I have been to Live at Leeds almost every year since its inception in 2007. Sometimes I have just been to the ‘fringe’ events at Milo, but the vibe, the queues and the lack of elbow room remain the same. It is a flash of mayhem that lasts just twelve hours but always seems to take a lot longer to recover from (for me anyway).
However, if every venue was like the O2 academy inebriation would be impossible due to the queues at the bar and the price. It was still early doors when I was there for Gaz Coombes, notably of Supergrass fame, and the big name had clearly drawn in the thirty and forty somethings. It was all fairly mundane and I spent more time moaning than I did enjoying the music, although my attention was sparked when I thought he was going to cover Zombie Nation, but it turned out to be another mid-afternoon Radio 6 something-or-other.
For me, Live at Leeds is about seeing new bands, and with so many in such a short space of time there will always be clashes. It is almost easier to stay in one place rather than waste your time traipsing across town and standing in queues. Leeds Beckett was where we found ourselves next.
We saw a band called Bruising, who ironically lacked punch. Female vocals can occasionally become lost beneath this type of lo-fi punk, and that was the case here. They did however whet the appetite for what was to come.
Menace Beach are so grungy I imagine there is more grease in the singer’s hair than the average roadside cafe fry-up. I barely recognised him (otherwise known as Ryan Needham) from his previous band, Komakino, aesthetically at least, although the pop sensibilities still cut through piercing guitars. The group is made up of various other notable Leeds musicians and this band clearly has the potential to match the success of its predecessors.
We couldn’t get into the other venue in the building to watch Rat Boy as it was too busy so next up were Gengahr, a great band ruined by incessant falsetto. They can sound like anything from the Beach Boys to Ok Computer era Radiohead, with the exception of the fact that those bands didn’t rely on a vocalist that appears unable to sing in his natural voice. Eventually it was too much for me.
There has been a distinct early-nineties theme to guitar music for some time now, and plenty of examples were on show at Live at Leeds. At the Town Hall, before The Cribs, were Palma Violets. A mixture of shouty pop and psychedelic indie, Palma Violets were a highlight, although my inebriation had led my mind to wonder upon the strangeness of live music, where the audience face bands unshakeably transfixed.
It seems more normal to me let your vision veer from the stage, particularly for the type of music the followed. I allowed my years to escape me and got right to the front for The Cribs. I probably lasted two songs.
The Cribs were riotous, as ever, no doubt to the disdain of the custodians of Leeds’ grand, Victorian Town Hall. Pints of beer flew through the air and became incrusted in sweaty hair, piss missed the urinals, the structure shook as people jumped and the acoustics were bemused by the distortion. At one point Ryan Jarman of The Cribs began singing Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen – not the whole thing mind as there probably wasn’t time between hits all the way from their eponymous debut to their most recent album, For All My Sisters.
And that’s Live At Leeds. So many bands, too little time and over in a flash.