Live at Leeds provides the perfect showcase for the next generation of bands
The awkward placement of Easter has cut the academic year down to just two terms for a lot of university students. But while school may be out for most, at this year’s Live At Leeds festival it seems extra-curricular trips to the Student’s Union are the way to discovering great live music.
While these kinds of inner city festivals usually encourage exploration, dipping in and out of venues and showcasing the very city they’re being held within as much as the band’s themselves, a scheduling quirk of this year’s event means that all of the bands Subba wants to see are shared across two uni campuses along a half mile stretch of Woodhouse Lane.
This does of course mean a few heart wrenching sacrifices have to be made, and we’ve only heard good things about Solids and Pulled Apart By Horses up at the Brudenell, and Drenge’s barnstorming headline set on the Cockpit’s NME Stage.
But, for us it’s up to Allusondrugs to get the day off to a noisy start at the Mine, one of the University of Leeds’ three student union venues. Opening with new single ‘Nervous’, the Clue Records band showcase their energetic live show in front of a surprisingly enthusiastic early crowd.
While not quite as rambunctious as they can be (opening the festival at 12.30 probably doesn’t give enough time to ingest the usual uninhibiting quantity of alcohol), Jason Moules and co. still keep the stage full of energy as they flit between genres; the shoegazing fuzz of ‘Plasters’ and the At The Drive-In-esque strains of ‘Stir’ being but two examples. With musicianship this tight and a well rounded palette of songs, expect big things from the Castleford quintet, as the set ends with Moules shoving bassist Jamal over his amp and raises the bar high for the rest of the day.[caption id="attachment_59519" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Allusondrugs' Jason Moules[/caption]
Birmingham’s Youth Man have the unenviable task of following, and their riotous thrash-punk doesn’t hold off for a second. It takes a few songs for them to get fully into the swing of things, but by the time set closer ‘Heavy Rain’ is shrieking out of the speakers and front woman Kaila Whyte is pummelling her guitar over the front of stage monitors, ears are ringing and the ball is most definitely rolling for Live At Leeds.
The ‘official’ Vukovi description over on the Live At Leeds website describes them thus: “Vukovi wield hard hitting riffs, catchy choruses and a front woman that Hayley Williams could learn a thing or two from.” On the basis of the Scot’s half-hour show over in the Mine it’s easy to see where the lazy Paramore comparisons come from, though Vukovi’s pop-rock is a notch heavier than that of the Tennessee band, and we’re not sure we can remember the last time Hayley Williams scaled the barrier to deliver her vocal from within the first few rows of the crowd…
Down the road at Leeds Metropolitan Uni, Menace Beach have drawn a formidable crowd for the stage’s opening performance, perhaps off the back of their ‘Leeds supergroup’ label (Ryan Needham and Liza Violet’s backing band regularly consist of members of Sky Larkin and Hookworms, though Hookworms’ MJ is absent today having “called in sick”). This time last year the band were playing to a rammed Nation Of Shopkeepers, though the diminutive size of that venue led to an infinitely cosier affair. Today they feel for the first time in Subba’s memory like a ‘proper’ band, stepping up to the challenge of the larger room with ease and perhaps giving a glimpse into a future scenario where they are playing venues like this up and down the country. The songs certainly fill the space, and everything is ramped up to 11 to the point where a familiarity of the tracks is needed to pick them out from the muddy sound. But technical issues aside, Needham’s dip-dyed grunge locks and the band’s sunshine soaked 90s slacker-rock assure a cult following is on the horizon.
One of the hidden logistical nightmares of an inner city festival is the added obstacle of traffic, something not often associated with your typical outdoor festival in a field in the middle of nowhere. New York’s Big Ups are the first band to be stumped by tailbacks, and so their set is swapped with post-mathcore outfit Fawn Spots – whose songs often consciously uncouple themselves from their time signatures – and the whole scheduled is knocked out of whack. Subba manages to catch the last few songs of their set though, and is impressed with front man Joe Galarraga’s lackadaisical delivery as his band rip through their post-hardcore racket in the vein of Fugazi and Black Flag.
The queue is snaking out from Leeds Met and around the block for hotly tipped Brighton duo Royal Blood, and Mike Kerr seems to feeling the effects of his band’s increased touring schedule following their meteoric rise post-Arctic Monkeys support slot announcement. “Liverpool, how the fuck we doing?” he asks at the tail end of set opener ‘Hole’, perhaps unaware that Royal Blood’s Sound City performance ended 24-hours ago and sparking off a predictable flurry of ‘Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!’ chants from the swirling mass of humanity that greets every hard hitting riff.[caption id="attachment_59521" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Royal Blood's Mike Kerr[/caption]
Los Campesinos! are but one of a long line of bands to recently ‘grow up’ from their indie-pop beginnings and start making ‘proper’ music. Of course in doing so that means the eccentric tweecore version of events that could see everything from xylophones to violins joining the fray has subsided, and we’re left with nothing more remarkable than Gareth Campesinos! sweaty contortions over in Leeds Uni’ biggest venue, the Refectory.
Surf-punk grungers The Wytches put in the performance of the day over in the Mine. Rattling through their caustic tracks, which can take on haunting connotations of anything from psych to goth at a moments notice, their half hour slot sees the security getting very nervous indeed as every explosive chorus is met with flailing bodies and mosh pits. Live At Leeds may not be a game, but if it were then The Wytches would certainly have won. The climax of ‘Crying Clown’ nearly culminates in a full blown wall of death in the Mine’s narrow room, and sees both bassist Daniel Rumsey and drummer Gianni Honey throwing themselves into the throng.[caption id="attachment_59522" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Yuck have struggled since the departure of founding member Daniel Blumberg, and their newer material has wallowed in lazy shoegaze tropes ever since(tonight see: ‘Rebirth’), with new found front man Max Bloom never really stepping up to the gauntlet. Any hopes the older songs from 2011’s self-titled debut would still bristle live are soon dashed by the flat performances the four-piece deliver in the Stylus; ‘The Wall’ feels half speed and ‘Get Away’ is completely stripped of its summery breeze.[caption id="attachment_59523" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Fat White Family[/caption]
For a band so embroiled with hype at the moment it’s surprising to see Fat White Family’s headline slot in the Mine start to so relatively few people. That may have something to do with the fact they start ten minutes early, running through two whole songs before the generic rock compilation playing through the PA before stage time has been switched off. It’s an uneasy mix of garage and rock ‘n roll, worlds away from the Cramps comparisons afforded them by the festival programme, and at times hard to decipher. ‘I Am Mark E Smith’ drawls along with all the enthusiasm of a regular leaving his favourite watering hole at closing time, and it’s ironically then that the comparisons to the eclectic anarchy of the Fall really start to make themselves apparent.
The set has passes with relatively little incident for a band so infamous for their live show antics, and there’s nothing besides vocalist Lias Saoudi’s grotesque convulsions that really sticks in the mind.