stage, or on each other’s shoulders. Beginning with Your Love’s Whore, the band appeared bored and nonchalant, but picked up the pace with the brooding You’re A Germ. They played their hit singles, including Giant Peach, Freazy, Bros, even some earlier repertoire from the Creature Songs EP. Moaning Lisa Smile was energetic and enjoyable, although missing Ellie’s overdubbed harmonies, giving the song a real lift on record. However, there was something about them that felt uncomfortably out of place. Wolf Alice belong in smaller, enclosed venues, playing to die-hard indie kids. They’re not for families or seasoned music fans, waiting patiently on 90s behemoths James and Primal Scream.

   The thing about Wolf Alice is they’re pretending to be something they’re not. They convey themselves as the laid-back, coked-up saviours of indie, as music for the cool kids with naughty words in. In reality, they’re tame and laughably inoffensive. That being said, lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s voice is undeniably good, certainly used to her advantage. She has a knack for crafting beautiful melodies, applying a hearty helping of reverb to compliment them. This somewhat makes up for, but doesn’t excuse, her annoying growling and adopted American accent.

   Although Wolf Alice are forgettable and noncommittal to live performance, it was a lovely atmosphere, providing an opportunity for young children to enjoy live music for maybe the first time.

   Nineties club legend DJ Dave Beer took to stage after Wolf Alice, teasing the crowd with the opening line of Primal Scream’s Loaded. He quickly segued into his fantastic playlist, including Inner City’s Good Life and White Lines, alongside an impressive selection of techno and house.

    Primal Scream swaggered and half-skipped onto stage to cheers of BOBBY!, as the opening bars of Movin’ On Upimmediately invigorating the crowd with 90s nostalgia. This blistering opener gave precedent for the entire set, with dancing and singing through every song. Gillespie introduced a backing singer for Where The Light Gets In (their collaboration with Sky Ferreira), a disappointment due to an underwhelming chorus. The vocalist provided backing for the rest of the set, although seemed surplus to requirement with Gillespie carrying the entire performance.

   Bobby and co knew what the crowd wanted and certainly obliged. Gillespie didn’t hesitate to announce some songs from their seminal album Screamadelica. Damaged was definitely a highlight. Bobby really showcased his half-lazy, half-impassioned vocal style here, with everyone emotionally singing along. This gave the otherwise heart-wrenching song a rather uplifting feel. Guitarist Andrew Innes supplied controlled, virtuosic solos while the rest of the band stayed impressively tight. The graphics, which flashed up on the screens behind them, were psychedelic and colourful as you might expect: swirling patterns, eyes, geometric designs, all morphing into the strange little creature from Screamadelica’s iconic cover. These paired beautifully with the gorgeous sunset, which occurred during their most well-loved songs.

   Primal Scream also unleashed acid-house steamroller Higher Than The Sun, alongside tracks from latest release Chaosmosis, 100% Or Nothing and Trippin’ On Your Love. The undeniable highlights, though predictable, were the classics Loaded, Rocks and of course finale Come Together. After giving up drugs, Gillespie initially struggled with self-confidence issues, feeling he didn’t know how to perform sober. There was no sign of that here. Bobby was brimming with confidence and full of life, gracefully flitting across the stage as he sang. Come Together brought band and audience together in unified elation – a joyous moment and a pleasure to behold. The simplistic magnificence genuinely bowled me over, and left everyone in a euphoric mood.

   The key positive aspect of the brand-new OnRoundhay Festival was just the atmosphere – definitely a brilliant day out with family or friends. Hopefully this warmth will ensure its success in years to come.

Zia Larty-Healy

(Image: Crash Records)

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