Live at Live At Leeds 2017 on Saturday, 29th April 2017
LIVE AT LEEDS 2017
Saturday 29th April
NO MORE SLEEPS!
It's LAL-day once again, a time for all indie kids to rejoice. After time-honoured preparatory steps have been adhered to - timetable thrashing out, itinerary sharing, Guinness and fry-up for sustenance - we are on our way, this year directly to the Brudenell Social Club for local art-rockers The Golden Age of TV.
Our luck was in - what a great opening to 2017's shenanigans. It may appear that they were dressed during an explosion at a jumble sale, but what they lack in sartorial cohesion, they more than make up for in musical synergy. They are quite unique - not an easy 'who do they remind me of?', but there are elements of Bjork and Kate Bush in front woman Bea Fletcher, backed ably by a cast of talented players who are huge value in terms of bouncing movement, gawky dancing and energetic gurning. The stage is adorned with somehow-appropriate trinkets - vases of plastic flowers, a golden good-luck Asian waving cat - and the post-rock set is bookended with well-chosen Public Service Broadcasting-esque 'Blue Peter' samples. They also boast a phenomenal bassist.
Really - it is very good, and there's a really healthy turnout to witness it. I'm sure all would concur.
Straight after, straight next door, are another local hot tip - Team Picture.
The consensus on this one is not quite so universally gushing though, I must say. There's an appeal to the dark, gothic, reverb-heavy wall-of-sound approach that Team Picture employ, and again there's been some effort made in terms of stage dressing, in this case, old-school TV sets showing static across stage front. But they lack the quirky charm of The Golden Age of TV, and there's just a little of the 'too school for school' about the slightly standoffish performance. Still, it is not without its merits, and draws another very decent crowd - I would give them another try. The Leeds music scene continues to produce interesting talent, and to be fair this is a very strong local double-header to kick things off.
We move swiftly on to Leeds Beckett, only to be swiftly denied entry to see Life. It's not normally the case this early on in proceedings, and they were high up the wishlist for today so it is a tad disappointing. We do get in eventually, on the one-in, one-out - and what we see, from the far rear corner of the second stage, is what was expected really - high energy, angsty, political punk-pop, but with even-better-than-expected frontman hi-jinks. Life contain members of previous Hull band The Neat, who were signed, I think, to the Kaiser Chiefs' record label and burned brightly, briefly. Hopefully Life's star will shine for longer.
It looks a very engaging performance - it's just not apparent why it couldn't have been held in the main Leeds Beckett room, which is still empty at this point. Lots of those of us at the back, behind posts or left outside would be of the same mind, I'm sure.
Anyway, The Bay Rays are up next at The Key Club, but - imperiously catchy single 'New Home' aside - really don't hold the attention so are frankly a bit of a disappointment and before long we are back at Beckett 2, but this time with the opportunity to actually get down the front and enjoy frighteningly young punk oiks King Nun. I'm saying punk - more nu-grunge. I am assuming there's a movement called nu-grunge by now? Or Nu-nu-grunge? Anyway, they are about 12, lots of blonde hair all over the shop, look like Hanson + 1 and... actually, they put in a great shift. Loads of energy - shoegaze this is not - belied with no little songwriting talent. It is gobby, it is YOOF, and it is great. And who doesn't love a dive through the drum kit to round off a raucous set. NO ONE. Well in, boys.
From a tremendously rawk 'n' roll crescendo in Beckett 2, we then opt for a complete change of pace at Holy Trinity Church for Tender Central. Their minimal, trip-hop inspired electronica, female-fronted with a Morcheeba or Zero 7 feel demands comparison to the likes of...well... Morcheeba. Or Zero 7.
They consist of said front woman, who plays bass, synth and keys and whose wonderful, ethereal voice is a perfect match for these celestial surroundings, and a quite excellent live drummer whose style veers from drum-n-bass to calypso and everywhere in between - it is one of those drumming performances which can become hugely hypnotic and really adds to the synergy between performers and venue. Sometimes, you just pick the right thing for the right time. This was one of those...
