Live at Leeds 2016: Who We Saw

At this year’s offering of upcoming and established musical acts, Live at Leeds was celebrating ten years of existence. The party included more venues (16), more people attending (loads), and more bands (nearly 200) than ever before. It also marked the first time that we had attended the one day festival AND the first time that Too Many Blogs had been invited to become an official partner with an event.

Despite hosting our own stage at the Oporto venue, Team TMB split up and took to the streets of Leeds to try and find the best of what was on offer (In the interest of ease of reading, the review has been split based on the people who attended. Sorted by alphabetical order of surname).

Elli Brazzill

First up, HAUS. This band of London boys have been around for a few years but made the ultimate statement releasing their debut single ‘Haze’ last year. I’m making the point now, if HAUS aren’t hugely successful there’s something seriously wrong. They start off with ‘Blinded’, it’s Intuitively catchy hooks, brilliant bass and a voice cause immediate intrigue and adoration. Ashley Mulimba is incredible, apart from his breath-taking vocals, he is a brave frontman not afraid of taking risks. Witnessing him dive bomb off the bar into the sparse crowd at the back of the room I thought he was lost, he’d gone down so far. Until an epic Lion King-esque rise into the sky in the arms of a few strong men undeniably proved he was straight up incredible.

Next up at the Oporto are stage headliners Blaenavon and the small live room is packed out. The trio create atmospheric indulgent alt rock, the crowd applauds and cheers for every song, each song becoming more clear, but the reaction to ‘Prague’ is unlike any other. It’s 7:30pm and there’s adults singing their hearts out, physical ripples of excitement are visible when the guitar quietly begins. New single ‘I Will Be The World’ is another highlight. Ben Gregory’s voice is subtle, strong yet also fragile, friendly yet scarily intense. Dark and brooding, emotions and connotations switching consistently, keeping the crowd on their toes The track is a fork in the road for Blaenavon, a bold sign pointing towards an astounding debut album.

Anteros play DIY’s NEU stage at the Brudenell Social Club. A small stage erected in the games room sees the 4-piece wow Leeds with their alt pop. EP tracks ‘Fade To Grey’ and eponymous ‘Anteros’ are get the crowd going as frontwoman Laura Hayden asks us to come forward and we oblige. It’s rare to so clearly see the happiness in a band on stage, each member with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts. New single ‘Breakfast’ is easily the band’s best track so far, middle aged ladies and teenage boys boogie together, what festivals are all about.

After a stage time delay due to Loyle Carner’s sound issues, Rat Boy hits DIY’s main stage. The main room is a sea of sardined teenagers who scream incessantly as Jordan Cardy comes on simply to take a picture before the set even begins. When it finally does, his band appear wearing cartoon masks of their own faces, except the Rat himself masquerading as a weird green monster. The masks fly off and they smash into their set of squealing indie. There’s no denying Rat Boy and co put on a show, it takes something special to make teens go that wild and they do it well. However, will the hype of being a younger, more average and annoying Jamie T last? That remains to be seen.

 

Simon Harwood

A 12pm opening set for the Too Many Blogs stage over at the Oporto bar wasn’t expected to be a heavy one, but TRASH proved us all wrong. Just as the curtains opened, the fans heaved from one half of the bar into the other. The four lads modestly played their set while getting one audience member to claim the first crowd surf of the day. And for 12pm, lead-singer Dan said “must be a record”. It’s still early stages for the boys with the lead-guitarist, Evan, still working over the counter of his local Tesco, but with such a loyal fan-base ranks are going to be climbed.

Over at The Leeds College of Music recital room, Xylaroo comprised of Coco and Holly Chant were set to serenade. I had never heard of them, in-fact the only reason I happened upon them is because I was lost, but once I walked in I did not want to walk out again. The Papua New Guinean sisters told stories of their childhood and Shri-Lanka while churning out solemn melodies with humbling messages. Their vocals never fell out of sync and Holly Chant’s harmonies were effortlessly flawless.

Even for acoustic music these guys stripped it back to basics, but simplicity has never seemed so fresh.

Behind the doors of The Wardrobe, Will Joseph Cook and his band comprised warm tones of 80s funk and indie-electronica. His quivering vocals layered behind sunny melodies drew in wolf whistles and boogies alike. He’s made my listen list.

If you found yourself at the Leeds Beckett Union Stage an hour or so before Blood Red Shoes were set to play, you probably had some time to kill. And with this venue so inconveniently far away from the other venues for Live at Leeds, you owed it to your aching feet to simply hang around, and that’s very likely the only reason you were watching 5-piece rock band, The Duke Spirit.

Just like their name, their music would work quite nicely for a pub. It’s middle-aged and middle-of-the-road rock. The set just didn’t go anywhere interesting, and as much as I hate hecklers, I couldn’t help but agree with the ones who shouted “Boring!” If unnecessary showboat singing and subpar musicianship helps you fall asleep as much as it does for me, play yourself some Duke Spirit next time you’re tossing and turning.

The alt/ garage rock duo Blood Red Shoes were found heating up the Leeds Becket Union Stage for Band of Skulls, and there was never a doubt that they were going to Light. It. Up. High octane vocals were tossed back and forth from both drummer, Steve Ansell and guitarist, Laura Carter as they initiated the bloodshed. Ansell knew what he doing when he jokingly asked “I’ve forgotten where we are, Laura. Yorkshire?” instantly provoking the crowd to chant back “Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!” as the hyped-up drummer beckoned the crowd in for more as Carter unleashed the opening riff to “Don’t Ask” on their sorry souls. Blood Red Shoes never disappoint.

