Festival Review: Live at Leeds 2018

One of the banes of any festival is the wristband exchange. Live at Leeds is no exception, particularly when the exchange is at the music school and the only near-by venue is the Wardrobe. While I was up bright and early, and had set my heart on kicking off the day with Idles, the queue for the Wardrobe was huge, and a hasty re-plan saw me hot footing up the to Key Club to see Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. Outside The Key Club some disappointed fans desperate to get in discovered they had to trog down to the wristband exchange first. I can only hope they got into see Idles.

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly (HHHH) were having a busy day as after the gig in Leeds they had to drive down to Leicester for their festival. However, the early start and the long day didn’t put off Sam Duckworth and his intrepid team. The sound of organ, trumpet, guitar, bass and drums sounded lush in the cellars of the Key Club and the team were clearly enjoying every moment of their set which was sweet to witness. Sam highlighted his father (who is Burmese) came to the UK on a boat and made an impassioned speech about the unjust treatment of the Windrush generation. We are with you on that one brother.

Thankfully things were a little quieter down at Wardrobe a bit later on and The Blinders (HHHHH) gig was just rammed to the rafters rather than queued out of the door. You can’t beat a bit of wild psychobilly to get the blood racing, and the good natured mosh pit grooved to the bad boy sound of Thomas Haywood and his Manchester based band of evil brothers. The Blinders took me back to a band I absolutely adored; Nick Caves’ Birthday Party, and I totally got their demonic and reckless image and stage set. I can never get my fill of wild screeching guitar riffs.

A bit of a break and a chat with friends led us to the stage time of the wonderful Martha Phillips (HHHH) and her style of folk tinged with a harder edge. I spotted a Elephant Tree band member or two to cheer Martha through what turned out to be a pretty flawless set. No criticism of Martha here, but the placement of the edge of a busy meeting place bar, and the fairly lousy acoustics in the place didn’t particularly help with the atmosphere. I have to say the sound was better and more pure if you listened to Martha from the toilets. Nevertheless, by the end Martha had a third of the bar under her spell which was no mean feat.

Our friends had raced up to relive the mid 90’s with Ash, so I wandered up to Church to catch most of Tom Walker’s set (HHHHH). I’ve always been a little indifferent to Tom Walker’s recorded output although he has that elastic voice that I love, but it all came together live. Walker soon had his audience eating from the palm of his hand, and I had my hand on my cash card to organise tickets for his October Leeds gig.

I was at Church to catch the wondrous Stereo Honey (HHHH). While they haven’t released many songs yet, the buzz about the band saw at least 8 photographers dive in for the obligatory classy photos of the band in front of the stained glass. The hall wasn’t full but there was an impressive turnout nevertheless. Stereo Honey produced a flawless and enjoyable set with a run through of all the songs released to date; perhaps the mix of guitar and electronic means it feels very close to the recorded product.

After a bite to eat, it was back to the Key Club for Hey Charlie (HHH) (sadly I was too late for King Nun). There’s a lot of buzz about Hey Charlie but I have to say while the sound was good I didn’t really identify any kind of USP with the music. A new band I was quite excited to see was the loud and proud Fizzy Blood (HHHH). There was a great deal to like about Fizzy Blood’s brand of riotous music, and I’ll make sure I catch them again at the forthcoming Dot to Dot festival in Manchester.

At 8:00pm things start to get a bit fuzzy after 8 hours of music and the odd sip of alcohol so it was time to move towards a band that I knew wasn’t going to let me down – The Pale White (HHHHH). The Nation of Shopkeepers was very busy and very hot. Drummer Jack Hope had to resort to using the curtain as a towel before giving up completely on the idea of wearing a t-shirt. I’ve not seen The Pale White since last August’s Live at Bingley, and the way they have developed their music since that time was stark; richer and more confident in their skin with a more varied sound. I knew I was going to enjoy The Pale White, but the Newcastle trio snatched my personal “best in show” Live in Leeds award (just pipping The Blinders).

There was time for just one more band before I was likely to end up waking up at the end of the train line in Liverpool (never get old, dear reader), and for old time’s sake we went to see The Vaccines (HH). Unfortunately the venue was completely rammed and those of us in the cheap seats couldn’t relocate to the quieter VIP area upstairs so it was something of an uncomfortable experience. While The Vaccines are a band that I’ve always felt have made the very very most of their talent, they have always been exceptionally tight live. Not tonight; it seemed as though this was a band of two halves, and sadly one half was playing a slightly different tune at a slightly different pace. While it was something of a fizzle out for Live at Leeds, one duff experience, one average one and seven great ones is by no means a tardy tally for a day out.

Chris R

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