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Festival Coverage: Live At Leeds 2015

  • Published in Live

Words: Dave Beech, Rosie Duffield, Lee Hammond

Photos: Lee Hammond

Having spent three years studying at Leeds Met (now Beckett) I seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time being ferried back and forth along the M62 to Manchester, and as a result, the prospect of once again boarding a National Express after a beautiful two years abstinence, seemed daunting. Though plagued by flashbacks of drunk Scousers, recycled air and feral children, I persevered and found, somewhat bizarrely, that in the last two years a strange transformation had happened to the UK's best-loved coach company and my journey was actually pleasant. Probably something to do with the dozen or so hangovers that were making the trip with me.

Arriving in Leeds, basking in the familiar smell of Greggs (the UK's best loved bakers!), the hangovers are yet to kick in; a man pirouettes elegantly, clutching a water bottle filled with what looks like white cider. It's 10am. Having come to Leeds as a student, and finding myself living a piss-width from a Methodone clinic, instead of just finding myself, this is unsurprising, and in a strange, alcoholic kind of way, welcomingly familiar. Fortunately, whilst beers are in full flow as we arrive at Key Club for the opening set of the day (coming from local lads Forever Cult) no-one is, as of yet, on quite a similar level to my friend from the coach station.

Taking to the stage as a four-piece (member number four coming in the form of a rather surprised looking inflatable doll, complete with Forever Cult t-shirt) the sheer volume of the band is enough to eviscerate any morning-after wooziness from within the early crowd. Ripping through previous singles such as last year's 'Yasmin' and the recently-released 'Winter's Glow', the band harbour the kind of West Yorkshire grunge that's both indebted to the '90s, yet seeks to distance itself from it also - a fact perhaps most evident in bass player Alex Greaves' super skinny jeans, which somehow manage to avoid a tearing despite his most acrobatic efforts. Absent from the band's set is early single 'Sun Trap', and whilst its omission doesn't detract from their set in any way, shape or form, what it does suggest is a preference, from band and fans alike, towards the sludgier, weightier tracks at their disposal. Closing the set with a colossal shapeless breakdown of wailing noise, it's obvious why the band are so popular in both Leeds and West Yorkshire as a whole.

Next stop: Gaz Coombes, who's playing at the O2 Arena; a beautiful converted church with great acoustics. Surprisingly, he’s on at the early time of 1:30pm, and despite feeling quite organised, he’s already playing as we rush through the doors. We’re not the only early birds however, as the room is almost full. Looking up we see the seats above well attended, too. Gaz is on stage wearing his signature hat and moves between keys and guitar as he ploughs through the songs. The audience is receptive, and ‘Detroit’ goes down particularly well – we all join in with the “There’s panic in my heart” refrain. He closes with ‘Girl Who Fell To Earth’ and we leave feeling rather satisfied.

Next up, it’s Get Inuit, which sees us back once again at the inconspicuous Key Club. We descend the stairs and enter the venue which is already half full, and the crowd keeps growing - especially as the quartet get going. Lead singer Jamie is a lot more talkative on stage than Gaz Coombes was; saying how much the band are enjoying Leeds, bigging up their label-mates who’d been on just before them, and introducing most of the songs they’re doing. The audience seem to enjoy it (we definitely are) and there are many silhouettes nodding in appreciation to ‘Cutie Pie, I’m Bloated’ and ‘Dress of Bubblewrap’ to name a few. Get Inuit are an excellent mix of Beach Boys harmonies and Vampire Weekend beats, and we’re thoroughly impressed. Later we’ll decide they were our favourite act of the day.

It’s back to the O2 for Stornoway, who, after Get Inuit seem like old hands. They’ve been around for years, and their polished performance really reflects that. They’re a friendly bunch – they say it’s “a privilege to play on the same stage as Gaz Coombes and Dry The River” and it looks like they’re having loads of fun throughout. Everyone is most impressed when someone on stage starts wielding an axe – but it’s all part of the instrumentation…not that that’s any less impressive. They launch into a stripped back song that sounds familiar, and it turns out to be a fantastic cover of Yazz and 'The Only Way Is Up’. It really divides the audience – the young people look completely blank, whilst the older contingent sing along with glee. Stornoway end their set with ‘Zorbing’, which goes down really well and is a great ending to a brilliant performance.

Not just a festival of British bands, Live At Leeds proves its worth once again this year, as not even half way through the day when Russia’s newest exports Pinkshinyultrablast take to the stage. Their own brand of ethereal post-rock transcends that of your usual fare, as singer Lyubov struts around the stage, her voice transforming at every twist thanks to the plethora of electronic devices she has at her disposal. There was never a doubt in our minds that the band would quickly puncture the indie underground, as the beautiful sounds of 'Umi' fill the room, we’re completely infatuated by these incredible Russians.

