Beneath the established names, there’s a world of new talent at Live At Leeds In The Park 2023

Live At Leeds returns to the park for a second year of indie legends and exciting new names.

Words: Ali Shutler, Neive McCarthy.
Photos: Frances Beach.

There’s one really good reason Two Door Cinema Club headline so many festivals – they’re brilliant at it. Tonight at Live At Leeds In The Park, the Northern Irish group swagger out onto the main stage and deliver a set of some of the finest indie anthems written this side of the Britpop wars. From the opening holler of ‘This Is The Life’ through the immediate glee of ‘Undercover Martyn’ to ‘I Can Talk”s delicious disco stomp, they’re a band who always deliver untethered joy. It’s a similar story with The Hives as the Swedish rock’n’rollers close out the Big Top with a greatest hits set that couldn’t be more assured. “It’s not good, it’s great,” is vocalist Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s review four songs in. It’s hard to argue. The suited and booted group deliver iconic garage rock anthems like ‘Walk Idiot Walk’ and ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ with electrifying energy, while newsies like ‘Stick Up’ and ‘Rigor Mortis Radio’ are purpose-built for chaotic evenings just like this. “Life is about fun,” says Howlin’ Pelle. (AS)

Despite the urgency, there’s a comfort to bands like Two Door and The Hives. They’re safe pairs of hands. By comparison, Panic Shack couldn’t feel more wonderfully unpredictable. There’s a crowd of people already loitering by the Dork Presents Right Stage while the group soundchecks, and every line check is met with cheers. By the time the band actually start their set with the snotty rebellion of ‘Baby’, it’s sheer pandemonium. Things only get more hectic as their headline set progresses, with the surf punk of ‘Jiu Jits You’, the intricate rage of ‘Meal Deal’, and a viciously fiery ‘I Don’t Really Like It’ whipping the ever-growing crowd into a frenzy. Panic Shack couldn’t look more comfortable inciting the masses either, with their gnarled punk covering everything from the cost of living crisis through bleak, everyday sexual harassment to emotionless relationships. It’s all handled with a resolute sense of empowerment, and onstage, Panic Shack forge a sense of community through the bullshit. Unlike other headliners, there’s no pandering, no playing by the rules. Panic Shack are here to do things their own way and thank goodness. (AS)

There was a similar energy for Opus Kink, who kicked the day off on the Dork Presents Left Stage (honestly, who comes up with these names?). There’s a thread of brooding post-punk to their sound, but it’s lifted by bursts of driving keys, electrifying sax and even the occasional flourish of trumpet, giving their midday set a defiant carnival feel. The menacing party vibes include an early afternoon workout, while later in their set, vocalist Angus Rogers ssssh’s the crowd and mocks a nearby soundcheck before the band launch into a final, blistering breakdown to close out ‘This Train’. That blending of snarling post-punk with a disco spirit reappeared later on in the day when the motley crew behind Deadletter took over the same stage for a party-starting run-through of their brooding but surprisingly upbeat music, while Enola Gay added nu-metal to angular guitars via Rage Against The Machine for a furious performance. (AS)

It’s Lime Cordiale‘s first-ever Leeds show, and they’ve brought their A-game. It might only be early afternoon, but the Aussie legends bring the party to an audience who are absolutely lapping up their antics. Racing through a set filled with some of their best hits, they’re both charismatic and scathing across both the fizzing grooves of ‘Ticks Me Off’ and the pounding bass of ‘Temper Temper’. There’s a brief interlude for guitarist Ollie Leimbach to teach the crowd a bit of German and drop his brother, vocalist Louis Leimbach, on the head, but before long, it’s business as usual: delicious trombone solos, lush sing-alongs and the kind of carefree tunes that are primed for a bank holiday festival. (NM)

Black Honey took to the mainstage and kicked straight into the swaggering ‘Charlie Bronson’. Embracing the raw, vicious energy of new album ‘A Fistful Of Peaches’, the entire set is urgent but delivered with a glint in the eye. Vocalist Izzy dances, stomps and throws herself about the stage while the rest of the band lock in to deliver flamboyant breakdowns and garage swagger. It’s less escapist than what’s come before, but it’s as captivating as ever. (AS)

A year ago to the day, Crawlers supported My Chemical Romance in Warrington, and there’s a similar ambition to today’s set. It’s easy to pigeonhole the band as emo, but there’s more to the four-piece than self-indulgent misery. The likes of ‘I Can’t Drive’ and ‘Fuck Me (I Didn’t Know How To Say)’ have become unlikely festival anthems, while new song ‘That Time Of Year Always’ is a giddy, jangly take on seasonal depression. Another new one is also dedicated to “all the depressed bitches”, but it still comes with a swagger that’s impossible to ignore. By the time viral hit ‘Come Over’ closes out their set, Crawlers have every voice in the tent screaming back at them. “It’s a banger; it’s going to go off,” promises vocalist Holly Minto. Truer words… (AS)

