Live At Leeds: In The City 2023 showcases a host of buzzy new favourites

From Nell Mescal and Picture Parlour, to The Last Dinner Party and HotWax – Live At Leeds: In The City 2023 is packed full of new talent.

Words: Chris Taylor, Jamie Muir, Neive McCarthy.
Photos: Patrick Gunning.

It’s 12pm, and HotWax are kicking off Live At Leeds: In The City with the sort of knockout punch that comes with the best in new music. It’s an opening challenge they seize with both hands – crunching riffs and electric punk ferocity shaking off any cobwebs to set the tone for the day. ‘Phone Machine’ and ‘Drop’ perfectly nail what makes them so fun, throwing themselves into a firecracker set that lets loose in the best ways and captures a rock revolution that’s only getting bigger and bolder. As a buzzy new favourite, it’s a statement of intent. There may not have been a set better as an opening to a whole festival. (Jamie Muir)

With Nation Of Shopkeepers well and truly at capacity, Picture Parlour are the talk of the entire festival. Ever since the release of debut single ‘Norwegian Wood’, their world of cinematic flair and stunning slick-rock has seen them arrive in style to a new music world searching for big ambition and big moments – and from the first note today, Picture Parlour have that and more. The mesmeric opening of ‘Moon Tonic’ gives way to the sort of standout show that, even when landing at 1pm as the sun shines in, sets a tone focused on transporting you to bigger and bolder places. More than anything, it’s a show which revels in the fact that, for many, it’s a first chance to catch what Picture Parlour are all about rather than seeing it as a hindrance. Smooth croons, wide-screen hooks and a show second to none in confidence and immediacy – if this is the opening credits for what’s to come, then a box-office smash is guaranteed. (Jamie Muir)

Eaves Wilder takes to the stage at Nation of Shopkeepers in a blur of bright pink hair and fairy-like mannerisms. Her voice is equally ethereal, as she proves when delicately working her way through her back catalogue; just her and her keyboard, the earnestness she projects throughout tracks like ‘Better Together’ and ‘Daisy Chain Reaction’ is completely captivating. ‘I Stole My Jumper’ is preceded by an admission that Eaves wanted to get revenge but couldn’t quite do it, and it’s at this point the crowd falls entirely under Eaves Wilder’s spell. Delicate, truthful and haunting, Eaves delivers an arresting set. (Neive McCarthy)

In a complete switch of vibes, Pixey is a bundle of frenetic energy on the very same stage at Nation of Shopkeepers. When Pixey says move, you move – the crowd follow her every command, grooving along to the likes of ‘Sunshine State’. It’s a vibrant, sunny set, arguably the perfect antidote to the bitter chill outside. It feels like bearing witness to the slickest jam sesh possible; Pixey and her band radiate pure glee on stage, dancing and waving along to ‘Just Move’ and ‘Daisy Chain’. Pixey’s is a world of pure technicolour, and that’s precisely what she brings to her set. (Neive McCarthy)

Kaeto is already causing ripples of excitement. It’s mesmerising fresh pop done right – flowing with charisma and hypnotic charm that immediately sets the mood. With flavours of early 00s pop with the twisting joy of Lorde and with tunes that reach grand heights, Kaeto has every superstar move already. Superstar is the word that rings out from Paris Paloma, too. Ethereal and weaving through a world of spacial bliss that at its core shines an incredible songwriting talent, Stylus gets wrapped in every moment as Paris reaches out to bring each and every person to something altogether rawer. Latest cut, ‘Drywall’, is the perfect example – cutting to the bone with a track that touches upon emotion in a way very few artists can; if this is where Paris Paloma finds herself right now, then we’re in for something very special indeed. (Jamie Muir)

Over at Belgrave Music Hall, Nell Mescal‘s indie-pop sound proves even more impressive in a live setting. Her vocals are incredibly powerful, and the glittering soundscapes are amplified by her live band. She apologises to those who relate to her tracks but provides a soundtrack so exhilarating it undoubtedly makes it an easier pill to swallow for those resonating with Nell. ‘In My Head’ is transformed live, whilst latest single ‘Teeth’ is a gleeful moment of catharsis for all involved. The deeply emotive nature of Nell’s writing is still palpable, but each track becomes infinitely bigger live – the scope of Nell Mescal’s hype seems to grow more and more, and her set cements her being entirely deserving of that. (Neive McCarthy)

With their biggest UK headline tour on the horizon, English Teacher (cheekily billed as “Parents Evening”) take an early surprise slot at The Wardrobe. The venue where lead singer Lily Fontaine did her final university assessment is now packed with people eager to see Leeds’ finest new band. Zipping through a tight setlist full of playfully punchy tracks, from the beat-poet stylings of ‘Yorkshire Tapas’ to the gloriously cinematic ‘A55’, English Teacher look every bit a band whose star continues to rise. (Chris Taylor)

