Ah, Live at Leeds; that traditional klaxon heralding the start of summer, the day when happy crowds wander our streets with sunglasses perched over their smiles, and a pint outside seems like a realistic possibility for the first time in a long time....or that's how it usually is. This year the day dawned grey and wet, the thermometer in single digits and the look was more bulky layers than bare shoulders. Queues may have been a little more subdued, we may have lingered a little less in the city's green spaces pouring over programmes, but the assembled masses were no less up for this the 9th annual event. With more than two hundred bands in over twenty venues, it promised to be the most varied so far, with acts ranging from chart bothering popsters to up and coming grime stars, delicate acoustic songstrels to spoken word artists.
Our day started at the Brudenell Social Club, with Colour of Spring kicking off proceedings at the DIY stage, making a laudable attempt to blast the sleep out of our eyes. They wear their influences like a Melody Maker badge, obviously and proudly, yet with a modern slant executed well enough to prevent a descent into derivatives; on Pure in particular the blend of new and old works well. Pairing Mighty Lemondrops style ramshackle melody with shimmering reverb heavy guitar, the whole soupy, sugary shoegaze sludge is underpinned by drummer Bryce's undoubtable talent holding the whole thing together. There are no bad tracks, but it's on Love that things really get interesting; their tightly wound understatedness comes undone, with increasingly anguished vocals and a building crescendo of guitar that permeates longs after it's over. A brilliant start to the day.
|Photos - Andrew Benge|
A quick change of postcode and it was over to the Academy for Gaz Coombes' latest solo venture. Current 6 Music regular, the former Supergrass frontman drew crowds much larger than is usual for this time of the day, with queues snaking around the block to the Civic Hall. With a belter of a voice and a Britpop ear for a riff, the tracks are both instantly recognisable as him, while being nothing at all like you've ever heard from him before. It's a unique blend of kraut-drums, otherworldly synth sounds, a multitude of effects pedals and a well wielded acoustic guitar; experimentally akin to Damon Albarn's solo efforts, in manifesto if not in style. There's an almost disco-stomp running through the set, an exception made only for the beautiful Girl Who Fell To Earth, a twinkling gem of a love song. A consummate performer, Coombes is also much more soulful than you'd realise from any of his former releases, with an exuberance to the show that's infectious. A surprising must-see.
So then, back to the Brude and Beach Baby. Combing shoegazy elements and the whimsical, wordy romanticism of early Cure, this foursome managed to lift themselves above the parapet with a slacker Christopher Owen's of Girls style delivery that gives an interesting take. AA-side single Bruise has a snaking groove that makes itself heard above the unfortunately un-up-for-it chattering crowd. It is an odd juxtaposition between the slightly clumsy lead vocals and the delicate purposefulness of the music that occasionally jars, but it with out a doubt holds the ear. On last song Ladybird, the lazy harmonies of vocalists Lawrence and Oliver work best, building to a grunge infused pinnacle. Definitely a band worth watching out for.
Up next, Pinkshinyultrablast's set, despite being initially hogged by technical difficulties, was a triumph. They blend frenetic, dreamy, multilayered instrumentation, routed through delicious clouds of feedback and topped just high enough with ethereal, floaty vocals; all executed far better in the live forum than on recent EP Everything Else Matters. Lead vocalist Lyubov is endearingly active, a Kelly Kapowksi by way of Ian Curtis; she dances for herself, lost in the music, and not for the obviously adoring crowd. Like a meatier Cocteau Twins, riddled with energy and futuristic beeps and swirls, they're the soundtrack to Judy Jetson's adolescent rebellion. The effervescence is palpable, reverb encircling the room and cascading from the ceiling, until all too soon it's over.
|Photos - Giles Smith|
Onew to Leeds Beckett, where Menace Beach played their codeine-hazed dream-pop to an almost capacity crowd. Local heroes, expectations were obviously high, and, in theory, they didn't disappoint. Polished and practiced from recent non-stop touring, they have their act down pat, no glaring lows or blips, but by the same token, on this day at least, no great high points. A strong set, but lacking in character and verve; perhaps thanks to the rather soulless setting; it didn't pack the slow shake awake of previous shows. There's no denying the pull of a song as well written as Fortune Teller, but on this occasion it felt no different to listening to it at home. A glimpse of their usual chemistry was evident on Come On Give Up, where Liza and Ryan's vocals envelop particularly well, but the whole thing had a feeling of being by numbers.
Next then, to Stylus for Blossoms. Lancashire's latest woozy psych-pop export, they come over like the product of a midnight liason between The Las and The Last of the Shadow Puppets, soundtracked by a weathered copy of Odessey and Oracle. The cheeky-chappy delivery of frontman Tom means they occasionally veer in Kooks style cheesiness that they just about manage to salvage with knowing winks and an appealing camaraderie. It's pleasant-on-the-ears, inoffensive enough stuff if not greatly groundbreaking; penultimate track Blow is the only track on which they manage to transcend their obvious influences into something original and uniquely theirs. It's a slinky, intrigue drenched beauty of a song that draws the listener in amongst its layers of mystery and makes the trip up to the uni worthwhile.
|Photos - Giles Smith|
Back over at the Beckett for Eagulls, it was a tense, tightly wound crowd that awaited the Leeds based post-punkers. Abrasive, caustic and with no signs of tiring from their recent globetrotting, it was captivating from the get-go. Singer George is brooding and awkward and infinitely watchable, with Yellow Eyes, and its blistering assault on organised religion particularly memorable. An outing of several new songs unveil a marginally softer sound, with primal pleadings taking the place of acidic attacks, but ultimately conveying the same hopelessness of it all. The sound like they want to smash up music and start again; more than that, they sound like they want to smash up society and start again. In this age of disenchantment and disenfranchisement, they couldn't be more relevant.
Finally, the majesty of the Town Hall and The Cribs. They played a superbly upbeat ninety minute set that run the gamut of their discography and demonstrated their admirably enduring skill with a hook. Despite demonstrating their subtle evolution, all the tracks have a timeless quality; they are obviously The Cribs. Whether from their early eponymous release or their latest longplayer, they are as equally well received; this is a comeback gig where nobody in the crowd is biding time and waiting for the biggies. There's a few reworkings of old favourites to keep things interesting; specifically on the purposefully lackadaisical intro to Men's Needs; and, partnered with a fairytale of a light shows, they finished on new track Pink Snow; a seemingly brave but ultimately perfect choice.
|Photos - Andrew Benge|
I first saw The Cribs more than a decade ago at a small venue in Middlesbrough, where their energy had them bouncing from the walls in much the same way as they did at LAL. Even then the songs were undeniable, but I couldn't get my head round who these Rockaway Beach wannabies thought they were; all baseball shirts and leathers and Queens swagger in their step; weren't they from Wakefield?! Yet here we are, more than a decade later; while album sales have ebbed and flowed, and venue sizes have contracted and swollen around them, the Jarman brothers have stayed consistent (and leather clad) in the eye of it. They haven't changed with fashion because, as it turned out, they were never faking it in the first place. Music can make the listener feel a multitude of emotions, and the live performance can enhance this quality, but the overriding feeling in the Town Hall was that of happiness; I've not seen a more joyous crowd in a long time. Their ability to invoke this response, coupled with their legacy of a longstanding rudely healthy West Yorkshire scene; what a gift, both for The Cribs and for us.
Words - Angi Strafford
Main Photo - Andrew Benge
Live At Leeds Official