Ali Mason tastes the wonders of Leeds Live for the first time, and describes the experience for FFS’s readers. Bask in the glow of this wonderful May Bank Holiday weekend.
On a bright, sunny, May Day morning, I set out for my first experience the rapidly expanding Live At Leeds festival. Held this year at 17 venues across the city, it was headlined by Wild Beasts, but my gig buddy Jo and I kept away from the crowds and sought out some folk in all corners of the city.
Melodica, Melody and Me were such a lovely way to start. The band name tells you what you’re gonna get: plenty of melodica, plenty of melody and, on this occasion, me – though I can’t promise to be at all future gigs. I’m a sucker for band members swapping instruments on stage – it always seems impressive and slightly exciting; it also added to a feeling of togetherness in the band’s performance of their whimsical and urgent songs, like standout effort ‘Runaway’. I loved their throwaway harmonies, ukulele and driving folk rhythms.
From the Well we hotfooted it to the packed, sweaty, tiny upstairs Cockpit 3 venue, in the hope of catching the end of Sam Airey’s set. We got one song. I have no idea what it was but it was tremendous. After a wasted trip to the Faversham (Goldheart Assembly cancelled), we headed to the Holy Trinity church for Blue Roses. I’m physically incapable of not seeing Blue Roses when the opportunity arises, but this was particularly special. It was my first experience of a gig in a church (though I’m sure drinking beer in God’s house never gets old), but it made so much sense, particularly with Laura Groves’ sweetly stunning vocals. Doubtful Comforts, as ever, was spine-tingling. Laura professed to being overwhelmed by the reception she got from the size of congregation normally only seen for weddings – indeed, the whole festival seemed to have a warm glow about it long after the morning sunshine had disappeared.
The Good Natured at Leeds College of Music were a sort of rockier Ladyhawke, or a more electro Florence and the Machine, with a Karen O-alike frontwoman, Sarah McIntosh, who totally owned a wholly inappropriate space, then we slipped over to the Wardrobe to catch some jazz in the form of Matthew Halsall. It’s fair to say I don’t know a lot about jazz, but we clapped, whooped and went ‘yeah!’ in all the right places before skulking off to find some food.
Our day ended at the Brudenell Social Club with a folk double-header. Fran Rodgers delivered her elegant, traditional-sounding folk to a rapt audience, taking her set largely from last year’s Green Room EP, before Leeds darlings Ellen and the Escapades closed out the day – for us at least – as it began, with lilting, summery strings. I enjoyed their single Without You, but they are a different proposition live, altogether more exciting with an edge that’s slightly lacking in their recordings. They’ll be a perfect fit for Glastonbury, where they’re heading after winning an emerging talent competition.
Leeds is a perfect city for an event like this – small enough to be easily navigable, with enough great venues to offer more choice than you could ever need. The queues of people waiting outside the Brude to see Mariachi El Bronx as we left suggested the overselling of previous years may have been repeated, but by mining the impressive programme it was possible to have all the fun of the festival, without the chemical toilets.
Words: Ali Mason
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