Dusting the cobwebs off our survival kits, we headed to the north of England to pick out the highlights of another winning year.
The first weekend of May always signals the real start of festival season. Taking place on one sunny Saturday weekend, Live At Leeds is packed with some of the very best new and established talent. Dusting the cobwebs off our survival kits, we headed to the north of England to pick out the highlights of another winning year.
Words: Ali Shutler, Chris Taylor, Jenessa Williams
Photos: Patrick Gunning, Sarah Louise Bennett
It’s 12.50pm and as far as we’re concerned, the day is already a winner. At The Wardrobe, Idles
are everything we need in a live band – smart, political, funny, dangerous and heartfelt; their impeccable set includes crowd surfing boys in Sainsbury’s uniforms, a round of applause for the contributions of the UK’s immigrants and more sweat than a hungover park run. It may be 20 degrees outside, but our goosebumps are visible – this is easily one of best shows of the year. JW
If Idles were pure energy and exuberance, then Phoebe Green
is something of a bump back to earth. Seemingly unimpressed by both the heat and the diminutive size of the crowd, her performance is somewhat sullen and self-conscious, never quite relaxing into itself. It’s a shame, because ‘Song For Alex’ is a great little swooner, a slice of 60s girl group shimmer that displays her songwriting prowess. JW
DIY, riot grrrl spirit infuses every aspect of their set in Hyde Park Book Club’s equally DIY basement. The sparse space is filled with the unapologetic anger and tongue in cheek humour of the punk four-piece. Encouraging girls to the front and declaring all profits from their zine will go to Abortion Support Network, they’re fearless in their beliefs throughout. Not only that, they’ve got tunes to boot. Comparisons to Bikini Kill seem too easy, even though lead vocalist Janey Starling has a voice like Kathleen Hanna, but they’re not stuck in the past. Tackling the whole gamut of modern issues from female reproductive rights to wondering whether to double text, it’s an impressively fiery start to the day. CT
With a wide window out onto Call Lane, a favourite of Bank Holiday revellers, Oporto’s BBC Introducing Stage catches the eye of many passers-by. Gaffa Tape Sandy
provide the perfect spectacle, with faces pressed against the window to catch a glimpse of Kim Jarvis leaping all over the place. Spiky, ferocious and a whole load of fun, the Bury St. Edmunds trio fill their half-hour with tunes so intensely catch, we find ourselves humming the pre-chorus to the superb ‘Beehive’ all the way to the next venue. CT
For anyone who still has a Wild Beasts-shaped hole in their hearts, Stereo Honey
try their best to patch up the wound with a set that pays significant homage to the recently departed band. Throwing in shades of Everything Everything and Radiohead for good measure, they are clearly the product of a very good record collection, remixed into something that ticks a lot of intelli-pop boxes. Winning over a few new fans in the process, ‘What Makes A Man’ is a particular treat, filling Church with a definite serenity. JW
After letting our eyes adjust to the darkness of The Key Club after racing through the bright sunshine outside, it’s time for King Nun
. The London foursome are a band that love to surprise. One minute they’re barraging us with ferocious riffs, the next we’re bouncing along to an indie pop singalong. The noodling math-rock guitars of previous single ‘Sponge’ and headbanging treat ‘Hung Around’ sound fantastic in the sweaty basement club, but the crowd never seem to fully embrace the potential for a mid-afternoon mosh pit until right at the very end. CT
The tiny stage at Oporto is so packed that BLOXX’s
vocalist Ophelia finds herself politely asking the crowd if she can “get to the front. I’m actually with the band”. A handful of songs at the ready, including a live debut for ‘Monday’, the band are tight and infectious. Tracks like ‘Coke’ and ‘Sea Blue’ are packed with addictive hooks that shake that tiny space. Two girls, who had been itching to get into the room to see BLOXX, finally fight their way in for set closer ‘Ur Boyfriend’ and proceed to go absolutely wild. That’s the power of BLOXX, and it’s only going to get stronger. CT
If the bulging queues that form a ring around the side of the O2 Academy are anything to go by, Peace
must be up there with today’s most popular sets. Six years on from their first LAL appearance, the stages may be bigger, but the spirit remains the same. The familiar strains of Wraith and Money provide the feel-good crowd-pleasers, while the row of dedicated barrier clingers provide fine voice for newer material such as the live debut of ‘Silverlined’, a track that displays their softer side. It segues nicely into the vulnerability of ‘Perfect Skin’ and the delicious sway of ‘California Daze’, as youthful as the day it was written. JW
Moving over to Leeds Beckett, we stumble into something of a welcome back party for Spring King
. Circle pits greet every single song to the obvious gratitude of the band, with new single ‘Animal’ going in particularly hard, close-textured and urgent. With the likes of ‘This City’ and ‘Who Are You?’ in their back pocket, they’ve been sorely missed, reminding us why they’re becoming such a staple of the British festival circuit. JW
don’t seem real a lot of the time. Their music fizzes with electricity as they try and make sense of the world around them. When they don’t have answers, they have jokes. They’ve made their home between a chipped black mirror and a firework of sparking excitement, but there’s always one eye looking for an escape.
