Welcome to the ninth annual outing of Live at Leeds. Highly regarded as one of our 10 Best Metropolitan Festivals, Live at Leeds assumes its now customary position over the first bank holiday weekend in May and role as torch-bearer for the new festival season. Winner of ‘Best Metropolitan Festival’ at last year’s UK Festival Awards, it promises a whopping 200 acts at 20 different venues across the length and breadth of the city – from the famous Brudenell Social Club in the west to the Wardrobe and Leeds College of Music just over the road from each other in the east. In what proves to be a wonderful day of diverse musical entertainment, we manage a rather modest 15 acts over nine venues and these are our highlights:
Treason Kings uphold Live at Leeds’ fundamental ethos of presenting new and upcoming acts alongside some much more established artists. They approach live music in much the same way that Michael Caine did an international gold heist as they seek to blow the bloody doors right off The Key Club in what is an uncompromising assault on the senses. The blitzkrieg of guitar-driven noise that the four-piece from Leeds whip up punches a great big hole in a dank, grey and otherwise pretty miserable West Yorkshire afternoon.
A short walk away is the Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen. Upstairs in the event space of the former Leeds Children’s Palace, south London’s Alex Burey is already drifting effortlessly through a set drawn from his debut EP Inside World and its forthcoming follow-up Family Stone. Not yet 20 years of age, and drawing upon a wide range of influences from Minnie Ripperton to Autechre, Burey’s music possesses an emotional maturity and gravitas that is not always heard in one so relatively young.
In a shrewd piece of scheduling, Live at Leeds place some of their really big hitters on one of the main stages early on in the day. He will later play an instore gig at a completely rammed Dr Martens shop in the city centre, but the first of the day’s headliners to appear at the 2,300 capacity O2 Academy is Gaz Coombes. If he ever wants to completely shed his former Supergrass skin then this is probably the way to do it. Featuring material from his two solo albums – the 2013 single ‘One of These Days’ whilst not appearing on either of these records is absolutely sublime – Coombes shows that there probably always was a darker undercurrent to the affable, easygoing persona he presented when fronting that band.
The disappointing news that delayed flights means Norwegian synth poster Sea Change will no longer be appearing in Oporto was offset by Aosoon’s performance there immediately beforehand. A musical union of Marisa Hylton and Manny Folorunso, the south London duo enthral a packed crowd with a fistful of tunes that balance shadows and light. On ‘Same Difference’ – taken from Aosoon’s recent EP, Capo 3 – Hylton’s voice is eerily redolent of Martina Topley-Bird’s instinctive siren on Tricky’s landmark album Maxinquaye.
The ethereal surroundings of the Holy Trinity Church provide the most perfect setting for Rebecca Clements. One of the 10 acts featured in our recent Live at Leeds playlist, she proves to be ever so worthy of that strong recommendation. The young singer-songwriter from South West England proves that there are still wider frontiers to explore in the indie-folk kingdom as she charts an innovative path across a delightful set that embraces charm, humility and raw emotional integrity.
As the late afternoon begins to merge into early evening, a rain-splattered walk through the precincts of Leeds University brings us to Stylus in the very heart of the campus. It also brings us to Misty Miller. Another 20-year-old from south London suggests that that particular part of the world has suddenly acquired a monopoly on producing both young and thrilling musical talent. In what is a very short space of time, her music has evolved from rather wistful ukulele-flavoured pop into something far more dark and determined. Her voice has become a full-blooded bluesy roar, heard to startling effect on new single ‘Next To You’ and the triumphant set closer ‘Best Friend’.
Back down in the heart of the city, Scarlet Rascal captivate the Nation of Shopkeepers’ audience. In Luke Brookes they have the perfect frontman. With his lantern-jawed, film star good looks and a compelling baritone that looms large somewhere between that of Ian Curtis and Iggy Pop, he leads the Bristolian quartet through a mesmerising set which owes much to the influence of Richard Hell and Television but still maintains its own individual stamp.
Another act to feature on the God Is In The TV Live at Leeds Playlist was Hookworms. Needing much less of an introduction than some of the others on that list, any devastation the band may have felt at the recent cancellation of their US/Canadian tour (due to delays in the visa process) seems to be largely forgotten tonight as they put in a magnetic, pulverising performance before their hometown crowd. Their music may be just as impenetrable as the gloom in which they play the main Leeds Beckett stage but it remains one of the loudest, unsettling and most exhilarating musical experiences that is around today.
From the visceral psychedelic, space-rock din of Hookworms to the more gentle indie-folk refrain of Jagaara in the space of a few minutes’ walk says everything about the diversity and intimacy of Live at Leeds. The three sisters Edmondson – Jane, Ruth and Cat – not only challenge the south London creative cartel (they hail from the north of the capital) but they inject passion, presence and a beautifully deceptive power into Saturday night. Their delightful six song set comes to an imperious head with first new single ‘In The Dark’ and then an exultant ‘Marble Arch’.
One suspects that it is the allure of festival headliners The Cribs appearing in the Town Hall that lends itself to the relatively low numbers of people who convene at Leeds Beckett University at 10 o’clock to see Thurston Moore. No matter how good the brothers Jarman were, they would have been hard pressed to better the former Sonic Youth linchpin tonight.
Since the dissolution four years ago of the band whose place in contemporary counter-cultural history is pretty much assured, Moore has hooked up with guitarist James Sedwards, My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe on bass and his erstwhile Sonic Youth bandmate Steve Shelley on drums. Together they channel Moore’s deep love of Neil Young into something that is utterly compelling; a high-propulsion of melodic, guitar-driven noise. The opening songs – ‘Forevermore’ and ‘Speak to the Wild’, both taken from last year’s solo album The Best Day – are quite possibly as close to the perfect union of Young’s Ragged Glory and some of Sonic Youth’s huge guitar adventures that you are ever likely to hear.
It is then up to Emmy The Great – way over on the other side of town in the more serene environment of the College of Music’s Recital Room – to gently lower the musical temperature by a few, subtle degrees and with it bring to a perfect close another hugely successful Live at Leeds festival. There is now just less than a year until the event celebrates its 10th anniversary. Let the countdown begin!
More photos from Live at Leeds 2015 can be found here
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.