One of the first UK festivals on the 2016 calendar is Live At Leeds, the metropolitan event that takes over its namesake city and which sees venues full to the brim of the latest indie pop rock bands going. Live at Leeds does have a certain beauty about it – being able to move from a grimy metal venue to a colour-washed sacred space, grab food on the way, never get covered in mud, and find programmes catering for different tastes in every venue. Seeing as everyone has probably heard of We Are Scientists, Band of Skulls and The Boxer Rebellion, we thought we’d stick with some of the newbies on show.
Kicking off is com Fighting Caravans, who really are embracing that word, half the kit is off the stage. Deep dulcet crooning tones, a love song-come-rock n roll waltz, and tracks filled with blood curdling rants, singer Daniel Clark seems possessed. The set consists of heavy bass alongside beautiful Gretsch riffs – QOTSA and Nick Cave like maybe – and the packed room means a decent following already, definitely ones to watch, they’ve got a neat little tour and a Sound City slot coming up.
Next we’re off to see Leeds College of Music’s Big Band finish a set of Bowie covers for their tribute performance. Beautifully arranged by musician Tristan Watson, they’re doing it all quite spectacularly. Over the road from LCoM is The Wardrobe, its gloomy basement space hosting an eclectic bill starting with Caro, a pretty interesting trio layering delicate vocals over crunchy guitar sounds with jazz timings. Its loud, and neat, and technically surprising for a new band, but they are from the college so that’s the quality training showing.
A trot across town to The Key Club (Live at Leeds involves a lot of fast walking or jogging to get to see everything you want) for Fizzy Blood, a melodically deafening outfit full of bass face and screaming harmonies. Just wow – you’d never think that vocals could shine through such intense noise but they do. If you like fuzzy rock that is so close to being metal they’re rubbing lips at times, you’ll love this band.
Next for something completely different – the lovely Hannah Lou Clarke, at our very own Clash stage at the equally lovely Holy Trinity Church. Great entering a sacred building and the sound engineer is playing ‘Personal Jesus’ with a smirk on his face. Due to ‘technical issues’ Hannah isn’t on stage until 45 minutes after her set time, and is only allowed a couple of songs, but you can’t mess with festival timings.
Talking of lateness, Demob Happy got stuck in traffic which is a blessing as we don’t miss anything on the way up to Live At Leeds’ furthest flung venue, the iconic Brudenell Social Club. So, they only get to play two songs as well, but literally run on stage with their hair and their energy all over the place, blast through a much noisier set than seen before (must be the stress) and then run off. Job done.
Back down at the Clash stage, the new experience of Alter Hanglands, AKA Harry, who opens announcing that he’ll play a set of unreleased Jess Glynne songs. She dropped out due to sickness. His beautiful, dreamy reverb-filled vocals are rich and raspy, and his quivering vibrato gives the same chills that Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridewell does. Definitely not Jess Glynne’s, very much his own.
Tiggs Da Author is over at The O2, one of the city’s historic venues, with his Northern Soul inspired pop vibes. A touch cheesy, trying to whip the tough Yorkshire crowd up asking them to smile doesn’t work entirely well, but he’s full of utter happiness, a sprinkling of Andre 3000, and his band are superb – much better to have a set of funk musicians, than a compressed and flat backing track.
By now we’re at that point where the ‘ones you should know if you listen to the radio’ kick in, also tea time, which means a stop-off at Belgrave Music Hall for a Dirty Burger. The idea was to see Milk Teeth, but they cancelled due to Becky having dental issues – yeah, they get the joke. So we make do with the hysterical Micky P Kerr at The Social, who runs a sing-along about Morrisons (the supermarket) and some bloke stood outside on the pavement. Think Chas N Dave and John Cooper Clarke blended together into one younger lithe Northern bearded poet.
Putting our feelers out, it seems way too busy up at Leeds Uni to attempt a visit for Spring King and Blossoms, but half the squad squashed in to Blood Red Shoes at Beckett’s SU, to see the drummer let rip in an unsurprisingly belting performance. By this time of night, everywhere a headliner is will undoubtedly be pretty packed, and with regulars out in town, travelling all the way back to Brudenell to see Vitamin and Rat Boy is near impossible too – a shame because apparently Rat Boy is on form and does a ton of new tracks. Ghostpoet it is, then, a pleasure having not seen him perform in years. With a full backing band he played a neat set, full of smooth grooves and trip-hop vibes, and lots of dry ice.
Things we didn’t see but the squad report on; Skinny Living at LCoM, Leeds luvvies Autobahn who are so loud they left people’s ears bleeding, Corinne Bailey Rae’s come-back show at the intimate Hi-Fi Club, and the We Are Scientists DJ set at Oporto.
You can’t have it all at Live at Leeds, that’s for sure, but you certainly can have a lot. And with 20KM of walking recorded over a 12 hour period, fuelled by just one burger and a bag of nuts, a lot of sleep was needed afterwards. See you next year Live At Leeds.
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Words: Miz DeShannon