Festival Review : Live at Leeds 2019

Live at Leeds has, once again, proven itself to be one of the leading events for discovering brilliant new bands and artists. The talent on show at this year’s festival, from 12 Noon at Hyde Park Book Club right ‘til the very end, was nothing short of spectacular. Yes, one of the venues may have flooded, but when something so drastic takes so little away from the overall festival experience, I’d say it must’ve been pretty fucking fantastic.

After necking 3 coffees in double quick time before picking up my accreditation, my Live at Leeds kicked off at midday up at Hyde Park Book Club for what would end up being one of the best sets of the entire day. In Your Prime are a band I’ve only ever known from afar, admiring a few of their tracks on Spotify but never having the chance to see them in action. A few things struck me after they came off stage at 12:30. 1) They are able to curate gut-punchingly riffy, and yet effortlessly catchy monsters of songs. 2) Ruby Cooke delivered what was comfortably the most breathtakingly brilliant vocal performance of the day. And 3), they have well and truly picked up a new fan in myself. On May 17th they play Key Club with Kill the Silence, and if you’re reading this and want to discover any new band at the moment, that is the gig you need to be at. Big shout out as well to Matt Martin (drums) who, despite having his kit fall to bits halfway through, put in a brilliant tight and grooving performance that any drummer would’ve been proud of. A set of truly epic proportions wasn’t a bad way to start my day!

In Your Prime: 8.5/10

Track of the Day: Heart of Lead

I decided to stick around at Book Club after that with a band called The Pearl Harts. I must confess, the name rang some bells but beyond that I really didn’t know what I should expect. Thank God I stayed. With a breezeblock now holding the drum kit in place, The Pearl Harts showed everyone still at HPBC why everyone’s Live at Leeds needs to start early. When bands as good as these opening two are playing intimate venues, you’ve simply got to explore all that the festival has to offer. With looping riffs, electrifying stage presences, and a whole lot of leopard print, The Pearl Harts nearly blew my head off with some sultry punk laced blues/rock ‘n’ roll. It’s mad how much noise they can get out of just the two of them, but it isn’t just an onslaught for the sake of it. It’s nuanced, with each riff accompanied by stellar dual vocal performances that made for an unforgettable set. They also come back to Leeds very soon, more specifically at Lending Room on June 8th. Be there.

The Pearl Harts: 8/10

Track of the Day: Lara

It was now time for my first adventure off into Leeds by making the short walk down into Hyde Park to the iconic Brudenell Social Club. It was here that Ed the Dog was due to take to the stage, which they eventually did after ‘The Soundchecks’ ran over a little. It was little jokes and interactions with the crowd that made the atmosphere so unique. Ed is uniquely funny and charming on stage with just a sprinkle of, I’d put it, elegant awkwardness, and yet even still I’d have to tell you that the set surpassed my expectations regardless. They write catchy songs with character, and I can’t see anything but an upward trajectory for them. Compelling and friendly in their live performance, they balance belters with a complete image and thoroughly enjoyable environment in which we got to watch them strut their stuff. You can’t help but buy into every part of this band, well maybe aside from a left-handed drummer (sorry it just makes me feel weird seeing it all back-to-front), and I guarantee you they’ll be winning fans for years to come. 

Ed the Dog: 8/10

Track of the Day: Yes Men

This is all going rather well isn’t it? I’d been treated, frankly, to three bands I’d never seen before, but will certainly be seeing again. Which is why it really sucks to say I left Drenge with a hint of disappointment. I’ll be frank, I really don’t like the 02 Academy Leeds as a venue. The sound is never quite right, it feels a bit lifeless, and a fiver for a pint?! No thanks. But that’s not what bugged me about the set itself. There seemed to be a lack of energy and unpredictability which I’ve always found synonymous with Drenge gigs of the past. I miss the days of Reading Festival 2013, where the then 2-piece rocked up in thigh high dresses and kicked the shit out of their gear. The now 4-piece seemed to have lost the thing that made Drenge so unique. It feels like they’ve transitioned into something more restrained and “normal”, less off the walls, and it seemed to transfer onto the crowd which only really got fully going when the band unleased ‘Running Wild’ and ‘Bloodsports’ in the final 3rd of the set. Those tracks, and the reaction they inspired, made me hopeful that we haven’t seen the last of the Drenge I know and love, but for me, this time around, it was a bit of a swing and a miss.

