Live at Leeds 2019

One day, multiple city venues, various artists…

It all started with a pretty bracing, cold walk to Farah, a menswear store en route to Victoria Gate, Leeds. Frustratingly, there was a huge queue to what we assumed would be a safe-bet starter gig — an acoustic set from local band, Marsicans. Failing to get in, it was a case of checking the LaL app and seeing who was also playing a 12pm slot.

By some sort of incredible good fortune/happy twist of fate/total luck, we found ourselves watching a young Barny Fletcher on the stage at Headrow House. And wow, what a talent. With bucketfuls of energy and a commanding presence that knew no bounds, this fresh-faced new kid on the block was instantly captivating. His style: hip-hop with edgy synths and feel-good beats. His voice: a cross between soulful Paolo Nutini and Kendrick Lamar when he does all his quirky voices. And, more surprisingly yet, Fletcher announced it was his first ever gig. Given his enchanting performance, I’m still not 100% about whether I believe that. Nevertheless, I’ve been rinsing his mere two tracks on Spotify since.

Live at Leeds is the sort of popular event that means it’s a bit of a gamble as to whether you’ll see a/every band on your list. The participating venues fill up fast and you’re left to weigh up whether it’s smart to leave and go elsewhere, if you’re a bit lukewarm about the next act you’d fancied seeing. With this in mind, essentially camping out in the O2 Academy was sensible thereafter.

3pm hit and the venue was slowly getting busier. In no way packed, but definitely busier. The raging grunge of Drenge then took over the stage. I’m ashamed to admit they’re one of those bands that produce songs I can’t recall the names of on the spot, so I’m not able to give you a blow-by-blow of the setlist. But just know they were ace. The bass was deep, booming and you could feel every riff and chord as though it was beating through your own chest. They’re definitely an example of a band I’ve preferred live rather than on studio records.

Drenge, O2 Academy, 4/5/19.

Shaking the room up and completely altering the vibe, the indie band we’d tried to see earlier that day, Marsicans, were then on. They were bubbly and charismatic — playful, even. Every hook was catchy and the crowd were wild for each track. I remember spying a lot of young faces in the room (I’m mid-twenties) and wondering whether they were too boyband-ish to be enjoying. But hey, if they’re good, they’re good. No regrets.

Marsicans, O2 Academy, 4/5/19.

After standing up for hours, as crude as it sounds, a toilet break is your best chance of a sit down. Source more booze (are toffee vodka cocktails the new mid-gig pint?) then get a decent spot for Sam Fender — that was the next plan. And boy, we thought we were in prime position before a young couple started bickering right in my eye view. I mean, there’s a time and place. Hint: not when Geordie cheeky chap Sam Fender’s on. Despite that annoyance, he was honestly such a treat to watch. Witty when chatting to the crowd, but fully engaging when playing. His choice of guitar matched his surname (naturally) and his Oasis cover was nothing short of a crowd-pleaser. He’s going places.

Sam Fender, O2 Academy, 4/5/19.

It’s the little things like molasses-sticky floors, desperately wasted fans and narrowly missing an empty plastic cup to the head that make each gig extra memorable in slightly unique ways. Being at the O2 most of the day, we saw all that and more. But we did get the chance for a break. In which time, not even a pizza could soften the news about Metronomy bailing on the festival. For such a huge fan of theirs, that was a real low. Something about a burst pipe at Stylus, though other bands were rehoused…

Final gig of the day: epic headliners, Sundara Karma. They’re whimsically wonderful, have such a gentle turn of phrase when speaking to the audience and, man, they put on a show live. All the old favourites (‘Olympia’, ‘Flame’, ‘She Said’ and so on) plus some newer bangers like ‘Higher States’ (which they explosively started with) were all played. The set lasted 90 minutes and every track was a belter. What really got me, though, was the mosh pit. Is that now a thing at any gig — even when there’s not even a murmur of heavy metal? Asking for a friend.

Sundara Karma, O2 Academy, 4/5/19.

All in all, Live at Leeds Festival 2019 was fantastic from start to finish. If you’re into discovering new music, £40-odd is an absolute steal for all the bands you could see. The household names among the billing make it worthwhile at the very least.

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