Live At Leeds (various venues across Leeds, 30 Apr '16) // Words: Saam Das
It's been a long, long time since I was last in Leeds. But the pull of this year's stellar Live At Leeds lineup was enough to convince me that a last minute trip from London was a necessity. A trip from London that included tube, coach, and train travel, and a stay in a £30 B&B in Huddersfield. Totally worth it.
I must confess my initial amblings around Leeds proved to be inauspicious as I couldn't quite figure out where the entrance to the wristband pick up was - modern tech didn't prove much help so a bit more in the way of written directions or a map next year please! The wristband pickup itself was smooth, and it wasn't long before I'd already made it to the upper echelons of Belgrave Music Hall for Berkshire's Eddie Prové. Bolstered by a live band, Prové belted out future pop hits such as 'Never Cared' and 'Silent Love'.
In a scheduling quirk, Mystery Jets were opening the day over at the O2 Academy, which led to the rather incredible sight of hundreds and hundreds of people queuing for entry. After walking a good 200 metres, and with about ten other bands on at exactly the same time, I abandoned my ill-fated quest for the dance-tinged Girl Friend. Stylishly decking out the Belgrave Music Hall stage with striking lightboxes, the Mancunian outfit delivered a set of invigorating electro-pop.
The unexpected cancellation of Little White Things meant that it was time to take an unknown punt - part of the joy of festivals is stumbling onto new bands you've never heard. Irish noiseniks Otherkin were my winning raffle ticket, with their ferocious live performance dominating the Leeds Beckett Student Union. If you like your music guitar-based and LOUD, then this Dublin quartet will be right up your street.
Back at my home-from-a-home Belgrave Music Hall, I waited and waited for pop starlet in the making, Kloe. Once the overly long soundcheck was outtathaway, the Glaswegian teen was entrancing - not always for the right reasons. Whether she was embarrassingly falling over or endearingly inviting a fan to join her onstage, it's clear that Kloe has something exciting about her. Nonetheless, far too shambolic on the day.
After a roof terrace foray in the Northern sunshine (not too hot, not too cold, but just right), I was impressed to see that Ardyn had rapidly made up for the delay that Kloe had caused. And better yet, they actually sounded great too. The sibling duo expanded to a quartet for their Live At Leeds set, providing an appropriately atmospheric backing to their imposing Daughter-esque material.
Over at the O2 Academy, the massive queue from earlier in the day was thankfully long gone, but I ran into another delay for Shura. She eventually took to the stage in high spirits, noting her accidental bump to headliner following Jess Glynne's earlier advertised withdrawal. Running through hits like 'Touch' and '2Shy' with a notably cheeky grin, she brought a welcome down-to-earth nature to the cavernous venue.
While I briefly popped into see actual festival headliners Circa Waves in the incredibly long Leeds University Refectory venue, Los Campesinos were the true headliners to my Live At Leeds 2016. It's been many years since I last saw the band, and ten years since I saw them in the extremely sweaty Water Rats in London. Despite adopting something akin to squad rotation to their lineup, their energy hasn't abated.
Frontman Gareth was on top-form as usual, candidly admitting the band hadn't quite figured out how many songs to play to fill their slot, and to subsequently expect plenty of chat. His concerns, whether vrai ou faux, were far from an issue. Delivering a triumphant set spanning their ten year career, Los Campesinos! demonstrated just why they've had such longevity. Bundles of charm, melancholic lyrics, and a strong mix of joyous/devastating music - appropriately ending on 'The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future'.
Find more info at liveatleeds.com.