Culture, Music, News

Leeds Festival 2023 – Friday review: the perfect warm-up to a weekend of music

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Featured image: Georgina Hurdsfield @tinyraindropphotography


After a swift arrival to the festival site the night prior and relatively few queues, the campsites had already begun to fill, and the best camping spots had been claimed by festival-goers. Arriving on the Thursday meant a stress-free set-up and the chance to explore the huge variety of food stalls and clothing shops – not forgetting to mention the lovely people in the Egalitarian tent! 

In all honesty, every part of me was expecting a relaxed night-in on the Thursday night as I knew the party really kicked off on Friday. I was pleasantly proved wrong after a 2-hour TPD TV set on the Piccadilly Party stage. Known for their Youtube channel covering all things festival related, they played hits ranging from ‘Glue’ by BICEP to the opposite of the spectrum with ‘Killing in The Name’ by Rage Against The Machine. It was a lot of unexpected fun and the perfect way to ease the crowd into the weekend to come. 

TPD TV at Leeds Fest. Credit: Georgina Hurdsfield @tinyraindropphotography

After a night of partying for most, the campsite seemed to be buzzing as early as 8am with campers settling into their new home for the weekend and others recovering from the late-night events. Despite the constantly changing weather forecast, we were met with surprisingly hot weather and a lack of clouds in the sky, providing a sense of hope for a rain-free experience. 

Bakar was the first on my list. When thinking of songs that give off chill summer vibes, Bakar is the name that springs to mind, and he did not disappoint. He has played previously at Leeds Festival in 2019 but has since been promoted from one of the smaller tents to the Main Stage.  Almost half of the crowd could be seen sat on another person’s shoulders during his most successful song, ‘Hell n’ Back’

Credit: Matt Eachus

The next band on the weekend itinerary were one of my personal favourites: Don Broco. Although slightly disappointed at the shorter set of only 30 minutes, the band performed an eye-catching 7 songs that easily made the highlight of the day. If you’ve seen Broco before, you will know that they are a band who thrive in crowd interaction. The band closed their show with ‘T-shirt Song’ where the majority of the crowd swung their t-shirts and jackets around their head. Frontman Rob Damiani’s energy passed onto the audience throughout the performance and made the atmosphere feel more like an intimate, heavy gig than a daytime festival experience.

Credit: Emily Marcoveccio

Equally intriguing, who was an impromptu addition to our schedule, was Rina Sawayama over on the other Main Stage. She powered through her performance and included four impressive outfit changes – ranging from cowboy hats to corset dresses. Not to mention the perfectly choreographed dancing and backing dancers she had joining her on stage. Despite not knowing the songs, the stage presence and performance aspect of her set was entrancing!

We stayed around this area to catch the festival veteran Declan McKenna, who has only recently returned from the Chicago-based festival: Lollapalooza. He has been an artist on the bucket list for a long time now, especially because his songs bring the festival atmosphere that most fans crave. Mckenna’s set consisted of a short and sweet 5 songs, which later made a lot more sense when a secret set was announced on the smaller BBC Introducing Stage. Mid-way through his set, the crowd seemed to double in minutes, and it wasn’t until afterwards that we realised it was possibly because American rapper Lil Tjay had never arrived onto the site for his set. 

Credit: Georgina Hurdsfield @tinyraindropphotography

To mark the grand finale of the first proper day of the festival, Billie Eilish headlined the stage. After watching her set in 2019, I wasn’t sure what to expect after the style changes and new music releases. As always, my expectations were exceeded and Eilish was one of the best performances I saw throughout the entire weekend. Songs like ‘bury a friend’ and ‘you should see me in a crown’ set the night off with a bang and had the crowd jumping and dancing until they became tired. Billie regularly interacted with fans, influencing movement and making sure everybody could have the best time possible.

It took until the thirteenth song to really understand her music and when she performed ‘TV’ with brother FINNEAS, the tears let loose for myself and those around me – a surprise to me, too! After an incredible 20 songs, the set ended with ‘Happier Than Ever’, joined by confetti, fireworks and the singer herself running into the crowd to hug and shake hands with fans. 

Friday was an incredibly strong day in terms of festival openers and certainly prepared us all for the weekend to come!

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Rianna Ram

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