10pm. At this point you were either party-thirsty or exhausted from the turmoil raised by bands earlier, and Dan Croll was the guy to visit for the latter. The Leeds College of Music mainstage was a swanky auditorium with crisp acoustics and tiered seating. Croll even admitted it’s one of the weirdest places he’s ever played after jokingly treating his gig like it was a lecture and marking the evening as his big “Fuck you!” to the university as they rejected him some years back. Despite the musician’s apparently uncomfortable arrangement, it worked perfectly in his favour, providing an intimate atmosphere that allowed him to relax and have friendly banter with the audience.

The music? Tasty. All the songs from his 2014 debut ‘Sweet Disarray’ that you think you already know is now different, as he placed a creative new spin on the tracks. And as for all the music that you have in store for his next album, will be well worth the wait.

 

James Hughes

April 30th will be a day that Hannah Lou Clarke will be quick to try and forget. After starting thirty minutes later than the scheduled time, “my car broke down and then all my gear broke”, she was forced to stop again during the first song because of another issue. Then, after restarting it, a string snapped. It really wasn’t Clarke’s day and I left (she managed two more songs after, before having to call it a day) the impressive looking church to head back to the Too Many Blogs stage at Oporto.

As I arrived back, there was no room to move for Scottish band Holy Esque. The band, who have recently released their debut record, were surprisingly tight and sounding great. Pat Hynes unique vocal style catching the attention of everybody in the bar. Keep an eye on them because Holy Esque are a hugely confident band and put on a live show that justifies it. The surprise highlight of the day.

I stuck around at Oporto for the follow up act, Kassassin Street. As it had been for most of the day, the room was once again packed out. The band’s musical style isn’t what I would usually listen to at home but a captivating front man in the form of Rowan Bastable was more than enough to keep my attention for half an hour. Bastable was one of those front men who effortlessly manages to keep the crowd in the palm of his hand. This is a band who love doing what they do and pour that energy into a room.

A couple of cancellations meant I ended up heading toward the bottom end of the festival before my interview with Pumarosa. There, I stumbled across a Scottish gentleman by the name of at Callum Beattie. His performance was nice enough and was in a similar ilk to that of the current generation of male singer-songwriters like James Bay. He went down especially well with the more intoxicated members of the audience in the front row.

After leaving Oporto where Blaenavon had closed the day, I once again headed toward the Wardrobe for Pumarosa. The band are one of those who have taken the attention of the music world recently with tracks ‘Priestess’ and ‘Cecile’ and could be seen having a side of stage huddle before they went on. An enchanting set that featured the two tracks, as well as ‘Lions Den’ which provided proof they gave other hits in their locker, left the hundreds of people in attendance dancing as Isabel Munoz-Newsome repeatedly chanted “Priestess, you dance, you dance, you dance”. A moment you can foresee happening with thousands in the near future.

 

Jonny Winship

Spring King whip the near full capacity crowd at Leeds University Union into a frenzy, with their trademark sharp and bouncy pop punk sound. The bands drummer and lead vocalist Tarek Musa, leads the show from the back of the stage from behind his drum kit. Their energy onstage is absorbed by the young and pumped-up crowd.  A mosh pit immediately breaks out as the band seamlessly crash through their 45 minute long set. Tarek has a brief recess from his drum kit for the start of ‘They’re Coming After You’, and pauses briefly to take a photograph of one of their biggest crowds to date. New single, ‘The Summer’ reminds us that spring is still dragging its feet, however Spring King have done their best to light the spark on a cold day in Yorkshire.

Meilyr Jones graces the crowd at The Nation of Shopkeepers’ stage with his classical art, poetry, literature and roman aesthetic inspired sound. Backed by a full live band, Meilyr successfully transmits the hymnal highs, brassy punches and beautiful warmth of his debut album 2013. Still carrying the style, class and poise from his short time in Rome, a major inspiration for the album, he is fully liberated and engrossed within his own tunes, emitting a joyful charm.

Meilyr’s soft and sincere persona is in stark contrast to Shame, who quite literally tore up the stage only hours before. A young 5 piece from London, show no inhibitions as the band release their belligerent punk sound upon the audience like a starved caged animal. Lead singer Charlie Steen demands the crowd’s attention with his delinquent antics, as he spits, stamps, climbs and stamps around the stage. The crowd start to show a combination of unease and amusement as Charlie tears of his Jacket, rips of his shirt and douses himself in beer. His band mates follow suit, pitching in on the light chaos as their set crashes to an anarchistic conclusion and the drummer’s snare is flung towards the crowd.

Attempting to fit three shows in 18 hours, Kagoule play the DIY stage at Brudenell Social Club before they need to race off for Handmade Festival in Leicester. The room is packed and the crowd are battered by Lucy Hatter’s powerful vocals, crushing bass and Kai Burns’ cutting jagged guitar sounds. They contrast a sharp gritty tone with a deep dream like wail. The three-piece showcase their new track ‘Pharmacy’ which reveals a more ferocious and heavier edge to the band, with hints of math rock rhythms and convulsing guitar riffs.  Their performance is evidence to suggest they are certainly more than just another post-grunge band.

For a young lad surrounded by so much hype and anticipation Benjamin Carner-Loyle better known as Loyle Carner could be forgiven for developing the all too common arrogant persona of rap artists. However, his performance is characterised by a humble and grateful attitude. Backed by friend and producer Rebel Kleff they effortlessly glide through their short 30 minute set. His songs are intensely personal and endearingly compassionate, dedicating sections of his set to various members of his family and his late stepfather.  Crowd favourite ‘Aint Nothing Changed’ is a highlight as the crowd mirror his energy, and beam back the lyrics.  His unity and collaboration with the people at the Brudenell Social Club is impressive for a lad whose first gig was only back in 2014. It’s evident that his early success was no accident as he looks to cement himself as one of Britain’s most exciting young rap artists.