After a roaring success at Temple Newsam over the summer, Live at Leeds: In The City returns with its typical bedraggled escapades across the city. Back to its usual haunts, the mad dash from Hyde Park to Call Lane and everywhere in between is the only way to spend a rainy Saturday in October. From old-time favourites to the freshest artists around right now, Live at Leeds has always been a festival brimming with mind-blowing sets that both affirm and highlight an array of talent – this year is no exception.
Words: Finlay Holden, Neive McCarthy.
Photos: Patrick Gunning.
With some breakfast (or “stomach lining”, as the Leeds punters describe it) now wolfed down, Chappaqua Wrestling are ready to kick things off for an already bustling Nation of Shopkeepers. It’s an odd name for a venue considering the lack of books, but there are certainly plenty of drinks on the go – “who’s having a pint before 10 O’Clock?” singer Jake Mac asks, before greeting the immense response with, “you fucking alcies.” He might cultivate and adapt to a pub band atmosphere, but the five-piece’s songs reveal an act with more ambition. Chappaqua Wrestling’s live sound emphasises the rocky sensibilities of their discography without sacrificing the colourful melodies, with three ceiling-mounted disco balls certainly helping sustain the loose groove. A co-fronted approach allows for a fluid performance that suitably gets the juices flowing. (FH)
Usually, an earlier-in-the-day set equates to a far more relaxed crowd – a time to ease yourself in before mayhem ensues later on in the day. Over at Leeds Beckett Student Union, however, things are getting rabid already. There are fluorescent green Build-A-Bear frogs and a sea of the same t-shirts, which can only mean one thing: Lovejoy have descended upon the city. With devoted fans having gathered from the early hours of Saturday morning to catch their set, there’s some pressure to deliver. Lovejoy shoulder that with ease – the crowd hang onto frontman Wilbur Soot’s every word, chanting their way through the sardonic lyricism of tracks like ‘Perfume’ and ‘Cause for Concern’. It’s an absolute statement of a set; based on the rapturous applause greeting them, things can only get bigger for Lovejoy. (NM)
Lizzie Esau graces her first Leeds outing with a stunning rock onslaught, working side-by-side with a live band that have grown extremely tight after a recent season of vigorous live shows. ‘The Enemy’ returns as a proven festival highlight, while current single ‘Bleak Sublime’ evokes a more cerebral response with slow-building guitar lines and a rightfully confused thematic. Glimpses of new material tease at recent recording sessions, as a debut EP takes shape behind closed doors for now – with momentum already barrelling Esau forwards and her vocals levelling up with each show and each track, the Newcastle singer is one to keep an eye on. (FH)
Fresh-faced Sunderland newcomer Tom A. Smith might wear his influences on his sleeves – or chest, in the case of his guitarist’s Sam Fender shirt – but that doesn’t work to his detriment. His recent song ‘Like You Do’ comes with Miles Kane on production duties, and Smith embodies the same snarl and grandiose soundscapes as his friends in high places. Boasting an impressive backlog of tracks since his single debut last year, Smith isn’t settling down with his clout attained; he’s in it for the joy and the craft, and takes himself just as seriously as is required. A strangely well-translated indie rock rendition of Swedish House Mafia’s ‘Don’t You Worry, Child’ proves a fun recess, though. (FH)
Warmduscher invade the stage at Leeds Beckett clad in futuristic glasses and prepared to leave everyone in attendance reeling. Fresh from releasing their ‘At The Hotspot’ EP earlier this year, they delve into that explosive, synth-laden world in an enthralling set. It’s growling and high voltage, a riotous race through their catalogue. ‘Midnight Dipper’ and its snarling bass line and yelping vocals is a treat. It’s a straight-up shot of adrenaline in the mid-afternoon. (NM)
