Live Review
Live At Leeds
Various Venues

Photography by Danny Payne

That time of year is upon us once more, like Christmas for music lovers – Festival Season. Over 500 of them take place across the country this summer, so you have to be pretty special to hold the crowd’s attention.

Based in venues around the city, Live at Leeds is the perfect chance to dip your toe in without a muddy field or soggy tent in sight. Now in its sixth year, this particular urban festival has followed the likes of Manchester’s In The City and Brighton’s Great Escape, expanding its scope with a programme of conferences that offer tips to those wanting a career in the music industry. There’s a regular football tournament too.

It’s a relaxed atmosphere at the Cockpit as we drift from the French film cool of Garnets to the upbeat sunshine choruses of the not-great-but-not-bad Hooded Fang.

There are masses at the O2 Academy, though, who’ve congregated for local favourites I Like Trains. Debuting tracks from their new album they are calm and assured, singer Dave Martins voice rumbling with steady gravitas. Muddying the boundaries between electro and Nick Cave, they keep the crowd their willing captives ‘til the last.

Across town we keep the flavour local with Ellen and the Escapades at the Holy Trinity Church, who also pull an impressive crowd, with the church almost packed out for a glimpse of their warm retro-folk sound.

It’s heart lifting stuff, so it’s time to check out the grungier side of Leeds, squeezing into the sweaty confines of Milo for punk rock sensations Kleine Schweine. Ellen and The Escapades were pretty and cuddly; this is plain loud as the band thrash around the tiny stage until they are battered and bloody. Songs like ‘You Can Call Me Albania’ give a hefty dose of ball-bag rock’n’roll that the festival was in need of.

Toy – they band formed out of the ashes of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong – is way too busy and, as tends to be the way with these multi-venue festivals, it looks like a trend that will continue into the night as the bands get bigger. Alt-J’s show at Holy Trinity soon has people being turned away too, but for those inside ‘Breeze Blocks’ is particularly worth the cram, as is a restrained version of ‘Blood Flood’ that wrenches up the tension until it snaps.

Queuing has always been a problem at this festival and the last minute cancellation of headliner Marina and the Diamonds only adds to the pressure. Across the other side of town at Leeds Met University Lianne La Havas is an oasis of calm. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, she welcomes us into her world with gently plucked guitars and soft, smoky tones as worries seem to melt away.

Traditionally the Brudenell Social Club is the best place to round off the night, in past years it playing host to raucous sets from Mariachi el Bronx and Young Knives. While Ghostpoet doesn’t quite fit the mould, he certainly is cool, stalking the stage to his subtle mix of hip-hop and mellowed out DnB. It takes a little time, but soon the crowd are piling onto the stage to join in with his tribute to drunkenness, ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’. Live at Leeds may test your patience, but it always delivers.

By Kate Parkin

Originally published in issue 38 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. May 2012