Thursday, 4 May 2017

Live At Leeds Festival - April 29th 2017 (LIVE REVIEW)

"...Choosing between the evening headliners proves challenging, Wild Beasts, Rag & Bone Man and Slaves can count themselves worthy contenders but recent release by fake band turned real The Moonlandingz is an absolute revelation; meaning we’re off to Brudenell for a lunar themed double-header denouement as all-girl quartet The Big Moon are up first.."

Live at Leeds is perhaps the musical equivalent of one of those tasting menus you see in restaurants where the diner pays a small fortune yet still leaves feeling hungry. Fortunately, with regard to this music festival, the latter is true, most attendees will return home with a bunch of new music to check out, having sampled lots of live acts playing largely abridged sets, yet they won’t feel short changed as your £32.50 is a fraction of the cost of even most single day festival tickets; where you can still buy such a thing. No surprise then that Live at Leeds, now in its 11th renewal has grown to be a hugely popular event in the city, this year proving no exception with the streets predictably packed with hordes of music fans, out to catch either the current or next big thing.

 The Pigeon Detectives
Photo: Nathan Dainty

Formulating one’s plan of attack once more proved a tricky task, with a shed-load of great music to choose from; for yours truly that meant starting with local band The Pigeon Detectives proving a divinely inspired draw for their early afternoon slot at Church, cranking it up as only they know how, the heaving masses, worshiping at the altar of rock for this hometown hoedown, savouring a string of anthemic ecclesiastical staples including ‘Everybody Wants Me’, not to mention several brand new numbers from the Pigeon’s fine new album ‘Broken Glances’. 

White Lies
Photo: Andy Benge

Considering White Lies have been in existence for several years now topping the UK album charts along the way, the London trio’s brand of 80’s synth rock has completely passed me by.  Naturally the opportunity to remedy this oversight, whilst taking in one of the day’s half dozen headline acts early doors led me to the O2 Academy, again absolutely packed to the rafters, lapping up favourites including ‘Take It Out On Me’ and ‘To Lose My Life’.           
With a couple of high profile bands under my belt it was time to mine the delights of the undercard, this time at my traditional 5pm slot at the Faversham. During my first visit some eight years ago I happened upon a cracking band who I thought were destined for great things playing here at this time. Alas it wasn’t to be for the band in question but since then, I’ve returned to this tucked away venue at five bells on every subsequent Live at Leeds I’ve attended. This year that led me to be stood in front of much recently travelled trio Be Charlotte, fronted by bespectacled teenage chanteuse Charlotte Brimmer, the audience treated to a quirky yet alluring combination of pop, punk and (street) poetry that worked well on a number of levels, including the clearly discernible Caledonian twang to Charlotte’s vocal.  

Photo: Nathan Dainty
Another bonus of Live At Leeds is that most venues are only a few minutes’ walk apart, one side of the city centre to the other taking less than 30 minutes. I was easily able to make the 6pm slot of angular art-rock quartet Artificial Pleasure taking to the stage at Oporto.  Again it’s standing room only, I’m barely able to squeeze inside but it’s well worth it as these four handsome devils turn the place into the Rum Runner circa 1980. Lead singer Phil McDonnell boasts the appearance of a sharply dressed Man Who Fell To Earth, bastard child of David Bowie and Damien Lewis; nevertheless there’s substance behind the style, their music clearly influenced by Talking Heads and Tubeway Army, not forgetting the Thin White Duke, yet delivered with panache, rendering a breathless audience hot and sweaty in no time at all, proving the notion that 30 minute sets are great because bands tend to really go for it. This is further vindicated a few moments later at basement bar Key Club as Bristolian political punk quintet Idles incendiary performance pounds the crowd to within an inch of its life in the time it takes to watch an episode of Emmerdale on catch-up.  Arriving outside to the sight of a sizeable queue, I feared missing their whole set but thankfully managed to catch all but a couple of the opening minutes. The place is a heaving mass of noise, everyone responding in kind to short sharp shocks from songs like ‘Well Done’ and ‘Mother’, beefed up by a thunderous rhythm section as band members and audience frequently become one. Indeed I now fear for the structural integrity of Jumbo Records situated directly above, the staff likely to arrive the following morning to be greeted by a giant hole in their shop floor!

She Drew The Gun
Photo: John Hayhurst

Keen to watch Liverpudlian quartet She Drew The Gun since enjoying last year’s highly assured debut ‘Memories of the Future’, Louisa Roach’s laid back, thought provoking songs of love, loss and the state of the nation provided the perfect comedown following the previous brace of frenetic sonic assaults, easily justifying the short walk to The Wardrobe.  

Jagwar Ma
Photo: Ben Bentley

Having seen hundreds of bands all-time favourite gig question naturally proves a difficult one to answer. However, antipodean proto-ravers Jagwar Ma are easily the loudest band I’ve ever seen, my ears taking almost 3 years to stop bleeding following their sonic boom of a 6music festival set so naturally I’m back for more punishment at a brimming Leeds Beckett, not before catching the tail end of the rather entertaining band of lavishly clothed cowpunk brothers HMLTD, another 1980s influenced bunch of Blitz Kids whose moniker was shortened (HM stood for Happy Meal) following an impromptu visit by those nasty heavies representing the golden arches.  

The Moonlandingz
Photo: Andy Benge

Choosing between the evening headliners proves challenging, Wild Beasts, Rag & Bone Man and Slaves can count themselves worthy contenders but recent release by fake band turned real The Moonlandingz is an absolute revelation; meaning we’re off to Brudenell for a lunar themed double-header denouement as all-girl quartet The Big Moon are up first. Again I’d never heard anything by Juliette, Soph, Celia and Fern but recent release ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ is packed full of shimmering power pop nuggets including ‘Pull The Other One’ sounding great in the intimate confines of Brudenell, getting everyone nicely warmed up for the impending funhouse rock and roll riot, the side project of The Fat White Family and Eccentronic Research Council. Predictably Laos Saoudi emerges last with his face painted white and the place goes batshit during the sonic assault from ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ as The Moonlandingz complete the final date of their European tour in style, Juliette from The Big Moon joining Laos for an impromptu duet on a brilliant ‘The Strangle of Anna’. 

Already counting down the days until #LAL2018 .

Words - Mike Price
Main photo - Nathan Dainty