Over at O2 Academy, however, it’s a slightly more peaceful affair as Palace swathe the venue in tranquil shades of blue. Frontman Leo Wyndham’s vocals float across the room, wistful whisperings on a breeze that assures you all will be okay. ‘Lover (Don’t Let Me Down)’ is a particularly arresting moment, while ‘Live Well’, a cut from their debut album, speaks to the continuing appeal of Palace’s lovelorn, haunting rock. It’s an arresting set, an oasis of comfort and contemplative calm before the day gives in to further chaos. (NM)
The Pale White‘s hefty experience soon dominates the basement room they play to in Leeds today, with their huge rhythm section shaking the venue from the first fills of set opener, ‘Glue’. Shying away from the ferocity of their early material, the Geordie duo lean into the meticulous structure of their 2021 debut album, ‘Infinite Pleasure’, and the live quartet transition seamlessly through their performance with the crowd never leaving the palm of frontman Adam Hope’s hand. Offering some unreleased material before descending into the joyful chaos of fan-favourite ‘That Dress’, The Pale White appear to be kings of catchy and unpretentious rock choruses, leaving a substantial impact on the Northern audience. (FH)
“I came prepared for the northern cold; I’ve got my warm hat on!” laughs Izzi De-Rosa mid-way through her amped-up, electrifying set at Headrow House. She may have expected frostiness, but her energy is sizzling. It’s the kind of saccharine yet sarcastic pop which suggests Izzi might have walked straight out of one of your early-00s pop CDs. It’s equal parts angst and sheer joy – bouncing about with sheer delight, Izzi is one of few artists who has the charisma to get away with calling someone “Bieber fine”. ‘Red Flags’ shines, the epitome of Izzi’s y2k enthused, punkish attitude. It’s mouthy, boisterous, and, above all else, a delight. (NM)
Over at Oporto’s BBC Introducing Stage, Pop Vulture have the packed-out room in the palm of their hands. Still bouncing from the release of latest single ‘Lionel’s Big Problem’ earlier this month, this is a set in which they demonstrate complete control – commandeering their sound from the riotous to the subdued within seconds; it’s a showcase of deft capability. It’s hard to shoehorn any member of Pop Vulture into one role – drummer Luc Gibbons doubles up as a formidable vocalist, whilst guitarist Ben Udin gleefully throws himself into a sparking display of percussion. It makes for a sprawling, unpredictable whirlwind of a set – ‘False Alarm!’ is a highlight, the band’s drawling delivery and unabating bass lines situating the band in a league of their very own. There are hints of new wave and art-rock, but crucially, there’s an inimitable Pop Vulture flair to it that is inescapable in this set. (NM)
Thomas Headon dances happily along to his pop bangers, claiming Leeds as his favourite city to play in. Although ‘Strawberry Kisses’ rings out to a surprisingly docile crowd, this is not a mood that sustains for long, particularly after the London-based singer jumps into the bit for the warm encouragement of ‘Butterflies’. After the blistering chorus of ‘How Do I Know?’, which is just one of many highlights on his 2022 EP’ Victoria’, not many bodies resist a boogie – a detour for ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ only cements the irresistibility of Headon’s gleeful charm. (FH)
Working Men’s Club take to the stage back at O2 Academy and immediately make it clear that the sheer force of this band cannot be contained by these walls. It quickly becomes a haven for dark dance, pounding synth and forbidding bass never failing to strike with menacing force. Frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant crouches, leering into the faces of the crowd before quickly contorting himself around the stage, a figure completely lost to each and every beat. Cuts from their latest album such as ‘Widow’ drip with both acidity and absolute euphoria. In what is undoubtedly one of the finest sets of the day, Working Men’s Club prove that even when they’re surly and sullen, they’re entirely enrapturing. (NM)
A summons to The Dinner Party is an invite we just can’t quite turn down, and it quickly proves to be an unmissable event. Transforming Dork’s very own stage at Brudenell into a decadently glam and grungy idyll, the six-piece launch into a breathless, captivating set that leaves the room in awe. As frontwoman Abigaille sways through the crowd, it’s nigh on impossible to look away; from their Romantic-leaning dramatics and aesthetic to the power guitars and ferocious drums, The Dinner Party are nothing short of magnetic. It’s a party we’d love to attend over and over again. While they have no formally released tracks as of yet, it feels we may be waiting with bated breath for the storm that will ensue when they finally do. (NM)