Drenge: 5/10

Track of the Day: Running Wild

After scoffing down a Maccies in double-quick time, I was off to Hifi for a triple-header. It began at 4:30 with the bloody brilliant Dead Naked Hippies. These guys are another band that unleashes an unholy wall of noise from just drums and six-string guitar. This time around, though, the two-piece is a trio, led by the fiery and full-on Lucy Jowett. She commands the stage behind a veil of bright red fringe, and matches such an impressive stage presence with the vocals to match. The empowering ‘She Goes’ completely blew me away, but it was closing track ‘Guillotine’ that stole the show for me. By far their most dynamic track, it catapulted Dead Naked Hippies to the top of my list of ‘new bands I’ve found in 2019’. Top notch.

Dead Naked Hippies: 9/10

Track of the Day: Guillotine

Ørmstons had a job on their hands following a set like that, but the Leeds indie-rockers weren’t going to be deterred by the performance that had preceded them. Once again, which is always nice to see, the crowds were out in force on the smaller stages giving support to the incredible local talent Leeds has to offer these days. With new drummer in tow, Ørmstons played a set of similar ilk to their Wardrobe set last year with Anteros; finessed and catchy as fuck. Plus, who doesn’t love a band finishing their set with some ABBA?

Ørmstons: 7/10

Track of the Day: Mamma Mia/Mexico City

Ok, I won’t lie. I’ve been familiar with this next band for a good couple of years now, and so I went into the last in my Hifi trilogy with levels of both anticipation and excitement that hadn’t yet been matched so far in the day. Faux Pas have released some absolute belters in the last 12 months, but every time the opportunity for me to catch them live has come around, I’ve been away/ill/forgot. Now was finally the time to get acquainted, and holy mother of Jesus am I glad. Straddling the border between extravagant, unnerving, and down-right mental, Faux Pas’ Live at Leeds set was unforgettable for all the right reasons. And you’d never guess, but unlike the 02 Academy this year, the sound in Hifi (and Hyde Park Book Club) was top class throughout the day. The anthemic ‘We Were Friends’, though, stole the show and perhaps the title of LAL Track of the Day for me this year. 

Faux Pas: 9/10

Track of the Day: We Were Friends

I entered the closing stretch of Live at Leeds knowing exactly what I was going to get from my penultimate band of the day. Kilmarnock’s Fatherson are an amazing live band. Their songs punch hard, or they soar high above you, or they riff like noughties indie bangers, all held together by one of the most impressive vocalists in UK Rock right now. Ross Leighton’s performance was a technical masterclass, and I couldn’t have thought of a more euphoric and anthemic band to play on the stage at Church. My notes simply say “Epic”; I couldn’t have put it better myself. 

Fatherson: 8/10

Track of the Day: Ghost

For the final gig of the day I made the short walk down from Church to the Leeds Beckett SU to catch Kent’s Lady Bird pull the curtain down on this year’s Live at Leeds with some familial and conversational Punk. Hearing the words “yeah that’s great mate, but if it could all go up by about 10,000%” in their soundcheck, it became fairly obvious what kind of show we were going to be in for. Every song told a story in a whirlwind of manic drums, riffing guitars, and (of course) an Organ! By the end of the show, it just felt like a big family get together with everyone drunk, sweaty, and entertained. A great way to finish the day, and a brilliant festival all round. 

Lady Bird: 8/10

Track of the Day: Baby

???? Credit @pretendonline