High Hazels, Laurel Canyons and RedFaces: The Leadmill, Sheffield

As I walked into Leadmill’s small room to see the first support band of the night, my immediate thought was “how old are they?” RedFaces have got more songs than GCSEs at this point but they seem to know what they’re doing; the room was full of surprised gig-goers who enjoyed their indie pop sound. The set was led by bass player Isaac White, who had a striking confidence when talking to the crowd. The boys were dressed for prom and they sounded good, too; ‘Ain’t All Doom And Gloom’ is a worthy listen. Keep practising, boys. You just might make it.

Laurel Canyons, slightly older than 12, had to raise all of the microphones on stage by a foot before they could play. The guys began without introduction but, rather, with ‘Introduction’, the first song on their brand new EP Now We’re Rebuilding. This led straight into ‘Cry Hard, Cry Fast’, which creeps under your skin with its persistent beat and exquisite melodies.

‘Owe Nothing’, Laurel Canyon’s latest single, was next. Despite listening to their EP all week I was not prepared for the emotional reaction to hearing these songs performed live. Laurel Canyons have worked hard to perfect their sound and it shows when the room is transfixed to their every note. They finished with a song titled ‘Led Me Astray’, which held good vocal harmonies that most bands will be envious of; Laurel Canyons are on the right path and you’d be fools not to follow.

When High Hazels took to the stage it was clear that the night was a sell-out; this was not a gig for the claustrophobic. Kicking things off with ‘Hearts Are Breaking’, the boys played the first single they released together to a home crowd, and it was a delight to see.

This year has been good to them; their first UK tour was swiftly followed by a main stage slot at Tramlines, a début album and a headline tour of their own. High Hazels are setting themselves up to be one of Sheffield’s brightest new talents and this is just the beginning.

The lads could’ve quite easily filled the bigger room of the Leadmill, as the space they were in soon became overfilled and overheated. Everyone wanted to get in to see the boys play ‘Banging On My Door’, the next song on the set-list. High Hazels were proudly showcasing their début album to their home town, presenting their achievements to a crowd they know so well.

Between songs lead singer James Leesley spoke confidently to the familiar crowd: ‘Since we’re in Sheffield there’s no refunds whatsoever, but we might exchange it for a £10 voucher in the High Hazels shop.’ His accent emphasized his dry wit but I don’t think they’ll be getting many refunds from this gig.

Three quarters of the Sheffield band then left the stage, leaving James to sing ‘Shy Tide’ alone. Played acoustically, this song highlights his handsome voice and exposes the emotional depth within the soft melodies. Scott Howes and Paul and Anthony Barlow returned to the stage for ‘Misbehave’: the song that set the room alight. It’s a song more feisty than the rest, bringing out the boys’ mischievous side as opposed to their usual romantic tendencies. High Hazels obviously enjoy playing this one live: it was the best song of the night.

When the night drew to an end James announced his gratitude to the welcoming crowd, claiming ‘If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t be playing in this band… I’d be playing in another one.’ His quick sense of humour was not lost on the familiar audience and the band made many new friends this evening.  Once ‘Valencia’ was announced as their final track, I knew there’d be no encore. If you’ve seen High Hazels before you’ll realise that this is one they regularly finish on, and quite right too; it’s full of beautiful imagery that stays with you long after the show is over.

High Hazels are still a fledgling band in most respects, but the journey they’ve made this year has been a phenomenal one. Make sure you see them whilst you can – I think we’ll see many more sold-out gigs in the future.

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