Cate wastes no time in making us all fall head over heels for her candid, laughing one-liners (“I talk when I’m nervous / and yeah, you were hot,” springs to mind). In a stripped-back solo show at Belgrave Musical Hall, it’s just a girl and her acoustic, but Cate’s charm knows no bounds. Her bubbly, anecdotal sugar-rush pop may take on a calmer form, but as she grins and chats through her set, it’s hard not to smile along with her. It’s a set for the hopeless romantics, the far too self-aware. Her crystalline vocals shine on tracks like ‘Moments’, which is quickly followed up by a quick cover of Hannah Montana hit ‘If We Were A Movie’ – there is nothing more we could want from this set. (NM)
Every proper festival must come with its fair share of indie sweethearts, and Hyde Park Book Club play host to some of the most beloved of them all. Swim Deep take hold of the basement room to deliver a set that glistens with a certain magic only they could conjure. With some of the best tracks in their extensive arsenal, they prove that they still have that spark that made us all love them so much in the first place. The sheer romance of ‘She Changes The Weather’ hasn’t waned since its 2013 release, marking a particularly poignant moment of their set, but their newer releases stand up to that pressure too. It’s a showering of joy and a testament to the timelessness of Swim Deep’s dreamy indie pop. We’ll never tire of it. (NM)
Back at Belgrave, Joesef is embarking on a truly beautiful journey through the Scotsman’s back catalogue. As the glistening beats of ‘The Sun Is Up Forever’ ring out, it’s hard not to latch onto the hope he projects; it’s an affirming, freeing set. A mass singalong to latest single ‘Joe’ ensues with a thunderous response. Joesef’s vocals are unparalleled, his languorous tales of heartache and yearning set to gorgeously soulful pop, which alleviates the tender pain of his tracks immensely. It’s an emotive point of the night, but in the most cathartic way possible. As Joesef laughingly asks about who will be hosting him for afters, he begins to usher the evening out with a set which leaves you feeling infinitely lighter. (NM)
Will Joseph Cook treads the boards of Dork’s stage within the Brudenell Social Club for his first UK show after touring the US alongside Tessa Violet, and it’s good to have him back on home turf – “they’re a bit bizarre over there,” he admits. Insanely catchy melodies soon entrance the room with intimate crowd interactions making for both a personal and ambitious show where just a simple gesture contains immense power. To maintain such control is no simple feat, but with warbling tunes (‘Little Miss’) and addictive pop choruses (‘Bop’), this concentrated set passes by only too fast. (FH)
Connie Constance arrives energetic and charged up despite the late set time, and her small but potent discography is able to “dispel [her] Leeds curse” as people show up in droves. The title track of her 2021 EP, ‘Prim & Propa’, is a great moment to exercise some fan interaction as she has the room on its knees and back several times. Offering not just a great vocal or attitude, Connie’s entire band exercise concentration, yes, but sheer enthusiasm above all else throughout the thrashing gig. Despite being somewhat of an unknown newcomer, there are substantial attempts to demand one last song from the indie-rock goddess; although unsuccessful, the lingering thirst for more will stay in attendees’ throats for some time. (FH)
It falls to Los Bitchos at Brudenell to close the show. They step up to the task effortlessly; a searing, cackling adventure into the world of their debut album, ‘Let The Festivities Begin!’ ensures the night ends in good spirits. There is one thing certain, and that is that Los Bitchos make music that makes you want to dance – there could be no better ending. Their instrumental rock invites non-stop groove, and after the emotional highs and lows of the day, we wouldn’t want to wrap things up any other way. (NM)