After the pure excellence of last year’s ‘Here is Everything’, it comes as no surprise that The Big Moon are greeted by a packed-out tent for their first stop on this year’s festival circuit. They race from pure rock riffs to light-hearted bops for a set that pulls from three albums’ worth of material, and it feels like an act of invigoration for audience and band alike. Closing the set with ‘Your Light’, The Big Moon invite pure arms-to-the-sky glee that won’t be easily shaken off. (NM)

Over at the Dork stage, the sun is beaming down, and there’s no better band for a sunlit set than Prima Queen. The Transatlantic duo are calm and collected through ‘Chew My Cheeks’, and remain a vision of cool as they recount tales of a festival romance gone sour on ‘Ugly’, or impressively combine their immaculate vocals with a dose of violin playing. Their tracks feel even more cut open in a live setting – the spoken word of ‘Butter Knife’ is arresting here. Prima Queen prove themselves to be beyond a great band: this is a set cementing their sheer talent. (NM)

If chaos, choreography and criminally good bangers are your bag, then you’ll probably adore CMAT. “If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being a messy bitch,” she cackles after whirling about the stage with fervour and drama that immediately places her set as one of the best of the day. Her particular brand of country-pop is nothing short of effervescent; she leaps into the splits, knocks over a mic stand and abandons her guitar in favour of darting about the stage some more. Watching CMAT perform feels somewhat like shaking up a can of Coke and watching what happens when you open it up. From her latest track, ‘Whatever’s Inconvenient’, to cuts from her debut album, such as ‘Lonely’, CMAT’s set only brings the anticipation for her second album to an absolute fever pitch. (NM)

Rose Gray has transformed the Dork Presents Left Stage into the club, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it. The release of her second EP, ‘Higher Than The Sun’ earlier this year, has seen Rose Gray step into her true queen-of-the-disco self. Her particular brand of rave-pop sees her pair heavy breakbeats with massive vocals, and that powerhouse quality is on full display here. From a Donna Summer banger to her own FIFA tune ‘Cupid’ to the dancefloor demanding ‘Ecstasy’, Rose Gray’s dance anthems were made for late summer evenings like this one. (NM)

Bug Teeth won the Apply To Play competition to play at Live At Leeds, but there’s nothing about today’s set that feels underdeveloped. Their dynamic set takes in all shapes of indie, rock and pop but never feels scattergun, as their confident, controlled but powerful vocals hold it all together. Moments of self-assured quiet lead into noisy, cathartic outbursts before big, aching pop songs channel both confidence and vulnerability. It’s a phenomenal showing from an artist you’re definitely going to see more from. Plus, the whole band are wearing matching hats! (AS)

If you want pure joy, though, you need Dolores Forever. The pair open with the sleek ‘When I Say So’, which feels like a burst of beaming happiness, and the hits don’t stop coming. ‘Baby Teeth’ is a little bit folk, a little bit Spice Girls, but there’s still a grit to their pop wizardry. The venomous, dramatic ‘Rothko’ leads into twinkling upcoming single ‘I Love You But You’re Making Me Sad’, which has more than a hint of Radiohead to it. Entering the existential crisis portion of the set, ‘Conversations With Strangers’ was written with festivals in mind and today, it weaves its way through the crowd, uniting everyone in its path before a triumphant ‘Party In My Mind’. “It doesn’t have to be a good time all the time,” sing Dolores Forever, but with them, it’s hard to imagine anything but. (AS)

Later, Brooke Combe takes to the Dork Presents Right Stage to close out the festival. It’s 9pm, and it’s noisy. On the other side of the field, The Hives are talking about how they’re the greatest band in the world while there’s an impatient crowd waiting for Two Door Cinema Club in front of the main stage. A large chunk of people are still trying to pick their jaws off the floor after seeing Panic Shack. Instead of demanding attention, though, Brooke Combe just gets down to business.

And that business is lush, indie-infused bangers. From the swaying ‘A-Game’ to the menacing swagger of ‘Impress You’, there’s nothing but confidence coming from Brooke. ‘Talkin’ Bout Heartaches’ pulls influence from Britpop while an electrifying ‘Are You With Me?’ is soulful, pretty, but still absolutely massive. (AS)

The Cavetown fans have come in absolute droves to see the mellow indie-popper close things off. It’s one of the loudest audiences of the day, reciting the words to ‘Lemon Boy’ and ‘Boys Will Be Bugs’ in choir-like fashion. Robin Skinner can’t stop profusely thanking the audience for their kindness, and their devotion is clear: it’s one of the most wholesome moments of the day. Armed with legions of Build-A-Bear frogs and hopping about for the aptly titled ‘Frog’, there’s a real warmth and joy to Cavetown’s set, undoubtedly a result of the clear connection between artist and audience. ‘1994’ is a particularly joyous moment, while set closer ‘Devil Town’ sees one last expulsion of glee from this adoring audience. It’s all smiles from Cavetown and co. (NM)