Gigs. All day long. On your door step. With beer. This is Live at Leeds 2017.
If you love live music, you will love LaL. Now into its eleventh year, this weekend-long celebration looks to continue its growth in popularity, Leeds folk turning out in their droves to witness Saturday’s live gigs bonanza. Over one hundred solo artists and groups play at venues city-wide over the course of the weekend, Saturday providing a stage for many up and coming musicians and a few already well established ones. An energetic day, producing a myriad of sounds, and bands scaling from the marginally off-it to the completely insane.
With so much on offer, where to start? How about the ‘Brude’. Now one of Leeds more popular venues, it’s no surprise to find the Brudenell Social Club half full already for Manchester band Luxury Death. Whilst only a flying visit, it’s enough time to hear some great riffs and synthesizers courtesy of this inoffensive Indie four-piece - and enjoy the first San Miguel of the day. But, no time to waste, as the White Lies are the O2 Arena’s opener at 3pm today. A quick walk through town en-route finds plenty of folk around, with a monster queue stretching several streets around the venue. After a slight delay to allow everyone inside, it’s a huge smile from lead guitar and vocalist Harry McVeigh and straight into a cracker set which includes a number of tracks the packed crowd know well. To Lose My Life has the entire room singing “Let’s Grow Old Together, and Die at the Same Time”, McVeigh eventually giving up to let the audience do all the work. They’re completely 80s, with deep vocals and bass, high synth chords and a touch of macabre in sound and lyrics. Ultravox initially springs to mind; Julian Cope and The Teardrop Explodes more so during tracks such as Farewell to the Fairground and Unfinished Business. Fab.
And from here, onto the Leeds Uni Refectory and Hertfordshire-born The Hunna. They’re kicking off the venue’s shows today, and it is quickly apparent the Uni staff are not quite ready for the horde of young ‘uns who’ve rushed in to check out this band of five. Minutes later, cash is in the tills and the bar dishing out half-cold tins of beer to a swarm of folk who have only to choose whether Tuborg or Red Stripe is the lesser of two evils; with 30p difference, Tuborg the clear winner. Gig-wise, The Hunna smash it home, their Indie Rock tracks easy to like, songs such as We Could Be delivered tightly and well-polished - surprisingly so, for a band who’ve been around for what seems like five minutes. The young crowd show their appreciation throughout, many folk on one another’s shoulders, joining in with the bands several “Leeds! You what, you what?’ chants in between tunes. A welcome change from the “Yooorrkshire” one doing the rounds too often in recent years.
Now then. How to describe Plastic Mermaids… Pure mystical awesomeness in the shape of five chaps from the Isle of Wight would be a good start. Seriously, these guys continue to wow the crowd wherever they play, continually going from strength to strength and each gig superseding their last with the music becoming more magical each time. Today is the first gig I have seen them play without Rhain, a female vocalist whom also hails from the IoW and has the most beautiful of operatic voices, often guesting for the band at live shows. Her sound works well with the Mermaid’s psychedelic, multiple-layered and multi-instrumented tunes, and yet they are just as splendid without her – and, on a small Leeds Beckett 2nd stage, it’s doubtful they could have squeezed her on, the Mermaids already dancing around each other for space. Not only has the band got talent, with each member playing more than one instrument throughout their show, they (always) look entirely focused in their own mystical world, cherishing each key struck or chord played, and doing so with a pure passion it’s a delight to watch and listen. Polaroids uses violin and piano sounds with cymbals to create something beautiful; Alaska sees just about every instrument present being used, including a megaphone which guitarist and vocalist Jamie Richards uses to belt out the lyrics. With a few avid followers swirling away at the front, and a crowd stretching beyond the back of the room into the bar next door, it appears a huge success for the lads, despite their cramped conditions.
