The anticipation is over, the 2018 festival season opens annually for me on the first Saturday in May for Live at Leeds (LAL). Having been a regular attendee for the last ten years this metropolitan festival, where they open the doors of around 25 venues in the city and each put on six to twelve artists for one wristband ticket price of £35, is a must attend event. It’s a great chance to see some new artists and visit different venues.
It isn’t surprising that there has been a huge take up this year with the likes of The Vaccines, Circa Waves and British Sea Power added to the line-up. For the chance to see an indoor music event in one day, for half the price of a weekend festival day ticket, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else this May Day Bank Holiday weekend.
However, the one thing you need to fully prepare for is the distance between some of the venues, and if all you have is your own two feet then they are likely to be very sore by the end of the day. For instance, the “walk” from the Brudenell Social Club to the Wardrobe is a long 2 miles!
So, there are two schools of thought here when planning your LAL experience, Do I base myself in one area for the day, chill out and take pot luck with who plays those stages? or, do I plan this like a military operation and end up running around like a mad person from venue to venue to see everyone I really want to see. I’m more of the latter type, and whilst it’s a 12-hour marathon and not a sprint, I’m actually jogging between venues to catch a glimpse of 3 bands that all start at 12:00!!
First up at Holy Trinity Church are The Orielles, a 3-piece from Halifax who play some of the best jingly jangly boy/girl vocal surfpop. Still a very young and new outfit, sisters Esme and Sid (Sidonie) met Henry at a house party and formed the band the next day. They rattle quickly through their set at a packed church where all the pews have been removed this year, so there is room to dance or nod and shoegaze. Having a drink in a Church always feels quite decadent. However, I’ve no time for that as I need to get to The Belgrave for a band who are playing their first ever gig!
Louisa Osborn is a talented artist I’ve followed for a number of years, from Witch Hunt to Actor and now Tallsaint. New single I’m A Woman (After All) has just been released and it’s has Louisa’s mesmerising voice combined with a new dance orientated sound – it is quite hypnotic. Hard to believe this was their first ever live gig as the synth sounds are expertly layered over choppy guitar and bass.
A new venture, great debut gig, if you like Little Dragon or Goldfrapp then you really should check them out!
The last of my three opening acts were IDLES but as I’ve been hypnotised by Tallsaint I only arrive at The Wardrobe for the last track which was Rottweiler and I can’t actually see the band for the bodies, but the heat and condensation on the walls from this venue tells me everything I need to know, it was another brutal punk performance from this band. That’s the first hour gone, only another eleven to go and I’ve already learnt my lesson, don’t attempt to try and see everything, you won’t last the day. Consequently, I’ve decided to stay for the full set of a band I’ve been looking forward to seeing since Kendal Calling last year, The Blinders.
Doncaster has never really had a band to call their own, but The Blinders are here to create some history. A vicious verbal and physical assault on the senses as Thomas Haywood stands there with dark paint smeared over his eyes, staring at the crowd as he spouts his punk poetry with venom.
His cohort at the front Charlie McGough is suited and spends most of his time with one foot on the monitor looking out at the throng of a mosh pit for Gotta Get Through. Tribal sounding beats and Et Tu Brutus sounds immense, Thomas with his blue teardrop shaped guitar wraps the mic lead around his neck and still manages to get in various political statements before bringing the short set to a close. Sweat we did!
There is a LAL experience for everyone and with around fifteen artists playing at any given time, the choice can be overwhelming, I decide to head for the O2 Academy to see some of Peace and they didn’t disappoint the packed crowd, we enjoyed the indie sounds of yesteryear like Lovesick, Lost on Me and Bloodshake. Good to see them back and in fine form.
My next lengthy trek across town was to a venue I’d never seen before – Northern Guitars in the now trendy Calls Lane area of Leeds. What a great place, full of old signage and music posters, neon “Cash for Guitars” signs and a small stage in the corner near the front window.
Perfect for Emily Capell and her acoustic guitar to entertain a mainly seated at tables crowd with her witty take on modern twentysomething life. Lots of tales of Joey Barton, Kanye West and Kurt Cobain from this North West London modette – complete with a beehive hairdo.
