What were you doing ten years ago? I was shuffling between The Hoosiers and Alphabeat on my iPod nano without a care in the world about the wave of new British bands breaking through at the time. Thankfully, brains in Leeds were ticking over and trying to figure a way they could put together The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club and a host of other raw talents in match-stick box venues around the city.
A decade on and Live at Leeds organisers continue to supply the best inner-city festival in the North. We headed down to catch some of the best emerging acts around at a number of venues dotted around the city. Slowly growing indie-darlings Blaenavon showcased new material and skitted through old track ‘Into The Night’ at Oporto bar amidst free hot dogs. The band, who played a similarly cramped Nation of Shopkeepers show two years beforehand had gathered a crowd now ready to sing songs back to them.
Charming boozer Nation of Shopkeepers housed pop-punk outfit WHITE this year, who embodied the frenziness of their fellow Scotsmen, Franz Ferdinand. Singer Leo Condie goes bold with a choice of silver shoes and even bolder with high falsettos in the gut-punching ‘Future Pleasures’. Their set is rapid and has the ability to explode at any moment into The Hives style inferno, with guitarist Hamish Fingland fidgeting uncomfortably on the spot for the majority of the gig.
Away from the hidden gems of the city stands the O2 Academy aloft, boasting performances from the names in bold on the line-up. Mystery Jets simmer through a set that’s crying out for their noughties ditties. Eventually when ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘Young Love’ arrive so does the rest of Leeds, bopping up and down in unison and any disappointment of Jess Glynne’s cancellation forgotten. Other major venue, Leeds University Union put on two rooms worth of bands really on the cusp of something big. In one room Clean Cut Kid, Circa Waves and Blossoms gather the biggest crowds of the day whilst in the other Manchester quartet Spring King squeeze the most every last second out of their 45 minute set, riffling through an already amounting back catalogue of songs. “I’m a little bit nervous” admits frontman Tarek Musa before launching into their latest track ‘The Summer’. It’s the first time the band have played the track live and it’s met by a swirling pool of teenage limbs. Musa, who bounces behind his drum kit for most of the set, pauses for breath, drops his sweat-soaked cap and patrols the front of stage for a trembling version of ‘They’re Coming After You’.
Rule of thumb with festivals is leave the best ’til last and Live at Leeds is no different. Fresh UK hip-hop talent Loyle Carner takes the stage ahead of 2016’s superhero/villain Rat Boy at Brudenell Social Club. On the other side of the city, Belgrave Music Hall plays host to one of the most electrifying performances of the day. It’s nearing midnight by the time Formation come onto the stage but they still have enough time to wow the Leeds crowd. Frontman Will Ritson high fives half of the venue before jumping in to join them during a clattering rendition of ‘Pleasure’. Twelve hours since the start of their day but the crowd need no spurring on to join him in a glorious bundle of nostalgia.
Live at Leeds once again provides thirsty music fans with new names to update their iPods with. Those are the names to remember and those are the performances which they won’t forget.
Photos by Ethan Weatherby.