Live at Live At Leeds 2015 on Saturday, 2nd May 2015
Live At Leeds took place this year under leaden skies but there was nothing gloomy about the music that filled the venues of Leeds. Leeds Music Scene writers Sam Monk and Becca Stubbs were there to take in the action.
Dry the River just returned from Europe and enjoying the quintessentially British delights of a Greggs pasty and horrible lager, followed Gaz Coombes at the O2 Academy but where the Oxford man was beset by poor sound Dry the River had to manfully deal with a total lack of sound after the Academy experienced some sort power failure. Unplanned interruptions are never ideal but the four piece made the best of a bad situation by heroically attempting an a capella performance to a packed auditorium. Fortunately the guilty plug socket was soon identified and the London folk rockers were back to their electrified state.
The Fleet Foxes and Mercury Rev were very much in evidence as they ran through material from last year's Sophomore record. Dominated by Peter Liddle's ethereal falsetto the band offered up a pleasingly uplifting set that put smiles on the faces of the crowd but lacked a little bit of personality and passion and never quite escaped the shadow of its influences.
Young Norwich four piece Port Isla who appeared on the Leeds Beckett 2 stage certainly looked the part what with the lead singer's James Dean confidence and swagger but sound wise they lacked a little oomph, sounding more like Coldplay's little brother than rebels without a cause. There songs and performance were certainly slick and proficient, at one point they had the crowd clapping their hands like seasoned stadium pros but there was the definite sense that they would have been more at home on the X Factor stage auditioning for Simon Cowell than playing to a boozy rabble.
Proceedings picked up tremendously with the appearance of London-based all-girl group The Big Moon whose upbeat, spiky punk infused indie rock summoned up memories of Elastica in their Britpop pomp. Singer Juliette was all laconic insouciance as she sang about affairs of the heart in an appealingly bored fashion. Sound issues hampered them at times and some songs were less effective than others but when they hit their stride they were superb. In particular Sucker was a fantastic piece of rough-edged melodic guitar driven pop-punk, whilst the Eureka Moment was a thrilling slice of pop propelled by numerous riffs and multiple unbridled woops from the entire band. Discovering The Big Moon is what small festivals are all about - they may disappear from the scene as soon as they appeared but whatever the case you can rest assured that whilst they are functioning they will be fully committed to rocking.
Sometimes during a Live At Leeds you end up seeing a band simply because they are on at the right venue at the right time. Such was the case with The Amazons who appeared at the Faversham in the early evening. Hailing from Stockport, the hairy four piece turned in a largely forgettable set full of competent but uninspiring riff heavy, straight ahead rock that combined big guitars, big vocals and chiming keyboards of the sort that Inspiral Carpets once purveyed. In a word - anaemic.
Indie rock legend Thurston Moore was one of the bill's big hitters along with the Cribs and he didn't disappoint despite playing to a disappointingly small crowd at the Leeds Beckett Student Union. His set was predictably dominated by his recently released critically acclaimed solo album and whilst the crowd might have appreciated a couple of Sonic Youth classics being thrown in, seeing Moore solo is as close as you are likely to get to experiencing his former band live. And to be honest his music hasn't diverged much from the sound he conjured up on the first Sonic Youth album some thirty years ago but it is this dedicated to a sound that his fans appreciate.
So we were treated to some detuned, abrasive, sometimes formless but always sonically compelling grunge rock delivered by the oldest teenager in town. The one noticeable change to his approach came in the form of the lyrics which were unusually littered with allusions to affairs of the heart - there were mentions of loving for 'forevermore' and more playfully a desire to be squeezed and pleased - that suggest that recent changes in his personal life have found expression in his new material.
And like a teenager he was taciturn and surly in equal measure. Dressed in his usual checked shirt, jeans and converse he prowled the stage, grappled with his low slung guitar and toyed with the photographers often skulking off to one side of the stage to hide in the shadows, ceding the spotlight to his able band who included both Steve Shelley and My Bloody Valentine's Debbie Googe. If some in the crowd had come hoping for an engaging raconteur then they were likely frustrated but if they came looking for uncompromising noise rock then they would have left exhilarated. This wasn't the kind of performance that would have converted sceptics to the cause but you suspect Moore is beyond the point of supplicating himself for fandom.
Emmy The Great closed the night within the refined walls of the Leeds College of Music and despite the rather sterile environment her slightly kooky charm and glittering songwriting shone through, filling the auditorium with a fuzzy warmth. Performing with just a keyboardist, laptop and her little brother on guitar, she performed utterly infectious versions of songs from her recent EP S such as the liltingly buoyant Social Halo which came complete with some cute, if slightly mannered hand mimes, whilst both Swimming Pool and Somerset (I can't get over) were both as sumptuously delectable as hot chocolate fudge cake.
But it wasn't all new material (the long overdue full length follow up to Virtue is still it seems frustratingly out of sight), with one spot in the set reserved for an audience request. A number of suggestions were turned down on the grounds that she had forgotten how to play them before she alighted on a more anti-folk song from her debut album.
No doubt Emmy The Great is far too twee for some tastes but for this writer it was the perfect way to end another hectic but fun Live At Leeds. See you next year.