Live At Leeds Festival
May 2nd 2015
Live At Leeds once again takes over a plethora of venues around Leeds. With a line up boasting local, national and international talent, the decisions of who to see are understandably difficult, and with hundreds of bands on offer, it’s possible to see everyone. Between them however, Louder Than War’s Lee Hammond and Dave Beech made a bloody good go of it.
Following the previous evening’s frivolity we’re up bright and early for the main event, Live At Leeds is in its ninth year, in which time it’s become a shining light in the metropolitan festival calendar, the sprawling beast today taking over twenty two venues across the city. With a line-up boasting close to two hundred bands, our task, firmly placed upon us, is to take in as much as possible.
We arrive early with just that in mind and local lads Forever Cult have already taken to the stage at The Key Club. Fortunately, whilst beers are in full flow as we arrive for an early set from the Leeds grungers, no-one is visibly inebriated. Yet anyway. A blow-up doll wearing one of the band’s T-shirts adorns the side of the stage, visibly shocked at the amount of people here early, ready to have last night’s cobwebs blown away. They don’t disappoint. Making an inordinate amount of noise for a three-piece, they tear through releases such as ‘Yasmin’ and recent single ‘Winter’s Glow’ with riotous abandon; the heavier side of grunge with which Leeds has become synonymous clearly on display. Such is the band’s preference for all things weighty that early single ‘Sun Trap’ is omitted entirely, Forever Cult instead preferring to bludgeon us with amorphous slabs of noise and gut-wrenching vocals. With a drawn out conclusion that leaves us blinking in to the stage lights with ringing ears, it’s obvious that Forever Cult are a band with plenty of potential, and with the Leeds scene as strong as it is currently, they’re obviously making all the right moves. Despite protests from the stickiest floor of the day, we have to leave Key Club, with an interview to conduct and more bands than we can physically recall seeing, it’s off to the next act of the day…
[Writer’s Note: Despite the interview going better than expected, technology didn’t and so as a result there’s been a rescheduling of our conversation with Forever Cult for the time being. Watch this space.]
Opening up the O2 Academy stage is ex Supergrass front man Gaz Coombes and despite the early hour, he’s drawn a humongous crowd. Currently on his “Mata-tour” (named after his new album Matador) a lot of that which is on show this afternoon comes from that album; tracks like opener Buffalo and The English Ruse going down a treat, and though his set is a safe start to the day, we’re eager to get stuck into some of the lesser-known bands on the line-up.
As we arrive at Leeds Beckett University, there’s an interesting noise emanating from the second stage, three diminutive figures stand on stage producing this cacophonous sound. The Orielles, hailing from nearby Halifax, produce some of the most exciting surf pop on offer at the moment, the conflicting harmonies between the harshness of Harry and the sweetness of Esme setting them apart from their peers. Harry’s erratic guitar playing is a sheer sight to behold and despite there tender years there’s no doubt that these guys are set for big things.
We take the trek out to the furthest of all of the venues; the infamous Brudenell Social Club, which boasts arguably the most intense and eclectic line-up of them all. Entering its hallowed main room, Belgian rockers Raketkanon (pronounced Rocket Canon) are about to set about this crowd. Quite literally leaping out of the blocks, they’re in full attack mode. With their Steve Albini produced second album now out, they’re showcasing their wears in exquisite style. Every member of the band ending up in the crowd at some point. Their set is intense and exciting, I even had my own run in with singer Pieter-Paul when he leaped from the stage, peering down my camera lens. Not what I was expecting but incredible all the same, Raketkanon really set our day alight, filling us with renewed hope.
Russia’s finest Pinkshinyultrablast fortunately compounds that, as they take to the stage with their own brand of post rock. These guys are currently making waves all over the country, and theirs is indefinitely one of the most beautiful sets of the day. Despite the blasts of noises they maintain a subdued vibe; their nonchalant behaviour adding to their mystique.Ploughing through an incredible set of tracks lifted from their debut album, their dreamy vibes fill the room as the crowd swoon. From my personal perspective, this has to be the set of the day. In the face of what’s to come, Pinkshinyultrablast have truly laid the gauntlet down.
Injecting some baggy and blissed out sunshine in to an otherwise grey Leeds day, Menace Beach take to the stage at the Beckett SU; lighter in comparison to Forever Cult, but still harbouring a ’90s slacker vibe, the band are seen as somewhat of staple of the Leeds scene, and much like Hookworms’ MJ (who coincidentally features in the band, at times) have come to spearhead that scene. Their set, comprised of tracks such as the scuzzy ‘Tennis Court’ and summery ‘Tastes Like Medicine’ provide some welcome early evening relief from the weight of previous acts and what promises to be much heavier later on. Having played the same stage last year, and impressing us then, with a full album now behind them, Menace Beach are even sharper than before, the heaving crowd a cert, given their home territory.
Genghar return to the festival, for a second time riding high on a crest of hype fresh from SXSW and supporting Circa Waves. With their debut album readied for release, it’s no surprise that the crowd has swelled in this impressive venue. Yet despite all the hyperbole and buzz around Genghar, their set feels all too familiar, it’s a sound that has been heard many times before. They’re deserved of the excitement around them to them an extent, as it is a well executed sound, yet for us, it has become rather formulaic and bland.
