And so we kicked off the 2015 music festival season with a trip over the Pennines and attended our first ever Live At Leeds.
Aside from enjoying superb music in some fantastic venues, we learnt a number of valuable lessons including
It doesn’t always rain in Leeds, just when we visit, apparently.
The Brudenell Social Club is actually further away from the festival hub than any map would have you believe.
And …given the above, we certainly picked the wrong day to break in our new Doc Martins.
But without further ado, here’s a roundup of our musical highlights at this year’s Live At Leeds Festival.
FEHM – Brudenell Games Room
After falling under the dark spell of Leeds four piece FEHM and premiering their latest video last week, we were looking forward to catching them live at a time when many people were probably enjoying a hungover brunch! Happily FEHM were everything we’d expected, and more. Menacing, compelling passionate and more than a little intimidating, singer Paul Riddle appeared to be a man possessed. He cut a compelling brooding figure as he strode about the stage in an agitated reverie, as the four-piece performed songs from their debut ‘Animal Skin’ EP. Definitely, a band we hope to catch live again very soon and despite the dark nature of their music, you do get the feeling the future is bright for FEHM.
ACTOR – Brudenell Social Club
The first ever gig for Actor, which is the alias of Louisa Osborn who is collaborating with producer Chris Mulligan and drummer Ste Anderson. Their debut offering ‘Feline’ emerged online last week, but Actor have arrived with their musical vision fully formed. Songs such as ‘Uppercut’, ‘Kisses’ and ‘Baby Cries’ prove there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming year and the mixture of Louisa’s soaring vocals, and chiming guitar lends a satisfying pop/indie sensibility to proceedings which whilst sounding incredibly polished never sounds over-egged.
LOUIS BERRY – The Faversham
As is the way with such events, it’s always difficult to keep to any pre-planned schedule and sometimes you have to go with the flow. We arrived at the Faversham to be greeted by a sign stating there had been a gas leak and not to use mobile phones. Erm, seriously? As there seemed to be some delay in the running order we wandered toward the main area and come across the last three tunes being performed by Liverpool’s hotly tipped Louis Berry. He certainly had the crowd buzzing with his frenetically strummed rock and roll, given a contemporary twist and although it’s still early we spot the first sign of dancing in the audience. However perhaps we best use the term ‘dancing’ with caution, as the chap in question made Happy Monday’s Bez appear as graceful and fleet of foot as Fred Astaire!
CHLØË BLACK – Belgrave Music Hall
With our schedule rapidly unravelling, we spotted that ‘Goth n’soul’ singer Chløë Black had just started her set! Thus using a combination of observing the position of the sun, the movement of the clouds, the flight path of birds, a simple compass made from a paperclip and a magnet and Google maps (well ok mainly just Google maps) we navigated to a packed Belgrave Music Hall. One of the great things about these sorts of festivals is that if you miss one act, there’s invariably another great artist you can catch. We didn’t get to see all of Chløë’s set but her voice is one that certainly stops you in your tracks. It consoles, seduces and invigorates and combined with an image that conjures up a glammed up Morticia Adams /Amy Winehouse, theres a definite aura of star quality about Ms. Black.
It would be easy to make comparisons to the dark femme fatale shtick that Lana Del Rey has so successfully made her own, and whilst Chløë Black’s songs have that fatalistic sense of doomed grandeur, vocally she blows LDR away. And whilst she has a powerhouse of a voice that fuses, jazz, soul and RnB she uses it wisely. For example there is never any unnecessary showboating, or ill-advised vocal gymnastics, just a beautifully judged performance, mixing subtlety and power. She may have joked between songs about her ‘imaginary backing band’ but her charisma and euphonious voice seemed to fill every inch of the venue.
REBECCA CLEMENTS- Holy Trinity Church
This was the first time we’ve caught Rebecca live and the beautiful setting of the Holy Trinity Church in Leeds City Centre was a fitting venue for such a talented young artist. She performed all the songs that have grabbed our attention over the last year, including debut ‘Wildfire; ‘Coma Boy’, Love Child’, ‘Pure Wasted’ and her own interpretation of The Cure’s classic ‘ Boys Don’t Cry.’
