Leeds Music Scene

Gig review of The Boxer Rebellion + Future Of The Left + The Duke Spirit + Inheaven + Autobahn + Barns Courtney + John Joseph Brill + Fizzy Blood + Fighting Caravans

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Reviewed on 8th May 2016.


The Boxer Rebellion

Live at Live At Leeds 2016 on Saturday, 30th April 2016

It's a very personal thing, a Live at Leeds plan, isn't it? Not for us the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae, Jess Glynne or Blossoms. Nothing in particular against any of them (in fact I think CBR in a 300-capacity venue could be a treat... but a treat that you'd have to commit to for a few hours' worth of LAL), each to their own and all that - it just happens that our agreed plan of attack seems to bypass the potentially most frenzied entrance scrums, in stark contrast to previous years (see: Royal Blood, Slaves).
So does it pan out well? It bloody does, yes...

First up are Fighting Caravans - a Leeds band that have been on the list to check out for a while, so first up at Leeds Met is perfect, then. And a perfect start is exactly how it turns out - epic, intricate garage-blues rock that, while honed in West Yorkshire, in fact brings to mind dustbowl American plains.

The 'belligerent Jarvis' performance of frontman Danny Clark, who I later had a good chat with about Leeds music scene's national status - perhaps a future feature? - is very good value indeed, and after the set peaks with big finish 'Tyrannosaur', complete with excellent "I fight dirty if I fight at all" refrain, the feeling is very much that we are Charlie Sheen WINNING in terms of LAL 2016 picks.

Let's stick with raucous Leeds bands, shall we? Want to know how Fizzy Blood are separated from Nirvana? Nirvana - Foo Fighters - Dinosaur Pile-Up - Fizzy Blood

The fact that the above makes sense (to me at least) is of great credit. Also, the first LAL 2016 award is handed out early, for Bassist of the Day - who keeps himself to his rhythm section, facing the drummer except when popping up in the front line to pull the most exemplary bass player faces - worth the LAL ticket price on its own. One's mind leaps to Trigger in Only Fools & Horses - doesn't have many lines, but has all the best ones...
Oh - and 'January Sun' is a brilliant song, a fantastic finale, and deserves radio exposure. So there.

Time keeping or technical issues at Holy Trinity Church meant that, by the time Hannah Lou Clark was supposed to be finishing, she had only briefly appeared, and even then, bemoaning ongoing sound problems. Venues staying to timetable is what can make or break urban festivals like Live at Leeds, but to be fair LAL is usually pretty good in that respect so we can let them off this one. Anyway - I have no idea how good or otherwise Hannah Lou Clark was - instead, let me tell you about John Joseph Brill.

John Joseph Brill is a hairy, shouty beast. Big beard, long hair, booming voice. Got him worked out?

Well yes, but there's also a sensitivity and melancholy about his set, and the shimmering and soaring of his backing trio gives his voice, and indeed his charm, the platform to shine. Also, his talking voice is much, much gentler than his singing voice, which is a nice - if slightly surprising - juxtaposition. Also gets some TopBantz™ points for the moment he encourages the crowd to come right down the front, before introducing the next song as "the one where I spit."

It's almost Bon Iver sings the Power Ballads - and, believe it or not, I don't mean that as an insult. 'Muscle & Bones', in particular, is very good.

Mystery Jets next.

Ooh - massive, snaking, seemingly non-moving queue and we can't all have press passes. Not that fussed for Mystery Jets really. OK - quick beer in Nation of Shopkeepers while overhearing FEWS then, and then on to Leeds College of Music for Barns Courtney.

Who serves up a more than decent 'one man and his guitar' performance, with more than a touch of George Ezra around the voice. We enjoyed his 'so much smoke I can't see the audience' and 'this feels like a school assembly' banter, along with a lovely anecdote about his strangest gig taking place in a Seattle Pilates class. I like this sort of thing.

Courtney has all the component parts to be a great success - slim and pretty, charming and he's even got some tunes too - 'Glitter & Gold' and 'Fire' are outstanding.

Now - back to Leeds Met for an Autobahn - Inheaven - The Duke Spirit triple bill.

Autobahn are of course Leeds' own gothic post-punk, following this city's tradition, and sounding somewhere between Joy Division and Bauhaus. Neither of which are from Leeds... The newer material (as in from the album, rather than the EPs) is more expansive, but this in turn appears to make it darker. The angriness level of singer Craig Johnson feels quite similar. It really is very good, for those of us who like that sort of thing.

Sadly, Inheaven - despite the festival blurb claiming they have the support of Julian Casablancas of The Strokes - are just too 'meh' to provoke me into forming any kind of opinion. I can say this, though - they are a band who tuck their shirts in.

The Duke Spirit do a little better, but only a little. The performance is kind of a constant pounding drone, with Liela Moss adding a welcome feminine sparkle over the top. I must say, the rest of the band do a very good job of looking disinterested - I am presuming this was a stated goal in the pre-performance team huddle - and after a while, attention drifts. But it's OK.

Now. For us, this was always going to be the main event - Future of the Left in the Key Club.

And - given the LAL heavyweights that these guys are clashing with, no one is in the Key Club by accident, which gives the atmosphere something of an awed, reverent aura. From the moment Andrew Falkous leads them into a blistering version of Arming Eritrea (what other kind of version is there?) not a soul in the place thought they'd made the wrong choice. Band members ended up in the crowd, the drums ended up elsewhere, Falco was a bit spiky. I think, in order to get the most authentic flavour of the performance, I will merely post my notes:

Stand By Your Manatee
Part Gedge, part Yow, part Bragg
Belligerent and utterly uncompromising
Drum kit dismantling
Bloody brilliant

I'm pretty sure they didn't play Stand By Your Manatee. I'm absolutely sure they were bloody brilliant.

To be fair, nothing similar could adequately follow that. So we plump for The Boxer Rebellion at the Faversham.

TBR offer low tempo, sweeping, haunting indie rock of some beauty. I can entirely imagine listening to it at the end of an all night train journey, as the sun comes up across some alpine landscape.

As if to contrast with that wide open vista, the Faversham's raised stage/low ceiling makes it feel like you are watching them through a letterbox.

And so, after months of sporadically checking out random new bands from the list, weeks of trying to hone that according to the timetable and a day and night of musical excellence aligned with selectional giddiness, LAL2016 is over.

LAL2017 seems all too far away - but I reckon we can make it until next month and Long Division for a West Yorkshire urban festival fix!



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9 bands associated with this article.

The Boxer Rebellion

Fighting Caravans

5 piece alt-rock band with Americana/Blues overtones.