At the opposite end of Leeds' grunge spectrum, and already a Leeds institution, Menace Beach hit the Leeds Beckett SU stage for the second year running. Somewhat of a supergroup, the band features a revolving cast of members from bands such as Hookworms and Pulled Apart By Horses, as well as mainstays Ryan Needham and Liza Violet, and fair far lighter than earlier bands, providing some much needed early-evening respite, at least when compared with what's to follow. With a full album now behind them, the band unsurprisingly draws a larger crowd than last year, playing a set back-boned by album tracks such as the suitably scuzzy 'Tennis Court' and the dream-poppy 'Tastes Like Medicine'. Unfortunately Liza's vocals do seem fairly lost at times, and so the tracks do lose a certain degree of melody. However having seen Menace Beach on numerous occasions between us, we know this isn't a regular occurrence.

In a line-up heaving with hometown heroes, the aforementioned Hookworms are arguably amongst the most reputable. Turning the Beckett SU in to a haven for those who have clearly indulged in a little more than just beer, the band's fusion of krautrock and neo-psychedelia is both nostalgic and futuristic; anachronistic '60s organs in bizarre harmony with synth drones providing an auditory trip like no other. Though their set is built mainly around tracks from last year's The Hum, full blown psych freak-outs form the bridge between those tracks, whilst 'Off Screen' offers something a little less brain-melting.

The last act on our personal agenda is Rhodes. It’s a bit of a trek to get to Wardrobe where he’s playing, and we’re disappointed to find that after rushing to get there he’s delayed on stage by quite some time. Most of the band are already on and waiting to perform; they’re looking more and more fed up by the minute. Eventually Rhodes comes on and apologises for the “technical difficulties”, but as the set goes on it’s not difficult to see that the band are still unhappy with things – there are lots of gestures, waving and pointing going on by various members. Frustrating for them, and distracting for us. Still, the overall performance is worth the wait. Rhodes does about half an hour, including ‘Your Soul’ and ‘Breathe’ (which sounds rather epic), and looking around the venue, it seems he’s captivated his audience.

After waiting over a year to finally see Eagulls live, there was no we were passing up this opportunity. And whilst the majority of people seemed to head either to the bar or another venue after Hookworms, we headed towards the barrier. Another band on home-turf, and our final act of the day, their set proves to be a far less hallucinatory experience than Hookworms, and though it's stark, brutal and blisteringly loud (so much so we move off the barrier), it also proves to be one of the most impressive sets of the day. Swathed in long almost-militant jacket, singer George Mitchell stalks the stage, his figure tall and imposing though skeletally thin against the stage lights. Assaulting their fans with staggeringly post-punk. Tracks such as 'Hollow Visions' and 'Nerve Endings' feel like an all out barrage, whilst the likes of 'Opaque' and 'Possessed' soften the blow, if only slightly. Though their set is predominately formed from their self-titled debut, and those were the tracks we want to hear, it will be interesting to see what their, hopefully immanent, second album will offer. Batter and bruised and left blinking in to the stage lights we end out day on a high.

With the day drawing to a close, our feet heavy and minds firmly blown by the day's proceedings, we have room for one more band. Bursting on to stage in their own inimitable fashion to a packed house at the Brudenell, Slaves are hot property right now, proven by the fact they’re about to embark on a massively sold out tour. It’s immediately apparent as to why there’s a buzz about them, cracking open tonight’s set with 'White Knuckle Ride' sets the visceral tone.

Both Lawrie and Isaac are in the highest of spirits as they feed off the energy of this heaving mass of flailing limbs, it’s almost impossible to comprehend the excitement in the room. Tearing through a set featuring the insane 'Feed The Manta-ray' and sing-along favourite 'Where’s Your Car Debbie?' Slaves prove they’re a true powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with, we’re sure this is the last time we’ll see them in a venue this small.

Live At Leeds is a great festival to get stuck into – especially if it’s the first time you’re going to one. The nice thing about it is that you can dip in and out of the action as you please, and most venues are near each other (there are one or two which are a bit further afield, but you can avoid these pretty easily if you want to). There are always at least a couple of acts you’ve heard of playing – this year, Slaves The Cribs and Gaz Coombes are probably some of the most recognizable; but it’s just as exciting taking a punt on someone you’ve never heard of and seeing an act at the beginning of their career. You don’t have to queue too long for the loo (the bar is another matter) and you can go home, shower and sleep in an actual bed at the end of the day. We’re already looking forward to next year.


