This is now the second urban festival I've attended in Leeds. Unlike Damnation, however, Live at Leeds has a focus on indie bands/unsigned artists, so I'd only heard of about 5 of the artists on the 100+ strong roster. That in mind, I put on my best lens-less Ray Bans, grew out a horrendous twiddly moustache, cut my hair so I looked like I was in the Hitler Youth and set out for a day of being a massive pretentious faggot.
Arrival (0945, Leeds Railway Station):
Coming into Leeds about 9:45, we (me and my friend Callum) meandered our way to the wristband exchange at Leeds Met Uni. Whereas Damnation took place entirely in three rooms, Live at Leeds was spread out over 10 different venues across the city, including standards such as The Cockpit and the O2 Academy, mixed up with some smaller, more intimate venues like The Faversham and The Well. So what you do when you arrive is get your ticket exchanged for a wristband, which you only need to show at the door to get access to these various venues. By the time we'd got our wristbands there was still something like 2 hours to go until the first band started, so we went for a leisurely walk around Leeds, where Callum bought his first lunch of the day. After we'd checked out some record shops (including one that looked like the kind of place you'd buy drugs from), it was time for the music to begin.
British Daylight (1200, Milo's):
Technically, the first band of the day was at a bar called Milo's (though this was free for anyone, not just wristband holders so I guess it doesn't really count), so we figured we'd go check them out. British Daylight are one of the multitude of bands that have emerged from cities in Yorkshire riding on the success of The Arctic Monkeys. Predictably their entire set consisted of about three chords and a singer who does little more than shout the lyrics in his thick Leeds accent. We quickly decided that this was kind of wank so we moved on. By this time the festival was about to begin proper, so we headed to The Cockpit for the first actual band of the day...
I Call Shotgun (1230, The Cockpit 3):
I still didn't have a programme at this point, so I knew exactly nothing about the band who were setting up their gear in front of me and had no idea what to expect. What I got was synthpop-influenced indie rock with more than a little wubwubwub from the keyboard player. Surprisingly, it worked extremely well and I found myself merrily bopping along to songs such as "Mourning Mass" and "Positive Chord Changes For Impressionable Young White Girls" (you can tell just from the names that this is an indie festival, can't you?). Anyway, their 20-minute or so set got the fesitval off to a good start. After bunping into some friends who promptly jumped into a taxi and sped off to the other side of the city to see Chew Lips, Callum and I were left trying to decide who to see next.
Cave Birds (1400, Holy Trinity Church):
We first stopped off at Subway where I had some soup and Callum had lunch #2, after which we headed back to the wristband exchange to grab some programmes. We went to see Cave Birds partly out of curiosity of the venue (an 18th century church) and partly because we had no idea who any of the other bands were that were playing at the time, so we essentially closed our eyes and jabbed the timetable at random. However, as I write this it's Monday afternoon, almost exactly 48 hours after we saw the band, and I cannot for the life of me remember what they sounded like. Fortunately I wrote a few thoughts into my phone after every band I saw, and the note for Cave Birds read thus: "Pleasant if forgettable pop rock not helped by acoustics and annoying backing singer." The acoustics of the church (as far as I'm aware) weren't really suited to the kind of band they are so I didn't find it all that great. We ducked out just as they were playing their last song.
Garnets (1430, The Cockpit 3):
I spotted this while leafing through the programme during the boring Cave Birds set. Since I like me a bit of post rock now and again, we hurried to The Cockpit in order to catch Garnets. Though they got off to a shaky start due to some sound problems, they played some extremely good contemplative post rock. However, there seemed to be a hen party going on behind us which made it nigh on impossible to concentrate on the music and just about ruined the set for me, so we left about halfway through in search of something a bit more crowd-oriented (I didn't let this reflect badly on the band though, the music they were playing was great, but post rock tends to be best suited for listening alone in a darkened room. I'm definitely going to check them out some other time though). After this we headed once again to the wristband exchange (I think this time it was to enquire about merchandise). We stuck around for a bit this time though, as just around the corner at Leeds Met Back Room, the first band of the day I'd actually heard of were playing...
Deaf Club (1515, Leeds Met Back Room):
Unfortunately we arrived about halfway through Deaf Club's set, but the remainder of it was fairly representative of what they'd been playing up until then. Although the programme described them as "Skeletal, ethereal indie," what I heard was a female-fronted Disintegration-era Cure. Big, echoey drums and soul-in-turmoil vocals (not quite as intense as Robert Smith but depressive all the same) were the order of the day here, and what I heard sounded brilliant. And in a stroke of luck, the band are playing in York at the end of the month. Score. The next band I wanted to see after Deaf Club didn't start until 5, so we had some time to kill in which we went to Bagel Nash for snacks, and Callum had lunch #3. By this point it was about 4:15, and since said band were playing at The Well on the other side of the city, we set off in order to give ourselves ample time to arrive.
