Lippy goes to Live at Leeds...
Saturday saw swathes of music lovers scampering across the city, catching acts at some of Leeds’ best venues, for a dynamic, exhilarating (and a little chaotic) celebration of music. Staging an impressive 100+ acts, festivalgoers were spoilt for choice, although you’d be lucky to catch more than ten sets.
The eclectic line-up provided headliners for fans of nostalgic indie patrons Sundara Karma and Pale Waves but post-punk dwellers kept mostly to familiar territory Brudenell Social Club. Previous performers such as Goat Girl and Shame may have helped pad out the indie-pop leaning line-up. The event saw a busy day for Leeds, including a fire at the Leonardo building in Millennium Square; thankfully no one was injured and the festival was largely unaffected. I started my pick-and-mix gig tour at The Lending Room for EMI up-and-comer George O’Hanlon. The singer-songwriter opened gently with his ode to small town life This Town, building up to an anthemic climax at the end of the song. His studio-ready vocals and backing band steeped the small venue in ample atmosphere, with his grand debut EP title track The Storm feeling just as capable of filling much larger venues. Unreleased track In My Blood delighted the audience and is one to look out for in future releases, with a lofty chorus and hints of Springsteen influences. Working Men’s Club nearly blew the roof off O2 Academy with a bass-breaking, gyrating performance that felt closer to a rave than a pedestrian early evening set. They kicked things off with modern classic Valleys, riling up the audience with the relentless drum machine and infectious synths. Brains behind the band frontman Sydney Minsky-Sargeant spared no shred of energy in his delivery of songs from the new album Fear Fear, screaming into the microphone for demanding track 19. The LP’s standout gem Widow inspired some grooving, but commanding tracks like John Cooper Clarke and Teeth from their exceptional self-titled debut still reign supreme on the stage. Fear Fear’s lyrics about the anxieties of lockdown are an asset to the LP, though were unfortunately lost in the formidably loud low-end bass. The conclusion fell a bit flat with intriguing but low-energy The Last One, the band abruptly abandoning their instruments and the lukewarm crowd. Nevertheless, Working Men’s Club provided a compelling space for bewitching escapism.
On my way to Brudenell Social Club I ducked into Hyde Park Book Club and caught a little of Ellur’s set. The Halifax singer was having technical issues though she had no problem with endearing the patiently waiting crowd. Her honeyed tones warmed the basement with feel-good indie pop, a refreshing change in tone after a thunderous O2 Academy. Part of the beauty of the festival is the range of acts performing and the opportunity to discover new music, Ellur being someone I was happy to stumble upon. Opus Kink’s set was like watching a romance bloom between crowd and band. A dormant beast in those gathered in the Brudenell’s main room was awoken by a perfect potion of musical prowess and pure, plain and simple fun. Frontman Angus Rogers growled into the microphone as his fellow band members rallied around him during St. Paul of the Tarantulas,
a track bursting at the seams with Shakespearean drama, tragedy and comedy. The power of a uniform display of energy and devotion in a band is a powerful thing; they had the ravenous crowd in the palm of their hand for the entirety of the set. The atmosphere was not unlike an exaggerated image of a pub huddled around a piano, singing old tales of romances or hardships. The rousing trumpet and saxophone of I Love You Baby imbued the energy-matching band and crowd with emotion. By the last song of the set the whole room was churning in a torrent that was not violent, but brimming with jubilation. It was never going to be an easy feat responding to Opus Kink’s headline-worthy set; Brudenell top-billers Los Bitchos fell short of the spectacle of their predecessors but were triumphant in bringing the festivities. Their effervescent performance brought a carnival-feel and plastered smiles onto the ceaselessly dancing crowd.
Live at Leeds was yet again a thoroughly enjoyable off-season festival. It’s a great way of finding new music, though the £40+ price tag for a wristband felt a little out of reach for a heavily student-populated city, especially given the added expense of inevitable Ubers and bus rides. Clashes between favourite acts is a risk at any multi-stage festival, but a trek across the city is another factor that attendees have to consider. There’s no way anyone is going to walk 45 minutes from the Wardrobe to Brudenell Social Club in the middle of a music festival; that being said, there are plenty of participating venues along the route if time is not an issue. It’s a unique festival experience, but worth bearing in mind more planning may be necessary compared to your traditional field-based live-music romp. Brudenell stole the show, home to the most animated and passionate crowd. The untapped energy of Baby Dave and Opus Kink had spirits soaring all the way to Los Bitchos’ near-midnight set, which provided a fitting celebration to round off what was a spectacular display of talent, and a fitting tribute to the musical community in Leeds.
Words: Maddie Player