Follow My Leeds.

Follow My Leeds.

Live At Leeds 2014 comp 600

Live At Leeds 2014.

Lauren Aquilina, Little Matador, Nina Nesbitt, Royal Blood, A Plastic Rose, Then Thickens, The Wytches, Pup, Forward Russia.

We talk about music scenes like we do family. We pretend they’re a matter of fact but in 2014, music scenes are virtually a myth. The community has moved from the streets and onto the Internet. Movements are reduced to retweets.. We long for a new Seattle and Leeds may be the answer.

Live At Leeds 2014 is as much a celebration of the city as it is of the music. Of the people that run the venues and those that run into them. Each venue you enter feels like you’re being welcomed into someone else’s house. Inviting  and warm, never intrusive. It’s because of this intimacy that Live At Leeds feels very special. It seems the artists playing, a mix of homegrown talent and visiting promise, felt the same way, as each and every set offered a new beau and another reason to fall in love with music all over again.

Armed with a keyboard and a voice, Lauren Aquilina delivers a set of pointed heartbreak and wide-eyed hope. Flitting between dreamer and jaded, her voice comes loaded with a sense of theatrics, turning her bedroom confessions into soaring epics of love and loss. Spurred on by the buzz of a festival crowd, Lauren gives more of herself with every song, quelling the hubbub that opposed the awe-struck silence.  By the end of her set, it wasn’t just the front few rows left astounded, even a passing, twenty-strong hen party had little choice but to turn from the bar and appreciate her beauty.

Little Matador has a more direct method in crowd seduction. Their dark, garage rock spreads out and encircles the cockpit as the five members stare it down. The band has always been a proficiently tight unit, but with every moment they get more comfortable in what they’re doing. Pushing the band, and themselves, to the very edge of what their song writing will allow, Little Matador create a glorious sense of tension. Watching them stand on the brink, you can’t help but admire both the determination and the joy that fuels them. That feeling you get when you rediscover an old favourite and all those memories come rushing back? Little Matador share that on stage. The music is aggressive, but what resonates is unadulterated joy. And that’s a difficult trick to ignore.


Nina Nesbitt is still the most intriguing of musicians. Unsure of whether she’s the next Taylor Swift or Pete Doherty, the room cranes its neck as she works it out. The whispers of genre infusion that haunted her debut, Peroxide, have become booming diktats. Heartfelt pop with the swagger of indie inflexion, delivered with a punk, devil may care abandon, all wrestle for the spotlight. The refrain of ‘Stay Out’ rings out long after Nina had left the stage and a cover of Madonna’s ‘Get In The Groove’ hints at future desires. Nina takes an eclectic musical history and holds the many threads together with nothing more than her sense of self. It doesn’t matter what the influences are, Nina Nesbitt is a fierce individual and a powerful performer. Turns out that is the most intriguing thing of all.

It’s hard to be intriguing when you’re in someone’s face, and A Plastic Rose took great pleasure in sharing the whites of their eyes. That level of intensity added a further dimension to their alternative rock soirée. Sprawling in one breath, abrupt with another, the Belfast cum Nottingham four piece toy with their audience. Playing to a crowd glued to the bar, waiting for Royal Blood in the next room, A Plastic Rose had a fight on their hands to create any sense of majesty. Steely determination and a spark of magic, they left the stage as kings.

You’ve heard of Royal Blood, right? Even if you don’t know what they sound like, you’re aware of their existence, as they become the latest saviours of music. Crossing over into the mainstream and the Atlantic, Royal Blood are tied to the H-word. And the duo from Brighton have handled it very, very well. The secret? Heads down and let the music do the talking. Their performance at Live At Leeds was no difference. Even if you hadn’t heard the music, you wanted more and more from the two piece. And they delivered. The guitar, grungey yet nimble, dances around the crash of drums. Both members wrestle with their instruments, desperate to get more out of them. It’s an easy victory. When the hype machine goes elsewhere, Royal Blood will still be there. Making a beautiful racket.

The moody-blues of Then Thickens is a dark, introspective affair, while the dual vocals let you into a secret. It’s a subdued performance from the six piece, but the lack of bluster allows the music to wash over you, carrying you away to a place where everything is going to be ok. Then Thickens remind you that passion doesn’t need to be screamed, it can be carried on a whisper, and as their melancholy unites the room at large, that loneliness becomes triumphant.

The Wytches have no time for such beauty as their sprawling, spaghetti western grunge has become desperate. Playing like every moment could be their last, the three piece tear through a set, without stopping to appreciate the carnage they’ve crafted. It’s a little bit Nirvana, a little bit Smashing Pumpkins but without the rose-tinted gloves. The Wytches are instantly gratifying, and their rampant ‘in the moment’ performance is as bewitching as it is mind altering.

“We’re about to play a song by a band called Pup, because that’s us. No one likes it but we do, so fuck off.” Rudely, Pup have never asked for our opinion on their music.

As the Canadian punk-rockers use the classic ‘Treat ‘em mean…’ to pique our interests, it’s their gruff musical fury that really cements this love affair. Yes, Pup are a long way from home but onstage is clearly where their heart lies. Spending every second of their set engaged with the audience, Pup create a sense of ease and affection. Their set was one of those rare festival moments where friends old and new rally behind a band, and craft such feelings of intensity and intimacy, that it becomes haunting. Pup are brilliant, and the quicker they return, the better.


And so, it comes to the dying moments of Live At Leeds. A tough choice between local heroes Pulled Apart By Horses and local heroes Forward Russia is decided by touring schedules, and tonight, Forward Russia win. Returning from the dead, once more, Forward Russia take to the grand stage at the Town Hall, and are met with the same shocked yet excitable reaction you’d give, faced with a long-presumed dead mistress.  But man, the second those synths at the start of ‘Thirteen’ kick in, all that pain and longing is forgotten. You’re transported back in time. It’s more than nostalgia though. It’s a celebration of a band, of a history that might have been.

And they play like they haven’t been away. The music is still exciting and they perform with as much passion, energy and dedication as any other band on the bill. If this their swansong, then what a way to drop the curtain, but if this is just the start, the rekindling of Forward Russia, then it’s ok to start getting very excited.

The music scene that’s growing in Leeds is a marvelous prospect. Not just for those from the city, but for music as a whole. Leeds holds the spark and the festival, Live At Leeds, is where it spreads.


~ by justdip on 21/05/2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: