Live at Leeds 2019: The Review

Words by Charity Swales and photos by Brandon Taylor

Live At Leeds returned to Leeds city centre for the eleventh time this year, offering up a tasty serving of over 200 acts from the next big things to heavy hitters. The festival has established itself as the festival manifestation of your Spotify Discover, as well as showcasing the city’s most eclectic and funky music venues. Previous years saw sets from artists such as IDLES, DMA’s and Lewis Capaldi, who have achieved meteoric success in the past year. And this year was no different in offering up a varied and consuming line up. 

Sundara Karma, headlining Live at Leeds 2019
Sundara Karma, headlining Live at Leeds 2019

Kicking off the day at the biggest venue of the festival, the 2300-capacity O2 Academy, were Castleton lads Drenge. Bringing a mix of their sludgy post-grunge of their first two albums, and brooding post-punk of their third, the four-piece brought a fervent atmosphere to the venue. Although off to an initially frosty reception, sandwiching the back end of their set with the raucous tunes from their debut such as ‘Face Like A Skull’ ensued limbs flailing from every angle of the crowd. Reworking ‘Backwaters’ down to a slower tempo was an odd choice for a festival crowd, but brought a new perspective of the song. Finishing with the pathos-inducing ‘Let’s Pretend’ gave the set a emotionally liberating touch.

Heading to The Wardrobe we arrived just in time to catch Liverpudlian indie dream-pop four-piece SPINN, who recently released their debut LP. The band carry the beacon of indie bands before them, delivering an energetic and genuinely vivacious live show that refuses to stagnate the genre. Lead singer Johnny Quinn has a Jagger-esque stage presence which is as charismatic as it is idiosyncratic and encourages great engagement from the crowd. These guys are forefront runners in their genre, so watch out for them in the next year.

Next we moved onto The BBC Introducing stage at Oportom packed with promising new acts from across the country, arriving just in time to catch Lauran Hibberd’s set. The small capacity of the venue enabled an intimate affair with artists you can expect to blossom in the next year. Lauran delivered her songs with panache and attitude to the soundtrack of summery guitars. Her lyrics are filled with quippy one liners, with latest single ‘Hoochie’ showcasing the insanely bittersweet “Nothing ever hit you like my motorbike / It’s cute that you cried”. Make sure to catch her on the Introducing Stage if you’re heading to Glastonbury this year.

One thing about metropolitan festivals, is the amount of walking expected is severely underrated. Rushing over to The Social we caught the last of folk-pop singer Beabadoobee’s intimate acoustic set. The eighteen-year old played a series of songs from her string of EPs, including ‘Dance With Me’, each delivered with an angelic, yet humbling flair. As a member of the Dirty Hit family, you can expect her to blow up in the next year, achieving similar success to label mate The Japanese House. 

Probably the best performance we witnessed at the festival came from Cambridge legends Sports Team, who delivered a wildly unpredictable and hilarious set at The Wardrobe. Lead singer Alex Rice has a rare stage presence, maneuvering about the stage like a caricature of a young Morrissey: Rice propelled himself into the crowd, quite literally breaking down the barrier. Playing a string of songs from their EPs such as ‘M5’ and ‘Kutcher’, it was probably one of the liveliest crowds we saw in the smaller venues. Notoriously, they don’t hold back when it comes to satirising other bands, so of course they took a quip at Fontaines D.C. on top of their HMLTD diss ‘Camel Crew’.

After toying with heading up to Hyde Park Book Club to catch Hotel Lux, or minimising the exercise and heading to Headrow House to catch Kojaque, we decided on the latter. The rising Irish hip-hop star, the pseudonym of Kevin Smith, arrived with his Soft Boy label-mates Luka Palm and Kean Kavanagh in tow. Exploring a mixture between the mundane and political in his verse, it was delivered with strong Irish dialect and an abundance of energy. After initially asking the disappointingly sparse crowd to come forward, the crowd interacted well with the more up-tempo songs such as ‘Date Night’ – perhaps getting some people a little too enthusiastic. Kojaque’s set showcased exactly why the Irish music scene is a force to be reckoned with; you can expect enumerable success from him.

The only issue with the festival is what can seem like an miles between the venues. Our next pit-stop was at Leeds’ most loved venue The Brudenell Social Club, where Irish post-punk troubadours The Murder Capital made an appearance. Despite only releasing two singles under their belt, their blend of politically inclined, brooding post-punk had fleshed out the venue’s mini amphitheatre. Frontman James McGovern is both menacing, and captivating, occasionally perching on the amp staring into the crowd with a stark intensity. If there was one band that felt like you were seeing the ‘next big thing’, then The Murder Capital was exactly that.

In the classic style of life, nothing is ever an easy ride. So of course the Stylus venue had flooded the night before, prompting a cancellation from headliners Metronomy. Predictably this was met with a social media uproar, with many questioning why every other band could be moved to the Riley Smith Theatre except them. We didn’t see the social media announcement and like many other disappointed revellers ended up being told the disappointing news at the venue. It would have been respectable for the 4-piece to try and adapt their set for the new venue, but if they didn’t feel they could put on a worthwhile show, then that’s fair enough.

Much of the time it’s whether the bands lived up to the hype, but did this years festival live up to it? Absolutely, they handpicked some of the finest emerging talent, which if anything was too much to choose from. Yes, it was disappointing to see Metronomy pull out, but with such an eclectic mix of talent witnessed, it was hardly a deal breaker. Roll on next year.