So this newly donned home of yours is looking a little strange…the streets are shining (paved with gold or laced with rain?) and there seems to be a Wetherspoons or Yates Wine Bar on every other corner. Suddenly you realise that your sunken stomach is crying out in hunger, the stamp on your hand that says ‘cheesy pop all nighter’ won’t wash off, and your Ian Curtis prints have been replaced by a Chumbawamba poster and a picture of Jimmy Saville in full shell suit attire…but don’t pack your suitcase just yet, Uni isn’t all Chesney Hawks and beans on toast…Leeds has it all in an indiehiphop... brakesjazzmeltingpot that’ll have you signing up for that postgrad and another year of student seduction quicker than you can say ‘mines a pint please.’
First up, if you want to spend the rest of your life recalling endless nights of alcopops, drunken fumbles and snogging some random, who stands by their opinion that ‘Britney Speares is the most influential musical protégé of our generation,’ then like any big town or city there is an abundance of McPubs and bars that supply just that! Thankfully Leeds is a hub of multi-cultural activity, innovative projects and people just like you with a passion for all things good in life.
Start the evening close to home, for cheap drinks, a good laugh and a relaxed mixed atmosphere… In Headingly you’ll find the Original Oak, Headingly Taps and Skyrack. For the bohemian in you, head for Hyde Park where you’ll find the Royal Park Pub and the chilled out ambience of Baraka. Alternatively head into town, Dry Dock (the imaginatively named converted boat) is usually crammed wall to wall and delivers a fresh mix of just about every musical genre going, indulging in classic tunes and modern chart toppers, the Fab Café chain delivers student prices and a Star Wars theme, and your pub crawl hit list should also include Reform, a chic little outfit with enough sass, wit, and defiance to keep you coming back for more with a strangely masochistic determination. There are also quite a few interesting bars on New Briggate, leading on to North Street. Quality music, vomit-free atmosphere and plentiful selection of beers and other drinks (North Bar's exhaustive menu of continental ales is bank-bustingly diverse), if a bit pricey. But it's worth forking out a bit extra for a whiff of quality, as it means you can avoid the soul-sapping awfulness of the truly dismal Walkbouts and its chain pub colleagues.
So what do you fancy then, a bit of New Wave and Electro Punk? Get yourself down to The Faversham, Sat 10-2 for Bad Sneakers, a hot bed of sweaty converse stroking sadistiction, taunting indie belligerence and electro punk defiance that leaves you living for the weekend without a hard-fi single in sight. For your midweek hit, nobody does it better than Panic at the Legendary Cockpit! And if you just can’t get enough of those railway arches then check out The Session for more of the same on Friday’s. The Brudenell Social Club has less to do with bad cabaret and is more about brining a range of independent promoters under one mirror spangled roof hosting top DJ’s, great bands and performance artists.
If Electro House is your penchant, then we recommend the aptly named Dirty Disco, eight hours of the freshest and most inspirational electro house, check it out on a monthly basis 10-6 at Northern Light. For Dub and Reggae, head to Subdub, held at the West Indian centre, there’s dubstep courtesy of DMZ and the kind of bass which vibrates through your body even after the party has finished, find it Fridays once a month from 10-late. For all you body-poppers and brake-dancers, Fresh Jive, held every Wednesday at Warehouse and Saturdays monthly at the Elbow Room, finds world class performers ripping up the dance floor to some pretty serious block party beats. Finally, if all that studying has left you unenthusiastic about pub crawls and queuing outside clubs then head down by the Corn Exchange where you’ll find bars like Milo, Jakes Bar, and Stella Bar, all of which have late licences where you can party from home time to bed time.
