LIVE AT LEEDS FESTIVAL RETURNS KICKING OFF 2018 FESTIVAL SEASON
So many bands and so little time; this year’s Live At Leeds boasts of 200+ bands across twenty venues. Obviously, we were never going to be able to see all of them but we did catch sixteen of the best. The deep, very dark cave of the Key Club was like an overheating cauldron and was filled to the gunnels for the rather excellent Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly a.k.a Sam Duckworth. He has been around a while now and he is a very talented guy who is backed by an outstanding band with an ever-increasing repertoire of great songs. He spoke passionately about the UK Government’s attitude to the Windrush disaster he went on to belt out each song whilst channelling his anger into passion, compassion, and soul. Off to Headrow House next for a local Leeds act, Polo on the NME stage. This trio is experts at adding soulful, poppy R & B to a clean, funky electro beat. The overall sound suggests to me what the Pet Shop Boys might sound like with a sassy female vocalist. Yorkshire folk might say that this band is mint!
Babyteeth is what drew us back to the Key Club. This band injects their songs to overdose levels with punk, funk, oodles of sass and attitude. They smashed it and it looked like they enjoyed every moment. “Siamese Twin” evokes Courtney Love at her peak. Babyteeth will be around a long while and the tooth fairy will, I am sure, avoid them! There were a few outdoor stages in the city, Dr Marten’s sponsored the Briggate Takeover Stage where we arrived just in time for a secret set from Demob Happy all the way from Brighton. These hard-working and hard-rocking lads were also scheduled to play later in the day at the Key Club. They have a very heavy, borderline psychedelic, Beatlesesque sound. Every bit as good as Oasis in their early pomp.
As with every Live At Leeds there comes a time for the obligatory visit to a church, this time Holy Trinity for an exquisitely beautiful chilled and relaxed set from Portland, Oregon native Haley Heynderickx. Given that she had only got off the train from London 30 minutes earlier her set was immaculate. If I had just one sentence to describe her music I would say that she has it in her to become a Joni Mitchell for the 21st Century. In keeping with music being our religion, we set off to the Church, another stunning former ecclesiastical venue, for Tom Walker. He has a voice that could make even the soulless feel good. The band is as tight and taut as a Cheetah’s leg muscles at full stretch. Tom’s voice evokes both the best in Deep South Soul and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man. Even on his more acoustic numbers, he hits you like Ed Sheeran on steroids.
Peace is definitely one of the current music scene’s great white hopes and they more than delivered on that promise from the O2 Academy Stage. The building was rammed and the packed, dripping hot crowd might well have created their own weather environment via gallons of evaporating sweat. Peace is full-on psyched out and funked up, but totally in control. Like Pink Floyd without the need for acid. In their lighter moments, and there weren’t many of those, they displayed whimsy reminiscent of Syd Barrett. This band are purveyors of prime pop-rock with hooks aplenty! We were sadly unable to get into the Main Stage at Leeds Beckett University for Ash, we got close, but then the fire alarm went off (hopefully not while Ash was playing “Burn Baby Burn”?) so we headed back to the O2 Academy for the truly impressive Sunset Sons. The band doubles as surfer dudes from their base in Hossegor, France which is apparently known as the surfing capital of Europe. In fact, they met while surfing. It was sadly a relatively small crowd but these boys didn’t let that get to them and they played like they were the headliners. Their sound suggests that they draw influences from many places stretching from 70s US West Coast rock right through to the Kings Of Leon.
We did eventually make it to the Leeds Beckett University Main Stage, this time for Fling from Bradford. They are an awesome glam styled band who owned the stage with a stunning theatrical performance. They possess a fine collection of songs and their costumes aren’t too shabby either. Their singer epitomises Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” as he outdoes Mick Jagger with every spin, shimmy and lip pout. I also recognised a little Steve Harley arrogance born of confidence in him too. One of Fling’s new songs, “Billy Banjo” from their current EP has hit written all over it. We caught some of Aussie band Hockey Dad’s set at the Leeds Beckett Stage 2. Given their guitar and drums duo set up there are many obvious comparisons, most notably with the likes of Royal Blood. The singer has a great set of pipes and the drummer is volcanically talented, however, I don’t think that they quite hit the heights of the soaring, cinematic, hard rock sound they appeared to be aiming for, although I do see a lot of potential here for the future.