Festival Preview: Live At Leeds 2015 - Ten to Check Out

  • Published in Live

With a diverse array of acts on offer at Live at Leeds, it goes without saying that you're not going to see everyone you want to. Like any good festival, clashes are inevitable, and with the mad cross-city dash between some of the venues, you might even find yourself missing the end of one band in order to catch the start of another. Such is life however, and whilst there's a plethora of acts on offer, we've put together ten which will be well worth your time checking out.

The Cribs

Having only seen The Cribs live for the first time earlier this year, I was pretty gutted thinking back to how many times I'd passed up the opportunity to see them previously. Not any more. Whilst many of their mid-'00s peers have split, and those who haven't desperately cling to relevance, The Cribs have constantly impressed with each and every record, possessing an urgency that doesn't just transfer over to their live shows, but is increased tenfold by them. You couldn't have asked for a better headliner.


With all the media attention that's on Russia at the moment, it's important to remember the art and culture the country still continues to give us, and Pinkshinyultrablast should serve as the perfect reminder. With nothing in the way of politics in their music, the St Petersberg based quartet offer up pure glacial shoegaze for the escapist in all of us. Their debut album Everything Else Matters was a masterclass in encompassing electronics and ephemeral vocals. I can't wait to see them live.


Weirdos of the moment, Slaves, are a duo from Kent, who are both massively noisey and harbour a preoccupation for, erm, biscuits. Having supported Jamie T around the UK last year, and taken the coveted opening spot on this year's NME tour, it seems Slaves are well on their way to becoming household names. And if their irreverent humour and anarchic noise are anything to go by, their live show will be something really special.

Joanna Gruesome

Clattering indie-pop from Cardiff now, Joanna Gruesome certainly aren't as heavy as some of the other bands that make the list, but their syrupy twee isn't without its own, sour bite. Having supported the likes of Los Campesinos! and released splits with Trust Fund and Perfect Pussy, the band's brand of twee is well-suited to a city known for its love of the genre. Expect a energetic set of sugary indie-pop at Leeds Beckett SU.


In what promises to be one of the most punishing yet rewarding sets of the day, home-town heroes Eagulls will be tearing Leeds a new one; their blend of claustrophobic post-punk and untapped hardcore aggression providing a cathartic end to the days antics, should your body need an aural cleansing. An almost masochistic alternative headliner to The Cribs, you can be sure that you'll wake up with a few bruises, should you chose to be part of the carnage.

Menace Beach

Whilst Menace Beach are, by some, considered to be a super-group of sorts, they're more accurately described as the embodiment of Leeds' music scene in its entirety. Though the band features a revolving line-up, it has, in the past, featured the likes of the ubiquitous MJ of Hookworms fame, as well as members of Pulled Apart By Horses and Sky Larkin. With their debut album Ratworld released earlier this year, not to mention their reputation as bastions of the city's scene, you can bet that their already incendiary live shows will be packing an extra punch that weekend.

Dry The River

Emerging around a similar time to the inescapable Mumford and Sons, Dry The River offer up semi-acoustic bucoliscim in the form of impassioned, though often somewhat moribund folk music. Cathartic in its sense of human understanding, but ultimately not the most upbeat folk on offer, expect a set of fraught, tangible emotion, and a brief but albeit welcome change from the frivolity.


Yet another band on home territory, Hookworms promise to pull one of the biggest crowds of the day; their blend of neo-psych and garage rock offering a mind-bending conclusion to the day's festivities. With their third album The Hum allowing the band's popularity to mount late last year, helping them find as much a commercial footing as possible, those who choose to see the evening out in true psychedelic style will be in safe in the knowledge that they'll be doing so with people with as little regard for their cerebellum as themselves.

Forever Cult

One of the more up-and-coming acts on this year's bill, but no less worthy of note. Leeds' Forever Cult are part of the Clue Records family and are set to set the UK on and if their 2014 was anything to go by. Fusing together scuzzy grunge with slight psych and metal tendencies, they're a band who lean to the heaver end of the spectrum without a doubt, unsurprising given their LS postcode. Well worth keeping an eye on the though, and one can assume they'll take to the stage relatively early, allowing you to still catch those bigger names later.

The Orielles

Local but not quite home-grown, Halifax indie-poppers The Orielles channel the spirit of '60s girl-groups and C86 indie in an amalgamation of sugary pop harmonies and twee-pop jangles. It's familiar stuff, but that makes it no less impressive. In fact, what makes the band all the more impressive is the relatively young ages of the trio, who's collective age probably isn't far from forty. Another band who'll probably grace their stage early on, be sure to check them out before those later acts.

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