As the sun steps over into the west I immediately escape it’s warming beams and duck into The Belgrave Music Hall for half an hour of Dusk. The local four-piece are all electronic moodiness and atmosphere fronted by a woman who capably balances her time equally between slinky showmanship and delicately delivered vocals. Obviously, if you want electronic mood music these days you can just fall out of bed and accidentally find some but, pleasingly, this doesn’t come across as particularly generic – there are as many hints at taking a few risks as you can expect from such a short set with dashes of melodies that venture off the beaten track, adding colour and flitting around the solid rhythm section holding everything up. It’s an intriguing start to the day.
At the Brudenell Social Club Team Picture’s set delivers a very different tone. If there was ever the need to soundtrack an introverted indie film set predominantly in an after dark (or maybe it would be more fitting to say before morning) cityscape, and The Jesus and Mary Chain didn’t exist, then Team Picture’s number would be a good one to have. Layers of heavily reverbed guitar and vocals create a wall of sound that doesn’t allow itself to be interrupted to much by vocals. The dominating lighting adds to the effect – minimal, sporadic white light at times and the reflection of an old TV jammed between channels at others you feel like you’re watching the video to each song as opposed to a live version. I say ‘each song’, there is often an overhang of feedback or lingering notes that lead into each new song giving a continuous feel throughout the set.
The clipped, abrupt vocal stylings of later tunes suggest there may be a Susie Sioux album or two in their collective record collection. There are also more contemporary comparisons, most obviously with bands like Daughter, that occur to me as things progress – all of which is well mixed together to create after hours atmosphere in the middle of the afternoon.
Due to some quite frankly terrible planning on my part I find myself in the games room at the Brude for the next slot and accidentally stumble across Easy Life. This Leicester band could be described as what would most likely happen if you put Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Arctic Monkeys in either end of the Large Hadron Collider and press the big red “Go” button.
Their densely 90s vibe is nostalgic and really quite surprising when you consider they were probably musically breast fed on mid-2000s indie and hip-hop and missed all the mid-90s stuff that they sound so similar to due to their being actually breast fed at the time. That isn’t to say that it’s not a good set though. I’d even go so far as to say that there may be a solid, pseudo-nostalgic one-big-hit in there somewhere – it could sneak in alongside ‘Drinking in L.A.’ on a summer barbeque compilation any day of the week. Regardless of how dated they may sound (and for all I know that ‘dated’ sound could already be incredibly retro and highly in demand), they win over the crowd quickly and give them something to jig around to – a tie dyed bag of funkiness poured into grotty trainers and mixed with cheap lager.
The vast majority of the bands today have kept, and will keep, the energy levels low and trendy – this is not the case with Weirds. Within the first few moments of their set we are left at the mercy of a distortion pedal that has had over and above the recommended daily quota of Weetabix. Chunky, tight, thrashy riffs stamp out a blueprint that says “enough of this cool hair, moody stuff – lets work up a sweat and shove our point down any throat within reach”. And that, quite simply, is what they do. Straight away there is the feeling that this is more cerebral music, the product of social anger and frustration. Their drummer resembles a crazed, moustachioed spider crouched around his kit, with ludicrously long arms and legs bringing down thunder on skin and cymbal while almost telekinetically discussing every moment with his bass player. Away from this union, the guitarist looks like gravity is very close to winning the battle to bring him clattering to the floor as he pounds out the riffs. An energy-bomb on vocals and keys at the front of the stage orders everyone to come closer to this audio explosion – you feel like if it wasn’t for the big keyboard holding him back he’d be off into the front row to bite some unfortunate bloke’s head clean off. The first bit of on stage chat gives a couple of fingers to some local lads playing elsewhere “Sorry, you could be watching The Pigeon Detectives right now” – I can’t imagine anyone here is too worried about that. This is, in every way, most definitely not The Pigeon Detectives – this is Doc Martens, sweat, long hair and shouty bits and it is excellent.
