Festival Review: Live At Leeds 2018

Live At Leeds 2018

Words: Samantha Sadler

Photos: Jacob Flannery

I’ve had my eye on Live at Leeds festival for years but unfortunately for some reason or another, I was always unable to make it. But 2018 has been my year and the sun was shining down on all the festival-goers as they trampled the streets of Leeds for a day full of music.

Originally starting in 2007, Live at Leeds has been steadily growing in popularity and the line-up continues to impress each year. Set across 22 venues, this year’s edition of the metropolitan festival featured over 200 acts to cater for everyone and I was so excited to be involved in the buzz of anticipation that clung to the air well into the night.

Not wanting to waste any time, I escaped the blazing heat at lunchtime for the first act of the day in Oporto. Battling through the packed venue, I grabbed a spot just in time for Leeds lads KOYO. A heavy bass boldly echoed around the room as the five-piece created funky, psychedelic soundscapes to delight the huge crowd that had squeezed into every possible space around the stage. As they ended with a thrashy, energetic outro, those who had witnessed KOYO murmured in approval at how much they’d enjoyed the performance. Who’d have thought that prog-rock could sound so good so early in the day?

I decided to hang around in Oporto to catch Caro next – one of the upcoming bands that I’d put on my “must see” list. Also based in Leeds, Caro remind me so much of an early Alt-J and they shine with that earnest young musician hunger. The unique croon from frontman Adam Pardey complimented steady percussions and slow dirty grooves that built into a crescendo of exploding riffs. With a rockier edger and funky instrumentals that command you to stomp your feet on the ground, it was no surprise that people were literally queuing outside of the room to catch a glimpse of the young trio. I can’t wait to hear more from them.

Moving into the glorious sunshine I took a stroll to the Leeds International Festival Spielgeltent, a quaint circus tent meets carousel area, to catch Americana-kissed folk from Londoners Night Flight. Much more stripped back than the previous two acts I had seen, Night Flight remind me of a beautiful mash-up of Paolo Nutini, Nick Mulvey and The Verve. Soaring keys and a steady bass were prominent throughout a stunning setlist that included their latest single, the gorgeously passive-aggressive Parade. Ending on Departure, because “it’s fitting to end on a song called Departure”, the whole set was delicate and captivating. I could have easily watched Night Flight all day and they’ve now found their way onto my daily Spotify playlist…

Ok so I’m a total sucker for the Birmingham music scene and I have been for many years – so obviously I had to go and see Peace for the hundredth time at the O2 Academy. After battling insane queues, I managed to bag a cracking spot on the balcony as Harrison Koisser and co strutted on to the stage. There is an air about Harrison as he swaggers around in sunglasses that is pretty memorising and it works wonders for the band’s stage presence. Treating everyone to a selection of old songs and new, including crowd-pleasers Wraith and California Daze, the set was everything I wanted and more. The audience sang back each lyric, Lovesick began slow and built into the fast-paced number that I love and my head was buzzing afterwards. It was only 3pm but we were definitely served up a headline-worthy set.

Suitably in the party spirit following Peace, next on my list were grungey rock queens Hey Charlie!. Set in the perfect underground of The Key Club, it was only the London trio’s second time in Leeds but they’d managed to draw in a crowd. And these girls are seriously hardcore. Slow verses and harsh lyrics exploded into each chorus whilst chaotic riffs pierced through rowdy percussions. A thrash-metal dream bursting of girl power and heaps of attitude – I’d be bold enough to coin Hey Charlie! as the female answer to Nirvana.

I was still feeling underground vibes so I stuck to The Key Club for Fizzy Blood – five Leeds lads with serious talent. Without wasting time they launched into a grimey, gritty heavy rock that vibrated the walls and bounced off the ceiling. Frontman Benji Inkley’s throaty chanting glided over skuzzy, intense instrumentals as harsh guitars and cymbals shot straight to the bone. Reuben influences dripped throughout but Fizzy Blood are their own unique band – transforming old-school decent screamo into a chaotic dazzling mess of melodic noise-rock.

As it pushed 8pm, I made my way out to see the lovelies that are The Van T’s at The Lending Room. Fresh from a set in my hometown of Newcastle, The Van T’s launched into a set of glittery rock and girl power courtesy of Chloe, Hannah, Joanne and Shaun. Lowkey Scottish accents skimmed pulsating, rugged guitars as the energetic quartet stormed through their set. Insisting that they know “we’re from Glasgow but we don’t bite”, the audience shuffled forward to enjoy the full force of metallic riffs and heavy basslines that created a stunning explosion of sound. There’s something about The Van T’s that really reminds me of Blondie, which is always a good thing.

After an awesome day jam-packed with fresh musical talent spanning all genres, I was ready to end the day with indie heroes – The Vaccines! Heading back to the O2 Academy, you could barely move for the amount of people that were packed in but it was so worth it. Thrilling us all with old favourites Norgaard, Wetsuit and If You Wanna amongst a sprinkling of newer tracks, every fan was catered for as they joined forces in mosh pits and screamed lyrics towards the sky. I haven’t seen The Vaccines in a little while now but I am so pleased to see that they certainly haven’t lost it! Anthemic choruses aplenty and accompanying lawless instrumental (I’m referring to the sexy riffs on Teenage Icon), Justin and the gang are definitely worthy headliners of the O2. Long may The Vaccines continue to create indie tracks that make you reminisce about teenage house parties and dance late into the night.

Leaving the O2, my body was broken but my head buzzed with so much excitement. The weather was fantastic, the atmosphere was electric and the music was out of this world – see you again next year Live at Leeds!


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