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Loitering Within Tents

Heineken Music Festival Roundhay Park, Leeds

Pedantic crusties would argue that the presence of flush toilets and the distinct lack of "Now And Zen" noodle bars, strips this gratis event of bona fide festival status - but as a way of celebrating local talent and the joys of liver abuse, Heineken's carnival is rarely found wanting.

Only when circumstance conspire to leave the tender fan drinking warm lager in front of some clueless no-hopers does the concept fall flat, though LOOM OF YOUTHS' lily-livered impression of the Catherine Wheel is actually no fault of the sponsor. Ditto JELLYFISH KISS' determination to meander trough the difficult section of the Mercury Rev Songbook, LA COSTA ROSA'S s unfortunate penchant for Killing Joke's agit-goth hand me downs, and EMBRACE's lowest common-denominator distillation of The Chameleons, James and U2 (basically that Live Aid performance minus the laughs).

Of course, you can only work with the raw materials available - and an unspoken no-applause policy hardly helps matters. But if Leads really is the Manic's cultural Chernobyl brought to life, why bother bringing Lagerlooza or all?

Here's why, CHUMBAWAMBA amble amiably onto the main stage and within a minute the big top in totally rammed. People actually run to see these activists-next-door whip up their trademark balloons and champagne party atmosphere - and with Credit To The Nation helping to boost their credibility it seems that Heineken's "Band Of The Year' tag perhaps isn't that far off the mark.

Continuing the vague fancy-dress theme, local legends RINGO'S HIGH embark on o low-rent Magical Mystery Tour while dressed as Ray Davies, Keith Richards, Jarvis Pulp, Steed from The Avengers, David Essex and, almost inevitably, Bonnie Prince Charlie. An impish sense of fun is obviously at play here, but five songs in and these popsters start to evoke frightening flashbacks of Boys Wonder. Is that the point? Let's hope not.

Back under canvas, the only band on the bill not to come from West Yorkshire proceed to play as if even the UK is just a temporary stop-off point. SENSELESS THINGS are yet another American grunge band kicking fuss in the name of twenty something angst. It's all here: the guitar solo, the poignant middle eight the plaintive but mature vocal - everything you need to guarantee heavy rotation on MTV.

They still have a decent grasp of what makes great pop as "God Hates New Wave", "Sex Education" and a NY Dallas-style newie prove - but as long as they keep churning out drab rock like "Say What You Will" to please the US market they're just a duff FM band with a glorious past. Don't do a Birdland on us, lads.

Thank God, then, for CUD. who appear to exist in a fashion bubble of their own devising. Opening with last year's hit "Rich And Strange" they transform the tent into a heaving Seventies nightclub and prove in the process that unique needs no musical progression (see also New Order).

Those in the know will therefore be pleased to learn that Carl Puttnam still swaggers like a catwalk model with a massive hard-on, that the new songs aired continue their flirtation with the highbrow, double entendre, that ability to coax an hour's worth of flashy Saturday Night Fever moves out of even the most inept dancer had not = lessened, and that Carl's still on the way to becoming the Tom Jones of the 21st century. How many children ware conceived tonight, I wonder?

Ian Watson