By the end of the set there is noise, screaming, smoke, a mosh pit and a member of the public with the frontman on his shoulders. It’s a monster of a set, unleashed in a tiny room on unsuspecting punters and it feels like the majority of them are glad of the mauling.
The O2 Academy offers an experience that is some way away from that of any of the city’s smaller venues. At the risk of sounding snobby and twattish it represents the mainstream end of the music available today and is therefore a fitting place to see The Amazons. The tunes are perfect for stadium rock-type ambitions, the opening of the set is an energetic affair and the large crowd get into it straight away. The whiff of ‘the next big thing’ that is in the air has clearly got the juices flowing. The band themselves look like they’re pushing for promotion – they feel like a bunch who will be there for a while and will probably do well, bringing ‘rock’ to the airwaves for a few years. I wanted this to be a surprising performance, one that made me look up and realise that these lads are actually the kind of band that makes a habit of blowing tiny minds all over the world but unfortunately it fell short. It all seems a little bit too “rock by numbers” to really engage. I, however, am not The Amazons’ demographic. Those people are the ones at the front who have, perhaps in the last couple of hours, begun to enjoy the cumulative effect of all those pints of mid-strength lager and are still lithe enough to clamber onto their friends’ shoulders becoming oblivious lightning rods for empty glasses and bottles. Pelt them with whatever you want, their arms are up, their eyes are closed and they know all the words. It doesn’t manage to grab me but it’s not hard to see that there could be some anthems of the future being born here.
What feels like five miles later, I make it to The Wardrobe and settle in for She Drew The Gun. Their show is one that is designed to focus your ears more than your eyes – the lighting almost obscures the band – and with good reason. The lyrical power of the songs is not lost in the live performance and the air of protest rising from the stage. Singer Louisa Roach’s presence on stage during the songs is rallying, I’d not be surprised if she was relatively able when it came to riding a horse whilst wielding a sword, and her political views are given a good airing.
In between the songs there is little in the way of chat but what there is gives you constant flashes of how happy Roach and Co. are to be playing here – “it’s well boss to be playing here!”. It’s an endearing display and a tight performance from the whole band. The highlight is ‘Poem’ – one of the most unsubtle anti-elite songs you’ll ever hear – which is delivered with a few extra bits of instrumentation without losing any of it’s focus or impact. It’s a thing of beauty that hits a nerve with its audience and brings out a significantly amplified applause.
From start to finish this is a good set and a reassuring one; She Drew The Gun are proving they’re one of the most important bands in the country at the moment, because of the music they produce and the message they spread.
The Church is just about as fitting a venue as you could wish for to see Frightened Rabbit. Their rafter-tickling anthems of drunken misdemeanours and mistrust of organised religion fill this impressive and beautiful setting with layers of heart-felt sound and solid chunks of irony.
As always, there is a large Scottish contingent at the front of the crowd cheering on their countrymen and singing every lyric back at the men on stage. These regular bouts of raised glasses and communal choruses ensures the big swells of unity that make Frightened Rabbit shows so engrossing. You usually only get this at much bigger gigs or international sporting events and it creates tingly feelings in all sorts of strange places about your person. It’s brilliant.
The Gaelic heartbeat of each song taps in to something primal and gives the room a jolt every now and then to keep what has so far been a twelve-hour party across the city going into the wee hours. As if to give us a further energy boost we are told we’ve already beaten Newcastle in terms of being a great place to play and every gig in Leeds is a special one.
The band play as if the very foundations of their sanity depend on it and the audience can’t help but get caught up in it and sing along like their own sanity depends on it too. It is music fuelled by frustration and angst and it gives everyone in here some common ground to party on. As the set strides on, frontman Scott Hutchison shows genuine gratitude for everyone still being out and coming to support them. There is a final flourish of wild drum-pounding, frantic guitar playing and rising harmonies to end the set, the evening and indeed the whole day.
Other acts will carry on further into the early hours but I can’t see anything being able to bring the curtain down on another exceptional Live at Leeds any better than this.
All pictures courtesy of Live at Leeds.