Festival Review: Live At Leeds 2017

Live At Leeds 2017

Various Venues, Leeds

Words: Gary Lambert
Photos: Elena Katrina

“I spy with my little eye… BAD BITCHES! DREAM WIFE FOR LIFE!” was without doubt Popped Music’s calling card at Live At Leeds. From early on in the event, photographer and editor Elena Katrina and fellow Popped photographer Fiona Carroll took up the chant with each other, and through the day the shout became a constant. If you saw one of these women excitedly proclaiming it (and it would have been loudly) then you saw part of the gang. If you didn’t see us, then you were a bit unlucky as we are super friendly. Even the writer who looks like the moodier brother of The Grinch, it’s all an act.


It was my first time at Leeds for a music festival that didn’t involve an arduous bus journey or expensive taxi ride to get on site. I love metropolitan music festivals as they extinguish the intensity of festival life by having comfortable places to sit; toilets that don’t terrify; and it always feels subversive being in a city yet secretly being part of our own little circle with bars that only festival goers are allowed in. Leeds is a city of several great venues too, and I don’t just mean how we all find our local fleapit to be “great” regardless of its quality, but actually great little venues. Take Leeds Academy which if you haven’t been before is a converted church with an upper tier that means everybody can get a decent view of the band. You’ll hate your local Academy for being a cuboid with lights and amps after visiting it.


The first band we took in was the uncomfortable to pronounce KLLO. One of so many bands who have taken the framework of The XX and tried to make their own sounds with it. Their particular take was to push to a more dancey and poppy beat, but with that I personally felt that the sounds of Chloe Kaul’s vocals were too deep in the mix and I couldn’t connect with the Australian duo. That said Elena appreciated their sound far more than I. Possibly first band up after a drive across the Pennines I wanted do have adrenalin coursing through my veins like a shot from a musical defibrillator rather than laid back chilled sounds. In fact, I know I did, but after getting stuck in the one-way system near to Leeds’ First Direct Arena, I was happy to just get out of my car and get into a gig.


After a short meander up the road to a fantastic craft beer pub which made me regret my driving duties immensely, we were able to take in a performance by Marthagunn. Now the venue was packed to the rafters for this set to the extent that I had to watch the gig from behind a vintage dressing room shutter which was being used for a bit of crowd control. It meant that I couldn’t see a thing on stage, but it sounded brilliant. And Elena said they were exciting too as she used her photographer’s desperation (and her elbows) to get much closer to the stage than I was able to get.


Thankfully the audience thinned out at the end of that set to allow me to get closer to the front for Judas. Now Judas are a band that have not really crossed my path too much, but I could not have been more impressed with the half hour they had to perform in. At the start of the set, it seemed like there were a few hardcore fans in and plenty of people looking to be entertained, but by the end of the set they had taken over a good few hearts and minds with an action-packed performance and a seriously good batch of accessible, understandable and comfortable rock songs. At times you don’t need to overcomplicate things, if it means that the audience can sing along by the second chorus. A few nods of appreciation from recognised friends across the blogosphere suggested that I was not the only person to have been impressed.


Then came Popped Music’s moment of pride that saw at least your writer here get moved to tears as we flashed our press bands to get to the front of the queue for The Amazons’ set at Leeds’ O2 Academy. Fifteen months ago, we were able to interview The Amazons and find out that they really are amongst the nicest people not just in music, but that we’ve ever met. Well to see them play to about 2,000 people who were not just loving their brand of tight, tune-laden rock n roll, but knew every word of every song was the best punch to the stomach ever. It was beautiful and the boys from Reading played an absolute stormer with each moment of the gig being a celebration of musical intensity – and Matt’s gorgeous, advert-quality hair. With their album just a matter of weeks away, the world is at their fingertips.


Another act with their debut album on the shelves by the time you read this is Jake Isaac. Now whilst the sound is made with guitars and drums, Jake Isaac’s big, soulful voice over blissed out summer vibes is as far away from the dirty rock of The Amazons as possible, yet both were able to excite me far more in half an hour than most bands can in a career. Jake Isaac was playing in the beautiful setting of Trinity Church and for one of the last sets before release date, you would forgive him for being somewhat discombobulated when the power went on stage just as the band were preparing to start. Instead of tantrums, Jake showed that he has his own different kind of power by doing half a set of unplugged, acoustic tracks to complete, respectful silence apart from the odd person to walk in the venue noisily before hastily shutting up. It was almost disappointing when the power came back on such was the quality of those songs and the emotion in his voice. That said when the band cranked it up, it made it easy to dance to. In fact, with my eyes closed I was whisked away from the pews and Bibles, and taken to a sunny back garden with friends and barbecue smells. It was as if every chord was made of sunshine.


Given the unenviable task of following that performance was Lewis Watson, but straight away he got the crowd on side. “Here I am in the house of the Lord to sing songs about my ex” – trust me it was much funnier when he said it. With two albums under his belt, there was an obvious streak of craftsmanship to his performance even if it did not, for me, stray too far from the world of folk music. Yet the simplicity meant that everything had to hit perfectly, and I’ll say that Lewis did just that. Whilst I did not find it necessarily that exciting, it was definitely an admirable set which saw plenty of Lewis Watson fans squeezing to find a space sat on the floor in front of the altar.


When you talk to people about live music in Leeds, there is one venue more than any other which gets mentioned as a must visit. The Brudenell Social Club, lovingly known as just The Brudenell. Imagine your local British Legion, but a little bit bigger and a whole lot sweatier when filled with hundreds of music fans watching bands and a hundred more watching Anthony Joshua defeat Wladimir Klitschko. But whilst the multi-millionaire pugilists respectfully slugged away, I was captivated by a four-piece mentioned earlier. In one set, I became DREAM WIFE FOR LIFE. Dream Wife were the excuse to get back in the car and get across town, and they were worth the journey and then some. Full of poise, guitar pop sensibilities, and the most wonderful aggression I have seen on a stage in quite some time I was so besotted by their performance that I had to move to the back of the room so that I could take it all in rather than focus on one member of the band at a time. There is the temptation for some bands to go Japanese or Korean in focus when they have high-pitched, female rock vocals that can do a mean harmony – and generally it turns into a hen night on bad acid sound. Dream Wife take inspiration, to me, from Blondie and Altered Images instead and produce songs that you can dance to that at the same time make you give the world the finger and a f**k you. It’s brilliant and an inspiration to me.


I had such a good time over in Leeds, I might be Live at Leeds for life too. I’ll definitely be there next year at least – but without the car.

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  • About Popped Music

    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

    All articles written by Elena Katrina unless otherwise stated.

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