REVIEW - Live At Leeds 2013

by - Monday, May 13, 2013

Having enjoyed one of the most fun festival experiences of my life at least years Live At Leeds, interviewing Los Campesinos! and discovering a whole set of new venues, I arrived to the 2013 event with a certain level of expectation. Boasting hundreds of bands over 12 stages, it is quite simply an unparallelled event when it comes to discovering new music on a budget, particularly considering its urban setting.

With the streets already heaving by 12 o’clock, it becomes apparent that Live At Leeds is no longer my little secret. With much hyped acts such as AlunaGeorge and Peace on the bill, the scent of ‘serious muso’ that was thick in last years air has been replaced with youthful hipsterliciousness that makes me feel much older than my 19 years. This is not to be elitist, but when you overhear two girls arguing in the toilets over whether to watch Aluna or George, you can’t help but wonder about the changing face of the festival attendee.

Swimming Lessons by Kevin Lawson (

Snarkiness aside, lets focus on the music. The day gets off to a good start with one man band Swimming Lessons, the work of Ben Lewis, an unassuming guy sporting a Jumbo Records t shirt (hooray for Leeds best record Store). His multi layered keys create a lush bed for his subtle vocal harmonies that twist and turn in very intricate and surprising ways, another instrument rather than a different entity. Highlight song Doubles accentuates his dreamy tones beautifully, like a drowning simulation in an epic Hollywood movie. Very exciting stuff.

BlackEye by Kevin Lawson (
Less subtle are BlackEye, a London based act who take over Leeds University Mine with their 90’s tastic brat-rock. A quick look on their Tumblr site sums up their influences – Avril Lavigne, Courtney Love and Dr Martens worn with girly dresses. Lead singer Chloe Little’s goth glam look is gloriously on trend, but much like the music they make, it has a little too much of a throwback quality to seem truly exciting. Catchy and danceable, they are clearly talented musicians,  especially considering Little’s teenage status, but the angsty diary-style Growing Pains contains lyrics simply too nauseating to stomach. Grunge may well be in, but it still needs a speck more originality to win me over.

A wander over to Leeds Stylus allows us to get acquainted with Department M, a new project by one time member of Grammatics, Owen Brinley. Part of the bookish, elctro-fused indie scene that has made such a success of Hot Chip and Everything Everything, Brinley is clearly a thinking man’s frontman, but his experiments are simply not fully formed enough to be playing any venue of this size.
I even hear one disgruntled punter unabashedly declaring them to be ‘fucking shit weirdo nonsense’ as the rest of the diminishing audience scratch their heads at a series of mistimed and tuned bleeps and stutters. Maybe a few more months in the studio working out what he wants might help the guy.

Fawn Spot by Kevin Lawson (
A band who do know what they want is Fawn Spots – put simply, they just want to rock. Possessing a rhythmic noise that would penetrate even the hardiest of earplugs, they are incredible tight and musically impolite considering co-frontman Oliver Grabowski’s take home to mother good looks. Last time I reviewed them, back at Beacons festival, a few of their fans on facebook took issue with the fact that I claimed they were a little shaky on their feet in terms of stage presence, more than understandable considering their line up reshuffle. Whilst I stand by what I said then, today, they are a band entirely matured and virtually faultless, proof that practise really does make perfect. Good on you lads!

Post War Glamour Girls by Kevin Lawson (
With the bar of musical tightness established, Leeds very own Post War Glamour Girls step up to the plate. They then proceed to smash the place, and dance all over it’s shattered china remains, the undisputed band of the day. Slick in an expansive, sprawling manner that concurs up images of a bastardised Wild Beasts, they are topped off by James Smith’s booming baritone that carries authority clear across the room, almost as if scolding the audience. Service Station Blues is a perfect example of their enviable talent for storytelling, dirty and nasty like only a song about prostitution could be. Noticed by the likes of Artrocker and Louderthanwar already, it’s only a matter of time before the nation cottons on.

King Krule by Kevin Lawson (
‘Is the sound alright for you?’ asks an eager sound engineer in Holy Trinity Church to a small, ginger haired boy in an oversized shirt. It doesn’t matter’ he grunts back in a bass tone incongruous to his apparent age, oozing couldn’t-care-less-cool from every pore. When Archy Marshall steps onto to the stage and becomes King Krule, his complacency becomes irrelevant. A menacingly dead stare in his eyes, ignoring the crowds cheers without so much of a flinch, he reels off riff after low-fi jazzy riff with true soul and grit, that voice that has made his name infinitely more impressive in the flesh. Possessing a delicate, deft touch that sits at odd with his testosterone fuelled lyrics (Baby Blue’s extended outro is absolutely adorable in melody until he descends into lyrics that are unavoidably about oral sex – he is an 18 year old lad after all), he is utterly intriguing as an artistic prospect. By the time he hits new song crocodile, he has ditched his guitar and is inches from the crowd, intimidating and confrontational, daring them to disagree with his brilliance. They’d be idiots to challenge him.

With King Krule’s crowd demonstrating the swelling of Live At Leeds audience now the true entertainment is underway, here is where the difficultly begins. With hoards of punter packing in and the lineup clashing like two One Directions fans fighting over Harry Styles’ sweaty towel, it becomes increasingly difficult to get in to any of the venues. AlunaGeorge is rocking a one in one out policy at Leeds 02 Academy, Laura Mvula is 30 minutes late on stage at Leeds Met and Swim Deep are more like shoulders deep at Leeds Cockpit.

Theme Park by Kevin Lawson (
Throwing our guidebooks out the window, we settle for old Safety In Sound favourites Theme Park, arriving halfway through their set, where lead singer Miles is already doing a pretty good impression of himself singing Theme Park karaoke. This isn’t an insult – he just always looks like he has such fun performing on stage. As always, they bring the sunshiny charm, although they've ditched their usual Hawaiian garb for smart white shirts, a sign of impending maturity. Jamaica gets the crowd dancing like they're at a uni ball, Tonight has morphed into a certified smooth radio RnB banger and even their lesson known tracks get people linking elbows in a well spirited jolly. Full of lighthearted campness, they are a cracking festival band, and a great shout if you need a band for a hipster wedding.

Everything Everything by Kevin Lawson (
The party vibe is set perfectly for Everything Everything, who use their Live At Leeds headline status to essentially show off just how many massive tunes they have amassed. Holding what is possibly Leeds biggest venue (short of the newly built Leeds Arena) in the palm of their hands, they reel off 90 minutes of hits with no sweat, despite their heavily cloaking jackets. Having practiced their glorious harmonies around the world, The Peaks now sounds as big as it’s title, and Schoolin and Photoshop Handsome incite crowd behaviour that one could be forgiven for describing as wild. Dropping such rarities as Final Form and Tin The Manhole, there is no doubting it – they are headliners now. Drawing a successful day to a close, Live At Leeds rolls out of the city for another year with its crown intact.

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