Leeds Music Scene

Gig review of Slaves + We Were Promised Jetpacks + Yak + Hookworms + Rat Boy + Raketkanon + Plastic Mermaids + Gaz Coombes + Gengahr + Treason Kings + Polo

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Reviewed on 7th May 2015.



Live at Live At Leeds 2015 on Saturday, 2nd May 2015

Polo, Treason Kings, Gaz Coombes, Plastic Mermaids, Raketkanon, Rebecca Clements, The Mispers, Gengahr, Rat Boy, Hookworms, Yak, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Slaves

Yay. Live at Leeds day! The feeling I get on LAL morning is honestly as near a feeling as I get these days to waking up on Christmas Day as a kid. 25th December is now all about my daughters, but LAL day.... it's festive season for music-loving grown-ups.

And so, Arena visited, wristbands secured, the plan is put into action. Ours kicks off at high noon, as part of a very decent turnout in Belgrave Music Hall for Polo. Formerly known as Girlsondrugs, this synth-pop duo are a minimal mix of keys and voice and bring a rather ethereal electronica to the party, with occasional bursts of teeth-chatteringly deep bass. The pulsing cover of Arctic Monkeys' 'Do I Wanna Know' works very well indeed - in fact the whole performance is enjoyable and an excellent start to the day, but one can't help but feel that they are just too damn sultry for 12 noon!

The musical rollercoaster is one of the best aspects of Live at Leeds, so from low key electronica we go straight to big rock riffs with Treason Kings at the Key Club. The KC emerged from the ashes of the much-missed Cockpit (this is the first LAL without that pivotal Leeds venue) and quickly established itself as the rock/metal venue du jour. It's the first time I've been and I can tell you these things as FACT:

1. It is very ruddy dark
2. It is the dictionary definition of 'no nonsense'
3. The staff are lovely
4. Drinks prices are very reasonable

But this is not a venue review. No, sir. Treason Kings storm onto the stage and it's very clear we are going to enjoy a rifforama. The riffpocalypse. It's hard-hitting heavy rock although, in a sense, it's hard to categorise. Treason Kings seem to be effectively a 1990s 3-piece grunge act, but with a 1970s/80s lead guitarist drafted in as a 4th member for noodling purposes. This is not meant as negative criticism, just an attempt to define and report. More specific negative criticism would have to come in regard to the state of said guitarist's hair. It is impossible for a male to have very long, very straight hair without it looking a bit naff - sort it out!

But this is not a fashion review, either. Treason Kings have a tricky assignment here - 1pm is a difficult slot in which to garner riffthusiasm, but they manage it manfully. In fact, one particular member of the audience may well be very close to riffgasm. They rock. They roll. They noodle. They dirge. They have a song about a chest of drawers. Fair bloody play, Treason Kings - you smashed 1pm!

Next up is a jeffing RAMMED 02 Academy for bona-fide Britpop superstar Gaz Coombes. I'm not that much younger than Gaz Coombes, so Supergrass formed part of the backing track to my teens and 20s. But now we've all developed, and it's nice to see Coombes flourish as a solo artist with a much more expansive, layered and, well, grown-up sound. When I saw him at Deer Shed 2013 he threw in a few Supergrass classics, which was nice, but here, with only 45 minutes to play with, he sticks to all-solo material. It works. The electronic undertones of his new album 'Matador' give his output a richness and a thoughtfulness that you may be forgiven for being surprised by if all you'd heard is 'Alright'.

'One Of These Days' played sitting at the piano, Moog breaks, 'Detroit' and especially '20/20' are all outstanding. A legend, now in perhaps his purplest of purple patches. And it's still only 2.15pm.

We're feeling fairly buoyant as the taxi speeds towards Brudenell Social Club. Three out of three picks have paid off so far. Hopefully, this one-hour, two bands detour will follow suit.

My word, it does. In the Games Room, first up, are Plastic Mermaids. These guys (for me, anyway) fit into the category of a band that you haven't heard of before the LAL line-up comes out, who you give a listen to during planning and think 'yes, this could be my cup of Darjeeling'. As a very broad touch point, we thought they might be like a British Flaming Lips.

They are. They are like a British Flaming Lips. This is a good thing.

They are quirky and psychedelic, both in music and in appearance. This is also a good thing.

They utilise xylophone, violin, megaphone and Moog. The Moog is on mannequin legs. Was there a theremin involved? Possibly. There's loads of them, and they look, literally, like they walked naked into a jumble sale this morning and clobbered themselves up in whatever was available. Paisley, stripes, dayglo, lamee jumpers and second hand sweaters. There's a handlebar 'tache, there are beards, stubble, clean shaven. The best drummer we have seen or will see all day. The performance brings to mind Neutral Milk Hotel without the brass section. They make guitars sound like lasers. They play guitars with bows. They are exciting, exhilarating and intoxicating, and they have a new fan.

Surely Belgian hardcore outfit Raketkanon can't make it five out of five, can they?

They bloody can, you know.

"We're gonna play an awesome song for you guys. Hope you dig it... otherwise, you can go f*ck yourselves..."

