Festival Review... Live At Leeds, Various Venues, Leeds, 5th May 2012

It’s just hit the start of May, and it’s that time of year again where the inner-city festivals take the floor, before the summer festivals arrive. Yet again for the third year running, I paid ritual to my local gala – Live At Leeds. The festival takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend, showcasing local and national talent. The main attraction for the festival, the All-Day event on the Saturday, involves you being able to experience musical brilliance from 12am to 12pm across the city in a variety of venues for just £20. Yes, just £20! This year saw the likes of The Enemy, Marina And The Diamonds (who sadly pulled out ill two days before the day), Los Campesinos! and The Subways being called the headliners.

After a late rising, I eventually find myself at the wristband exchange ready to go. With the weather being unpredictable as usual and the surprises installed, it was hard to plan a schedule. Nonetheless I began my day at the local haven that is the Brudenell Social Club – which won the Best Small Venue Award for the North East last year. Here, I experienced the well-practiced Hunting Bears, a harmonious folk quintet. Playing in their hometown, they felt no pressure and delivered a pleasant set, incorporating a varying range of instruments including a harp and ukulele to name but a few. Re-mastered ‘Heavy Tree’ went down a treat, with the music being enhanced by the band members’ infectious chemistry.

After having a small listen to dance wannabes Jaymz Dean, who did not connect well with the relatively large audience, I made my way to witness recently blown-up indie sensations Citizens!. The Kitsuné collective reciprocated a moderately relaxed approach, but nonetheless gave the crowd a piece of what is to come from their debut album. Singles ‘Reptile’ and ‘True Romance’ were well-received, even with some crowd members simply being there as they had no idea where else to go. The “saviours of pop” nailed their set mustering in all the elements of alt. pop, electronica, disco-indie and even hip-hop. They had the glitz of prime Franz Ferdinand but also the classic Bowie glam.

After a short walk fuelled by a quick pint and packet of crisps, next up was synth abusers Bastille. When I say ‘abusers’ I mean that in the nicest way possible, they used layers and drum beats to perfection, delivering an almost faultless pop driven 30 minutes. They are a band who aims to please, with frontman Dan Smith sporting an amusingly crafted coiffure and a cheeky onstage presence. The energy diffused around the room, breaking members of the front row into what seemed a dance routine. After finishing on ‘Flaws’ and after Dan finally gained the courage to jump off the speakers, which he earlier climbed, they received a well-deserved applause. Due to placement of some venues, and distance required to cover to get from one to the other, I sadly had to give a few up-and-coming bands a skip - notably, the delectable PEACE, the calming TOY and also the likeable The History Of Apple Pie.

As the afternoon was coming to an end, I neatly avoided the ever-growing queues of loud and over-excited teens echoing the name ‘Example’ surrounding Millennium Square (a concert presented outside of Live At Leeds). I found myself at the largest venue in Leeds (soon to be 2nd, after the arena is built), the O2 Academy. First up with a noteworthy stint was Niki & The Dove, the Swedish electropop duo. Face of the band, Malin Dahlström, gave a strange yet eye-catching display as she waved her arms and body in a mystical fashion. With a considerable amount of people present, the couple did not fret, but instead took “their people” through a world of unknown, playing favourites ‘DJ Ease My Mind’ and new title ‘Tomorrow’. Outlandish indie pop boys Spector followed suit, this time inducing the crowd into a frenzy. This was my second time to see the ever suave outfit, and they certainly did not disappoint. With a mix of opinionated yet insightful banter from main man Fred MacPherson and their sharp catchy songs, the band ran through their set in half an hour even though they were scheduled 15 minutes more. At this point in time, they filled the venue (up and downstairs), with even a small mosh-pit breaking into existence – a rarity for the band. The band, belting their last two anthems ‘Chevy Thunder’ and ‘Never Fade Away’, tick off another great show. The only downside being their predictability, as they play the exact same setlist in the exact same order, as the one to when I saw them in February.

Onto the southern parts of town, I encountered the remarkably enthralling end to S.C.U.M’s show, which made me think ‘why didn’t I walk faster?’ Nevertheless, after having to pass up the opportunity to see the lovely Lucy Rose (which cut me deeply, being a massive fan); I found myself on the edge of the stage ready to witness what was, in my opinion, the highlight of the day. Being tipped as the young, grunge Strokes and being granted a 45 minute slot; it was Howler who really left an imprint on the city. With The Cockpit (the venue) swollen with people, the band provided an onslaught. The onslaught was loud, fast-paced and a provoker of energy. The crowd bellowed every song back at Jordan Gatesmith (lead singer), even before he had a chance to breath. The tracks from their astounding debut album ‘America Give Up’ rang like a Greatest Hits set. Drummer Brad, continued through ‘This One’s Different’ without a chair as he previously broke simply by bouncing with excitement – showing purely how determined this band are. The effortless cool of the band made girls weak at the knees, and even made men scrounge to just touch the band members. The seemingly short set pushed at the walls of the venue striving for something bigger, and I have no doubt they will fulfil this ambition. Passing outside after the gig, I was able to meet frontman Jordan where he explained “English crowds are so energetic, I love it”, leading him to set his ambitions of the festival circuit later this summer.

At this point, I was beginning to feel the full effects of the long day, and unfortunately couldn’t make it to see Leeds mentalists Blacklisters and local folk bringer Sam Airey. However, I found resurgence as I witnessed the new and experimental phenomena that are Alt-J. The recently tipped quartet, bring something never seen before to the musical table. The variety of sound they produce, lead to a delayed start, because of the technical demands required. Still, the band who came to University in Leeds, provided a jovial set with ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Tessellate’ encouraging fans to leave their seats and stand up (they performed in the calming settings of the Holy Trinity Church). A row of hands expressing their well-known triangle symbol (∆) greeted the band, showing how widely received they have become since their exposure. Personal favourite ‘Fitzpleasure’ ended the set leaving the crowd jiving and undeniably wanting more.

Due to the delayed start of the previous set, I had to abandon amiable Dog Is Dead and discard any hope of seeing established acts Ghostpoet, Los Campesinos! and Reverend And The Makers. With it approaching midnight, I decided to end my day with the lyrical genius that is Scroobius Pip. This performance, however, lacked his famous counterpart Dan Le Sac; instead he went it solo with a backing of band members on guitar and drums. This different layout provided louder rock-like beats to back his fast-flowing rhymes. With the sad passing of Beastie Boys member Adam Yaunch, Scroobius dedicated this set to him by sporting a VW sign around his neck for which he stole when he went to see them in 2001. Starting with appropriately titled ‘Introdiction’ he stated his plan “Hello my name is Pip, and I would like to speak some lyrics”. That he did, and after finishing off a bottle of wine, he ran through a mix of old and new, with no expression of nerves in front of the strong and ever-growing crowd. His ability to spit lyrics at such a rate was indescribable and let’s not forget the appropriateness of his words. He unionised every member of the crowd making them one of his own. It was no surprise that he used every minute of his deserved 1 hour set, and it was a the ideal way to end a superb day.

Visit Live At Leeds. I recommend it.

Written by - Richard Maver