The same cannot be said for the band opening Leeds Town Hall, Dutch Uncles, who recently released their spectacular fourth album O Shudder. Despite starting late due to venue issues, they’re quick to make up for lost time with the beautiful In N Out; the grandiose venue providing the most exhilarating of backdrops.
Duncan’s dancing never fails to get the crowd going, as the band indulge us with tracks like Flexxin’, it’s hard not to move your hips. However, despite the jovial atmosphere and the late start, someone inconsiderately turned out the lights. Visibly annoyed, the band continue in the dark with an incredible version of Dressage lit by phone lights alone. It’s the only dampener on our day so far, as recompense though, we head to The Nation of Shopkeepers where the incomparable H Hawkline and his band are thrilling an excitable audience.
The Welsh crooner dead centre flanked by a personal favourite of mine Sweet Baboo, he casts his sweet spell across this room. A well deserved change of a pace that has so far been all about the rough and ready side of indie rock, Hawkline’s songs are personal and captivating, by far one of the most interesting sets of the day.
Another Leeds staple in the form of Hookworms, once again at the Beckett SU, the band’s fusion of neo-psychedelia and krautrock providing those in attendance with a healthy dose of psychoactive drones and ’60s organs; the motorik propulsion of material from last year’s The Hum, such as ‘Radio Tokyo’ or ‘The Impasse’ pulling the band through their set, whilst in true trippy fashion, full blown freak-outs pepper their set wonderfully. It’s not all brain-melting however, ‘Off Screen’ provides some much needed respite, before they segue back in to yet another drawn out conclusion that sees the crowd of cosmonauts in a state of altered conciousness. Though their set’s over all too soon, such are we impressed that we can’t wait to expand our minds with MJ et al again at the next available chance. And they say trips aren’t addictive.
Having waited over a year to see Eagulls live, there was no way we were missing them at the Beckett SU, moving towards the barrier as Hookworms leave, when everyone else seems to make their way to the bar, if not to another venue. Yet another budding Leeds institution, Eagulls depict their city in a far less technicolour manner to that of their peers in either Hookworms or Menace Beach. Cold, claustrophobic post-punk is their forte, and tonight they assault the crowd with huge swathes of uncompromising noise and paranoid vocal stylings. Deciding the barrier perhaps isn’t the best place for one of the loudest bands of the day, we move to the side as singer George Mitchell begins to prowl the stage; his cadaverously thin frame clad in a long, almost militant jacket that reflects the bands staunch, almost-militant post-punk. Tracks such as ‘Posessed’ and ‘Opaque’ offer a somewhat lighter (as far as Eagulls go) side to the band, but it’s the uncompromising and cathartic assault of ‘Nerve Endings’, ‘Hollow Visions’ and the emphatic ‘Soulless Youth’ that really make their set. With their self-titled debut now over a year old, the prospect of new material from the band is more than looming, but for the most part, it’s material from that debut that backbones the set tonight, the material we’ve waited a year to hear and the material which leaves us feeling bruised and battered yet ultimately cleansed of the day’s discretions . Cathartic stuff.
Making our way down to the Brudenell to close out the evening, our heavy legs carry us on this long walk. The prize at the end though is all to alluring as We Were Promised Jetpacks take to the stage, all the pain drains and we’re filled with excitement. The venue packed to the rafters, everyone drawn in to the Scottish bands brand of indie rock.
With a slew of tracks from their latest LP Unravelling, they easily win over this crowd many of who are gathering early for tonight’s headliners. That said We Were Promised Jetpacks amply acquit themselves, the stand out track doesn’t come from Unravelling though. It comes in the awe inspiring Boy In The Backseat; its urgency and intensity igniting the crowd is a real sight to behold.
Yet I can’t help but think ahead, a band on the cusp of transcending these small venues in a similar style to that of Royal Blood who came and conquered Live At Leeds last year. The only major difference here is that is hasn’t gone to Slaves’ heads, with deafening chants of YORKSHIRE YORKSHIRE ringing in our ears before a note is played. Isaac and Laurie gladly oblige and chant along with this heaving venue.
Opening up with White Knuckle Ride, living up to its name as the crowd rush the stage from the off, those on the front row being bent double on to the stage. It’s clear that this will be a riotous set. As a young lady falls at my feet (and not in a way I’d enjoy) I’m left fearing for my own life, the crowd morphing in to this one humongous mass, by the time they play an over excited Where’s Your Car Debbie? I’m at the back watching the casualties being pulled from the crowd.
Members of said crowd clamber on stage for a brief breather, before flinging themselves atop the mass of people. To describe this set as wild would be a grave understatement though Isaac and Laurie look to be having the time of their lives, both riding this roller coaster of a crowd at points throughout the set. To have the audacity to describe these two guys as a Royal Blood tribute act is nothing short of ridiculous. I’m a firm believer that Slaves are the future, their charisma, stage presence and overall brilliance will rule the day.
As Live At Leeds draws to a close for another year, we’re left tired, weak but we could still do it all again right now. It is without doubt one of the best metropolitan festivals in the country, despite the ridiculously long walk to the Brudenell. We will certainly back for next years tenth anniversary celebrations!
Words by Dave Beech and Lee Hammond, photos by Lee. You can check out more work by Dave at his Louder Than War author’s archive, he also tweets as @Dave__Beech. You can check out more work by Lee at his Louder Than War author’s archive, he also tweets as @Napzap.