Metropolitan music festival, Live At Leeds, celebrated its tenth event this year, with 16 venues (and other fringe locations) across the city serving up another excellent selection of diverse acts.
Kicking off the festival season on the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, it’s always an event I look forward to, as both a live music photographer and music fan. Onwards, then, in the unseasonably wintry weather, to a packed Nation of Shopkeepers to see singer-songwriter Natalie McCool, who belted out some lovely songs reminiscent of a young PJ Harvey.
Next, with schedule in hand, I hot-footed across town to Oporto, a lively city-centre bar with an established music scene of its own. Here, I caught the first few songs from FACE – with energetic frontman, resplendent in his tasselled jacket – whose brand of indie-rock was reminiscent of an early Killers.
I moved on to a rather special venue next. Holy Trinity Church has been important for Live at Leeds over the years; this time I waited eagerly for solo artist Hannah Lou Clark to arrive in front of the beautiful stained glass windows. Due to a late start and technical difficulties, she only managed three songs before having to depart, but she impressed the sizeable congregation (some of whom were seated on the wooden pews) with some lovely mellow rock songs accompanied by her guitar.
My next destination was a complete change of scenery and genre. The Belgrave Music Hall is still relatively new, but its darkened stage with coloured lights worked brilliantly for the excellent Girl Friend, who put everything into their electro-pop in front of a big crowd.
Leeds Beckett University (formerly Leeds Met) boasted two stages: on the main stage, I managed to catch the huge guitar sound of local five-piece Autobahn. On the Beckett 2 stage – situated round the back of the bar (and, perhaps, not the most atmospheric of rooms) – I was impressed by the energy of Dublin’s OTHERKIN and particularly with INHEAVEN, with their strong rhythm-based catchy guitar style. The same stage saw Zuzu show off their heavy guitar sound, teamed with brash but melodic lead vocals.
In between, I was lucky enough to catch the last couple of songs from Leeds’ own Carnabells, who looked very at home on the huge stage at Leeds University Stylus with their honky-tonk indie style.
The Faversham is a rather understated venue behind Leeds Uni. Its distance from other venues probably goes against it a little, and I couldn’t help feeling it was a little on the empty side when Willie J Healey took to the stage to play a mixture of great upbeat and chilled-out guitar songs with a lot of energy.
R&B is generally not one of my preferred genres, but I popped back into town to the new Headrow House to catch Lola Coca, who gave a fantastic lively performance in a set of pink silk pyjamas.
By this time, many of the headliners were taking to the stages of the larger venues across town. I made the relatively long trek across to the Brudenell Social Club in Hyde Park – an excellent live venue – where highly-rated rapper Loyle Carner put in a belting performance in front of a very busy main room.
In all, I managed to take in an eclectic selection of 12 acts, which filled my day. Although some of the venues can seem quite far apart – especially in the April showers – Live at Leeds consistently demonstrates that Leeds has a lot to offer to the live music scene, and it’s certainly here to stay.
Words & Photos: Mike Powell of Glossy Onions Photography