Live At Leeds has become something of a tradition. It is, to all intents and purposes, the opening of the festival season for not only Yorkshire but the whole of the UK. This is no mean feat for a festival that was only formed in 2007 when fifty bands performed at half a dozen venues to celebrate Leeds’ 800th birthday. 2014 is the biggest one yet and may just go one better than simply being on the short-list for Best Metropolitan Festival awarded by UK Festivals.
A touch over 200 bands on 20 stages: There are a few ways to approach this: Take a lucky dip and just go see whoever you can on the day. You can cluster the venues to make sure that time travel from venue to venue is kept at a minimum. You can stick to one venue. Or, meticulously plan the day in advance to make sure you see who you want to see. It seems that the some have been planning for weeks with military precision and some I’m sure some are tinkering with the idea of studying quantum physics so they can build a time machine to enable them to see all the bands on offer. Alas, this is not an option on what is the strongest ever bill for Live At Leeds. But whatever choice you actually took you were onto a winner musically speaking, But of course, any review will only be able to deliver a minute snapshot of the actual day. Really, the only way to get a true indication of how splendid an event it is, is to do it!
This review took the cluster plan of action. So it was to Belgrave Music Hall for the start. Otherpeopleslives opened there with a confident set. They have a spellbinding cocktail of subtle melodic hooks that go from soothing to soaring in a matter of beats. Leeds band Blue Laurel follow. The alt-rock outfit are beginning to make waves and their set, strangely nostalgic for a band formed in 2013 goes down rather well. Disraeli Gears follow them and their set is so spellbinding that your plan to leave just before the end is jettisoned. Not sure if they are named after the album by Cream but you can sure hear that influence.
Lauren Aquilina opens the afternoon at the O2 academy, the largest venue of the day. For a young lady to simply sit at a keyboard and sing and to fill the whole of the auditorium with her personality is no mean feat. Indeed, by 2015 this girl from Bristol who now lives “next to the Queen”, will be a superstar. Her set includes her ridiculously beautiful Fools, the sublimely angst ridden Talk To Me and her new EP Liars, which is receiving serious attention from Radio 1. Half an hour in her company and if you are a teenager you understand every feeling conveyed in her songs. If you are older you remember what it was like being a teenager and are glad of the memories she brings. Faultless.
A quick walk to Leeds Met. An easy decision as there are two stages to choose from. But it is here that a couple of gems are uncovered. One will become a jewel in the crown of Leeds music. But first Hero Fisher. Reminiscent of the turbulence of Jeff Buckley she has been rightly lauded as one of the most talented singer songwriters in the UK. She is hypnotic on stage and it is clear that she will be one of the hits of the festival season. There is little time to digest just how good she is though before you are into the next set. It’s Menace Beach. The venue is sweltering, which is apt as the 90s drenched melodies impeccably delivered by Ryan Needham and Liza Violet are sweltering good too. You knew these would be good, but here is one of the delightful things about Live at Leeds. You will come across something that you would never have heard of but are completely hooked on when you do. Lola Colt fall into that category. A myriad of sound within their set is alternative and country-esque. The choruses simply blow you away. Whilst they are on the stage nothing else matters. They are superb, they outgrow the stage with every song. Never heard of them? Well go do something good and listen to them. You can also do the same with Black Moth. The latest break out from the current hotbed of UK rock: Leeds. The band pump out heavy riffs that lie somewhere between Black Sabbath and early Queens of the Stone Age. The band’s sound is best heard on Spit Out Your Teeth, an oppressively heavy tune drifts along like a lazy dog before going demoniacal Almost every song is loud and aggressive with little respite. They will be massive! Watch out for their record in June. It will not disappoint.
A complete change back at the O2 Academy for Nina Nesbitt. I remember her with little more than an acoustic guitar and some sweet songs about nothing in particular. She’s all grown up now. Indeed, from her set she seems to be turning into something of a rock chick. The sound is, since the release of her Peroxide album, fuller and richer. Some say her songs are still about nothing which in truth misses the point. They are about things that are considered absolutely normal nowadays but Nina picks up on the dark side of this normality. Her cleverness lies in the fact that you can decide how light, or dark, you want Nina to be. Whichever you desire this Scottish lassie never fails to deliver.
Back to the Belgrave: San Fermin are an added bonus as we are running a fraction late. San Fermin is the work of a Brooklyn composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone. They are huge fun: Baroque is the style and they don’t do songs as such but swirling landscapes of music with huge choruses and brass fueled melody. The crowd wanted more and no doubt more will be coming. They were followed by Say Lou Lou: Do you remember Erasure in the 1980s reinventing themselves with the Abbaesque EP? Well that what they remind you of. They will become everybody’s favourite guilty secret. The comparison with Abba is inevitable one is blonde one is brunette: And some of their music reminds you of Abba. But there is more to the twin sisters Elecktra and Miranda Kilbey. Indeed, they are a lot more sultry. They’ve already tagged themselves a sound of 2014 nomination and these half Australian half Swedish duo will be wowing crowds everywhere with their hypnotic pop.
The final leg is taken up at Nation of Shopkeepers. One of the smaller venues. The atmosphere is a little oppressive. Not helped by a sound issue. So it says a lot for Laura Welsh, that she not only had the crowd dancing in such a tight space but had them forgetting the delay. There is a simplicity about Laura but she has a powerful and beautiful voice. One to definitely watch for in the future. Finally, Indiana. Her 80s inspired synth pop is simply infectiously mesmerizing. Haunting vocals that send chills down your spine. She’s already riding high in the Top 40, and deservedly so. In essence, a headline act in a venue holding less than a hundred people. That’s the beauty of Live At Leeds. No fillers: just killer acts: All 200 of them. You couldn’t go wrong whichever method of choosing who you saw you used. Roll on next year and we’ll do it all again. In the meantime, Live At Leeds has been the perfect intoxicant to a summer that Yorkshire will not forget.
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