140 bands, 15 venues, 1 city.
But of course, Live At Leeds is much more than a group of synchronized gigs. Set up in 2007 by the local council and music promotion business Futuresound, the festival strives to give local bands a larger platform than would normally be available for their music. ‘Unconference’ – a selection of group seminars and talks hosted throughout the weekend – returned for the third year too. Focusing this year on understanding the increasingly important role of digital marketing and social media in revolutionising the way bands interact with fan bases.
When asking keynote speaker; musician, radio presenter and activist, Tom Robinson his thoughts on the role of ‘unconference’ in the wider context of Live at Leeds, he gave a startling answer. He argued that the ‘unconference’ was, in some ways, a more important part of the festival than the Saturday, when all the gigs are on. “Events like the ‘unconference’ give rise to a new sense of community, promoting mutual co-operation between bands,” says Tim. Instead of bands being in competition with each other for fans, Tim see’s fans becoming increasingly more reliant on each other for success. Though, without further ado, it was time for the real action to begin.
First up on the agenda were China Rats, a local four piece rock band that opened the festival. Doing an excellent job, they warmed up the venue to a crowd of around 100 festival-goers who braved the early afternoon rain to support the type of local band who have come to define the Live at Leeds experience. After a long walk to Faversham, grunge band Eyes On Film, preceded China Rats in good fashion, infusing 90’s rock, with a more modern indie sound. Playing to a pub central to Leeds music scene, a large sound system worked in giving Eyes On Film the depth they needed for their guitar fuelled blend, paving the perfect path for Geordie four piece Shields. With rich, layered melodies, not dissimilar to Placebo, Shields are a band who has perfected the art of sound, turning their series of estranged melodies into something which works on a much higher level.
Following a quick snack I proceeded to what may be the most peculiar venue of the weekend. Holy Trinity Church has a history stretching back nearly 300 years and is still in active use, and every artist who played here left a distinct impression. First up was Blackpool based singer songwriter Karima Francis, whose blend of soulful vocals and acoustic melodies visibly moved the crowd into a stunned silence. Following Karima was Dan Mangan, a 5 piece Canadian folk act, who were left with the impossible task of following up the stunned silence that held Trinity Church. But once again, Live At Leeds delivered. Treading the line between soft, emotive acoustic music and energetic rock Dan Mangan left a mark on the crowd, finishing to a rousing reception.
Eventually I ended up at the Brudenell Social Club, my favourite venue in the city. The venue has achieved cult status as a place to see fantastic acts in a small intimate venue with a fantastic atmosphere. So, when Dog Is Dead took to Brudenell with infectious choruses big build ups and effortless harmonies reminiscent of Mystery Jets they soon set the place off. Paving the way for the last act of the night.
I’d been waiting for this all weekend. Ghostpoet, whose spoken word style, comparable with Gil-Scott Heron, combines minimalistic electronic beats with hip-hop validity. The end result is the thought provoking, genre bending nostalgic music which led to Ghostpoet’s debut album being nominated for the Mercury Prize last year. So hits such as ‘Survive It’ and ‘Cash & Carry Me Home’ stood out as instant crowd-pleasers. Live at Leeds is a unique experience, managing to cater to a huge variety of tastes at the same time. But what’s really striking about this particular event is the emphasis on community and support for those trying to get their voices heard. Instead of simply paying to see a few bands, you find yourself as a small part of a much larger picture. It is for this reason more than anything that I would recommend the Live at Leeds experience to others in the future.
- Jevan Moree
Photography: Sean Hood