TSOTA meets creators of brand new Leeds festival, High & Lonesome

By October 27, 2014

Food. Leeds.


High & Lonesome is a brand-spanking new city centre festival coming to Leeds in November. Celebrating Americana and everything that surrounds it, the festival is set to become a highlight on the city’s events calendar. We spoke to festival organisers Nick Simcock and Harry Ridgway of Communion and Dead Young Records, about the Leeds Music Scene, creating an event for music fans, and, first of all, just what ‘Americana’ is…


In a pleasantly darkened corner of Oporto on Call Lane, Harry Ridgeway has been talking about his musical upbringing. ‘My friends and I grew up with parents who played us Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks, cheesy country like that, and Americana seems to be a beacon to move away from country. Country’s becoming a dirty word because they put Taylor Swift in the Grand Old Opry. And there needs to be somewhere for people like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell to flourish.’

Nick, co-creator of High & Lonesome with Harry, jumps in. ‘It’s exactly why we didn’t want artwork that screamed cowboy hats and line dancing. And the line-up for the festival isn’t just 20 guys with guitars doing the same thing. The way people take musical influences from right across the world means Americana is such an open-ended genre. Lap steel guitars are great, but so is someone with 20-odd synths and drum-pads who loves the genre as much as we do.’

This means that, as well as competing with likes of Live@Leeds in terms of being a city centre music event, there are so many other jumping off points for the festival. As Harry says ‘Live@Leeds didn’t really cross my mind when we started planning High and Lonesome. We just wanted to do something, and it’s at the end of November so we’re not doing it outside! We have one day and so by splitting in to three venues means we can essentially do three times as much, and get to use three of our favourite venues in Leeds.’ Those places are Belgrave Music Hall, Oporto, and the magnificent Holy Trinity Church on Boar lane. And with Whitelocks Ale House a sneaky fourth venue in the middle of this triangle being somewhere to eat, sit and watch films, they have picked some of the finest rooms in Leeds it’s possible to have fun in. Harry again;

We’ve programmed it really carefully to play up to the strengths of each of the venues. In Oporto we have some of the really exciting stuff that people just won’t know about yet, and because it’s in a smaller venue with a really dedicated audience of people who love new music, they’ll come and see something people without having heard them before. Charlie Stott who’s just 19, has an incredible voice and if we had to fill up a huge venue we couldn’t put him on. And then we have Trinity Church with its massive acoustics perfect for Patrick Wolf. The venues mean we can programme things really carefully to be amazing for every single act.’ And Nick agrees that ‘the music and the artists that we have don’t necessarily lend themselves to being heard over 1000 people that are just waiting for the headliner. We want to have a festival for people that really like music! A festival of gigs sounds really nice.’

The boys are very aware of making a day that can be enjoyed no matter how many of the acts you want to see, and how splitting up the venues helps that. ‘Being in any venue for a whole day can leave you sat there staring at a pint,’ says Nick, ‘feeling everything blend into one. And there’s not as much context for the different acts. We’re trying to get people to move around, and so if you don’t like this band there’ll be something very different on elsewhere. You can move around, dip into stuff and look at different things. Then you can watch a film at Whitelocks or go grab some food from any of the amazing places in Leeds.

Speaking of food, Leeds is without doubt in the middle of an enormous independent food boom, something that the attendees of High & Lonesome will get to make the most of. ‘We’re even getting themed food,’ Nick says, very excitedly. ‘From everyone! Twisted Burger, Neon Cactus, The Social, Mrs Athas, Patti Smiths, and we’re currently discussing which ham to use on the Dough Boys’ ‘Ham Parsons’ pizza. It’s amazing to involve places in Leeds that we really like that we can’t necessarily put music in, but we still think they’re brilliant and want people to go there.’

And speaking of the people that will be coming to the festival, Nick and Harry have nothing but praise for northern music fans. Nick thinks that ‘the audiences are amazing in Leeds. Where I grew up there was an amazing musical heritage, but going to gigs was depressing because nothing sold well. Now people who come from there to Leeds to watch bands are amazed. For some reason in Leeds there seems to be a little more respect, maybe it’s a Yorkshire thing! And is probably part of why we feel so comfortable here. People will make noise at a gig, but then they’ll be quiet at the right points.’ Harry continues ‘There are lots of bands and performers who’ve been based in Leeds in the past are really proud of their time here and love coming back, and the audiences have got to be part of that. We’re lucky that people like Paul Thomas Saunders and Ellen and the Escapades are part of our line-up.’

This is a line-up, Nick tells us, that has been an absolute delight to curate. ‘Since we announced the festival people have been telling us to look at this band and check out that incredible act. Bands with a few hundred fans on Facebook, two songs on their Soundcloud, and just one official release. But their music is incredible. We want to work with them, and we felt we can fit them in to the festival. Performers that in a couple of years will hopefully be headlining the festival!’ Harry waxes lyrical about Cove Hithe; ‘Someone sent me a link to the website of this brand new band from Suffolk and I just thought they were incredible, so we found a place for them.’

So. That’s 3 incredible gig venues, one ale house, dozens of places to eat, and scores of amazing bands to see. It looks like High and Lonesome will be an exceptional day out – so what about the next time round? As Nick says ‘we really want to be more than a one day a year event, we want to put on shows with bands that haven’t been available for the festival or that we couldn’t fit on the bill.’

Harry is a little more mysterious. ‘We have some very exciting things planned for 2015.


TICKETS for High & Lonesome, a special compilation playlist and the full line-up, can be found right here.

Paddy Garrigan



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