What happens in Leeds…goes in this report

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At the beginning of the month (4 May) we took a trip up North to catch a handful of new and emerging bands at Live at Leeds and Simultaneously celebrated our first Gigwise stage, including a line-up featuring, Lion, Be Charlotte, Heavy Rapids, Saltwater Sun, Wovoka Gentle, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, Horror My Friend, Curb and rounded off nicely with a headline set from Lady Bird. 

Setting a psyche-grunge start on our first Live at Leeds stage are quartet Curb. Playing a concoction of spiralling riffs and warped synths the band open with a enchanting new release ‘Great Kaleidoscope’. Forging that tropical, almost tranquillising guitar work, fans of all things psychedelic and Hendrix, this ones for you. Screeching in distortion, juddering guitar work and groaning, spoken word lyrics, ‘The Well’ packs a punch as one of the stand outs in their set. With thrashing heavier drums, darker vocal and aggressive fret work, it’s fair to say this tune successfully drives the audience into a hypnotic state of vicious head banging.

Up next are Australian trio Horror My Friend, a band we can assure know how to put on a live show. Travelling from Germany’s capital less than 24 hours after a live show, the scuzzy punks gave our Leeds Beckett SU stage a run for its money. Drum heavy and adrenaline dependent, Horror My Friend show no fear in putting on a wild show, throwing their guitars around whilst thrashing militant power chords during punky bluster ‘Ultraviolet’. Encompassing that 90s pop punk sound with influences of Sum 41, and Blink 182, whilst entertainment-wise Horror My Friend ticked all the boxes, it’s fair to say the recorded demo of their latest single ‘Turned Loose’ is just that little bit more polished. Nonetheless still one of the most engaging performances of the day. 

Setting a completely opposite tone are Wovoka Gentle, playing an intimate, electric-acoustic set. Offering one of the most engagingly nonchalant and angelic sets of the entire festival, Wovoka Gentle announce that this isn’t intentional and is actually due to their lack of instruments after their tour van had been robbed just the night before.

Borrowing two electric guitars and a tambourine from mates Black Honey, the three piece still manage to enchant us all with their angelic harmonies, sombre string work and wholesome attitude.  “Fucking love you Wovoka Gentle,” says a fan in the distance before the band play a selection of tracks from their second EP, having stated they didn’t have the right equipment to execute their new material well. Whilst their show wasn’t what they had planned, nor expected, the audience loved it. And to the thieves that stole their van, it’s a pity you weren’t able to see them absolutely kill their live set. 

As we walk in on the female power trio, Dream Wife, a wide selection of ages are wildly enjoying their set as the group thrash into their 2016 gripper, ‘Hey Heartbreaker’. With a flash of red and blue beams of light circling the stage, fans excitedly crush themselves-in between the smallest gaps in attempt to edge closer to the Momentum stage (where of course all the magic was happening.) Playing a set of hyper-charged, quirky tunes Dream Wife own their set with urging guitar riffs and curling, new-wave punk tendencies. 

A euphoric sound of an electric guitar hums from a distance, and is shortly followed by a striking sound of mellow synths. A burst of funk wobbles are plucked on bass and here you we have Leeds via Scotland singer-songwriter Be Charlotte. Sharing similarities to Dua Lipa and Zara Larson, Be Charlotte is a playful alternative tone to our line-up at Leeds Beckett SU. Showcasing her incredible vocal range as she drifted through highs  of soprano into bluesy, contralto undertones, her fruitful, less grunge style was a fun alternative. ‘Fake Off’ is a song that emphasises a wake up call of goodbyes to all her false relationships with fake friends and family. A song we can all relate to, this buoyant bop went down a treat as fans jumped along to the vibrant chorus.  

Jetting off to make it in time for Zuzu’s set at the Oporto BBC Introducing stage, the aforementioned singer played a collection of indie-pop, feel good tunes squeezed on a compact stage. Playing 2018 wholesome, saccharine songs ’Can’t Be Alone,’ and, ‘Seabed’, fans swayed lightheartedly, grabbing onto their mates nearby with big smirks on their faces. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be well acquainted with the surge of rising bands from Ireland. Enter: Inhaler. Hailing from Dublin and well-rehearsed in the art of crafting indie ear worms, the swooning synths infiltrating their back catalogue possess more substance than your average guitar-wielding outfit. Stadium-ready riffs are in place too, and something tells us it won’t be long until they’re reverberating round much bigger venues.

Sam Fender can do no wrong as he takes to the stage at Leeds’ O2 Academy. Those uninitiated in seeing the North Shields singer are easy to spot in the mammoth crowd as the sheer disbelief in how good this lad’s voice actually is spreads across their faces. Working through singles ‘Play God’ and ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, Sam also gives Live At Leeds a taste of what’s to come from his debut album. Ending with a charging rendition of Oasis classic ‘Morning Glory’, the singer shoots, scores and wins Live At Leeds 2019. 

Occupying the Church stage, Cassia’s blend of buoyant bongos and delicately picked guitar riffs feels right at home amongst the holy setting. Surging indie ode ‘Sink’ flutters around the wooden infrastructure as light beams in through the regal stained glass windows, and it’s probably our most wholesome half an hour of the whole event. 

Making the extended walk from our stage to The Lending Room worth it, London-based Sad Boys Club are punctual as they open with gloom pop gripper ‘Don’t Let It Get To That’. Latest offering ‘Chic Chic’ swirls around the venue, pulling in the crowd with it’s pearlescent guitars and the addition of an unreleased track into the set details a more diverse sound reminiscent of classic mid-noughties emo. The only thing missing is an appearance from 2018’s ’15/01’. 

The final act on our Gigwise stage is boisterous trio Lady Bird. Flinging frantic riffs with spacious synths and militant drums, the band set their tone from the get go and the audience sure as hell love it. For fans of all things Shame, Slaves and BlackWaters, this ones for you. It doesn’t take long before the post-punk group have majority of the crowd moshing. Playing their latest release, ‘LOVE’, fans bounce themselves around, throwing their drinks into the air with excitement. ‘It’s a swirling, punky track, and shows us  the more pop-punk side of the Kent boys. 

Brooding, visceral and ultimately flawless, The Murder Capital stalk the stage of The Brudenell Social Club like their lives depend on it. Adopting a pack mentality the band of brothers (not biologically) execute their live show to an overwhelming standard and prove exactly why they’re the name on everyone’s lips as we enter festival season. Transporting and euphoric guitar breakdowns paired with frontman James McGovern’s raspy vocal detail a recipe for success, and you’re not going to want to miss out on a slice of this action.

Concluding with Indoor Pets, we take a look at their set at the Brudenell Social Club. Filled with rattling, indie-pop tunes, the alternative quartet bounce a selection of their most swirling, anthemic tracks, including, ‘Pro Procrastinator’ ‘Good Enough’ and ‘Heavy Thoughts’ taken from their debut album Be Content. 

Just when you think they wouldn’t do it again, Live at Leeds exceeded our expectations with its finest selection of rising talent. Til next time, Leeds. 

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Photo: Anna Smith, Lauren McDermott and Brandon Taylor