LEEDS, England Tens of thousands of people came here over
the weekend for a festival that had its roots in the 1960s. The event
lasted three days, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were onstage when it
ended Monday night.
But there ended the similarities with Woodstock '99, which culminated
a month earlier in Rome, N.Y., with a Chili Peppers set followed by a
riot. Organizers and police said the Reading/Leeds Festival
with an all-star lineup of bands, led by Offspring, Blur and the
Charlatans, playing from Friday to Sunday in Reading and from Saturday
to Monday in Leeds was unusually mellow.
"The police were saying it was the lowest crime rate at a festival,
ever," concert spokesperson Mike Watson said. "And the same applied
for the Reading site lowest-ever crime rate there, too."
Not that fans sat still for three days. On Monday an extra line of
security guards was brought in to help pull people out of the growing
mosh pit, while the Offspring stirred up the crowd with such songs as
"The Kids Aren't Alright" (RealAudio excerpt).
The festival grew out of the Reading Jazz and Blues Festival of the
1960s, but this year marked the 10th anniversary of the modern Reading
Festival, the premier outdoor music event in the UK. This summer the
event expanded to become the Reading/Leeds Festival, with bands
playing first at the Reading site, then decamping to play the same
bill a day later at Temple Newsam Park in Leeds.
The Saturday lineup in Leeds included the first festival appearance in
three years by regrouped rockers Elastica, whose second album is due
early next year, and who released a UK-only EP earlier this month.
They drew a large crowd to the Radio 1 Evening Session stage at the
same time veteran Brit-poppers the Charlatans were debuting new
material on the main stage.
The Charlatans, whose set included the single "Forever," are scheduled
to release a new album, Us and Us Only, in October. "[Singer]
Tim Burgess looked incredibly confident, considering they've been away
for such a long time," Watson said.
DJ duo the Chemical Brothers were well received Saturday during a
performance that combined a light show with tracks from
Surrender (1999). They threw in some earlier hits too,
including "Block Rockin' Beats."
The Leeds main stage buzzed with stars from both the indie- and
mainstream-rock worlds Sunday. American lo-fi rockers Pavement warmed
up the crowd with an afternoon set, despite problems with the band's
"We don't play real instruments anymore," singer/guitarist Stephen
Malkmus joked. "Let's sing campfire songs while we're waiting." When
the sampler was fixed, the band elicited deafening cheers with "Spit
on a Stranger" (RealAudio excerpt),
from their recent album Terror Twilight.
Hip-hop rockers the Fun Lovin' Criminals took to the stage as dusk was
gathering. Somewhat inexplicably, singer Huey Long told a joke
("There's this lobster, right, and he walks into a bar ...") that folk
singer/songwriter Beth Orton had told the same crowd earlier in the day.
The audience seemed hyped as the band launched into the singles
"Scooby Snacks" and "The Fun Lovin' Criminal."
Drummer Mack (who, like the rest of the Fun Lovin' Criminals, goes only
by his first name) was less enthusiastic: "Tonight was cool, but I
think we played better at Reading yesterday. I don't know why. Nothing
to do with the site itself. It was just the way it happened."
Welsh pop-rockers Catatonia began their set after the rain started
that night. Singer Cerys Matthews, who wore an impractical short,
sparkly dress and high heels, gave the lobster joke a third telling.
Catatonia's music, fortunately, was original, whether old
("I Am the Mob") or new ("Dead From the Waist Down").
Sunday's headliners Blur also played a set that spanned their career.
Despite the Brit-pop band's mellower recent material (such as "Coffee & T.V."
and "Tender" from the 1999 album 13), singer Damon Albarn
seemed equally at home with the high-energy rock of "Advert," from
Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993).
"Damon looks really good up there ... especially when he does the
earlier stuff," fan Jo Clarke, 19, of the Midlands said.
But Clarke criticized Orton for "trying to be a rocker, swearing as
much as she could between songs, you know."
Monday boasted a lineup of heavy rock acts. The Offspring played
during the day, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined the main stage
with a set of recent hits, including "Scar Tissue" and the title track
from their recent Californication album. While the Chili Peppers
were playing, pop-rockers Mansun were on the second stage.
"Monday wasn't so relaxed as the rest of the weekend," Amy Drucker, 21,
of Manchester said, "because the bands were more serious in a way
more rocky. But by the time the Chili Peppers came on, I was so
knackered I was hardly listening to the music. It's certainly been an