After an aborted attempt to see The Amazons - too MOR for my taste anyway, I assume - we choose to get in to the Key Club early and get in position for top-of-the-wishlist Bristolian punk agitators, Idles.
What a decision!
From the moment they take to stage, looking every inch the star turn, berate the crowd for cheering 'we're from Bristol' ("what? You're cheering that? OK - we're from Bristol...which is miles better than fucking Leeds." (BOOOO). "That's more like it") and launch into a set of seething, snarling punk - and it is punk, really is, simply but powerfully played and dripping in anger and dissatisfaction - we know we have backed the right horse.
It is an immense show - limelight stolen partially by young 'John from Sainsbury's' who has evidentially come straight from shift still in his supermarket get-up but does not let this stop him leading the crowd surfing, being invited onstage by singer Joe Talbot, explaining the circumstance of his uniform, being treated to a rousing chant of 'Sainsbury's! Sainsbury's!' and disappearing off across the tops of hands once more.
The whole performance is one of energetic, aggressive, political guitar angst and it is lapped up by crowd and, seemingly, band alike. No fewer than 3 members of Idles are, at various points, in or on the raucous crowd and the only good thing about the 30-minute set coming to end is that everyone can start to get their breath back.
A different, but equally as intoxicating, form of aggression is on display next, back in Beckett 2. HMLTD, FKA Happy Meal Ltd, appear to be a much more hostile version of Spandau Ballet.
Actually, that's merely a stylistic observation - they do look new romantic, with huge hair and lots of flesh on show and the drummer wearing a ruff around his neck, but I do love to see bands make an effort to look like bands, and I applaud it wholeheartedly.
That said, their musical approach is less Flock of Seagulls and much more The Cramps or even, on a more LAL-appropriate level, Fat White Family.
There are flashes of glam, of punk, of a tribute to The Damned, and sometimes, we get a much more contemporary, sample-splattered disjointed-yet-tight post-punk. It is really very captivating, drives a second frenetic mosh-pit in a row, and leaves everyone somewhere between bemused and besotted.
Frightened Rabbit, next. In Church. A great new addition to the LAL venues list, and another example of a band fitting just perfectly with their allotted stage. I am only really vaguely aware of Frightened Rabbit - I know they deal in quite epic, sweeping, emotional Scottish indie - so am keen to get under their skin.
They do a good line in quite epic, sweeping, emotional Scottish indie, it turns out. It is the kind of music that would do well as a soundtrack to driving through the glens on an autumnal day. Or, indeed, set against a roomy stage amidst the echo of a converted church. Mood music. It is good, but I'm just not in that mood.
What I am in the mood for is more belligerence.
It's not often you get to see a fictional band headline a festival, but in the case of The Moonlandingz, that's what's on offer. They make us wait, mind. I think the stated 23:15 start time must be getting on for midnight by the time they eventually get on with it (although to be fair, the details are a little sketchy).
For those not yet up to speed on The Moonlandingz, they started life as essentially a fictional band in a story, before being brought to life to play shows by members of Eccentronic Research Council and, of course, Fat White Family. Like FWF, they are a collective, with various members coming and going.
As various members take to the stage the anticipation reaches fever pitch, then FWF frontman Lias Saoudi takes to the stage last, arms outstretched to tumultuous applause, and it goes from there - the ecstatic sweaty pogoing is on par with previous Live at Leeds Brudenell Big Finishes like Pulled Apart By Horses and Slaves.
The duet 'The Strangle of Anna' takes place with a little assistance from The Big Moon, and, to be honest, when I had heard that on record it suggested a more Spiritualized-esque offering, but that is not the case at all. This is heavy - well, moog-heavy - and gees the crowd into a frenzy from the word go. There's something of a cartoonish, space-age quality to The Moonlandingz, a twist of FWF bellicosity and a whole lorry-load of slightly sinister but hugely danceable indie sci-fi pop. Brilliant.
So, the day starts as it begun - with very talented hard-to-pigeonhole band smashing it at Leeds' favourite venue. I've had worse days.