Over the years some very respectable acts have appeared, including Royal Blood, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Enemy, The Futureheads, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Slaves, The Macabees, Jake Bugg, Alt-J, Savages, The Cribs and so on. Quality bands and acts with a largely alternative ethos.
This is the first time I had attended so was pretty excited to experience four of the nineteen venues and see what Yorkshire had to offer away from the main Leeds Festival later in the summer. I was joined by my lucky girlfriend Helen who would provide an alternative opinion on the events, remind me where I was, and keep me fed and watered.
First up were Peace, opening The O2 Academy stage in the early afternoon. A huge throng of people were queued outside the venue, eager to escape the blazing sunshine. I was impressed the venue was quickly at its 2,300 capacity for the first act of the day, resorting to a one in, one out policy. Especially considering the competition were the mighty Ash playing the 1,100 capacity Leeds Beckett Student Union Stage over the road. However any fears I had of too many venues diluting the quality of the festival were quashed as apparently they were at capacity too. Two venues hosting music already ram-jammed during Bank Holiday sunshine.
They played a decent set to a highly receptive crowd, already very keen to jump around and dance and throw drinks in the air. Mosh pits formed early which again was impressive given the early time slot, but also given lack of intensity from Peace’s performance. They seemed a band trying to be too cool, with Harry Koisser’s stage patter shy and uncertain. It didn’t matter because their songs were strong and their fans in the crowd sang along to provide a great atmosphere.
After a spot of lunch in the sunshine we returned to a slightly less full O2 arena for Sunset Sons, another band returning to the festival to play a larger stage than a previous year. That said there were still a couple of thousand people inside, it’s just this time there was room to move around the bars. They played a more low key set to Peace, but seemed way more comfortable on stage with a more commanding presence. Out of all the bands I saw this afternoon they were probably the most radio friendly, and apparently missed out on the BBCs Sound of 2015 award to James Bay. Some would say that was for the best as Sunset Sons have retained a way cooler reputation with their British/Aussie hybrid surfer-rock sound.
I have to give the security and organisers kudos at this stage for keeping things moving so efficiently. Everything seemed smooth, the queues moved quickly and bag searches were thorough giving everything a pretty secure feel. As a result we swiftly walked with no fuss up to the next venue; Church. As you would expect it is indeed a converted church. The owners have retained the glorious stained glass windows and beautiful gothic arches, complimenting it with state of the art lighting and sound system, plus decent array of seating and bars. It makes for a fantastic venue, which although it usually hosts dance music nights, lends itself perfectly to the next act on our itinerary; Krrum.
Joined on stage by three other people playing a variety of guitars, drums and synthesisers, Krrum is currently riding a decent wave of hype following the 2017 release of the gigantic tune ‘Evil Twin’ He played a thoroughly decent set of electronica and twisted r&b to a warmly receptive, but slightly sparse crowd of around two hundred. He was a joy to photograph, with his distinctive full ginger beard and glasses, framed by the huge stained glass window behind him and halo of lighting shooting beams into the worshipping crowd. He is definitely an artist making his way onto my Spotify list.
We then moved down to venue number three; the aforementioned Leeds Beckett Student Union Stage for the arrival of the wonderful Spring Kings. If ever you need an example of how to perform as a band playing the heavier side of indie-rock, these are you go to quartet. They absolutely smashed it out of the park, slaying the packed arena with a set of lively and energetic songs. It is the first time I have seen every member of a band, including bassist and drummer, providing lead vocals - each one owning the stage during their turn. They had a strong stage presence, both individually and as a group, and their songs were catchy and feel-good. They were a new band to me, and one I decided to add to my list based by checking them out on Spotify and the handy time of performance and location. They earned a new fan this afternoon and I’ll certainly be checking them out again. You should too.
After another food break we returned to the same arena for one of my very favourite bands; Pulled Apart by Horses. To say I love these guys is an understatement. Their performances are always rambunctious and raucous. Tom Hudson in particular always gives it 100% on stage (and off as he tends to enjoy jumping into the crowd) and must be one of the best front men in the scene today. I got some of the best photos of the day during their set and enjoyed every second. We had moved into the evening by now and the vast majority of the crowd were nice and intoxicated as they moshed and head banged away. It was total carnage throughout the performance and by far the standout of the day for me.
However we needed to move quickly for The Vaccines were already on stage round the corner, back at the O2. And this was our first mistake as we had grossly underestimated just how busy it would be. A large queue met us as the door staff operated their one in, one out policy again. We finally made our way in but it was an effort to see anything from the back as the venue was at sardine tin level occupancy. Completely and utterly rammed full of people enjoying the pop-rock sounds. I managed to get up to the balcony with the intention of taking some photos, but the strict three song, ten minute rule was in place throughout the venue so I just stood to see a couple of their songs. I wasn't too bothered though as I’ve always thought they were an ok band, and Helen agreed. They release ok music, and have always been ok when I’ve seen them live. But I’d never go out of my way specifically to see them.
We therefore made the decision to head to the fourth and final venue of the day; Stylus. Situated in the heart of Leeds University campus it is a decent venue with multi levels providing as many people as possible with a good view of the bands below them. Circa Waves were on stage at 10.15 and the place was utterly jammed too. We made our way through the masses and I headed straight for the photo pits one last time. However the poor lighting and overuse of the smoke machine meant trying to get good pictures was almost impossible. I guess the place is more usually used as a nightclub venue than for hosting top level bands like Circa Waves. They played a decent set to a very receptive crowd and before we knew it the festival drew to a close and several thousand well lubricated people were released into the night, happy drunk, and if they're anything like me; completely knackered.
All in all Live @ Leeds was tremendous fun and it was great to be a part of it. It seems to be a huge success with the only problem being how find larger venues to fit more people in. Hats off to everybody involved with the fantastic organisation and well done for creating such a great event.
Published on 08 May 2018 by Paul M. Jones