Live At Leeds is a day-long festival for proper, discerning music fans. You’re into indie? No problem. You want a mix of emerging artists and famous, household-name outfits? Gotcha. You also can’t turn down an after party? There’s a whopping DJ set laid on for those who couldn’t possibly retire home before midnight.
Back in June, Live At Leeds: In The Park was a roaring success. Held in the glowing, evergreen grounds of the Temple Newsam estate, the event was well-curated and offered a more traditional, get-your-boots-mucky festival experience. But when the In The City version hit this October, spread across multiple top venues across the centre, there was just a wholly electric vibe to the streets. So it was a pleasure to be right in the thick of proceedings again as press*.
Midday saw Chappaqua Wrestling pack out Nation of Shopkeepers. Sardines-style, the room heaved with indie-rock revellers eager to kick Live At Leeds off in style. While my recollection visually was more so of the back of haircuts, the act’s sound was huge and their riffs were magnetic. I’d gladly catch them again — just preferably with a less obstructed view.
One of my favourite gritty city venues is The Key Club. Why? It’s a mosher’s dream with sticky floors that maintain its rock bar USP. So, it was an expert choice for hosting Glasgow’s Uninvited, an exceptional four-piece who excelled at tight instrument manipulation from each member. But their standout quality was undeniably their vocal harmonies through the shared mic responsibilities between their bassist and rhythm guitarist. So, so slick.
Uninvited exuded a superior level of hell-raising class and clearly left the hopeful crowd organically impressed. They’re so on the rise right now that, not long after releasing the mighty ‘Behind The Black Door’ (which they closed their set with), they won the opportunity to perform in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. No meat feat. If you follow Record Weekly’s gig reviews and you’ve read various write-ups about Spyres (who also hail from bonnie Glasgow and played Live At Leeds last October), then we’re into for-fans-of territory here. Invite Uninvited into your ears ASAP.
Frankly, here in England, you may well know a few Tom Smiths. But how about Tom A. Smith? The next big thing, as touted by Elton John and Jack Saunders? Yeah, the 18-year-old has a name you need to get accustomed to hearing. The young newcomer is on fast-paced trajectory with an impressive CV to boot, so you can bet he’s a fantastic example of youth certainly not meaning inexperience.
His Nation of Shopkeepers set included ‘Like You Do’, which he co-wrote with pal Miles Kane, along with the seriously catchy ‘Dragonfly’. While you can’t help but draw comparisons between him and Sam Fender, Tom A. Smith’s vocals are that bit more gravelly and compelling, and he does a pretty cool Swedish House Mafia cover — not something you typically get, hey?
Meanwhile, at Hyde Park Book Club, soft, ultra-pretty vocals from Pet Snake filled the venue. It was a fine showcase of clean guitar sounds, too, which nicely paved the way for further mellow tones via the lungs of Tommy Ashby. The singer’s solid-as-a-rock performance guaranteed Ben Howard-esque vibes, establishing a gentle afternoon mood.
Now, it would be remiss of me not to mention Truck Festival when I utter “Dinosaur Pile-Up”. That experience — side of the muggy tent as the night sky was carpeted with stars and a thick buzz took over Hill Farm — was majestic. So the opportunity to witness them rip up the O2 Academy from the openness of the balcony wasn’t up for negotiation.
The swelling crowd didn’t stop moshing. The lights dramatically complemented the overall theatre of their show, which slickly began with the swaggering opening snippet of Pharoahe Monch’s ‘Simon Says’. DPU immediately gripped everyone’s gaze with their American punk-style niche.
It was unequivocally the most outstanding display of the day. They shared that a new album is on its way for 2023, and their setlist curation was impeccable, leaving my personal favourite, ‘11:11’, in the penultimate spot and the riotously popular ‘Backfoot’ to cap it all off. They wouldn’t know how to do subpar if they’d been briefed it; it’s just not in DPU’s DNA.
What I really relish about Live At Leeds is the ease of which you can flit from not just one venue to another, but between genres as well. Mill Hill Chapel couldn’t have been a more spiritually-enveloped setting for a stripped-back Manu Grace performance. Angelic vocals, gently strummed guitar strings and a hint of electronics? A palate-cleanser for sore ears, in the most delicately glorious fashion.
I’ve been plotting how to see King No-One for a while now, so The Wardrobe was hollering at 7:15pm. Their energy was an unparalleled frenzy of jarring, livewire movement, and they ticked off ‘Bad Porno’ second, which was an instant plus. Apparently a whole host of new material is en route, and the begging crowd got to hear the assured bangers, ‘Dead Hotel’ and ‘Neighbours’.
Their set had an artsy playfulness to it, with their frontman was even up on the rails of the venue. King No-One also regaled us with a tale of their first Leeds show, which had been at the same venue in 2016. Bloody kneecaps from a sellout manned by one security guard apparently forced the introduction of the barriers, so you could tell that this history fuelled their set, too.
Having only been at Leeds Beckett SU two nights prior to behold The Amazons, it was a bit of a surreal blur being back in that room again for the final act of the event: White Lies. Teenage me was almost sweating was excitement to hear the pioneering ‘Farewell To The Fairground’, a song not only ruled as one of my iPod’s most-rinsed tracks of that decade, but one that featured on just about every E4 advert.
Of course, they cleverly weaved in tunes new and old, to keep the buoyant crowd bopping, just two days after the release of new groove, ‘Breakdown Days’. But most had come to immerse themselves in the nostalgia of ‘Death’, ‘To Lose My Life’ and what turned into a pounding finale, ‘Bigger Than Us’.
The band were measured, refined and accomplished — as you’d expect. And they played with no ego. They had character and charisma but they were refreshingly devoid of any form of heightened self-worth. What a breath of fresh air. White Lies have well and truly left their mark on British indie, and they overwhelmingly deserve all the props for that.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t have torn myself away from their stellar performance to catch Glasgow’s rising starlet Joesef at Belgrave. But that’s just how the cookie crumbles with clashes sometimes. I’d been wowed enough by that point. Live At Leeds never disappoints.
*With huge thanks to Zeitgeist Agency (particularly Shannon and Jamie) for the press access
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