Festival season begun well and truly in earnest in Leeds on the first weekend of May, with a smattering of 200 artists playing in about 20 venues across the length and breadth of the city – and what’s more, the weather was turned up to 11 and the sun shone down.
Review and photos by Chris Mackins
It did take a little time once in Leeds to actually adjust to the scale of the event – nothing was ever far away, but there was always something that you’d like to see playing, but usually at the other end of the city! The trick here was to coordinate timings to artists and stage time – as with any festival – but this time a city map was really required. This is where the Live at Leeds app came into it’s own, not only having access to the schedule and lists of artists, but also having a real time street map with venues highlighted. The next tip – get a friend to to act as co-pilot to help navigate the streets. From herein after – it’s all rock n roll and you’ll like it.
The Chapel is a great little venue (a converted church) and a small audience was already in place. AKA George took to the stage and showcased their brand of upbeat, funkiness – with a very energetic and charismatic George, who oozes confidence and easily engaged with the audience and within three songs had them singing the chorus lines to Blazing, the band’s brand new song.
The sun blazed down as we headed to Leeds Beckett main stage to catch alt-rock band Ash. The hall was packed from wall to wall – you could have filled it again with the outside queue. Ash took to the stage and the job of mine was to try and capture some of the action on stage – who doesn’t love to see the Flying V and a bass player who was really busting out the shapes with his guitar.
Next up was Peace at the O2 Academy. They were already in mid-set before I got in the venue. I’ve not been in with this size audience – and with so much energy. This band was going down a storm. I don’t even know how long it took for me to walk from the entrance to the stage. I was melting at this time and made my way out after a couple of songs.
Next up was a gig at Church for the ex-Kaiser Chiefs drummer, Nick J D Hodgson, who played his set of gentler tunes from his acoustic guitar with the support of his band in the impressive Church, with a stained glass backdrop and mixed with 21st century stage lighting.
Gentle tunes and sublime backdrops were not set to remain as we headed back to the Key Club – the venue is downstairs which takes you into a dark basement that supports a small stage. This stage was set to be totally owned by a local band known as Fizzy Blood who belted out gnarly lyrics and played loud in yer face rock music. This was the stuff I didn’t expect to hear at Live at Leeds and wanted to stay for more, but alas I had to move on. I was listening to them again on the internet on Sunday morning and this is a must see band, for the future.
We moved onto Leeds Becket (stage 2) for more screaming lyrics, meaty drumming which was all underpinned from some heavy riffs on the bass, which was delivered from the next Leeds band, Forever Cult – and the audience were making the most of the dancing space right at the front. An excellent band and again, I was listening to them on the internet on Sunday morning making this the second, must see again band for the future.
I’ve been wanting to see Hands off Gretel for something like the last six months, so when they came to brandish their grungy punk sound at 9.00pm in Santiago’s (part of the fringe), I wasn’t concerned at all that I’d be missing the festival headliners The Vaccines who were playing the Academy. Santiago’s is a bar with an upstairs venue space. It’s very small so this was an intimate setting for a gig.
The band has a new bass player, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’ve played together for years. They all play with so much energy, passion and attitude with both the guitar player and the singer often being on the floor in and amongst the audience. And Whilst I’m pleased to have seem them in Santiago’s bar, they really do deserve a bigger stage and audience. I can’t imagine that it will be too long before they are the Live at Leeds headliners.
So then it was another walk from one end of Leeds to the other to catch British Sea Power play Leeds Becket main stage. The entire stage is adorned with greenery which makes for a lovely looking stage set. The venue, sadly wasn’t at capacity but they still made for an appreciative audience.
Festival highlight: Hands off Gretel.
Tip for next year: Download the Live at Leeds app to help your schedule run smoother in finding your venues
What I should have done this year: Looked out for the outdoor stages.
Overall: it’s first time I’ve been to Live at Leeds and the experience was brilliant. There was some queuing at times with a ‘one out, one in’ policy. If you find yourself in this scenario, maybe move onto another venue – there’s 20 to choose from within a short walking distance!
Live at Leeds took place in Leeds City Centre on Saturday 5 May 2018.