Leeds City Centre – 30th/31st August 2015
For its tenth birthday, The Garden Party had a few tricks up its sleeve. The much-loved Leeds event has never encountered any problems attracting great talent to its home of The Faversham in the past, with the likes of Dixon, John Talabot, Todd Terje and Eats Everything gracing the student haunt in past editions. With the backing of big name promoters – the likes of Now Wave, Eat Your Own Ears, Chibuku and Warehouse Project – and an expanded venue, the event set out its stall to celebrate a decade in style.
Situated in the heart of Leeds city centre in the shadow of the iconic, old Tetley Brewery building, this isn’t an event that’s spent too much time attempting to carve out some hollow, half-cooked niche. The surroundings are straightforward, with a focus on delivering a lively bill without relying too heavily on the principal players of this year’s circuit. Mr Scruff, perhaps one of the only DJs who could reasonably drop ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ and pull it off, sets the tone with a three-hour early afternoon set on the main stage – a typically eclectic mix that oozes with the positivity of the selector.
With Mr Scruff attracting the crowds throughout the afternoon, we scooch away to catch newcomers Formation in the noticeably more chilled out arena of The Skinny Stage. It’s an angular concoction somewhere between New Order and Nu Disco, with a heavy helping of LCD Soundsystem added to the mix, and they’ve a conviction in their live performance that really stands out. With their hooks picked up on even among this more relaxed corner of the festival, it’s clear why people are pinning a lot of hope on this duo’s future.
Back over on the main stage and it’s a 1-2-3 of impressive sets, each in their own different ways. The intelligence of Fatima’s Yellow Memories debut on Eglo is given its true pedestal with a full live band, and the shifting nature of standout ‘La Neta’ shows off all of the Swede’s dynamic appeal. The soul that drips from Fatima’s vocal performance lays the foundation for the evergreen Soul II Soul who steal Saturday’s show, playing off the crowd’s enthusiasm like only seasoned icons could, before Roisin Murphy rounds up Saturday’s proceedings with a show that’s as bonkers as it is on point. Utterly weird, yet utterly brilliant and featuring more oddball outfits than the Mighty Boosh during pantomime season, Murphy is an unlikely champion in the headliner mould.
Sunday is opened with a Bristolian take over. Fresh from releasing a debut LP, Julio Bashmore handles events on the The Garden Party’s main stage, whilst over on the Just A Little stage Futureboogie – the label that championed Bashmore’s early releases whilst itself just starting out – brought their own party starting mix of house and disco to the floor. We flit between the two, catching Futureboogie drop reworked gems like Prince’s ‘Controversy’, and seeing the often seemingly withdrawn Bashmore visibly buoyed by the early afternoon atmosphere. His set mirrors the producers own journey, a mix of deeper cuts from further back in the crate to his own chart-bothering smashes.
Heading back over to The Skinny stage, local boogie-funk heroes Galaxians draw the biggest and most up-for-it crowd that the stage sees all weekend, and it’s with good reason. Synth-wizard Jed Skinner strikes an unassuming figure as the pair arrive of stage, only to unleash an onslaught of cosmic funk melodies that play off against live drums as crisp as you’ll hear all weekend – it’s like a groove filled reissue of a 90s arcade game has descended on The Tetley. There couldn’t be a more suited act to precede Todd Terje who returns to this revamped version of The Garden Party a festival-topping star after the widespread acclaim from last year’s full length debut and of course, the ever-snowballing success of ‘Inspector Norse’.
After touring with his band The Olsens, it’s a return to the singular set that Todd brought to the UK last summer, dividing his time between the mixing desk and playing melodies live on keys. For all the expansiveness and technical nous that his full live band show offers, there remains something even more engrossing about watching the Norwegian in sole control like this. With just an hour to play with, there’s not the time for Terje to showcase the full breadth of what has become a resounding and genre-defining catalogue, but the mid set ‘Delorean Dynamite’ marks itself out as up there at the top end of the producer’s work – its pulsating groove snaking through the tent before its signature stabby guitar line sprinkles a balearic touch over Yorkshire.
Whether the weekend marked the beginning of a new, more grand chapter for The Garden Party, or whether this was just a one off foray in to bigger things, its billing and atmosphere made it perfectly clear as to why the event has such a place in the hearts of Leeds natives. More of the same in years to come and there’s no reason why a second Leeds bank holiday weekender can’t begin to establish itself as end of summer staple.