Bruising – Leeds Beckett Student Union
Bruising are another band we’ve featured heavily since their arrival a few months ago, and being a local band we anticipated a good turnout but the place was seriously rammed! The bands fuzzed-up garage pop, which up until now has apparently consisted of bedroom recordings certainly translated superbly well on the bigger stage. The crowd received the band with genuine enthusiasm and despite singer Naomi Baguley’s assertion that this was the most nervous the band have ever been, it certainly didn’t affect their performance.
The Big Moon – Leeds Beckett Student Union
One of the surprises of the festival for us, (a ‘Eureka Moment’ even ;) ) and one of those, “let’s see if we can squeeze one more band in before we dash off to the Brudenell “ scenarios. They took a while sound checking but when they hit their stride The Big Moon were excellent. We’d not heard them before and they certainly left an impression with their edgy, intelligent playful guitar pop with a nod toward Riot Girl. Now you must go out and own all their music.
Black Honey – The Brudenell Social Club
We seen Black Honey more times than our own family in recent months, and we noticed they’d added a new addition to their line-up in the form of a large plastic pink flamingo. As anticipated, it was another sublime set from a band that go from strength to strength, and it was another of those performances that had the audience eating out of the palm of their hand within minutes. Opening with their last single ‘Spinning Wheel’ there was no let up as the band raced through a set list, which was packed with wonderful tunes. They’ll be playing more festivals this year including Dot To Dot, Liverpool Sound City, The Great Escape and the Reading and Leeds Festivals. Catch them while you get the chance, because we have a suspicion they won’t be playing the smaller venues too often in the coming years.
EAGULLS – Leeds Beckett University
Local heroes Eagulls have come a long way since first appearing at LAL in 2012. They toured the world, attracted a fair degree of controversy, and appeared on David Letterman in the U.S.A. Their abrasive uncompromising post-punk is delivered with assurance and at this stage of proceedings is a wake-up call and the aural equivalent of being smacked in the face with a shovel.
Anthemic, abrasive and confrontational Eagulls may be disillusioned with many things, but they certainly give it their all when it comes to performing their own songs. Frontman George Mitchell replete with a long overcoat was reminiscent of a lanky undertaker striding the stage, whilst his tortured vocals were not unlike a siren warning of an impending apocalypse.( NB/ hopefully that apocalypse isn’t going to arrive on Friday morning in the form of five more years of the fucking Tories)
Bully – Leeds Beckett University – Stage 2
As Eagulls conclude their set upstairs Nashville’s Bully are about to start theirs. Fronted by multi-talented producer/engineer writer, singer, guitarist, producer, and engineer Alicia Bognanno they were magnificent! This is the point ay which we should perhaps make ill-advised comparisons, throw around terms such as ‘grunge pop’ ‘alt rock’ etc and whilst that may provide some sort of musical sat nav it really wouldn’t get close to describing just how good this band sound live . There’s an uncontrived sense of effortless honesty and energy that comes through in Bully’s music, and when you see them live, you really do appreciate just how great they are. They are currently on tour with Kid Wave in the UK now – so go see ’em!
And talking of ….
Kid Wave – Leeds Beckett University – Stage 2
Our final set of the festival, before we headed back across the Pennines, arrived in the shape of indie four piece Kid Wave. Combining soaring melodies with a crunchy guitar spank, their set consisted of some choice cuts from their forthcoming debut album ‘Wanderlust’ which arrives on 1st June via Heavenly Recordings. Based on this performance we’ve a sneaking suspicion that ‘Wanderlust’ could well be the soundtrack to our summer. A great energetic performance packed with life-affirming indie-guitar pop!
And with that we decided to quit while we were ahead, 11 bands in approximately 10 hours plus a 12-mile walk in unbroken DM’s was pretty good going- but no pain no gain ! We’ll certainly look forward to coming back next year for Live At Leeds 10th Anniversary. We’ll also make sure our boots have been heavily waxed with Dr Martins Wonder Balsam next time around ;)
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