There is something quite therapeutic about the franticness of Live At Leeds. Year on year, the festival brings to light elements of the city which you may have been oblivious to, despite your familiarity with the surroundings. To those willing to explore, Live At Leeds takes you out of your comfort zone, inspiring a whirlwind dash around the city centre in a quest to take in the plethora of stimulating sights and sounds. This year was no different. The tenth incarnation of the festival stuck to its winning formula – a mixture of established artists, Leeds favourites and acts looking to make their mark offered up throughout a multitude of venues dotted around the city. With the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae, NME pinup Rat Boy and Circa Waves appearing alongside some the brightest breakthrough artists of the last year, planning a schedule for the day was quite the headache.
As the rainclouds finally began to disperse, the sun made an appearance and it was on to catch the first band of the day in form of Brighton’s White Room. Hype surrounding the 5 piece was made clear whilst having to queue to gain entry the narrow confines of Nation Of Shopkeepers where the band had taken the stage. After listening to the first few tracks of their set whilst slowly moving up the ranks of the 1 in 1 out door policy, once inside, the youthful outfit were unloading twangy guitar riffs whilst the frontman, equipped with a token tambourine, toasted the crowd. The 30 minute set evoked flashes of Kasabian, yet with less rigidity when exploring their melodic, singalong style song structures. With the desired amount of onstage energy for an early afternoon performance, White Room proved to be perfect spring board initiate the day’s festivities.
Call Lane live music purveyors Oporto were the next spot on the map with the sounds being provided by the electro indie groovers Kassassin Street. The band’s last appearance in Leeds resulted in their equipment being stolen from their van whilst dining at a Harvester – “That’s the price for unlimited salad I guess” the lead singer remarked on stage. With the spirit of the crowd verging on merry right from the off, it was to be a performance that captured the best in those providing the soundtrack and the many who had squeezed their way in to join the party unfolding. With snaking rhythms and a rousing stage presence, the 5 piece transformed the space in front of the stage into an energetic dancefloor – something of which the band’s frontman couldn’t resist becoming a part of.
(DMA's on stage at Leeds Universtiy Refectory - Photo: Andy Hughes)
After catching a glimpse of Leeds’ finest post punk rockers Autobahn en route to the Leeds University Refectory, it was time to experience one of the most talked about acts on the lineup, DMA’s. Rumour has it the band formed upon their return from being stranded in the Australian outback with only a copy of Definitely Maybe to preserve their sanity – so the rumors say. Since then, the Australians have exported their brand of Britpop over to Europe, cementing a passionate group of fans along the way.
Brandishing an unnerving swagger, DMA’s made their way through hits such Lay Down and Too Soon, initiating the flying drinks and shoes to take precedence in the peripherals over the tracksuit laden Aussies on stage. Setting the band’s inspirations aside, it is clear that their music resonates with an audience wanting to exude the same kind of energy that is being offered up in the music – and rightly so. DMA’s can fashion the type of sound that results in both arms raised in the air and sore voice the morning after thanks to their driving choruses. Closing with the dreamy ballad Delete, DMA’s performance asked the question of whether a particular sound can only originate from a certain place to be free from having its authenticity ridiculed.
(The (I Wanna be) adoring crowd for DMA's - Photo: Andy Hughes)
A short trip next door to the Leeds University Stylus found Manchester’s Spring King rattling though the likes of City and Who are you before footsteps were retraced to find Sound Of 2016 shortlisters Blossom closing out their set. After making up the numbers in the crowds at some of the biggest venues on display, the quirky setting of the Hyde Park Book club made for a welcome change. Here the space age sounds of Galaxians were being unleashed upon the lucky few who had managed to seek out the intimate space. Appearing without their newly recruited vocalist, the drum and keys pairing set about orchestrating the tightly packed bodies before them to sway in unison to the future ready synth lines cascading from wall to wall. With help from the groovin’ Ducket$z appearing in their set, Glaxians’ took you by the hand as they guided the Book Club carefully into a fabricated dimension conjured by keyboard mastery.
With the Live At Leeds experience in its dying embers for another year, the ending resembled much of the start with a return Nation Of Shopkeepers were Dancing Years were tasked with seeing the day out. Having been riding high with Galaxians moments before, Dancing Years were to provide the grounding antidote to bring everything gently back down to earth. A sombre and soulful performance, only intensified by the delicate touch of the band’s violinist coupled with with the heartfelt lyrics and aching vocal delivery. With the metropolitan festival at an end for another year, it was fitting that the conclusion should be met with a dose of melancholy courtesy of Dancing Years.
Words by Elliot Ryder
Main photo courtesy of Tom Joy