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Review: Live At Leeds 2015

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Slaves @ Live At Leeds. Image: Andrew Benge

This year marks the tenth annual Live At Leeds, and with a Festival Award for the UK’s Best Metropolitan Festival under its belt, I held my expectations pretty high. Having a line-up studded with incredible acts such as Palma Violets, Slaves, Lucy Rose and Swim Deep, there was a buzz about the city from the moment we arrived.

Our musical odyssey kicked off at Leeds Uni Mine Bar where we caught cheery indie quartet Marsicans playing a set positively drenched with bright tones and uplifting melodies. They recently described their sound to Northern Lights as “summer in a can” and this performance certainly demonstrated their description. Dressed in colourful shirts and loose vests, Marsicans looked every bit as summery as they sounded. The venue was relatively small but they reeled in an impressive turn-out considering they had such an early slot and proved to be the perfect band to kick-start the day.

After a short break from live music to interview Saint Raymond, we headed over to one of the biggest venues of the festival, The O2 Academy, to catch stunning indie-folk band Dry The River. It’s the fourth time I’ve had the pleasure of catching this band live and they perform with such grit and emotion that never fails to have me spellbound. An accidental highlight of the set was a completely acoustic rendition of Weights And Measures due to a glitch in the sound system. The audience of hundreds were hushed to silence as Peter, Scott and Matthew sung their hearts out without the help of microphones and their melting harmonies echoed through the venue with a beauty that gave me chills. When the sound was back on track, they finished the set with a combination of delicate ballads and roaring crescendos – Dry The River a band I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing live.

Dry The River @ Live at Leeds. Image: Ben Bentley

Dry The River @ Live at Leeds. Image: Ben Bentley

We found our way to Leeds Beckett Stage 2 after Dry The River to catch Port Isla fresh from their tour with BRIT Award winner, James Bay. Due to the little walk between stages and a clash of times, we only caught the first half of the set. Their sound was pretty with an infectious, feel-good vibe but admittedly quite forgettable among the variety of acts we saw throughout the day. Nevertheless, the venue was packed to the brim with people of all ages and the atmosphere was bustling.

Our next venture was back to the O2 Academy to catch the last half of Stornoway’s quirky, vibrant set. We arrived to the chirpy sound of their 2010 single, I Saw You Blink, and it was just lovely. Rich, layered vocals with a twanging bass and a hearty sing-along ending had the whole room in high spirits, despite how miserable the weather outside was. An upbeat rendition of Zorbing brought the set to a close and I was kind of gutted to have missed the first half of their set – their live show seemed beautiful and effortless.

After a short wait and a walk up to the balcony for a sit down, we watched Saint Raymond play a fresh, funky set that likened to early Ed Sheeran gigs. From our interview earlier in the day, he was such a genuine, lovely guy and it came across in his music – he played a current collection of fun, raw songs that everyone joined in with. Again, it was just a shame to have to leave a little early but clashes meant we could only stay for around 20 minutes before making our way back to Leeds Beckett.

Saint Raymond @ Live at Leeds. Image: Andrew Benge

Saint Raymond @ Live at Leeds. Image:
Andrew Benge

Our original plan was to catch Rat Boy and then Gengahr but queues down the street outside of the uni and a one in, one out system meant missing Rat Boy and getting out of the cold just in time to get a perfect spot for Gengahr. Their wistful, dreamy melodies and fuzzy guitars are always mesmerising to hear live and the introduction of some new, heavier songs from their forthcoming album were welcomed with excitement. With instantly recognisable hooks on tracks like She’s A Witch and Fill My Gums With Blood scattered throughout the set, there was never a dull moment and their potential to go far shone blindingly bright.

We made the journey to Holy Trinity Church next to catch up with Lucy Rose before her headline set, but we managed to arrive early enough to see some of Seafret’s beautiful sound engulf the intricate, grand church as well. I couldn’t think of a more perfect venue for this duo – their sound was enhanced as it reverberated around the old church and the setting of towering stained glass windows and pews packed with awestruck spectators was picturesque. Not to mention, singer Jack Sedman’s vocal was the most gentle yet powerful I’d heard all day.

The next venue we went to was just a slight change in scenery – the most typical of social clubs, the Brudenell. We arrived an hour early as we were warned that queues for one of the most exciting and wild bands of the year, Slaves, were expected to be off the scale. It was already busy when we arrived, with people of all ages huddled around tables or queuing for drinks and the atmosphere was sky-high.

When the clock struck 11.15 and Laurie and Isaac finally hit the Brudenell’s stage with raucous opener White Knuckle Ride, the crowd exploded as if the ground were quaking. A stormy sea of fans moshed between each other, screaming, jumping, dancing and falling. It was utter chaos from start to finish, in the best possible way. With feisty Yorkshire chants between each song and too many stage dives to count, the duo seemed to be relishing in it every bit as much as the crowd were. All in all, Slaves brought our day to a close with not just a bang, but a nuclear explosion.

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