Live at Leeds has been going from strength to strength since its inception in 2007. While it hasn’t lost its focus on putting on some top Leeds talent, it has grown to be headlined by some of the greatest breakthrough acts of the year. As its programme proudly states: “every year, without exception, you have the chance to see ‘the next big thing’ at Live at Leeds.” Its victory as the Best Metropolitan Festival at last year’s UK Festival Awards cemented it as one of the most anticipated dates on the summer calendar.
With that in mind, we took our first of hopefully many excursions into the wider world of new music.
The First Leg: Belgrave Music Hall, Oporto, Holy Trinity Church, Leeds College of Music and Wardrobe
This year’s Live at Leeds took place in over 20 venues inside and outside the city centre. Starting on the East side of the city, we caught a few of the festival openers, including the ethereal, atmospheric Polo at Belgrave Music Hall. There was a fairly big turnout for this Future-Pop duo, a good sign for them and for the day ahead.
Meanwhile, The Riptide Movement had completely packed out Oporto, meaning it was mostly a case of listening from the next room than watching them perform. That didn’t diminish the joy of their clearly popular anthems.
Opening Holy Trinity Church was York’s own Sam Griffiths and his band. They made an early claim to be this year’s next big thing, filling the massive space of the 300 year old Georgian church with a set of new tracks developed for the band set up. The last track I Was Made to Love You was a rock and roll ballad that will give you goose bumps.
Then there was a quick trip to the end of Robyn Sherwell’s performance over at Leeds College of Music. The young girl from Guernsey had an Indiana-esque sound and flair for song writing. Her track Love Somebody was the perfect kind of real-life love song, gentle but with a slow, driving, percussive beat.
At Wardrobe, Racing Glaciers had attracted a big crowd and it was easy to see why with a charismatic set of big songs akin to the Editors. Points also for what could only be described as “surprise trumpet” at the end of their closing song.
The Second Leg: Brudenell Social Club
There were guitars aplenty at Brudenell, with an eclectic mix of bands who like to make noise. Pinkshinyultrablast had been catching a fair bit of attention, and not just because of their name. The five-piece from St Petersburg, Russia mixed pulsing pop electronica with meandering base and heavy guitar riffs. The result was a colourful disco party at four in the afternoon. Truly a band where the name says it all.
In the Brudenell Games Room, Lake Komo was injecting a bit of modern country into the proceedings. The Lancaster-based band were clearly enjoying being this side of the Pennines and filled their performance with great energy.
Then American rockers Broncho were on. Lined up across the stage with four guitars, they played a set of head-banging Velvet Underground inspired grungy punk. They come from Oklahoma but you could be forgiven for thinking they were straight out of the lower east side of Manhattan.
The Final Leg: The Faversham and Lucy Rose
With the evening setting it, it was time for the headliners, both in the present and the possible future. Irish band The Academic had filled The Faversham’s main room with their unique brand of indie rock. Their energy and rapport with the audience was faultless and even had the crowd singing back to them. Definitely ones to watch.
On the patio stage, singer/songwriter Kelvin Jones was adding some brightness to a wet and grey day with a set full of love and humour. Over the past couple of years Kelvin has become an international sensation, having been discovered by Good Morning America. It hadn’t changed his passion for music and his banter was self-deprecating, particular his story of unrequited love for a French girl.
Vant must also be able to stake a claim for the next breakthrough act of this year. Though not many came to see them, these noise-making punks have all the right ingredients to be huge. They played with carefree energy, and their songs ranged from the political to the world of conspiracy theories.
The night ended where the day began, at Holy Trinity Church. Somehow the venue had taken on a spectacular quality in the dark and it was standing room only for headliner Lucy Rose. Although plagued by technical difficulties, Lucy and her band improvised, changing from their planned set. Kicking off with her classic track Night Bus, she then opened it up to requests and, with little surprise, Shiver was next.
This year’s Live at Leeds most definitely proved their claim to showcase this nation’s finest breakthrough talent. We’re looking forward to next year already.
Live at Leeds took place on Saturday 2 May 2015