The base for Live At Leeds this year is the newly built First Direct Arena, which is initially causing some confusion. Seasoned scenesters are setting off from the wristband exchange and stopping dead in their tracks. Nobody knows which direction any of these familiar venues are in from this brand new one they’ve never visited before. But we soldier on as is the Yorkshire way.
Backstage at Mine, Big Ups frontman Joe Galarraga’s pre-show warm-up presumably involves re-living being rejected by that girl he liked at school, and the time he got grounded when it wasn’t even his fault because he was just holding it for a friend. Righteous, unrestrained adolescent fury all but bleeds from his ears as he screams through a set of meaty Pixies-tinged punk punctuated by duelling axes. Only the fact that his hands are occupied with a guitar seems to be stopping him from kicking the shit out of everyone on the front row. From the back of the room, it’s not really working, but close enough to the stage to get injured and it’s a mesmerising tantrum to behold.
In the Belgrave, eyes closed, we’re transported by Years & Years to the chillout room of a 90s mass market RnB club and don’t dare to even start to think that might be an insult, because that place is what Heaven itself was modelled on. Minimal beats, dreamy breaks and those synthetic and clinical, yet skilfully soulful vocals - all the signs of that cynically processed, emotionally manipulative gurners’ fodder are there. But, open our eyes, and each part is emanating separately from a real individual human boy, and merging together in front of us. It’s a guilty pleasure with all the guilt taken out of it, like finding out that Angel Delight is made in the clouds by real angels, and not in a factory by people in hairnets. As if to make matters even more pleasing, frontman Olly is adorably wrong-footed by the size of the crowd and the reception they’re getting.
There’s a slightly different, but equally 90s aroma at the Brudenell, where Canadian two-piece Solids are inspiring what would be nostalgia for the low-slung fuzz of Pavement and My Vitriol, were it not for their own very large, very loud, very present presence. An exhilarating set inspires sweaty grins and unbridled dancing amongst the distortion.
It’s tricky to talk about the dreamy electropop of Say Lou Lou at the Belgrave without mentioning the fact that the band is fronted by beautiful twin sisters. It’s such a prominent part of their promo and performance that to leave it out of a live review would be like failing to mention Miley Cyrus’s clearly excellent oral hygiene and waxing regime. Still, that out of the way, the romance in the room is overwhelming. Every sleepy ballad has its own heartbeat and narrative of failed love, all the more stunning in stereo.
Also at the Belgrave, furious four-piece Bipolar Sunshine are radiating energy, with a charismatic front man in the guise of Adio Marchant. His easy presence and confidence are matched in vibrancy only by his shirt, which is an eye-poppingly psychedelic art deco affair. His vocals are expansive and soulful, particularly over ‘Trouble’ with its melodically catchy swagger. ‘Are You Happy’ has a solid house tinged piano line and a euphoric chorus to which the crowd respond with real joy. It's a big, colourful sing-along of potential festival anthems.
As ever, Leeds many venues, new and established have helped to shine a light on emerging artists from across the world. The weather, the banter and a well-curated line up have made for an absolutely top notch weekend.
Words: Kate Wellham
Photo: Jordan Vickors