As the last weekend in April approaches, the indie moshers of Leeds scuff up their Doc Martens and don their glitteriest items in preparation for Live At Leeds, a day festival which encompasses venues around the entire city. This year, the excitement is tantamount. Having just played host to Baltimore synthpop darlings Future Islands at the previous night’s opening concert for the festival, the city is primed and ready for the huge number of bands about to hit it.
At the wristband exchange on Saturday morning, the punters are more than ready to go. Old school rockers rub shoulders with adolescents peacocking each other with face glitter and their finest glad rags. Everyone is out to have a good time.
The line-up starts at 12pm, and safe to say it’s a difficult job to draw a crowd that early. Local Leeds lads Treeboy & Arc manage well, playing to a mixture of college mates and total strangers. Their raucous post-punk fills Beckett’s Doc Martens Presents stage as they reach out to their audience with pictures of northern youth culture and a glimmer of hope for the future.
Another notable homegrown band is Jellyskin, who are playing another graveyard slot at The Wardrobe Bar. The fuzzy shoegazers open with new single ‘Eater’, filling the hazy Wardrobe Bar at 12.30pm on this overcast Saturday afternoon. So at home in their own city, lead guitarist Will Ainsley at one point kicks off his shoes to play barefoot and better feel those good vibrations.
The Holy Trinity Church houses our very own Clash stage, offering a restful alternative to the heavy drumbeats and fast-paced rock of the other stages. Culminating in a lovely set from headliner Gabrielle Aplin, the pews and stained glass windows provide just the right setting for the acoustic guitar music that is played throughout the day. Notable highlight is Jake Isaac, taking singer-songwriter to the next level without having even released his debut album.
One thing that’s so impressive about Live At Leeds is its proud representation of artists with a clear DIY attitude. Lamia, playing Headrow House, is a female DJ and producer, who declares at the end of her half-hour set that she had made all the tunes she has just played in her bedroom. Marsicans, on the much bigger stage at Stylus, have built their reputation as a hardworking indie band from the ground up. Having been playing together for years on end, their synergy is palpable as they egg each other on during their closer ‘Absence’, which the crowd eagerly sing back at them.
A highlight of the day is seeing The Magic Gang pack out Church with teenagers that are so devoted to their songs that they bounce a foot off the ground during ‘All That I Want Is You’. For the Brighton boys, this is a milestone. Bassist Angus Taylor pronounces that this is one of his favourite gigs that they’ve played as a band, and it’s easy to see why. People are stacked on shoulders, screaming the lyrics back at the band to songs they’ve only just released. From having no label and no money to being signed to Warner, this is a symptom of how far they have come.
For our evening entertainment, it’s all about the Brudenell. Flipping between the two stages, there’s easily enough to keep us going well into the night. Bradford band Howl, named after Allen Ginsberg’s poem, muddle their way through their set with a broken bass string, but this only endears them more to their audience. Recent single ‘Lost’ perfectly showcases the skill of each band member, from the chugging drums to the lead vocals that Ginsberg’s howl.
The Big Moon show the boys how it’s done, with Celia and Juliette’s twin pony tails swinging in perfect time as they jump about the stage. The indie doo-wop of Trudy and the Romance retains the naivety of the original 50s style but brings something youthful to a supposedly outdated genre. Their music feels so pure of heart that it shines through and makes everyone in the audience smile.
Headliners are hardly in short supply, providing something for everyone. Let’s Eat Grandma blur the line between music and performance art at Chapel, whilst Rag‘n’Bone Man belts out his neo-blues hits at The Refectory.
The Moonlandingz are worth a special mention; as the brainchild of Lias Saoudi of Fat White Family, you would expect a certain crazed gleam in their eye as they take the main stage at Brudenell. However, they are markedly subdued and reserved in comparison to their usual stage antics. Despite a few small technical issues, the band are on fine form, belting out ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’ and ‘Neuf Du Pape’ with incredible energy.
As the festival-goers troop home, looking worn-out but happily sweaty from the day’s proceedings, it’s with a sleepy smile that we wave goodbye to Live At Leeds 2017. We can’t wait to see what 2018 will have in store for us.
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Words: Jemima Skala
Photography: Ben McQuaide