Two girls called Rebekkah make up 80’s soul-get up Ekkah, which they explain through giggles to a semi-full Leeds Beckett main stage audience. Their smiles and sequined outfits look to have drawn in a few pairs of eyes. Ear-wise, Last Chance to Dance leaves me thinking about Shalamar, and various 80s school discos of old… But not for long, as there’s no time to spare - Sydney’s DMAs are due on any minute at the O2 and many are saying they are not to be missed. They’ve been on the scene for a few years now, and are certainly popular today. Vocalist Johnny Took has a voice rather Gallagher-like and they have a look and sound you could easily mistake as Mancunian – or at the very least, northern. Lay Down is good old jangly guitars with a Roses tinge to it, Too Soon more early Oasis. All up, they create toe-tapping Indie Rock come Britpop, not your average Aussie band, although perhaps its biggest musical export this decade. There was a bit of action at the front, with a young lad and lass lifted out by the security team mid-show. It was unclear what went on, but front-man Took must have had a good view and he thrust his shaker into our photographer’s hand, asking that he pass it onto the girl. A nice keep-sake.
Things looked a little busy at the Church for The Temples, and so it was back to Beckett’s smaller stage for HMLTD. Having seen them rock up earlier in the day dressed rather outlandishly, we figured they were worth a look. Predictably, they’re a band all about causing a reaction, a group of self-proclaimed sensory ticklers. To The Door commences like a Western soundtrack, a Clint Eastwood v Adam Ant type showdown, performed by chaps dressed partly in feminine attire and drenched in make-up. Stained goes for more shock-factor again with provocative lyrics about Mother Theresa and costume-ripping stage antics from the band members. They’re possibly the hottest band in London right now, and they certainly put in a play for the Craziest Band of the Day award. But, it’s not over just yet.
Now here’s another band that knows how to put on a show. Good old Slaves. These two rather thuggish looking lads, perhaps resembling car dealers over musicians, are not for the faint-hearted, a modern punk band that smacks your ears hard. Their Kent accents ring out strongly through their music – but don’t confuse them with Cockneys, whatever you do; as singer/basher of drums Isaac Holman shouts tonight, “Cockneys we aint!” Contrarily kitted out, Laurie Vincent on guitar dons a dapper blue suit whilst Holman is all top-less and muscles – although it’s doubtful he could do what he does with a drum kit within the confines of clothing! Super loud, super speedy beats AND he manages to sing, too… Or rant, more accurately. About anything and everything. Oldies but goodies like Where’s Your Car, Debbie? have everyone pogoing in no time at all, except for those who are crowd surfing, that is. Two years ago at LaL, they headlined a packed-out Brudenell Social Club; now, they’re filling a venue several times the Brude’s size and capacity and rocking it to the foundations. This is one big sweaty mess of a gig. And it’s brilliant.
A quick dash in and out of the Uni Refectory next, both to cool down and to catch Rag’n’Bone Man. Not exactly my cuppa, although I had to try it out for ‘that song’, Human. Seems I missed it, and yet it was great to hear a couple of his others tracks none the less, his naturally beautiful and deep tone perfectly suited to Soul. The extremely full room appeared completely transfixed, and it was difficult to leave mid-gig but the Brude – more so, The Moonlandingz gig - was calling. And what a great move. Super groups are not to be missed, of course, and rumour had it this set of crazies would provide excellent entertainment. Rumour was correct. What an utterly mesmerizing performance, due in part to the façade but also down to some cool tunes, too. Moonlandingz are made up of northern outfit Eccentronic Research Council, and two members of London’s Fat White Band - singer Lias Saoudi, and bassist mate Saul Adamczewski – both groups known for their rather experimental style. Together, this collaboration has produced an album based on a fictional town near Sheffield, where local rock star character Johnny Rocket (played by Saoudi) is stalked by an obsessed fan. Yes, it’s all a bit nuts. Their shows are infamous for being something of a spectacle, from Saoudi performing naked to sporting earings made from ham. None of this tonight, just lots of crowd-egging on andsurrealist sounds; poppy synths, dark, Kraut-rocky, psychedelic grooves and a few risqué lyrics producing something rather crackers. Eccentric, yes. Surreal, absolutely. Daft, totally. And not to be missed.
Another highly entertaining and successful festival, courtesy of the Live at Leeds crew, with some fantastic bands, old and new, and a big dollop of bonkers thrown in for good measure. Great work, LaL.
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