It might only be early evening, but we could be stepping into a dreamworld in the basement of Hyde Park Book Club. tinyumbrellas‘ delicate indie pop sweeps through the room like each chord has emitted starlight. From zombies to Studio Ghibli to the awkwardness of the friend zone, every song feels like a late-night chat. Spilling out your heart with a healthy dose of silliness. And this silliness is an essential part of their charm – band dissolving in the odd spot of giggles. A singalong to a brand-new song feels like the final step in truly welcoming this captivated crowd. (Chris Taylor)

Arriving right in the mix of the Live At Leeds day, Katie Gregson-Macleod celebrates her new EP with a raw set that pulls at every heartstring. It’s pure emotion, Katie’s voice soaring through The Wardrobe with delicate power, signalling the sort of fave that will go on to reach across generations and worlds with ease. For all the riotous fun spread across venues around Leeds, by stripping it back to an emotional core – Katie Gregson-Macleod makes more noise than most. (Jamie Muir)

The rawest of rock shows deliver the biggest of rock shows. It’s what has guided Wunderhorse to the standing they sit as now – from Jacob Slater’s mind to the world. Tonight at Live At Leeds: In The City, his set feels palpable. With a show that feels like you’re sat right at the centre of every amp and kick that comes from it, it’s a savage display of an artist in full flight. The singalongs that come from ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Purple’ are pure euphoria, and as the licks of ‘Leader Of The Pack’ and ‘Teal’ surge in, it’s bonafide headline status and rightfully so. It’s easy to talk about the frills and frolics, but Wunderhorse boils it down to the fizzing ingredients and then some. Each move and each step feels like it comes with an emphatic punch, and for good reason. For a resounding run to celebrate debut album ‘Cub’, the sheer reaction and emotional pull of Wunderhorse stands apart. (Jamie Muir)

mary in the junkyard can only be described as magical. A constantly shifting set between delicious riffs and soul-stirring violin moments, it’s a truly mesmerising set. Gorgeous tones and endless amounts of talent, their songs are hushed but have a hold over the audience. They may only have one released track thus far, but ‘Tuesday’ is a stunner, and even more so live – plaintive vocals act as a guide through a track that grows towards some of the most impressive drumming of the day, and showcases mary in the junkyard’s unique ability to make tracks that are continually interesting and reinventive. (Neive McCarthy)

Oporto’s gig room doesn’t leave much room for dancing, especially when it’s at capacity as it is for much of the day. But, for Jessica Winter, the crowd makes room. Decked in a leather trench coat (later stripped off to reveal… another trench coat), Winter brings a brand of wonky, avant-garde pop that’s impossible not to be hypnotised by. Her short, sharp setlist mostly comprises tracks from ‘Limerence’, including ‘Funk This Up’ and Lynks-collab’ Clutter’, but also features the terrifically infectious ‘All I Need’ for which Winter invites the audience on stage to dance with her. Not that they weren’t practically on stage already. (Chris Taylor)

There’s one band around which there has been a buzzing anticipation all day – or, more accurately, all year. They made their Live at Leeds debut last year at the Brudenell before having even released a single, but The Last Dinner Party are back and faced with a devoted, frenzied crowd. They built their name on their live shows, so it should come as no surprise that the group continue to wow each time. Nevertheless, this is a formidable set. They’re commanding and charming in equal measures, and it isn’t the stage that has got bigger for the band – each guitar solo, each note, each delirious twirl across the stage has got bigger and better. A series of synchronised claps welcomes latest single, ‘My Lady of Mercy’, and it’s entirely searing live. The Last Dinner Party have melodrama and magnificence in droves, and by the time their debut single ‘Nothing Matters’ descends upon the venue, there’s nothing short of feverish ecstasy in the air. (Neive McCarthy)

Slaney Bay bring an effortless cool to their set that perhaps comes from the still-fresh release of their new EP, ‘Why Does Love Mean Loss?’, which dropped at the end of September. With lush shoegaze guitar tones and angst-ridden vocals, there’s yearning, anger, and a need to rid themselves of it all. ‘Move On’ practically howls with indie-rock excellence – the track pounds into being before the band battle between chasing the highs of mid-2010s indie and unleashing something far bigger. Slaney Bay are an electric live band, enigmatic and euphoric with every note. (Neive McCarthy)

Jet lag? No problem. Fresh off their US tour, Kid Kapichi explode on the Stylus stage and rarely let the energy dissipate. Whether it’s taking on the drudgery of the working week on ‘5 Days On (2 Days Off)’ or millennial nihilism on ‘Sardines’. Even when they take a breather, as with Partygate torch song ‘Party at No. 10’, that righteous anger still bubbles beneath the surface. But it wasn’t all angst. There was even time for a “gameshow”, with some lucky audience members walking away with Mentos, English muffins and, of course, Bisto gravy. It is Yorkshire, after all. (Chris Taylor)

