Last week saw festival season get underway in the North with the sixth annual Live at Leeds. And once again, the city centre festival managed to pull in the crowds and the talent for an event that will get any music lover foaming at the mouth.
On paper it's like Christmas. The likes of Ladyhawke, Lianne La Havas, Ghostpoet, Spector, Alt + J, Lucy Rose and many more were going to be appearing at various venues across the city, and one wristband would grant entry anywhere.
The reality was slightly different. Feeling ever so slightly like a kid in a sweetshop who was running risk of a pretty bad bellyache, it was imperative to plan out who to see, and work out logistics carefully. With so many artists that were a must see, it would have been a crying shame to be running from one venue to another and miss what the whole event is about. So after much discussion and deliberation, we armed ourselves with a timetable and headed to our first port of call...
The Mexanines opened up Nation of Shopkeepers with their punchy, bluesy guitar rock. The Halifax trio played a set that that kicked off the day's proceedings fantastically. They were tight and catchy, and the crowd were lapping it up. Later on that day Nation of Shopkeepers also played host to TOY. The Brighton quintet, once part of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, have been the subject of a lot of hype since their last two singles, so expectations were high. Despite being a work in progress, it's clear to see what all the fuss is about. The garage psyche-rockers blew the roof off the venue and its going to be interesting to see how they will progress throughout the year.
Leeds Met was our port of call for Bastille. Having soundtracked TV shows such as Made In Chelsea recently, Bastille attracted a lot of 'cool kids' to their set. Intricate melodies rippled through the venue, and moving lyrics with the ability to create a build-up and momentum throughout a track created so much atmosphere that it seemed impossible to follow.
Jessie Ware was a delight. Her bittersweet, dreamy electro-bass pop enraptured the audience. Her presence was mystifying, and she was a breath of fresh air in comparison to other female solo artists that have been coming out of the woodwork recently. It's clear to see how she has been making a name for herself in the underground scene, everything about her appearing perfect, unique and refreshing. Definitely a festival highlight.
Over at The Cockpit, the queue was all the way down the stairs for Dancing Years. This might have been to do with no-one else playing at the same time, but they stunned the room into goosebumps.
The Holy Trinity was one of the most memorable venues on the Live at Leeds map, the church welcoming those acts whose haunting voices bounced around the eaves of the building and kept the audience permanently glued to their seats - much to the disappointment of the people queueing out the door, unable to get in. Rae Morris was captivating.
At the O2 Academy, Ladyhawke (one of the festival's headline acts) fused eighties edged pop music and mixed new songs with old to keep the crowd interested and on their toes. At times however, Ladyhawke seemed disinterested - which was disappointing.
Another act on the bill causing a buzz were Alt- J. The quartet, who have just signed to Infectious Records, left a huge row of people in the cold outside Holy Trinity after security couldn't let anyone else in. The band breezed through their set with precision a calm disposition, and a slight grin. Their set was greeted by rapturous applause, especially during singles, ‘Matilda’ and ‘Breezeblocks’.
Ghostpoet wrapped up Brudenell Social Club's daily offering. Each song hypnotised the audience and he finished the day with a bang - a stage invasion.
With an ever present appetite for live music, Live at Leeds easily rivals the likes of Camden Crawl and Dot to Dot. Spread over 15 of the city’s venues, costing a mere £20 a wristband and bringing together an incredible programme of upcoming talent, it was always going to be a winner - and we're confident it will continue.
Words: Jo-Anne Waddington
Photo: RAS Photography
Originally published: 14th May 2012