She quizzed the crowd to see if anyone knew Spice Girl Mel B, and as a QPR fan was hanging around Leeds for the match on Sunday. Never failing to engage a new audience and to gain new fans, she left after the ear-worm song Bonanza which you can find on the new EP Who Stands With Latasha Harlins?’.
Having had a brief rest, I wander back across to another former Church for Stereo Honey, expecting big anthemic things from this London quartet I left early due to boredom. Whilst I like a bit of melancholy, subtle melodies and high pitched male vocals, after having so much fun with Emily Capell this was all far too drab. Instead I head out into the heat and a trek to the Brudenell Social Club.
My favourite venue in Yorkshire is the Brudenell and you could have just stayed here all day, as they now have two reasonable sized rooms and the stage times alternate, so you could have watched over 25 bands just here, and they have cheap beer and pies too. I’m here for York band The Howl and the Hum, but as I’ve arrived early I catch the tail end of Pip Blom an Amsterdam based band who play some nice pop indie music in the style of Elastica or Sleeper.
Pip Blom is the name of the lead singer and guitarist whilst Tender Blomis on guitar. They are surprised at how many are in the room for their set, but what’s not to like with some energetic tracks like I Think I’m In Love (now on regular rotation on BBC6 Music).
The Howl and the Hum are a kind of supergroup from York, formed from different previous bands with Sam Griffiths taking lead vocal duties. I’ve never seen him quite so animated before. Shaking his blonde mop of hair and at one point doing the splits and falling over, it’s like Radiohead with a bit of Talking Heads in there for good measure.
Ex Littlemores lead vox and guitarist Conor Hirons plays some stirring lead, and it felt weird to see Bradley Blackwell playing an electric bass rather than a large double. Collectively this band have an eclectic style of their own which makes them compulsive viewing and listening. Saving the superb Godmanchester Chinese Bridge for their final song, it’s still early days for them, but very exciting times as they have been added to the BBC Big Weekend stage in Swansea later this month.
My single visit to the University campus was to Stylus and Louis Berry, he hasn’t done a gig for six months, so he bursts out on the stage like a man possessed, shaking a tambourine and prowling from one side of the stage to the other, scowling at everyone until a chant of “Louis, Louis, Louis” breaks his face into a big smile.
Restless took on new meaning as the 6months of tension appeared to be finally released, She Wants Me saw the Liverpudlian rock’n’roller pull some cheeky grins, but new track Stumbling is on another level, as he stretches into a much more soulful sound.
We are on the final stretch as most of the headlining bands are on after 9pm, it’s that point in the evening where you have to get to where you need to be, probably 1 band ahead of the act you really want to see – so that you stand a chance of actually getting into the venue. The O2 Academy is absolutely rammed for The Vaccines as you would expect,and I want to be at the other end of town for Rae Morris later,so instead of seeing those Post Break Up Sex boys, I’m going to the tiny Santiago bar in The Calls for Hands Off Gretel.
This band should be so much bigger than they are, playing a type of grunge riot grrrl music that Courtney Love can only dream about. Fronted by the vivacious Lauren Tate, the band thrash through a half hour of great songs from their debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, Lauren and guitarist Sean McAvinue sometimes joining the crowd off the stage for extra capers. New bass player Becky Baldwin brings even more rock glamour to the party now, so surely, it’s only a matter of time before they break through to some bigger stages.
So many bands and so little time, this year has seen the best weather I can remember, so many punters were being distracted by having a beer in the sun at Dry Dock or outside the Brudenell and yet a lot of the venues were still full of music loving fans.
My last artist to watch was Rae Morris and I’m back at The Belgrave again almost 11 hours since I started this morning. Having followed Rae’s progress for the last 6 or 7 years, she has changed from naïve late teenage girl firmly fixed behind a piano, to a dance pop queen with an amazing vocal range.
With only a couple of members of her backing band she played a full hour set comprising mainly of the up-tempo songs from her second album Someone Out There, but left time at the end for an older ballad Don’t Go.
No stranger to Leeds Belgrave, having played here recently on her tour, or this festival as she was at the Holy Trinity Church 6 years ago.
A superb end to yet another fantastic Live at Leeds, I could have seen many other acts throughout the day, and that’s the beauty of this event, there really is a Live at Leeds experience for everyone. Make sure you put Saturday May 4th 2019 in your diary!
Photography & Live Review by John Hayhurst of Live at Leeds 2018