Very heavy music often takes itself very seriously, but these guys marry crunching post-metal and screamed vocals with an exquisite sense of balls-to-this-lets-have-a-good-time. They are hugely entertaining - we get big jumps off the stage to the floor (in fact we get all members of the band leaving the stage at some point) we get lead guitar belted out from on top of one of the amps, we get the synth player starting clap-alongs, arm waving and even 'lighters out' from within the crowd, we get introductions to songs such as the previously quoted. They're genuinely funny and incredibly raucous, and the ever-growing crowd absolutely laps them up. Brilliant.

"Seriously though... please do spend your money on all our shit." And we did.

This almost-unfair run of great picks stumbled a little on our arrival back in the city centre, with Rebecca Clements at Holy Trinity Church. For me, her voice was way too high in the mix, and each time she went for a high note, or came back in with gusto, it seemed the audience were cowering slightly and ultimately ended up distracted and chatting amongst themselves. We'd pictured delicate acoustic musings in the apt surroundings of HTC, but sadly just weren't feeling this.

The stumble continues, actually, with The Mispers at the Wardrobe. It's quite hard to put a finger on why - they are all accomplished musicians, the songs are quite intricate (certainly no 4/4 plodding here) in an alt-folk neck of the woods, and there's a good crowd in attendance.

However, they are so young, so polished, so confident that it kind of feels like some kind of fame-academy indie project. The between songs banter feels like being preached at by precocious stage school scholars, and the tunes themselves seem destined for use on the soundtrack of 'Skins' or 'Hollyoaks'.

Maybe I'm just getting fatigued. Time for a chorizo and chicken sandwich.

By the time we get to Leeds Beckett, reports are surfacing about hold-ups and delays both here and at HiFi Club. Given that running to time is the be all and end all for LAL, this is most unusual. It's one in, one out at Beckett but, having queued for over half an hour, we still have somehow not missed Rat Boy. In fact, he hasn't even started, so we nip through to the Dr Martens Stage for the supposed-to-be-on-after-him Gengahr. They're pretty good - quirky indie with a high singing voice in the Vampire Weekend / Wild Beasts / Everything Everything ball park. Fine, if you like that kind of thing. We're still interested to see Rat Boy, though, so we swap stages mid-set to find him in full swing. The musical comparison with Jamie T is obvious - cockney sounding kitchen-sink observational rapping over indie guitar - although perhaps the apparently-sacked-from-Wetherspoons Rat Boy is a more authentic scruffy street urchin. But then, would it be a total surprise if he was eventually outed as a public school boy? Anyway, the Yoof seem very keen and his calling card 'Sign On' prompts a full-scale but good natured stage invasion. Very entertaining, and entirely justifies the switch of stage.

No time to dwell - Leeds' own Hookworms are entering back on the main stage to a wall of sound and a minimal 'TV interference' light show, that never lights the individual members of the band but instead serves to add to the feel of the whole performance as an art installation. It's very good, but we can't see it all now that the stages are clashing rather than dovetailing, so again we dash back to Stage 2 to see what we can see of Yak. What we can see is a Nick-Cave-fronting-the-Stooges-esque affair, with cocky showmanship aplenty - and we do catch the bloody excellent 'Smile' so it's all good. I make that four very good acts, all overlapping, in a very productive 75 minutes. Would have been nice to see each of their full performances but, hey, if you can't roll with those punches then Live at Leeds is probably not for you...

Nearly there now...

After more sustenance, we crash land back at the Brudenell (did we get a taxi? Details are getting sketchy) for a much-anticipated double header to finish.

First up, the still-brilliantly-named We Were Promised Jetpacks.

They hail from that Scottish indie hinterland - not the twee area, but the more storm-lashed, emotionally wrought bit that brought us the likes of Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit - and they just FIT for this venue. Earnest, driven by thunderstick drum backing and flanked by a - and I mean this in the highest form of regard - curly beardy ginger psycho, singer Adam Thompson romps through the kind of intense indie-rock that just sounds better in a Scottish accent. No question. 'Quiet Little Voices' and 'It's Thunder and It's Lightning' are smashing standouts.

We're also party to an amusing crowd incident where a young indie girl's attempt to start a mosh pit effectively just involves her shoving her boyfriend into a stationary group of onlookers, with hilarious consequences. Lovely stuff.

There is nothing stationary about the onlookers, however, when Kent post-punk garage-rock shouters Slaves hone into view to complete Live At Leeds 2015. 'It's going to go off in here' is the prediction, and go off it bloody well does, from the first chord to the last.

If you don't know what Slaves do, what have you been doing? BBC 'Sound of' list, 'Later with Jools Holland', Radio 1 playlist, 6 Music. C'mon. It's angsty. It's shouty. And it's bloody catchy. Check it out online right now, then imagine it in a sweaty Brude at the end of a 12-hour musical extravaganza.

For those who mosh-circled to Pulled Apart By Horses in this slot at LAL 2014 it's the Big Bouncy Brudenell Finish Part II.

Wouldn't miss it for the world.



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