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Yusuf Yellow Brings Some Colour Back to the Leeds Music Scene

Written by Kate Wassell

Artwork by Kate Harrison

I never thought I’d go a month at university, let alone seven, without seeing a live gig in Leeds. The last gig I saw pre-lockdown was Arlo Parks at Headrow House: it was the 6th of March and I had no idea (bless naïve me), that it would be the last for a while.

Then, when the opportunity arose I couldn’t say no to a ‘welcome back to live music’ gig at Hyde Park Book Club last Wednesday evening. To celebrate the latest issue release of Nice People Magazine, Hyde Park Book Club brought in a colourful group of young musicians to their candle-lit café room, complete with socially distanced drink service. There’s nothing like being crammed like sardines into a gig venue, sweaty and exhilarated, straining to get a view of the main act-but I have to say, enjoying a nice bottle of white wine from the comfort of my front-row table wasn’t a poor sacrifice.

Student jazz collective Readymeal Sound opened the night with three young talents, songwriters LAIKA, Jack Spencer and Pixie Cola. They took turns to showcase their tracks, with LAIKA and Spencer rapping and Pixie singing her gorgeous original tracks including ‘Don’t Start a War’ and ‘Berlin’, her voice soulful and smooth.

Decked out in multi-coloured boiler suits, Spacey Basement Cult followed, with crashing symbols, guitar pedals and some sweet sax solos, they lived up to their name (if only there was enough room to socially distance in the basement of Book Club).

Finally, Yusuf Yellow brought his charisma and cool painted dungarees to the stage. The rising rapper layers frank lyrics over woozy track beats: he writes of night-life Leeds, identity, relationships, and of the process of lyric-writing itself. He held the room captive with his innovative rhymes and easy-going candour (‘fuck getting another job!’ he gets us to shout back to him, after condemning the audacity of the Tory government in delegitimising the arts), before inviting his fellow rappers from the audience to join him in a freestyle treat to end the evening.

The obvious joy of everyone who got to play or sing their music live was enough to make the night a memorable one. Yes, we had to sit at tables; yes, there weren’t many tickets and they sold out quickly-but the evening proved that gigs can come back into our lives and colour the evenings of Leeds once again.

Image credit: Kate Wassell

Artwork: Kate Harrison

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