Yes, that joyful time of year was upon us once again; the sounds, delights and indulgent wonders of Live at Leeds Festival. For the most part, the sun was shining and the city was awash with anticipation for a day of fun, festivity and music. After gathering my thoughts, necking a quick beer and taking a deep breath, I plodded off from the press area at the First Direct Arena, and ventured out into the city. Here, I give my review of the day’s events.
12:30 – NARCS, Brudenell Social Club Games Room
An empty Brudenell games room quickly turned into a rabble of youths, as the welcome odour of sweat and spilt bitter glazed the room for NARCS’ opening set. In good humour, lead singer Wilko implored “we don’t want it to sound shit”. Thankfully, his prayers were answered. In a thrashy grunge-fest of a show, the raw, shackling and cathartic riffs in songs like ‘Coast to Coast’ and ‘Tall Grass’ amplified a hard sound that was lapped up by the crowd. Live at Leeds was bullishly underway.
13:00 – Imp, Brudenell Social Club DIY Stage
A quick shift over to the DIY room following a pounding set by NARCS, and the organic sound of shoe gaze indie-poppers Imp greeted me kindly. Imp’s wobbly dark-market brand of indie-rock tones and bass-heavy lavishness spoiled a half-full Brudenell Social Club, who responded with gracious applause. The suave, slow-talking harmonies and tinkered breakdowns brought a cooling effect to the people of Leeds, as the midday sun grew warmer.
13:30 – Munich, Brudenell Social Club Games Room
From slow jams, to guitar-waving post-punk hits, local band Munich seemed to have the whole shebang. Playing with pop-punk guitar parts, and rifling up a supplement of sound, the crowd were respondent to Munich’s humorous and modest manner; especially the female fan section that had gathered towards the front. Speaking to the band after the set, singer Gareth spoke of his love for variety, and especially Whitney Houston.
16:00 – Jamie Isaac, Holy Trinity Church
Leeds Holy Trinity Church was the perfect scene of serenity for Jamie Isaac’s breath-taking set. Playing to full capacity, Isaac’s lullabied anthems seemingly rolled off of his velvet voice. Accompanied by the atmospheric mood-swing production, chill-wave flumes and tick-tock-percussion, Isaac’s set transcended the stain glass windows, and stood out as one of the hidden gems of the festival. Songs like ‘She Dried’ rendered a cold sadness, yet simultaneously wooed and charmed the lucid Leeds audience.
17:00 – Tourist, Hifi
In a sudden change of scenery, I found myself edgily bobbing along to the production-master class of Tourist, another one of London’s hand-picked electronic pioneers. A man who moves with his music, Tourist was certainly the bloke to see at early evening, as his tight production techniques and effortlessly crafted beats intoxicated the room. Tourist’s understanding of rhythm is truly unmatched, as the day spun off into a frenzy of excitement. Top marks to man with the untameable quiff.
18:45 – Sam Airey, Leeds Town Hall
Another majestic venue, and yet another majestic artist. With the folk-pop bayou sounds of songs such as ‘Endless Sea’, Sam Airey’s sobering set was welcomed by a half-cut audience. “Is anyone pissed yet?” was Airey’s crying call as he bare-footedly swooned and curved along the stage with admirable grace. Filling the massive space, his soft-brow voice tucked its way into every available crevice. Drunk or not, it was a performance well deserving of praise.
19:30 – Jaws, Faversham
A rammed Faversham hosted the subtle holiday grooves of Birmingham four-piece Jaws; bed-head rock ’n’ roll at its finest. With a debut album on the way, the percussive showpiece previewed a strong set-list of songs such as ‘Stay In’ and new single ‘Feel Too Much, Feel Too Little’. The tinted grunge-style of indie-ness certainly fitted the occasion, and gave a sneak-peek as to what their debut pressing would offer.
20:00 – Circa Waves, The Cockpit, NME Stage
Arguably one of the city’s rawest venues, The Cockpit bottled in the grizzly, bass-heavy sound of Liverpool’s Circa Waves. Like many, I had trouble even getting into the venue, as a swarm of fans filled the NME stage. Clearly, the crowd were riding on Crica Waves, as the indie-guitar janglings carried the crowd into another dimension. A highly anticipated set, with a performance that did not disappoint. Bravo chaps.
21:00 – Wolf Alice, The Cockpit, NME Stage
The angry, repressed, and unmistakable feminist sound of Wolf Alice embodied everything that Live at Leeds is about: excitement, edge and brilliant music. A highly charged performance that set a euphoric buzz around the venue as yet more fans flocked in to see London’s most exciting new rock band. A collision of sexual politics, perfect chemistry and a sound that’ll knock your socks off. It was certainly worth having someone’s gin and tonic spilt down my back.
22:00 – Drenge, The Cockpit, NME Stage
If you’ve ever been full-on thwacked in the chest by a sledgehammer, then you’ll know exactly what’s it like going to a Drenge concert. The proverbial calm before the storm was followed by a steam-roller sound from The Cockpit’s headliners drench a hysterical Leeds crowd in sweat, blood and alcohol. When the stage wasn’t invaded by pumped-up youths, Drenge delivered what they have done time and time again: an ear-piercing delude of killer tracks, including ‘Bloodsports’ and ‘Let’s Pretend’.
Well folks, there you have it. But come on, is it any surprise to you that Live at Leeds was such a success? Take a line-up of some of the world’s most exciting, draw-dropping acts, add in a wild, pre-exam student population and let them lose for a day; the formula pretty much speaks for itself. From energetic, to the down-to-earth, the variety of sound was immense. There is one obvious downside, of course: we have to wait an entire year for Live at Leeds 2015.
No-Title’s Sarah Valentine’s review: http://notitlemagazine.com/live-at-leeds-2014/
No-Title’s Philip Regan’s review: http://notitlemagazine.com/live-at-leeds-2014-2/
Illustrations by Karl Vickers.