The first event on the festival calendar saw a multitude of British and international bands and artists descend to a number of venues across a sunny Leeds on Saturday, with an expansion of sounds fitting the bill – from chart topping electronic with strings quartet, Clean Bandit to two-man rock duo, Royal Blood, both drawing massive crowds.
“Aren't there a lot of bands that sound like the toilet music”, says a man commenting on Nation of Shopkeepers choice of bathroom music, saying “I’m into my experimental electronic music but this just sounds like Fuck Buttons”.
Three-piece ‘NME Radar’ guitar band, Blaenavon, drew an unexpectedly busy crowd to cool bar-come-gig-venue, Nation of Shopkeepers, with an early 1pm set. Performing tracks from their Koso E.P, the young and impressive trio sound like a mix of Maccabees-esque gliding riffs in Prague, which are contrasted with the emotive Wu Lyf-like atmosphere in tracks, Gods, and Wunderkind. With just a handful of songs under their belt, an album is surely in the pipeline for the talented Hampshire trio.
Swiftly pacing across the city to catch Wet’s debut visit to the UK at cool underground venue, The Hifi Club, the Brooklyn trio supply futuristic dream-pop for the Soundcloud and Apple Mac generation. Performing the entirety of their debut Dreams E.P, they mix the electronic synths of Chvrches with the chilled out melancholic storytelling of The XX. Set opener, "Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl" and new track "Bad Idea" showcase singer, Kelly Zutrau’s effortless crystal vocals before she explains to the music-savvy crowd: “This is out first time in Leeds and in the UK – we’re having a lot of fun." Dreams and No Lie, also of the E.P, create a swaying, breezy fantasy atmosphere before penultimate single, You’re The Best, which is currently receiving daytime support on Radio One from Fearne Cotton and Zane Lowe. With added house synths, it receives an impressive reaction with most of the crowd singing along – it’s sure to be a future hit, especially with the major label bidding war which is currently engulfing Wet’s futuristic R&B productions.
Next up, London based Gengahr performed to a busy crowd at the Belgrave Centre. With pitch-shifted vocals sounding similar to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, this is one of their first live shows. Summery foot-tapper, She's A Witch is a perfect indie track which sees the floppy haired young singer bop on the spot. Huw Stephens supported single, Fill My Gums With Blood, sounds sweet and soft despite the grizzly connotations of the tracks title. Clocking in at just 20 minutes, it’s a short-but-sweet set of endearing and exciting tracks – hopefully we’ll hear more from Gengahr in time for the summer.
SFG take an hour break to recharge batteries (physical and phones) before arriving back at the Hifi club to see electronic producer, Tourist who has recently toured with Disclosure play a late afternoon set. His blend of chill-wave house and electronica translates well to a packed, mixed-age crowd. William Philips aka Tourist introduces himself, saying: "I'm Tourist, I haven’t been here for a while, and it’s nice to be back”, before building electronic synths silence whispered murmurs in the crowd. Opening with Lies, a crowd pleasing remix of popular Glasgow synth-poppers, Chvrches, it’s a clever start. It could be expected that Tourist’s house beats and bass popping grooves are more night time friendly but the crowd still seem to still love it. Meanwhile, William energetically bops around behind his synth touch-pad and laptop. Later, I Can't Keep Up and Together from the new Patterns E.P bring him the biggest crowd of the day so far, with people still piling in during the last song. The penultimate track, a remix of Haim’s, The Wire, which featured on the LA sisters deluxe album ignites a carnival like energy with Jamie XX-like percussion beats soaring through the room before final E.P title track, Patterns ends the impressive set. With impressive sets like this one, Tourist’s atmospheric, forward-thinking sound will sit perfectly at outdoor festivals this summer. Make sure to catch him at one.
Darlia, who perform to a busy Cockpit crowd at the other end of the city, are three young lads from Blackpool making Nirvana influenced 90’s rock revival – lead singer Nathan Day, even looks like Kurt Cobain. Pronounced by Radio 1’s Playlist boss Nigel Harding, as “the most exciting new guitar band in the UK”, it’s difficult to argue against the statement. Playing a 30-minute set of heavy guitars and drums, they sound a lot heavier live than on record. Animal Kingdom and the infectious Queen of Hearts, the latter harkening to the sound of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Later, the audience revel in joining in for the chorus of current single Candyman, which translates far rawer, grittier and scuzzier in a live environment. The sweaty and loud, Cockpit is the perfect venue for their rock ‘n’ roll barrage to really make you take notice before they hit the big-time with a slot booked at Leeds Festival in August.
Two-piece rock outfit, Royal Blood, who have just announced a support slot on The Pixies US tour, attracted the biggest crowd of the day, with the queue stretching far beyond the confines of Leeds Metropolitan Univeristy, where the duo were unleashing their faultless energy. SFG were even lucky to get in, with press restricted to a one-in-one-out rule. New single, Come On Over’s heavy riffs make it sound as though there at least four band members before the singles Little Monster and Out of the Black encourage a circle pit in the crowd centre. Royal Blood really are the next big thing, ever since their NME Award Show and SXSW slots, they've multiplied in fans wanting to see them.
Running over half hour late due to technical problems, R&B crooner/ rapper Raleigh Ritchie, says they must keep the set quite short but doesn't let that dampen his spirit. He bounces across the stage telling engaging stories of growing up and gaining independence in Stronger Than Ever and Freefall, the latter about being sad in a cit. Later, before Keep It Simple, Raleigh tells his debut album will be out by the end of the year. Ending with set highlight, 2013 single, Bloodsport, the technical problems have been forgotten and he’s managed to captivate the crowd with an emotive, ‘give it your all’ vocal performance.
Later, Circa Waves expectedly pack out The Cockpit with a circle pit ensuing ten minutes in to the set during popular single Good For Me. Catch My Breath sounds like if The Vaccines stamping choruses met Vampire Weekend’s catchy indie riffs. The upbeat indie-pop of Stuck in My Teeth and Fossils quickly follow, before frontman Keiran Shuddall teases the crowd saying: "It's been very special for us – anyone going to Leeds festival? Well see you there.”
Chart-topping electronic with classical strings quartet Clean Bandit, headlined the 02 Academy with an important hour set, justifying their soon-to-be big name festival headlining status. Chilled openers, Rihanna and A&E impress with effortless guest vocals. It’s been a long time coming for them, but the success of Rather Be, which stole the top of the charts for a month is set to be followed up by new single, Extraordinary – both of which get an outing tonight. The Cambridge-graduates fit the large stage perfectly with colourful visuals of their EP covers placed neatly behind the set while pulsing house beats move the crowd throughout new track, Heart on Fire. Older tech-house track, Mozart’s House asks the question whether electronic music is boring? Certainly not, judging from tonight’s crowd who lap up every chart ready track. Later, Nightingale is mixed into the deep-house Gorgon City remix before they mix things up with their own rendition of Show Me Love. Clean Bandit are impossible to dislike, fusing every genre of music into their own concoction of strings, house, pop and R&B, their live shows have become a phenomenal spectacle.
Catering for the masses with a range of acts across a multitude of genres and a friendly atmosphere throughout, Live At Leeds, showcased new bands in their prime, most of which will be playing big-player, Reading & Leeds Festival – be sure to catch them there!
Photos by Heather Berrisford