And so a festival, unpredictable and out of control, seems like the worst place for Superorganism to thrive. Yet here we are. With projections, costume changes, so much dancing and a reckless sense of joy, the band bloom in a kaleidoscopic whirlwind. Every movement is precise; every song polished until it gleams, but there’s nothing artificial about this rabble. Behind the choreography, the glistening pop bangers and their united march are the grins of eight people who’ve found common ground and are happy to share this space. It’s gleeful and infectious, as the band radiate warmth. As the neons flicker and the strobes burst and decay, Superorganism come to life. AS
Pretty soon, all talk of Ten Tonnes
AKA Ethan Barnett being the little brother of George Ezra will be just a footnote. Here in The Church, it’s quickly swept away by his energetic indie pop. While the cavernous Church seems almost too big at first glance, the giant stained glass window dwarfing Barnett, tracks like ‘Cracks Between’ and the fantastic ‘Lay It On Me’ feel huge. Even when his live band leave for a bit of “one on one time”, his earnest tunes have the crowd enraptured. Ten Tonnes isn’t about the show; he simply lets his songs speak for him. CT
, however, are all about the show. And with plenty of bangers for us to worship in The Church of Dork, it’s the best of both worlds. Ewan and Callum Merrett bounce around the stage like two brothers hopped up on E-numbers. It’s colourful, addictive and full of sunny vibes. Trying to outdo each other, put their other bandmates off and just generally looking like they’re having the time of their lives, it’s a feeling that’s infectious. ‘Are You High?’, ‘Zacharia’ and ‘Avalanche’ whip the crowd up into such a frenzy that, by the time set closer ‘Wages’ ends, the crowd is as knackered as the two brothers look. The words of a middle-aged mum, there with her daughter, as they make to leave say it all: “That’s the best thing I’ve seen all day, by far.” CT
Last year The Magic Gang
caused chaos in The Church and one year later, that performance still gives us goosebumps. This time around, the band are on the biggest of stages and are (finally) backed by their debut album. Some things never change though as The Magic Gang blend beauty and the beast. The jostling ‘How Can I Compete’ flickers with urgency as it lays itself back, ‘Getting Along’ fizzes and sparks like an unstoppable lit fuse while ‘Your Love’ sees the band standing at the edge, shouting at the sky. Their bloodletting echoed by the churning room.
Voices start to fray, but The Magic Gang push on, making every moment count and enjoying the view from their ascent. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen this band; it always feels special. AS
are virtually unrecognisable from the band we watched here a year ago. Not only has their number expanded, but their sound has too – new track ‘Usurper’ demonstrates a new, melodic layer to their grungy songwriting approach that is very exciting indeed. There’s still space for an old favourite though – ‘Winters Glow’ sees a deadpan Keiran clamber down to the crowd, flinging friends into good spirited headlocks and raising a smile from even the most weary-footed sceptics in the room. JW
have had one of the biggest musical glow-ups in recent music history; like high school goths that went to university, read a bit of Sartre and listened to some Cocteau Twins. It’s never more obvious than on our very own stage at Church. The varied setlist spans everything from Primary Colours right through to V. With no Strange House in sight; it’s clear they’ve thrown that first album to the wayside like a used bottle of hairspray.
While Faris Badwin still likes to hide in the darkness (wearing a leather jacket and gloves in that heat, it’s no surprise he wants the shade), Tom Furse and Rhys Webb have truly come out of their shell. Furse, surrounded by synths and other machines, looks like Winslow Leach from Phantom of the Paradise, while Webb swings about the stage with his rather unusual bass crab dance. For The Horrors, this former hallowed space feels like the perfect venue for them; their textured and larger than life sounds filling every rafter. CT
No longer hidden behind her piano, Rae Morris
takes to Belgrave Music Hall with a completely new attitude. Breaking into the explosive ‘Reborn’ after the beautiful opener ‘Push Me To My Limit’, it feels like we are witnessing an awakening of a new Rae Morris; one that dances around the stage in a technicolour fever. Even older tracks like ‘Under The Shadows’ see a serious boost in tempo. There’s still an awkward timidness to Morris, especially in some of movements and crowd interactions, but it only helps heighten her down-to-earth demeanour. Despite a constant buzzing that plagues the set, it’s an impressive sight to see someone return with such a bang. CT
While Alex Turner has been busy grooming his new beard, Justin Young of The Vaccines
has been waiting in the wings to become the UK’s newest 50s debonair, paying homage to ‘that old rock and roll’ with every finger point, hip wiggle and flash of white sock. Resplendent in a gold bowling skirt, he leads his troupe a speedy romp through ‘Wreckin’ Bar’ and ‘Teenage Icon’ to get something of a greatest hits set started. The singalong to ‘Wetsuit’ takes us right back to the giddy summer of 2011, while ‘Your Love Is my Favourite Band’ proves their longevity - something you might expect from the rose-tinted spectacles of Mystery Jets or Little Comets. But there’s no harm in keeping a crowd guessing – despite plenty of competition across the cities venues, they hang on to a packed crowd until the very end, a testament to their enduring vitality. JW
For those of us with any energy left, the Liverpudlian charm of Circa Waves
is enough to hit Stylus capacity one last time, leaving several hundred teens threatening mutiny outside. They throw all the right shapes, but it is clear the crowd are weary (or much too drunk), and any remaining screams are reserved strictly for singles, or a hearty chant of ‘Yorkshire!’ when Keiran dares to say that ‘today is all about the scousers’. No matter how tired a Leeds crowd are, never question their pride. JW