Wot Gorilla? (1700, The Well):
Admittedly, the only reason I'd listened to Wot Gorilla? prior to Live at Leeds was I noticed their name on the lineup when they were first announced sometime in March, and how the band were named after a Genesis song. Oddly enough, the music shares some similarities to Genesis, because Wot Gorilla? a jingly-jangly math rock band, so they thrive on bizarre time signatures, polyrhythms and poly-polyrhythms. Prog this ain't though, and one or two of the songs even had soft indie breakdowns, which actually fit in extremely well. I was that impressed by their half-hour set that I picked up the EP they were selling afterwards. The next band I wanted to see were also at The Well at 6, so we hung around a were treated to a singer-songwriter interlude in the pub area of the venue. She did an acoustic cover of a Jessie J song and one she'd written herself about the music industry, both of which were pleasant enough but not really of note. She probably performed more songs but we didn't hear them as we headed back into the room with the stage in order to get a good spot to see...
Post War Glamour Girls (1800, The Well):
Back at the end of March I went to see O. Children in Leeds, and PWGG were one of the supports. I didn't really pay them much attention because they were playing quite far away and were encroaching on valuable beer time for me and my friend Rob. I saw them at Live at Leeds in a much different setting, and in actually giving them my full attention I found out how good they were. Reminiscent of some of the more coherent stuff Tom Waits has done over the years but with back-and-forth male/female vocals (the former periodically going all out and screaming in a similar way to Mr. Waits himself) and quite strong blues riffs. Definitely one I need to look out for in the future. Following this we left the well where we spotted the day's only thrash band hanging around smoking. We headed back to The Cockpit, to see a band I'd (albeit indirectly) heard of before.
S.C.U.M (1900, The Cockpit 1)
Given that we'd been in Leeds at this indie festival for something like 9 hours by this point, I was surprised that S.C.U.M were the first band I'd seen to which I though "Hey! This sounds a lot like Joy Division". Having only previously heard of them thanks to Last.FM's 'related artists' feature, (they're only two clicks away from O. Children) I thought I may as well give them a listen. What I got was exactly what I expected: Post-punk. I didn't think it was all that, but Callum liked it and it helped pass the time as there weren't many artists between PWGG and the next band I wanted to see at 10. So we took a little food break in which I had McDonalds and Callum had dinner #1 before setting off to meet up the aforementioned friends who were currently Ladyhawke at the O2 Academy.
We did briefly go into the O2 Academy to check out Ladyhawke, but it was crowded and noisy and I got yelled at by a drunk guy near the merch stall so we decided it wasn't worth it and promptly left to wait outside. When that act finished we met up with the friends we were waiting for, half of which had some crazy idea of seeing Alt-J at the Holy Trinity Church then somehow travelling all the way to Brudenell Social Club in time to catch Dog is Dead. The other half of this group, Callum, and I decided that was a terrible idea so instead elected to see This Many Boyfriends at The Faversham, partly because it was close to Leeds Uni Stylus which was where the final band I wanted to see were playing. We got ever-so-slightly lost while walking to The Faversham and just as we arrived, the band started. We stuck around for all of five minutes before declaring them terrible and deciding to make our way to the Uni in order to get a good place for the last act of the evening (for Callum and I, anyway).
Los Campesinos! (2200, Leeds Uni Stylus):
This provided an interesting contrast to the last band I saw play on this stage: Shining, the experimental jazz/black metal band from Norway at Damnation. Los Campesinos! are a 7-piece indie pop band, who recently have moved away from their ultra-twee roots towards something slower and more contemplative. I've seen LC! once before (at The Cockpit, incidentally), and the setlist this time round was more or less the same, just a little trimmed down to fit within an hour. Still, they performed most of their best songs, with the same amount of energy and heart-on-sleeve emotion as before. And this energy was confirmed when a member of the audience jumped up on the stage and stole the keyboard player's notebook (of all things), to which the singer responded by wading into the crowd, grabbing the thief by the head and yelling some song lyrics directly at him. Said thief looked suitably horrified. So this was a brilliant way to close what I thought was a brilliant festival, and were I not in another county altogether come next May, I would go to again.