Live at Leeds is a day festival similar to the Camden Crawl, but at a lot better value with a day wristband costing a very reasonable £22.50. The festival takes place in fifteen different venues across the city with a line-up that includes unsigned bands as well as established bigger names. This year is particularly impressive with many popular acts playing at the same time meaning some difficult decisions have to be made!

Although the festival takes place on the Saturday, there are various other events taking place in Leeds across the whole bank holiday weekend, and I am lucky enough to catch the much hyped Strypes as they play a sold out show at the famous Cockpit on Friday evening. The young band from Cavan, Ireland have had their fair share of cynics but they really need to be seen live to be believed, looking like they stepped out of a 1960’s mod film and playing their instruments like they have been doing it for twenty years when in fact they are all still in their teens. Lead singer Ross Farrelly keeps his sunglasses on throughout their set, not a look many could pull off but somehow he manages it. The Strypes play a set that consists of covers such as Bo Diddley’s ‘You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover’ and Nick Lowe’s ‘Heart of the City’ and their original songs including current single the fabulous ‘Blue Collar Jane’. Guitarist Josh McClorey plays exceptionally well and is a real joy to watch with many people in the crowd looking astonished by his ability. The band swaps instruments and vocal duties for some of the songs, proving just how talented they all are.

There is an amusing moment when the boys have to deal with a stage invader, Farrelly seems slightly put out that the over enthusiastic fan is stealing his thunder, but the band soon encourage him off smiling wryly to each other probably and wondering when they got big enough to receive such adulation.

Saturday’s events are started at Leeds Met Stage 2 where I catch one of the newer bands on the line up. The Concetines hail from Leeds, and they play catchy indie pop that is reminiscent of fellow Yorkshire men Arctic Monkeys. They attract a good size crowd considering it’s early on in the day and many people are yet to collect their wristbands. Although the Concetines have a couple of memorable songs, they probably need to do something a bit more original to stand out from all the other similar bands trying to get signed.

Next it is straight to the O2 Academy for another hometown band, the Pigeon Detectives. This was always going to be a popular one, and there’s a huge queue stretching all the way around the venue. The band has just released fourth album ‘We Met at Sea’ and are currently on tour promoting the record. I actually saw this band for the first time about eight years ago so I was keen to see how the new material sounded. The Pigeon Detectives are always an energetic live band to watch with some infectious songs such as ‘Romantic Type’ and 'Take Her Back' which both come from their first album. Newer songs such as ‘Animal’ and ‘I Won’t Come Back’, however, lack the energy and stripped-back sound the Pigeon Detectives gained notoriety for and the biggest crowd responses are still reserved for the hits of their first album, ‘Wait for Me’.

It has become something of a custom for lead singer Matt Bowman to swing the microphone, and bounce off anything on the stage he can - including the drum kit and the speakers - even launching himself into the crowd at one point. There’s no denying the fans still lap up his enthusiasm though as he encourages the crowd to get on their friends’ shoulders for 'Everybody Wants Me', and before they finish the set with their indie anthem ‘I’m Not Sorry’ The Pigeon Detectives show that, despite not wowing with their new material, they are still capable of putting on a great live show.

After a quick pit stop to plan the rest of the day, it is back to the O2 Academy to catch Tribes. It proves to be another popular one that also sees a large queue. The North London band are just about to release their second album ‘Wish to Scream’, so it’s an opportunity to showcase some of the new songs including current single ‘Dancehall’ and 'Never Heard of Graceland'. Their set is also packed with songs from first album ‘Baby’ from which they dedicate the emotive ‘Corner of an English Field’ to anyone who was at Leeds Festival last summer. In my opinion Tribes are one of the most enjoyable live bands to watch at the moment.

Moving on straight from Tribes it’s time to run down the hill (literally!) to watch Brooklyn based SKATERS at tiny venue Nation of Shopkeepers. There has already been quite a lot of buzz in London about SKATERS with them performing a string of successful shows in the capital at the end of last year. There are elements of early Strokes on tracks such as ‘I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)’, but they also have a slightly punk-pop sound. Lead singer Michael Ian Cummings is an intriguing frontman to watch with his effortless vocals and fondness for Hawaiian shirts. Having seen this band play twice I am just as eager to see them again, so I would definitely recommend checking them out.

Next it is onto Leeds Uni Refectory where London based Australian band Splashh are playing. Songs such as ‘Vacation’ and ‘All I Wanna Do’ are hazy tracks with plenty of reverb vocals and grungy guitar sounds. Being a fan of this band already I am disappointed to find the crowd to be the most subdued of the day so far, The Refectory is perhaps slightly too big for them, and isn't helped by the fact daylight is creeping in from outside, Splashh seem to work better in a more intimate venue.

As with any day festival like Live at Leeds where there are so many bands spread across lots of venues there is always going to be some you miss out on and tough decisions have to be made as so many big names took to the stages as the evening went on. One venue that is particularly popular is The Cockpit due to the capacity, and the fact that the line-up features hugely popular bands the 1975 and Peace.

Unfortunately there is no time to get down to The Cockpit for the 1975, but next on is Swim Deep - the Birmingham four piece who have gained a big fan base over the last few months thanks to plenty of radio play. Their sound is laid back, summery grunge-pop, heavily influenced by the 90s in both style and sound. They play a tight set that includes recent single ‘The Sea’ and the dreamy ‘Honey’ with its excellent bass line by Cavan McCarthy who seems to be playing with even more confidence at recent gigs (perhaps helped by the fact he has become somewhat of an icon amongst the band’s fans). Swim Deep end their set with the brilliant ‘King City’, and I think it’s safe to say this band will keep getting better.

After making the difficult headliner choice, I decide to watch Peace as the final band of the festival. Like Swim Deep they also hail from Birmingham and have become one of the most talked about bands of recent months. With an incredible debut album ‘In Love’, already a contender for album of the year, the band has just completed a four night residency at London club Birthdays. There are a couple of technical issues midway through the set when lead singer Harrison Koisser’s microphone stops working, but they are soon resolved while he keeps the crowd entertained.

The Cockpit is packed for Peace, and as the band play single ‘Wraith’ the crowd goes crazy. Other highlights include ‘Toxic’ and ‘Lovesick’ both with memorable sing-along choruses and quieter moments. The tender ‘Float Forever’ and dreamy ‘California Daze’ meanwhile show off Koisser’s voice beautifully. It is during their eight minute long version of the 90’s trance song ‘1998’ that Peace truly blow me away though. It sounds epic as the band play it perfectly, and it sets this group apart from their contemporaries.

The city provides a great buzz and some awesome bands over the weekend. The only notable problems are the long queues at the wristband exchange and the fact that some venues reach capacity very quickly. That, however, will always be the case with festivals like this especially as they become more popular. Overall Live at Leeds has proved to be a great success!


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Stephanie Fitzpatrick.

















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