FESTIVAL REVIEW: Live At Leeds 2019

Live At Leeds 2019

Various Venues, Leeds, 4th May 2019

Words: Sammy Sadler
Photography: Elena Katrina

We’ve been covering day-long metropolitan music festival Live At Leeds for a few years now and I think that it’s pretty safe to say that it just keeps getting better and better as each event goes by. From the amazing acts that grace the many stages and the excellent organisation that always seems to be super smooth from what I’ve seen, it’s easily made it’s way to a highlight date in my music calendar. 

My only gripe with day-long city festivals as a whole really, is that it can be a geographical nightmare to get to every artist you want to see. Within a couple of hours of arriving in Leeds, my whole lineup for the day had changed due to the distance between venues and heartbreaking clashes between bands that I love. However, this can’t be helped and I got over it pretty quickly once Elena and I got amongst all the action.

First up I arrived early to catch a stripped-back set from Leeds locals Marsicans in the tiny Farah store. Well I say tiny, if you’re browsing I’m sure it is quite pleasant, but it was a squeeze to say the least. With a queue stretching down the street, I wriggled my way next to the till point to catch my favourites of the moment for the second time in the past few weeks.

“This won’t be like our usual sets – expect some country!” Rob said before the quartet launched into Suburbs. To say that this intimate set was special feels like a bit of an understatement, it really was something else and the perfect way to kick off a day of high-quality music. Treating us all to favourites including Pop-Ups (Sunny at the Weekend) and latest single Your Eyes, lush melodies replaced the wonderfully eccentric chaos we usually get from Marsicans and it absolutely worked. As the crowds gathered both inside and outside the store, including those standing on each other just to catch a glimpse of James, Rob, Oli & Cale, we finally got the country number we were waiting for in a unique version of Swimming and a perfect closing of Too Good. Bravo Marsicans, a highlight of the year so far for me – bold I know.

Next up, Elena & I wandered over to Oporto to catch Sophie and the Giants. Now I’d say that Oporto is easily one of my favourite haunts in Leeds but the venue was far too small for the calibre of artists they had on the line-up for the day. We arrived as Household Dogs were kicking off and it was that busy we couldn’t even get in the room. But I’m not one to complain and luckily we did manage to push our way to the front for Sophie and the Giants and I’m so pleased we did – I’m still blown away now if I’m honest.

I’m a new fan of Sophie and the Giants but even just listening to them on Spotify I knew I had to catch them live. Vocalist Sophie Smith easily has one of the most powerful, impressive voices I’ve witnessed live. I wanted to compare her to Florence Welch originally but Sophie is completely unique – her vocal ability really is in a league of its own. Through each retro-pop note, glittering bassline and pounding percussion I felt like I genuinely had goosebumps and I don’t say that lightly. Opener Waste My Air sounded even more phenomenal live than it does recorded and a highlight had to be the epic instrumental break in Bulldog. Seriously these guys are going to be huge, I can feel it.

Straight after Sophie and the Giants was Brighton dream-pop outfit Thyla with their carefree instrumentals packed with lush harmonies and Millie’s super sweet vocals showcased in tracks such as new one Anything and Sharon. I really love these guys and it was only my first time catching them but I felt like I could easily have a good dance along. They’re heading out on their UK tour in October and I’m so excited to hopefully see them again in Newcastle.

Dashing over to the O2 Academy, it was time to catch Marsicans for the second time in one day and I’m not even ashamed of it. To be fair, both sets were very different and the energy levels were ramped up for the quartet’s second set of the day to a packed O2. After jumping around and smashing myself into the little barrier space I had to everything I’d been singing at the earlier set plus tracks like Throw Ourselves In and new one Little Things, it really did feel like this was an evening headline set. From the moshpits that formed to the lively soundscapes that swirled around the huge venue, it was perfect to catch Marsicans in their hometown with such an excited audience.

Remaining in prime position at the barrier for the next artist on was an absolute priority as it was the Toon hero himself, Sam Fender. It’s no secret that we are huge fans of this guy at Popped Music and having not seen him in a while, I was so excited to sing along to the North Shields heartthrob that has made his way onto so many of my playlists. I could genuinely watch Sam Fender all day, his vocal ability is stunning and each track hits home in a way that’s completely captivating.

Asking for some audience participation for Dead Boys, it didn’t take Fender long to get comfortable on stage and for the crowd to start having a good dance along. My ultimate highlight had to be Hypersonic Missiles, I swear to god this guy is the next Bruce Springsteen you heard it here first, and tracks such as Play God and Spice are always going to get everyone excited due to their catchy lyrics and funky melodies. Finishing on Oasis cover of mega tune (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?,  I mean who the fuck even attempts to tackle Oasis never mind managing to do it that well, I was desperate to just do the whole set over again. See you in the Toon in December Sam, I’ll be the one at the front with the cheesiest ‘We Heart Fender’ banner I can get my hands on.

Too soon enough it was time for the last band on our agenda for the day and although my body ached from all the shapes I’d been throwing out there, I was especially excited for this one. Having not seen the B-Town huns Swim Deep for what I reckon is about six years, I grabbed Elena and headed to The Wardrobe to reminisce the days that I refused to be referred to anything other than Sammy Sadz and scream the lyrics to Honey. The band’s line-up may have changed but with Austin still heading up the vocals and Cavan producing his famous sexy basslines, I was sure it was going to be just as lush as the last time I saw the Birmingham lads and I was absolutely right. From the first lazy psych-pop notes of Honey to the catchy lyrics of The Sea, I was transported back to those easier times when I was a carefree student and all I cared about was visiting Birmingham thrift stores and stocking up on vinyl.

Aside from sounding as sweet as ever, a special mention goes out to Sail Away which Austin said was about his grandma who had dementia and passed away but Saturday would have actually been her birthday. I genuinely felt my heart break in two as I’ve been there myself and it was an absolutely stunning performance that both Austin and the rest of the guys should be so proud of. It showed a maturity of Swim Deep that I guess I hadn’t seen before and it was perfect.

I really can’t wait to see you again Swim Deep, let’s not leave it so long next time.

And as for you Live At Leeds –  see you again next year. I’m already counting down the days…

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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