In what is now its 11th year, the multi-venue inner city festival Live at Leeds rolled into town on Saturday 29th April. With an array of exciting musical acts spread out amongst the 22 different venues across the city, we headed down to check out as many of them as possible and see what this year’s festival had to offer.
Heir – 12pm – The Wardrobe
Alt-pop five-piece Heir are the first band of the day after we pick up our wristbands at the arena and head down to the downstairs section of venue/bar, The Wardrobe. It’s relatively busy in the room, which is a big compliment to the Leeds band bearing in mind this is the first act of the day in a location just on the outskirts of the city centre. The band roll onto the stage slightly later than the billed time and burst straight into their first song. A slight 80s synth pop vibe is immediately apparent, with just the right amount of indie influence thrown in there for good measure. Vocalist Tom Hammond’s falsetto vocal lines are especially impressive and the whole bands’ harmonies blend perfectly with his lead. A highlight of the set is recent single I’ll Pick You Up, a wonderfully catchy number which gets everyone moving just as much as the band themselves. A fantastic set to start the day.
Casey Lowry – 1pm – The Wardrobe
We make an informed decision to stay in The Wardrobe for the next act, up-and-coming singer songwriter Casey Lowry. At just 19 years old, Lowry had already played some pretty big venues throughout the UK before even releasing a single. He has supported The Hunna, The Sherlocks and Coasts, and has begun building a small but loyal fan base, which are apparently present in the packed-out Wardrobe dancefloor in front of the stage. A slightly nervous Lowry takes the stage with his session band and begins to blast through song after song, gaining more appreciation from the crowd as he goes. “I had food poisoning last night so if I run off, that’s why,” he chuckles. The standout song from this set is Trampoline, in which he instructs the crowd to crouch down and jump up on a count of four. Two older gentlemen refuse to crouch down, to which Lowry runs into the crowd and pushes them gently to the ground; a bold move for an up-and-coming artist. The crowd then erupts as the ensemble launch into the final ear-worm chorus. Casey Lowry is definitely one to look out for on future festival line-ups.
The Opera Comic – 4.30pm – Church
After a short break, in which we sipped a cider at The Parkside Tavern, a lovely little pub which is a perfect pit stop for Live at Leeds on Merrion Street, we head up to Church. This is a beautiful new venue in which a huge stained glass window stands proudly behind the main stage. Just before the set, a slightly inebriated man in a bright yellow rain coat and matching beanie hat does a hilarious impression of Michael Jackson along to Beat It playing over the speakers, drawing nervous laughter from the awaiting crowd. Soon after, ominous eerie organ music signals Leeds band The Opera Comic to enter the stage. They open the set with a fantastically inventive cover of Gene Wilder’s hit song for the film Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, Pure Imagination, which goes down a treat with the crowd and really draws their attention. The band boast an innovative style of rock compared to what else has been on offer so far today; the composition of a unique vocal delivery, trippy instrumentation and synth keys make up a wonderful overall sound. The band have had to play following a completely full to capacity set from indie legends The Pigeon Detectives; a daunting task, but one they rise to the challenge of wonderfully.
Check out Entertainment Editor Georgia Arundell’s amazing video summing up the exciting scenes from the Live at Leeds!
Black Honey – 5pm – O2 Academy
Next is a mad dash down to the O2 Academy for rising stars Black Honey. Frontwoman Izzy Phillips is eye-catching in a striking yellow Quentin Tarantino shirt and black platform boots with a red fur trim, and draws most of the attention from the crowd. Musically, they’re an absolute dream. They sound so current and refreshing, it’s not surprising that they’re gaining fans by the minute with every tantalising release. A highlight of the set is recent single Somebody Better, in which the bustling crowd goes manic and screams the lyrics back at the top of their lungs, while hopping up and down in unison. From our perfect aerial balcony view, it’s a fantastic scene to watch from a distance. Crowd favourite Corrine closes the set, after which Phillips throws a can of fizzy drink half over the stage, half over herself; she is a rock icon in the making. In a climate where female examples in the music industry are sorely lacking, Phillips is just what we need, and with her bandmates in Black Honey behind her, this band could be huge this time next year.
Dead – 6.15pm – The Key Club
A wander over to The Key Club brings a set from Southampton five-piece Dead!. The band appear quite unassuming, even wandering onto the stage and setting up their own gear before they’re due to play. When the clock finally hits 6.15pm, the group throw themselves onto the stage with such force that it’s almost tangible in the room. The whole group play with such heart and ignite the stage with so much energy, it’s completely admirable. “This is a new one, it’s called The Golden Age of Not Even Trying” announces vocalist Alex Warren, before launching into a track which is actually quite different and more melodic than their other songs; a nice sign of things to come from the group. They finish up with their newest single Enough, Enough, Enough, featuring a blistering guitar solo from guitarist Sam Matlock, and then fan favourite You’re So Cheap, which comes to a conclusion with one lone crowd surfer battling to be carried over the not quite prepared crowd. A fantastic performance.
Slaves – 9pm – O2 Academy
After a quick stop for food, we then head to the O2 Academy quite early to secure a balcony seat to watch punk duo Slaves. Slightly before 9pm, Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent wander onto the stage with not much grand introduction. However, from the first note, they command every bit of attention from the riotous crowd. They rage through hit after hit, the first highlight being Sockets, in which drummer/vocalist Holman introduces the song by reciting the lyrics in a poetry-reading style, before Vincent launches into the raucous main riff. Cheer Up London incites a massive crowd singalong, being arguably their biggest hit to date. A surprising fact of Slaves’ set is that it doesn’t include many tracks from most recent album Take Control, released just last year. Instead they focus on older crowd pleasers, which is the absolute definition of storming thrasher, Hey. Both Holman and Vincent jump around the stage with total mania, much like their adoring crowd in front of them. It’s definitely the most volatile crowd we’ve seen all day, with countless bodies pushing relentlessly to get closer to the front. As if the performance couldn’t get much better, Slaves then surprise the audience with a cover of Shut Down (originally by grime artist Skepta), and absolutely make it their own; this is a fantastic extra addition to an already blistering set.
Live at Leeds 2017 was an absolute smash, full of big names and smaller up-and-coming artists alike. There really was something for everyone no matter what your taste. The price of the ticket for this festival is so reasonable considering what is on offer in terms of acts to see throughout the day. It’s safe to say, we’re already itching for next year’s line-up!