One of the great things about Leeds is that no matter what takes your fancy then your sure to find something which tickles your funny bone. Seek and you shall find! Leeds University Union plays host to the usual university tours, where you can see well established bands and emerging stars alike. Cult venues like The Cockpit, The Faversham and Joseph’s Well deliver the best in new talent and have hosted the likes of Larrikin Love, The Klaxons and The Walkmen. If live music is what you’re after, but don’t fancy seeing the usual entourage of indie go-getters then Doctor Wu’s book a host of musicians with varying talents and fresh angles of exploration with acoustic soul, open mic nights and contemporary sounds and grooves. If the dizzying unpredictability of Jazz floats your proverbial boat, then there’s no better place than Santiago, where established local acts such as Bill Lewis and Jim Corrie play alongside newcomers from the Leeds College of Music. Can’t decide if what you want is a live band or some mixing magic? Then don’t worry, the answer to that tricky little question lies in The Wardrobe, a bit like Narnia but without all the snow, The Wardrobe is an everything under one roof kind of place, food, drink, live music and DJ’s all conspire to make this cupboard full of creativity. New Roscoe and Irish Centre offer a diverse range of live music within a walking distance (OK, a bit of a trek in the case of Irish Centre, but exercise is good for you, apparently) of the city centre. The latter has recently seen shows by the indie guru likes of Midlake and Deerhoof, whilst the former regularly features a whole bunch of local talent and assorted alt. country aceness. For those not wishing to walk more than a couple of meters from the uni, Upstairs @ The Library has regular gigs, as does the Packhorse. Do avoid the abyssmal Blank Canvas - about as suitable for live music for live music as you'd expect from a cavernous cave formerly known as a parking space underneath the Leeds train station.
The abundance of Cheese in Baja Beach Club and Creation Nightclub…simply awful! Bondi Beach Bar, the usual chain pubs…Tiger Tiger, Wetherspoons, Yates’, Walkabout etc
You’ve seen an ace band, and now you’d like to fork out for their album – what to do? Well, head to a record shop, of course! There’s recently been something of an unfortunate cull of independent music retailers in Leeds, but Jumbo (St Johns Centre) continues to offer a superb service not only in CDs but also vinyl, gig tickets, and magazines. Crash (35 The Headrow) is similarly well-stocked, while Replay (19 Merrion Street) and Relics (53 New Briggate), within inches from each other both alphabetically and geographically, invite you to make discoveries from piles of second-hand CDs and DVDs. Desperate Dans (27 Back Kensington Terrace, LS6) offers similar browsing opportunities in Hyde Park.
Leeds is a bit swanky when it comes to shopping, and in all honesty your student loan won’t go far if you stick to the expensive arcades and designer outlets, but if you’ve got the cash then there’s no better place to kit yourself out in some top designer labels, visit Harvey Nicholls, Argent, Nicholas Deakins, Kurt Geiger, Ante, Route One, Aspecto and Chimp. If however, you wouldn’t know your designer labels from the name labels your mum sews into your socks, then head to the Corn Exchange, renowned for its alternative shopping outlets, your sure to finding something eye catching and original but without the five figure price tag.
Don’t neglect the second hand vintage boutiques and charity shops, mosey on out towards Hyde park and Headingly and you’ll find an Aladdin’s cave of clothing treasures, Wheatfields, The Final Curtain, Sugar Shack and Retro Boutique.
The mainstream music media's attention may have shifted elsewhere since the recent Leeds boom, but the local music scene remains incredibly vital, with tons of impressively creative bands and a host of labels dedicated to trumpeting the excellence of Leeds -based talent. There's Vessels, a steeply ascending five-piece offering an electronica-enhanced fresh takes on post-rock templates with a sideline in atmospherically melancholy alt-rock tunecraft and I Concur, who also dabble in post-rock histrionics, although the focus here is on a muscular gloom-rock ala Radiohead and the National, with an added pinch or two of indie jangle. Fans of folkier fare should promptly check out David Thomas Broughton, Benjamin Wetherill and Fran Rodgers. The post-folk-rock sextet Held By Hands are a hugely promising emerging outfit peddling an expansive sound pitched halfway between Sufjan Stevens and the Arcade Fire, whilst fans of the bizarre can't go wrong with the psych-surf champions Quack Quack.