Dermot Kennedy was clearly ready for the O2 Academy Stage, his stage presence is powerful and he has a great rapport with, to be fair, what felt very much his core fan base. It is difficult to deny the quality of his songs, although perhaps a few more happy tunes might help. He has similarities with Ed Sheeran albeit with a richer and deeper voice. I also think that he has aspirations to become something akin to Nick Cave. White Room was next on the Leeds Beckett Stage 2. For any KLF fans reading this, you will be disappointed this band are nothing to do with Jim Cauty and Bill Drummond. But White Room is potentially a very good band, the Modfather himself, Paul Weller, is a fan. Their songs range from soft rock to the more psyched up end of the scale. I do love that this Brighton 5 piece is very British and don’t revert to singing in an American accent. The band’s singer Jake Smallwood was sporting a very 1975/ 1976 David Bowie haircut and has some similar stage mannerisms, which he pulls off in style, to those of Dame David in his prime.
The LUU Stylus Stage was host to scouse troubadour Louis Berry and his band. Louis is a very talented and gifted man and he clearly knows it. But sometimes, as with Mr Berry, I believe that measured arrogance is a good thing. Berry is a truly awesome frontman and is backed by a band that appears to possess talent way beyond their years. He plays his audience like the world’s greatest puppet master and they really do eat out of his hands. He has some memorable, hook-driven tunes that appear at times like Jake Bugg but with a meatier and more menacing sound.
It appears that everyone at Live At Leeds wanted a piece of the Vaccines at the O2 Academy. The queue to get in stretched right around the block and the place was heaving, even the balcony was full to the brim. This band have come to a hell of a long way from their stupendous first album, 2011’s ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines’. These West London boys ripped Leeds a new one with a set that started with the power of the nuclear explosion and never let up once. They opened with “Nightclub” and “Wreckin’ Ball (Ra Ra Ra)” the latter caused the crowd to start a number of mosh circles simultaneously. My favourite song of their momentous set was “Post Break Up Sex”. After eight years on the scene, this band still have what it takes to punch an audience into submission.
Liverpool’s Queen Zee at the Leeds Beckett Stage 2 was without a doubt one of the best bands that we saw today. This band gave us everything from Queen Zee’s first gig experience (Bullet For My Valentine) taking a beating for being gay and emo through to songs performed with such energy that they could power Leeds for a week. The crowd might have been relatively small but every last one of us was 100% engaged. “Sass Or Die”, “Porno” and “I Hate Your New Boyfriend” are power punk classics in the making and the Queen Zee version of Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers” is indeed really bonkers but in a great way.
The curtain was getting ready to close on another Live At Leeds, but before it did there was one more band to see; the towering force of nature that is Avalanche Party! This magnificent band took to the Lending Room stage at 11 pm and the foundations begin shaking five minutes later. They opened with an almost menacing “I’m So Wet” for which Jordan removed his jacket and poured water over himself before making his first foray into the crowd with his microphone. This band have grown into a band like no other, bringing us solid garage punk psychedelia all the way from Staithes in the northeast. Kane drums like a punk John Bonham aided and abetted by ground shaking bass from Joe. Glen takes his keyboard lines into the stratosphere like a true space cadet, Jared squeezes psych sounds out of his guitar like no one else can. This is all topped off by frontman Jordan’s punk swagger, rock ‘n’ roll attitude and unwavering piercing stare. Probably the best band of the day; Avalanche Party, they mean it maaaaan!
We had a great time at this year’s LIVE AT LEEDS festival and can’t wait for next year’s festival already. We got some taste of what to expect from a few bands at upcoming Festivals this summer.