Honeymoan are already looking to the future. Their debut album barely out a month, and they’re already workshopping new songs in Brudenell’s Community Room. “This song isn’t finished yet. Send us a DM with constructive criticism”, announces lead vocalist Alison Rachel. Reflecting on love, betrayal, and everything in between, the London/Cape Town quartet offer up an incredibly catchy set. Making sure they leave plenty of room for some a welcome bit of shredding. (Chris Taylor)

The Stylus sound desk is a long way from the stage, elevated on a mezzanine above the crowd. So reaching it from the stage should be challenging, right? Not for Shame frontman Charlie Steen. Shirt still firmly on his chest, he’s already crowdsurfing three songs in. Using the frenetic energy of ‘Concrete’ to push him forward before diving back into the crowd from the sound desk’s balcony. It’s a rollicking set, with tracks from all three albums, including more downtempo treasures like ‘Orchid’. Sweaty and raucous, they have the entire crowd wrapped around their finger from start to finish. (Chris Taylor)

The Key Club plays host to BIG SPECIAL, and down in that dark basement, something both big and indeed special unfolds. BIG SPECIAL’s deft knack for combining moving spoken word with incendiary soundscapes is unparalleled. Documenting life in the realest of ways, there’s an energy to their set that is distinctive and ferocious, soulful but punkish in attitude, sprinkled in with a handful of other genres and refusing to be defined by just one. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating, and interestingly, it also invites some of the best crowd dance moves of the day. (Neive McCarthy)

There’s nobody quite like Fat Dog, as their set at Brudenell Social Club quickly proves. It’s inimitable, to say the least, and otherwise entrancing – there’s just no telling what the band will do next. Decked in cowboy hats and dog masks, with minimal effort, they incite the crowd to fall into absolute derangement. It’s noisy and boisterous and immensely impressive. Their solo released track, ‘King of the Slugs’, brings the mania in the room to a total fever pitch, but they continue to up the ante. Their guitar solos are deliriously good, the beats taunting and the stage presence hypnotic for its unpredictability. They call for everyone to crouch to the floor, they throw themselves into the madness, and above all else, they invite a kind of ridiculousness that’s hard not to fall for – Fat Dog are definitely something else, but the best kind. (Neive McCarthy)

With a stellar album in the bank, Another Sky are set on building a fresh new chapter. They score a moment in the day as the night falls into darkness at the Brudenell Social Club by turning every part of themselves up to new levels, coated in a dark yet enrapturing wall of sound that pays off big time. ‘I Slept On The Floor’ may have introduced the incredibly layered world of Another Sky, but tonight, it’s the future which truly fizzes and shines, gripping hooks and raw licks coming to the fore (the likes of ‘Burn The Way’ and ‘Psychopath’ truly leading the charge). It’s the sound of a band letting loose and demonstrating the ability to do that in a jaw-dropping fashion. (Jamie Muir)

It’s rammo around the blocks as Gretel Hanlyn takes the stage. Compacting the energy of a shaken fizzy pop can into one set, it’s a serious surge of energy that immediately whips the Brudenell Social Club into proper dizziness. With a world of fans eager for more, Gretel finds the sort of slot she was born for. Cuts like ‘Drive’ breathe with unstoppable fun, and more than most, it captures the mood in the room. Everyone has to see Gretel Hanlyn, and they have to see her now. It’s justified ten-fold and more than that, it signals the rightful coronation of an indie-rock blazer fishing the stage that sets the bar. Put everything you have on Gretel Hanlyn because it’s ready to fly. (Jamie Muir)

To draw the night to a close, a certain level of energy and hysteria needs to continue. There’s no one better suited for the job than Lynks. It’s camp, theatrical, and a stupid amount of fun – armed with three trusty backup dancers (affectionately referred to as Lynks Shower Gel), the after-party may as well begin here. Newer tracks like ‘USE IT OR LOSE IT’ and ‘NEW BOYFRIEND’ receive rapturous responses, and the energy in the room just seems to grow with each one. It’s a full-pelt set, with no time to catch your breath – though the faux panic of ‘CPR’ may disagree – but plenty of time to dance and jump to Lynks’ chaotic brand of bangers. ‘Str8 Acting’ is another simmering highlight – jolting beats and chanting vocals, it’s completely infectious. After a full day of traipsing from venue to venue, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the vibe was slightly mellowed by exhaustion. With Lynks in the picture, however, there’s simply no option of that. It’s just fiery, infectious tracks and choreography that makes you breathless just watching it, spearheaded by one of the most innovative artists at work right now – it’s hard to imagine a better way to end Live at Leeds. (Neive McCarthy)